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Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

Born: 1932

Died: 2016

Nationality: Danish

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Photo © Lars Skaaning

”Yes and no….”

The picture often painted of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen was that of a nay-sayer, an anti-expressive, anti-virtuoso, anti-romantic inveterate dissenter, a pessimist who did not believe in big metaphysical words and beautifully crafted unities. This picture appears well backed by Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s declared fondness for Beckettian absurdism and his affinities with so-called musical concretism, rendering sound as mere sound. But that surely cannot have been all...

If Gudmundsen-Holmgreen was a pessimist, he was at least in his own way also a ‘failed pessimist’. The intriguing thing about his musical idiom is that, despite its prominent contrariness, it is still able to say yes to being present and being part of the dialogue. In the great majority of his works, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen cultivated a quite special precise ambivalence which allows his music to snarl at itself, to tell itself to shut up, even if it nevertheless sounds and is present. His musical world contains many contradictory phenomena, yeas and nays at well nigh all levels of music: intense noise alongside the almost inaudible; simplicity and clarity in motifs and structures combined with an anarchistic antipathy to large-scale ‘rounded’ forms; contrary statements allowed to live their own lives side by side as independent beings.

Time often stands still when one is in the company of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holm¬green’s poetic beings and is drawn into their sometimes silent, sometimes noisy world of repetitions, displacements and small pushes. Some might regard this as frustrating, others will see it as a unique quality, but it is certain that the beings are there, and that they live and breathe.

© Ursula Andkjær Olsen 
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