Bent Sørensen’s Sounds Like You, (libretto Peter Asmussen), a play for choir, orchestra, audience and actors, tells the story of a man and a woman who meet at a concert and enter a relationship. Their romance is short, and is followed by longing for what they once experienced. The piece is about the risk involved in an encounter with music – and other people. Bent Sørensen’s music has been described in countless ways, but the common feature is the experience of a musical language filled to the brim with details and images. In Sounds Like You he has placed emphasis on the narrative elements, and the result is a distinctive performance that focuses on the line dividing the stage from the auditorium.
‘A work about a work. A work about a concert. A play that has become an orchestral piece and vice versa,’ says Bent Sørensen about Sounds Like You, to a great degree based on his work Exit Music, which was premiered during the 2007 Bergen International Festival, when he was Festival Composer.
Sounds Like You is the third major project in which Bent Sørensen collaborates with the playwright Peter Asmussen. On this occasion the memories start in the concert hall – the very place where the piece is performed. A man meets a woman. Infatuated, he follows her and they enter a relationship which soon falls apart. In its continuation the piece looks at memories of what has been and a craving for it; of returning to what they once shared.
‘Additionally it is about the concert hall itself,’ says the composer. ‘I am particularly fascinated with empty concert halls. The question as to where the music goes after it is played fascinates me. Also how the audience in a concert hall, with its huge variety of thoughts, can create shared concentration.
With Sørensen and Asmussen each coming from his own circle –music and the theatre – they asked what would happen if the two forms of expression were fused together so that the play took place in the concert hall and the actors witnessed a concert. The Danish Broadcasting Company, which commissioned the work, had also expressed a wish that it should be based on one of Sørensen’s earlier orchestral works, Exit Music.
‘I quickly discovered that I could not possibly write a piece that merely included Exit Music. Rather, it had to be a work about Exit Music,’ says Sørensen. ‘This is the piece that the man and woman hear in the concert hall, the piece that they later return to hear again. In total it is performed three times, but each time it is in a different context with different intentions, and is considerably altered in the process. In a way you can say that this piece is about music rather than actually being music.
And at the same time it is about an essential aspect of life: love and longing, anxiety about both living and dying.