The earliest traces of Danish music go back to the many twisting bronze-age horns or lurs found in various parts of Scandinavia but mostly in Denmark since the end of the 18th century which some experts have identified as musical instruments.
Codex Runicus: Denmark's oldest musical notation
In his Gesta Danorum (c.1200), the historian Saxo Grammaticus refers to the power music had over King Erik the Kind-Hearted. In the 13th and early 14th centuries, German minnesingers such as Tannhäuser and Frauenlob sang in the Danish courts. The Codex Runicus (c.1300) contains a verse written in runes with a non-rhythmic music notation. The first line is Drømdæ mik æn drøm i nat (I Dreamed Me a Dream Last Night). There is also evidence that English monks came to Denmark to sing at a celebration commemorating St Canute who died in 1086. In 1145, Lund Cathedral received Scandinavia's first choir statues and, by 1330, was one of the larger churches to have an organ installed.
The greatest influence on the evolution of music in Denmark has certainly been the monarchy. At the time of his coronation in 1448, Christian I engaged a permanent corps of trumpeters while by 1519, the court had a corps of court singers as well as an instrumental ensemble. The collections of works used by the chapel royal under Christian III in the middle of the 16th century were based on Dutch, Italian, French and German masters. Christian IV spent considerable sums on training local musicians and bringing foreign masters to Denmark. Mogens Pedersøn, one of his Danish musicians who had studied in Venice under Giovanni Gabrieli, became one of Denmark's most important composers of church music. His principal work Pratum spirituale was a collection of 21 Danish hymns in five-part settings, a mass in five parts, three Latin motets and a number of Danish and Latin choral responses. It was published in Copenhagen in 1620 and is still performed today.
Under the influence of Louis XIV of France, music for the theatre was established in Denmark during the reigns of Frederik III and Christian V when lavish court ballets were performed. This soon led to opera and the performance of Der vereinigte Götterstreit composed by Povl Christian Schindler on Christian's birthday in 1689. Although it was a great success, there was little further interest in opera after the theatre caught fire a few days later causing 180 deaths.
In 1569, shortly after the Reformation, Denmark's first hymn book, Thomesens Salmebog, was published with music for the individual hymns.
Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707) was a German-Danish organist and a highly regarded composer of the Baroque period. His organ works comprise a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and church services but he is remembered first and foremost for his vocal compositions. In his day, Buxtehude was considered to be the unrivalled master of his time.
Opera, song and concerts
Frederik IV opened a new opera house in Copenhagen in 1703, the first performance being an opera by the Italian Bartolomeo Bernardi. Reinhard Keiser, the prolific opera composer from Hamburg, presented his works in Copenhagen from 1721–1723. In 1748, Den Danske Skueplads (the Danish Theatre) moved into a new building where, from 1779, Det Kongelige Kapel (the Royal Orchestra) became a permanent attachment.
Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse from Altona who was a pupil of Schulz, is remembered above all for his Danish songs, hymns and carols which remain popular to this day. But he also composed religious music, piano pieces and symphonies.
Friedrich Kuhlau wrote Elverhøj (Elves' Hill) (1828) which contains the music for Kong Kristian stod ved højen mast, the Danish national anthem. Elverhoj is considered to be the first Danish national play and has continued to be performed more than any other. Kuhlau was also a pianist and brought Beethoven's piano music to Denmark.
Schulz and Kunzen both gained importance as a result of their influence as chief conductors at the Royal Theatre where they brought the best of European music to Danish audiences. Weyse and Kuhlau not only contributed to orchestral and chamber music but contributed to the popular repertory, Weyse with secular secular and religious songs and Kuhlau with chamber music suitable for amateur musicians.
Another successful composer and conductor in the mid-20th century was Emil Reesen (1887–1964) who is remembered above all for his highly successful operetta Farinelli (1942) which is still popular today.
Opera has continued to figure prominently on the Danish music scene, thanks in part to the Copenhagen Opera House which was opened in 2000. Although the majority of performances cover the works of the well-known European composers, Danish operas are also included from time to time. In 2010, with the involvement of the ambitious young artistic director Kasper Bech Holten, there are to be performances of Poul Ruders' new work Kafka's Trial while in recent years works by both John Frandsen and Bent Sørensen have been part of the repertoire.
Hans Christian Lumbye (1810–1874) was employed as the first music director at the Copenhagen amusement park Tivoli when it opened in 1843. Here he had a platform for presenting a large foreign and Danish repertory, including his many waltzes and gallops. In 1839, he had heard a Viennese orchestra play music by Johann Strauss, after which he composed in the same style, eventually earning the nickname "The Strauss of the North". One of his most popular pieces, associated with Tivoli, is Champagnegaloppen (the Champagne Galop), which starts with the happy sound of a champagne cork popping. It has been used in several Danish films including Reptilicus (1961), and Champagnegaloppen (1938).
Niels W. Gade (1817–1890) participated in the development of Musikforeningen (the Music Society) which had been founded in 1836 with the purpose of extending and improving the understanding of classical music. He became its conductor in 1850, and under his management a number of masterpieces of choral music were given their first performance in Denmark, among them Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 1875.
At the conservatory in Copenhagen he helped teach future generations, including Edvard Grieg and Carl Nielsen. In the spirit of Romantic nationalism, he composed eight symphonies, a violin concerto, chamber music, organ and piano pieces and a number of large-scale cantatas, among them Elverskud, the most famous Danish work of its kind.
As a result of problems with Germany, Denmark's attitude during the first half of the 20th century became nationalistic and introverted. The two leading figures, Carl Nielsen and Thomas Laub revived interest in the purer music of earlier periods such as the Renaissance.
Carl Nielsen (1865–1931), now an internationally recognized composer, was the dominant figure in Danish music and musical life from the end of the 1890s until well into the 20th century. He had grown up in a small village on Funen but, by performing with folk musicians as a child and as a bugler in the army, he was able to enter the music conservatory in Copenhagen in 1884. By the time he took over Gade's role around 1900, Denmark's music scene was firmly established with strong popular interest and support. Nielsen's orchestral music, including six symphonies and concertos for flute, violin, and clarinet, is widely performed. Indeed, the success of his First Symphony when it was played in Berlin in 1896 paved the way for his growing reputation. The Third Symphony (1912), which interestingly contains wordless vocal solos, was performed in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Finland within the first two years. The Fourth Symphony (1916) featuring a battle between two sets of timpani is the one which has been most widely recorded.Maskarade (1906), a three-act opera based on the play by Ludvig Holberg, is regarded as the Danish national opera. Nielsen also composed the opera Saul og David (1901) which offers marvellous chorus scenes. Another important choral work is the cantata Hymnus amoris (1896), a beautiful composition for choir and orchestra. He is also remembered for the incidental music he wrote for Adam Oehlenschläger's play Aladdin as well as for the songs he set to music, many of which are still popular in Denmark.
Thomas Laub (1852–1927), an organist, was devoted to reintroducing the old Protestant hymn tunes which had been forgotten or altered over the years. He published a number of important works including Kirkemelodier (Church Melodies) (1890), Udvalg af Salme-Melodier i Kirkestil (Selected Hymn Tunes in the Church Style) (1896 and 1902), Dansk Kirkesang (Danish Church Song) (1918) and Musik og Kirke (Music and Church) (1920). Laub also wrote folk song music and together with Carl Nielsen published En Snes danske Viser (A Set of Danish Folk Songs) (1917).
Rued Langgaard (1893–1952), a late-Romantic composer, was not fully recognized until 16 years after his death. He was inspired by his conviction that music had a spiritual power and was therefore important for mankind. He was a prolific composer, completing over 400 works representing over 50 hours of music. His Symphony No. 1 Klippepastoraler (Rock Pastorals) is in the late-romantic style, reminiscent of Anton Bruckner while Symphony No. 10 Din Torden-Bolig (Your Dwelling of Thunder) is also majestic but more in the style of Richard Strauss
In addition to those specialising in rock, folk and electronic music, Denmark has a number of contemporary composers who have been successful in writing classical music covering a variety of genres. Among the most successful are:
Per Nørgård (born 1932) has composed works in all major genres: six operas, two ballets, seven symphonies and other pieces for orchestra, several concertos, choral and vocal works, an enormous number of chamber works, ten string quartets and several solo instrumental works. The conductor Sergiu Celibidache once precisely expressed the potential of Nørgård’s large-scale, faultless creation: "Only the mind of a new time in the new millennium will be able to understand the scope of Nørgård’s music."
Anders Koppel (born 1947) has had an extremely versatile career in rock, classical and world music. He has composed the music for eight ballets with the Danish Dance Theatre, 50 theatrical plays and for more than 100 movies.
Poul Ruders (born 1949) is known internationally for the music he has written for choir, chamber ensemble, and solo instruments, which are frequently performed outside Denmark. It is however is orchestral music, especially his symphonies and concertos, which is most appreciated in Denmark.
Hans Abrahamsen (born 1952) is one of the most notable contemporary composers whose works have evolved from his initial New Simplicity style leading to his internationally successful Nacht und Trompeten.
One of the most universally known pieces of Danish music is the Tango Jalousie (1925) composed by Jacob Gade. It has been used in countless films, such as the classic Danish sex comedy I Tvillingernes tegn (1975), where it is the centerpiece of a big nude dancing production number set in the 1930s, and Sally Potter's The Man Who Cried (2000), with Johnny Depp playing a gypsy in the 1920s.
A special position is occupied by Bent Fabricius-Bjerre (b. 1924), who has written music for Danish films and television series such as Matador in his highly individual style. The signature tune "Alley Cat" quickly won international success in the same class as Gade's tango.
Jazz has been one of Denmark's most important musical developments over the past century. Its origins can be traced to Valdemar Eiberg's band in 1923 and their recordings the following year. But is was in 1925, when Sam Wooding brought his orchestra to Copenhagen that the Danish music scene was properly introduced to the genre. Interestingly, early Danish jazz was influenced by three classically trained musicians: Erik Tuxen (1902–1957), who created one the country's first jazz bands, Bernhard Christensen (b.1906), a composer of both jazz and classical music, and Sven Møller Kristensen (1909–1991) who wrote lyrics for Christensen as well as a number of books about jazz.
As jazz became more popular in the 1930s, one of the rising stars was the talented violinist Svend Asmussen (born 1916) who made his first recordings in 1934 at the age of 18 and was still playing with his quartet more than 70 years later.
During the German occupation in the 1940s, jazz was discouraged but many musicians continued to perform while others escaped to Sweden. Indeed, the period became known as "The Golden Age of Jazz" as the number of concerts in hotels and restaurants increased and the number of recordings rose from about 180 in 1935–1939 to over 650 from 1940 to 1945.
Following World War II, Danish jazz musicians began to split into an older guard, which maintained the style of older New Orleans jazz, and newer musicians who favored the bebop style of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie that was then emerging in America. The former were represented by musicians such as pianist Adrian Bentzon, trombonist Papa Bue, and trumpeter Theis Jensen, while the latter included saxophonist Max Brüel, bassist Erik Moseholm, and trumpeter Jørgen Ryg.
As rock music became more popular in the 1970s, jazz's popularity waned, but it continues to be supported in venues such as the Copenhagen Jazzhouse and the Jazz Club Loco, as well as at the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Danish jazz musicians continue to find unity in diversity, exploring a wide range of feelings and genres and bringing new strength to contemporary jazz as it unfolds in all its shapes and sizes. Prominent jazz musicians today include Carsten Dahl, Jørgen Emborg, Thomas Clausen, Fredrik Lundin, Marilyn Mazur, Mads Vinding, Ib Glindemann, Jakob Bro, Chris Minh Doky and his brother Niels Lan Doky.
The Danish rock scene thrived in the 1970s when groups drew on trends in the United States and Britain. Many consider their style to be Danish although this seems mainly to be due to the language of the songs and the way they fit into the national agenda. The most successful have been Gasolin', Shu-Bi-Dua, Sebastian, Anne Linnet, TV-2, and more recently Magtens Korridorer. Kim Larsen who had played with Gasolin' went on to become a very successful solo artist in his own right while Sebastian has composed a number of successful musicals for theatre and film. The versatile Anne Linnet is still popular in Denmark today.
Until fairly recently, few Danish rock groups had been successful outside Denmark. An exception was D-A-D (formerly Disneyland After Dark) who had a hit with Sleeping My Day Away in the early 1990s. Today, however, with the Music Export Denmark initiative, several rock bands are doing increasingly well internationally. These include Mew, Volbeat, Kashmir, The Raveonettes, and Blue Van.
The annual Roskilde Festival is held in Danish city of Roskilde. The festival is the second-largest in Europe with ticket sales normally running from 70,000 to 100,000. The festival has featured many prominent artists (mainly rock), such as Nirvana, Guns N' Roses, U2, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath and Green Day, and there has also been an emphasis on world music, alternative genres and Danish music at the festival. In 2000, the festival suffered a terrible accident during a Pearl Jam concert where nine people were crushed by the wild crowds, making security a primary issue of the following festivals. The festival has suffered no further incidents of the kind.
Medina is currently one of the most successful artists of this country and she is known in most European countries, US and Mexico. She sings both in Danish and English. She has made about eight singles in the top 2 of Denmark. Most famous is the song Kun for Mig ("You and I"), other popular songs are Ensom, Vi to, For altid, Adiction and Gutter.
Oh Land is a Danish singer-songwriter with great succes in Europe and the US. She had her TV debut in the David Letterman show with her song "Son of a Gun" in 2010. She has been touring around the US with stars like Katy Perry in 2011. Another of her popular songs is White nights released in 2011.
Aura is another successful singer who in 2010 reached the top of the charts in Germany and was doing well in the rest of Europe..
Agnes Obel is a Danish singer/songwriter. Her first album, Philharmonics, was released by PIAS Recordings on 4 October 2010 in Denmark, Norway, Germany and other European countries. Since February 2011, Philharmonics is certified double platinum. In November 2011, Agnes Obel wins at the Danish Music Awards five prizes for : Best Album Of The Year, Best Pop Release Of The Year, Best Debut Artist Of The Year, Best Female Artist Of The Year and Best Songwriter Of The Year. Most famous song is Riverside.
Fallulah is the stage name of a Danish young pop music song writer and singer. She is known for her debut single I Lay My Head which was the prequel to the album The Black Cat Neighbourhood. Other popular songs from this album are Give us a little love and Out of it. Fallulah's music can be accounted to the Pop music genre but according to her own statements is a mix of Indie rock and Balkan beats, which adds a hint of folklore to her productions.
Rasmus Seebach is a Danish singer-songwriter who sings in his mother tongue language. He has had great success in the Scandianvian countries. Among his most successful songs are Lidt i fem, Natteravn and I mine øjne.
Alphabeat, now working in the UK have been successful with their increasingly retro pop hits Fascination, 10,000 Nights and The Spell.
Burhan G is a Danish R&B and pop singer, songwriter and producer of Kurdish/Turkish origin. In 2010 he was certified platinum in Denmark for his album Burhan G. He has had many singles including two #1 hits, Mest ondt featuring Medina and Tættere på himlen featuring Nik & Jay.
Nik & Jay is a popular Danish R&B / Hip-Hop / pop duo which has produced many popular singles such as Hot! in 2003 and Mod solnedgangen from 2011
Popular in the early and mid 90s was the pop-soft rock band Michael Learns to Rock, whose brand of ballads made it a popular act in many Asian markets, selling nearly 9 million records in Asia. A Danish band with a big impact outside of Denmark is the europop group Aqua, whose hit "Barbie Girl" helped the band sell a total of 15 million albums and 6 million singles.
Else Marie Pade was a Danish pioneer in electronic music as early as the 1950s. She knew and worked with Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen and has continued to make appearances on the Danish electronica scene well into the new millennium. With his Coma parties, Kenneth Bager brought Acid house to Denmark in 1988 and was active in building a Danish club scene, moving venues from the discothèques to deserted factories and basements. The most successful Danish electronic musician internationally is Trentemøller while from a very early age Mike Sheridan has achieved success and been labelled a name of the future. In the more mainstream part of the genre, Safri Duo also experienced international success with their mixture of tribal sound and electronica; also in the electronic scene adding elements of string and brass instruments is the indie folk/electronic four-piece Efterklang.
A leading Danish venue for electronic music is Culture Box in Copenhagen which is subsidised by the Ministry of Culture as a regional music venue, enabling it to keep a high artistic profile. The Strøm and Copenhagen Distortion festivals are also dedicated to the capital's electronic and club music scene.
Traditionally, Danish folk music has relied on a fiddle and accordion duo but, unlike its Scandinavian neighbours, Danish fiddlers almost always play in groups with few solo performance. Danish bands also tend to feature the guitar more prominently than the other Nordic countries.
Fiddle and accordion duos play generally rhythmic dance music, local versions of the Nordic folk dance music. The oldest variety is called pols, and it is now mostly found on Fanø with variants such as Sønderhoning from Sønderho.
The first systematic collection of popular folk songs, some of which go back centuries, was undertaken by the folklore collector Evald Tang Kristensen (1843–1929). These important sources were then transferred to the Danish Folklore Archives, established in 1904. The popular dance music tradition was continued into the 20th century by musicians such as the violinist Evald Thomsen (1913–93).
Danish traditional music experienced a renaissance when the Anglo-American folk song wave hit Denmark around 1970. Among the prominent soloists, often composing new songs, were Sebastian, Poul Dissing and Niels Hausgaard. The successful Lars Lilholt Band led by the violinist Lars Lilholt combines the folk music tradition with rock. A new and refreshing combination of techno music and medieval ballads has been provided by the group Sorten Muld since their first recording in 1996.
The formation of the Danish Folk Council to actively promote folk music both at home and abroad has helped raise the profile. Curiously, Danish folk music received its biggest boost from the home chart success of Sorten Muld, who used acoustic and electric instruments and electronica on old songs to create something very contemporary on its best-selling albums.
Music in Danish life
Music is an important part of the lives of most ordinary Danish people. One of the carefully observed traditions is to include music at Danish family celebrations such as wedding parties, birthdays and anniversaries. Indeed, it is not only common to engage one or more musicians for dancing but it is usual for the guests to write songs, normally to well-known traditional tunes, in honour of those to be celebrated.
There is also a tradition of singing in choirs. There are literally hundreds of amateur choirs throughout Denmark, usually specialising in traditional Danish songs or folk music. The supporting organization Dansk Amatørmusik claims it covers 30,000 choir singers and 6,000 members of amateur orchestras.
The Danes are also proud of their two national anthems. The one which is most widely used is Der er et yndigt land (There is a Lovely Land) which is sung loudly and enthusiastically at sporting events. The words are by the Danish poet Adam Oehlenschläger and the music by Hans Ernst Krøyer. The other is Kong Kristian stod ved højen mast (King Christian stood by tow'ring mast), used on official occasions when the royal family is represented. The words are by Johannes Ewald while the music is probably written by D.L. Roger and can be heard in the final tableau of Elverhøj.
In recent years, there have been two important developments for the Danish music scene. The first was the opening of the Copenhagen Opera House in 2005 where ever since full houses have applauded the performances of the great European operas and some of Denmark's more recent contributions. The other was the completion of Danmarks Radio's Concert Hall in 2009 where the national broadcaster not only presents its orchestral music but also choirs, jazz, rock and pop.
The Tivoli Concert Hall in the Tivoli Gardens where orchestral music, singers, jazz and other musical events feature in the programme every summer, frequently with the participation of the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra.
Cronshaw, Andrew. "A New Pulse for the Pols". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 58–63. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
Denmark Street — Denmark Street, July 2004 Denmark Street is a short narrow road in central London, notable for its connections with British popular music, and is known as the British Tin Pan Alley. The road connects Charing Cross Road at its western end with St… … Wikipedia
Denmark–Norway — Danmark–Norge (Danish)/(Norwegian) Dänemark–Norwegen (German) Personal union … Wikipedia
Music of Finland — Karelia Sami music Humppa Kantele Genres Folk Pop Opera Rock (Suomirock) Hip hop Trance … Wikipedia
Music for the Masses Tour — Concert tour by Depeche Mode Associated album Music for the Masses Start date 22 October 1987 End date 18 June 1988 Legs … Wikipedia