Denmark needs a composition professor

The future of music composition studies at Danish conservatories looks uncertain as the Minister of Culture has not for the time being reinstated the country’s only professorship in composition. This worries the Nordic Composers Council, which has written this letter to the minister:

Without compositions professorships, with iconic professors such as Vagn Holmboe, Per Nørgård and Bent Sørensen, it is doubtful whether a flow of strong composers from Denmark to the international scene would have been maintained, composers from Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen to Simon Steen-Andersen.

Recently, we in the Nordic Composers Council gathered to plan Nordic Music Days, an annual network meeting for compositional music, a great source for mutual inspiration and exchange of musical ideas. The music is international, and it is always great to meet composer colleagues from all over the Nordics.

At the meeting, it was announced that Denmark would no longer have a professorship in music composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Already from last year we knew about the departure of composer Niels Rosing-Schow, and at his farewell concert in the spring there was no news about a re-occupation. At Rosing-Schow’s farewell reception on June 22nd, nothing had apparently changed, and thus this Danish professorship remains vacant.

In Norway there are four composition professors, four in Sweden, one in Finland, one in Iceland and one in the Faroe Islands. In Germany and Austria they have countless professors of composition – but in the whole of Denmark there are now no professors of classical composition, not even a part-time position.

You can do without a lot, and nobody dies of hunger because there is no professorship in composition in Denmark. But the creative power of compositional skills help to elevate musical life from a national to an international level. And in front of that work should be a strong profile in composition, a composition professor who can occupy a culturally important position and ensure that the subject has room to both develop itself and to influence the entire conservatory and musical life with ever-new impulses.

Composers use their broad experience with contemporary music and art, cultural institutions, project and production management and strategic innovation to contribute to the development of everything from individual projects and lesson planning to collaborating with cultural institutions in close cooperation with many partners. Composition studies provide a unique foundation which combines practical management and development of art and cultural projects with international experience and networks. Through this education, composers gain a deep sensitivity to the currents of culture and support the opportunities of their collaborators to test innovative ideas, methods, structures and working methods.

Over the last years in the Nordic countries, we have been working together to modernize the subject of composition, to for example increase the subject’s relevance to the human challenges of our time, such as the climate crisis, inequality, migration, and war. The musical life must also be relevant and reflect the times we live in. Here, the creative community is decisive in relation to carrying out this task.

Danish composers are often at the forefront of projects that attract international attention. But that source risks drying up unless priority is given to anchoring compositional music through professorship.

Without knowing the reason for this alarming decision, we would like to encourage you to reconsider it, to prioritize the subject of composition within art education programs by re-establishing the position that can be a guide for future music creators. Unless Denmark would like to have the distinction of being the only European country without a professor of composition.

Signed by:
Thórunn Gréta Sigurdardóttir (president of Nordic Composers Council and chairwoman of Tónskáldafélag Íslands)
Antti Auvinen (Chairman of Suomen Säveltäjät)
Sunleif Rasmussen (Chairman of Felagið Føroysk Tónaskøld)
Martin Jonsson Tibblin (Chairman of Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare) and
Jørgen Karlstrøm (Chairman Norsk Komponistforening)