Arne Nordheim is considered among the leading composers of contemporary music. For a long time the general belief was that he began his electroacoustic work during his stay in Warsaw. Now, however, it has been documented that Nordheim started his experiments with electrophonic music much earlier in the 1960s, with the help of sound technicians in the studios of NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation). All the music Nordheim made for the productions of the Radio Theatre he himself assumed was lost, but the material has been discovered in the archives of NRK, labelled as “sound effects”.
These early works are typically Nordheim. In the radio drama studio he was given the opportunity to develop the ideas which later became the well known electroacoustic works Colorazione, Warszawa and Solitare, groundbreaking pieces that sat the standard for this genre. Nordheim sought “the sound never heard before”, and he played with the technical equipment in order to make a musical laboratory that produced exactly the tones and noises he was looking for. He used the electronics consciously and carefully, and was very selective in his choices of sound and effects to the radio productions.
Nordheim does not belong to any particular school of composition; instead he has let himself be guided by his own feeling of sound and form. What is most important for him is that the music has purpose and meaning. Nordheim says that he “always writes the same piece” – he has an easily recognizable signature, which also is found even in these early works. When the unprepared Norwegian audience was presented with the European electroacoustic sound, they were shocked – and many performers refused to play the music. Nordheim fought for recognition from within the composer’s organizations and did not mind dealing with contemptuous reviews of his own music. On one occasion he told an editor that one of his reviewers should never be allowed to express an opinion on contemporary music again.