C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

D0 note (18.35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

F0 note (21.83 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

G0 note (24.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

A0 note (27.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

Worsaae, Nicolai 




“In spite of moving more and more over to the musical language of modernism, I very much like that which, in an old fashioned romantic sense, vigorously reaches out over the edge of the stage. It is of course a balancing act, if one is to avoid falling into a bucket of clichés.”

A narrative modernist

Nicolai Worsaae is one of more notable young composers in Denmark. Some of his earlier works have been described as lyrical but his more recent works bear adjectives such as direct and expressive. Worsaae himself claims a fundamental identification with ‘classical music’s’ narrative form. Nevertheless, he has in recent years moved farther away from the lyrical and narrative and turned more sharply towards modernism. “Hardcore modernists will surely insist that my music remains strongly narrative, but I simply can’t refrain from (story)telling.”

Something that perhaps can be attributed to his Nordic affiliation is the composer’s fascination with a blue-gray space. The emptiness which is to be found on rainy days and the plainness of the night has become artistic fuel. This also leaves it’s mark on the music in the form of simplicity. A simplicity that both attempts to combat and avoid becoming too banal, while on the other hand he finds that there also exists a danger in complexity which strives towards pretentiousness and therefore meaninglessness.

The formal language Worsaae’s music is often built on, is modernistic in its orientation. He works with circular forms of movement in which repetitions of small sections serve to freeze musical moments. In this way time, structure and space become clearly apparent in the work. The larger part of Worsaae’s works unfold through a play between developmental and static principles. Stylistically his music contains elements of what could be called “concrete instrumental music”. These are not direct imitations but musical suggestions of concrete sounds. “It is liberating to work with something concrete when working with sound otherwise is so abstract. When I move through the city I listen a lot to all kinds of sounds. Many people that listen to abstract music often have an experience similar to listening to concrete sounds, that the music sounds like something specific. If one can work with the suggestion of real sounds the music becomes richer.” Another way in which Worsaae invites bites of reality into his music is by implementing citations. These should not be understood as music about music but again as a kind of concrete sound.

Selected works Wesenheit ab Wesenheit (2011)

Worsaae found inspiration for the work in a story about the German prisoner Jörg Meyer, who during the late 70’s was confined to isolation in a Danish prison. Worsaae’s father was prison chaplain and in this way met Meyer who was imprisoned for espionage for the DDR in Denmark. Meyer sat in isolation without trial and waited for a ruling for nearly a year before being exchanged with a German prisoner and given the command never to show himself in Denmark again. Under Meyer’s stay in prison he gave Worsaae’s father the collection of poems Isolationsdigte (1979), which were written while in isolation.

After nearly 30 years hidden in a desk drawer the collection surfaced again. The poems are a kind of poetic documentary of which Nicolai Worsaae has selected 7. Since the driving force behind the work is a prision story about isolation Worsaae has composed with the ascetic space of the isolation cell in mind, the room which forms the framework for a life with many restrictions and little possibility of unfolding oneself. He has allowed this to form the rules of the game for the composition of the music, which has been reduced to a minimum. In order to place focus on the room, which attains such huge meaning under isolation, Worsaae implements sections for speaking choir and moves the subject around in the ensemble so that spatial aspects are made use of and become audible.

About the title Wesenheit ab Wesenheit Worsaae comments: “When I create my titles they should be slightly twisted, contradictory and dynamic. The word absence was too direct. When one is imprisoned on is placed outside of society and on standby. One is however still there even though one has been moved from a public to an isolated and closed space. One is therefore ”present not present” – Wesenheit ab Wesenheit.”

Gesang durch eine Mauer (2008)

The inspiration for this work is taken from a poem written in 1990 by the East German poet Reiner Kunze. The poem deals with the fall of the wall and reunification of East and West Germany. In the poem a particular mood is captured: instead of a celebratory poem he describes the fall of the wall as an opening for all that which has been hidden. The shame from after the war which suddenly has been laid bare. As a composer Worsaae attempts to capture this experience, which is difficult to express since it contains so much tension and a complex range of feelings which appear alongside one another.

Zugendlos (2007)

This is an orchestral work, inspired by concrete sounds from an experience on a subway train in Stockholm. The works central idea builds on sounds experienced on the train: Something set vibrations in motion and a distorted overtone-sound with distinct harmonics appeared. In terms of form the work keeps on starting again and again from the beginning while gradually developing nevertheless. The idea of the train being endless is, both in a concrete sense but also musically, a part of how repetition plays a role in creating a feeling of endlessness. Therefore the title Zugendlos.

Recognition and Prizes

Worsaae has received both travel grants and prizes for his work as a composer; amongst others the Danish Composers’ Society’s Annual Prize, the Idella Foundation, the Danish Arts Foundation and the Sonning Foundation.


In 2009 Worsaae completed his education as composer at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where he received tuition from Bent Sørensen, Hans Abrahamsen, Niels Rosing-Schow and Hans Peter Stubbe-Teglbjærg. In 2008-09 he continued with postgraduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst, Graz with Beat Furrer.

Together with the composers Simon Løffler, Christian Winther Christensen and Regin Petersen, Nicolai Worsaae founded the artists’ collective Dygong. Together they are known for their experiments in which contemporary music is presented in new contexts and pushed over the edge. Out to the place where new art emerges. 



Works in ISCM catalogue



Content posted to the ISCM website reflects the viewpoint of individual submitters; its appearance herein does not imply official endorsement by the ISCM, its Executive Committee, or the Delegates to its General Assembly.