A conversation about PÄR LINDGREN’s Mimesis

Published: 2001-10-10 by Stellan Sagvik

by Hans Lunell (transl. Sven Borei) (Published in Nutida Musik no. 3, 1986/87)


Don’t fear a fruitful dualism

A conversation about Pär Lindgren’s Mimesis

Pär Lindgren has gained renown as a composer of both electro-acoustic music and pure instrumental varieties, but there are even works voice or instrument with band accompaniment. The titles are sometimes cool and formal, as in Elektrisk musik or Det andra rummet, sometimes romantic and charged, as in Den förstenade and Shadowes that in Darknesse Dwell and sometimes rebus-like and puzzling, as in Houdinism (Electric Music, The Second Room, The One Petrified and Houdini-ism). He has based pieces on English Renaissance music, as well as on output from computer programs he has designed and programmed himself. With Lindgren, old and new, technical aids and strong feelings stand side by side.

When we meet to talk about his new work, the conversation moves to this dualism quite naturally.

“Yes, I have a split personality – there is a strong, emotional side of everything I do, but at the same time I have an explicitly rational and structuralistic side. I’m split exactly in half.”

I ask how this duality affects his composing. Do the two sides of his personality interfere with each other. Does the rationality hamper his imagination? Does the spontaneity sometimes break through and destroy the calculated effort?

“No, I think it’s positive. Of course it can sometimes be difficult, since you get a doubting, questioning attitude to what you do and get forced to reconsider a number of times. But at the same time the tension between these poles make it interesting – both the work itself and the result. I don’t think it would be fun to create without it.”

When a composer works as Pär Lindgren often does, designing computer programmes for certain aspects of the compositional effort, the contrast between the design effort and the intuitive creating becomes quite tangible, since the programme represents the purely design aspect.

We talk about this and about the creative process, touching on how before a piece is written the various thoughts collect and flash into a concept: an idea that generally has both form and content aspects, both design and intuitive sides, both syntax and semantics.


Pär relates that before he begins working on the piece itself, he goes through a research phase during which he examines the design concepts in the work. He prefers to focus on one aspect at a time in order to discover what opportunities a certain design principle offers. It is during this phase that the programme is developed, resulting in a number of compositional etudes which are more or less developed and which can be at every stage ranging from the first draft to a finished piece.

Once this phase is over and the design principles are fully internalised, the work with the larger work can proceed spontaneously, in a free space.


After a while the conversation moves to the question of what music consists of, its material and segments and how they are joined. Pär is exceedingly critical of modernism’s parameter thinking, an attitude he considers outdated and passé. He sees it as a return to scientific thinking which can possibly be used to explain certain phenomena, as well as for directing and controlling the world.


“But we don’t experience the world as a collection of parameters that change independent of each other. For us the world is filled with objects and forms that grow, interplay, change, disappear. Each object contains within it all parameters and it is when specific combinations of parameter values are maintained at a relatively constant level that forms can be perceived.”

Pär sees musical objects as fundamental, owning clear, tangible characteristics such as volume, mass, colour and energy. They exist in a given space, a mental expanse or an inner universe.


We approach slowly and with large circular motions the piece we have met to discuss. And lo, everything we have touched on means something to it.

On a concrete level, Pär works with just objects and forms. He allows musical objects to inter-transform, to splinter into many, to go their own ways, appear as out of a fog, be joined or crumble into pieces. One important element is the development process which successively allow objects to emerge into easily identifiable forms, a process that is very similar to how definite ideas and concepts can develop from disconnected whims.

In order to examine how objects and forms can be transformed as intended, Pär developed computer programmes at an early stage, programmes aimed at facilitating experimentation. The programmes use statistic processes, including random changes. So this piece also is supported by a number of etudes shedding light on various aspects, methods and techniques. But after that, the programmes have been laid aside and the composition work has been unfettered.

Once we in this way have arrived at the overarching concepts behind the piece, it is revealed that on one level it shapes just the dualism between the rational and the emotional which we discussed at the beginning. This isn’t a violent conflict. The piece is mostly rather unobtrusive. But the tension is there, even if it is restrained, as fructuous as it is rebellious. Spontaneous sections and lines can stand side by side with and run parallel to tightly controlled developments.

The piece gives shape to a condition within which development happens along different lines. In that way it joins a family of works in his production which has taken inspiration from psychological models and problem formulations with titles like Rummet, Det andra rummet, Den förstenade and Houdinism.


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