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Bent Sørensen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Sounds Like You (2008)
Text Writer
Peter Asmussen
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
44 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
2 actors
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Programme Note
Bent Sørensen Sounds Like You (2008)
Bent Sørensen’s Sounds Like You, (libretto Peter Asmussen), a play for choir, orchestra, audience and actors, tells the story of a man and a woman who meet at a concert and enter a relationship. Their romance is short, and is followed by longing for what they once experienced. The piece is about the risk involved in an encounter with music – and other people. Bent Sørensen’s music has been described in countless ways, but the common feature is the experience of a musical language filled to the brim with details and images. In Sounds Like You he has placed emphasis on the narrative elements, and the result is a distinctive performance that focuses on the line dividing the stage from the auditorium.

‘A work about a work. A work about a concert. A play that has become an orchestral piece and vice versa,’ says Bent Sørensen about Sounds Like You, to a great degree based on his work Exit Music, which was premiered during the 2007 Bergen International Festival, when he was Festival Composer.

Sounds Like You is the third major project in which Bent Sørensen collaborates with the playwright Peter Asmussen. On this occasion the memories start in the concert hall – the very place where the piece is performed. A man meets a woman. Infatuated, he follows her and they enter a relationship which soon falls apart. In its continuation the piece looks at memories of what has been and a craving for it; of returning to what they once shared.
‘Additionally it is about the concert hall itself,’ says the composer. ‘I am particularly fascinated with empty concert halls. The question as to where the music goes after it is played fascinates me. Also how the audience in a concert hall, with its huge variety of thoughts, can create shared concentration.

With Sørensen and Asmussen each coming from his own circle –music and the theatre – they asked what would happen if the two forms of expression were fused together so that the play took place in the concert hall and the actors witnessed a concert. The Danish Broadcasting Company, which commissioned the work, had also expressed a wish that it should be based on one of Sørensen’s earlier orchestral works, Exit Music.

‘I quickly discovered that I could not possibly write a piece that merely included Exit Music. Rather, it had to be a work about Exit Music,’ says Sørensen. ‘This is the piece that the man and woman hear in the concert hall, the piece that they later return to hear again. In total it is performed three times, but each time it is in a different context with different intentions, and is considerably altered in the process. In a way you can say that this piece is about music rather than actually being music.

And at the same time it is about an essential aspect of life: love and longing, anxiety about both living and dying.

Score preview

  • Ensemble
    DR SymfoniOrkestret; DR Koncertkoret
    Marie Louise Wille, actor; Mads Wille, actor; Lore Lixenberg, mezzo-soprano; Signe Asmussen, mezzo-soprano
    Thomas Dausgaard
    Dacapo Records:
As so often before, Bent Sørensen provides fuel for image-rich sensory experiences with his latest orchestral piece”Sounds Like You”. *** (3 stars out of 6)
Henrik Friis, Politiken ,12/09/2009
Whispering, nostalgic, irascible, cobweb-like, citing, complex and oftentimes profoundly beautiful. **** (4 stars out of 6)
Søren Kassebeer, Berlingske Tidende,11/09/2009
Subtle, symphonic timbral worlds with constant shifts in colour and character
Christine Christiansen,,11/09/2009
Spot-on with its tight coupling of artistic elements and its clear-cut audience approach.
Christine Christiansen , ,11/09/2009
Here’s a work that really grabs you.
Christine Christiansen , ,11/09/2009
The country’s tonal poet number 1.
Henrik Friis, Politiken,04/09/2009
What a contrast it was then to plunge into the muted, lonely world of Sørensen’s ’Sounds Like You’. This traces a brief love affair between two people who become aware of each other’s presence during a concert. At first we don’t see the couple; we’re aware only of Sørensen’s extraordinary music, which is impassioned in a hazy, yearning way, brilliantly suggestive of the way desire feeds on fantasy. It’s intense in an uncomfortable, raw way, as if the ’naked flesh of emotion’ that Debussy aimed at has been taken one stage further. The we hear the two characters speak, the music’s surging expressiveness falling back to allow their words through. ’He is listening, he is right in front of me...she is listening, she is behind me...’ It’s an ingenious conceit, because we too were seated in a concert hall, listening; but were we and this young couple listening to the same thing? Or were we listening to Sørensen’s portrait of their state of mind, which they cannot hear? The puzzles become even more acute when the couple finally appear, meet, passionately embrace, and later wander inside the orchestra whose sounds seem to be the real substance of their relationship. Like all expressionist drama, this one intensifies fantasy-states at the cost of bleaching away solid human identity; but when the results are riveting as this, the price seems worth paying. Sørensen and his librettist Peter Asmussen have suggested new possibilities for music-theatre; let’s hope someone brings their piece to London, soon.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph,21/05/2009
The curse of the concert hall: Whispering, clamour and inappropriate comments elevated to art in Sounds Like You.
Bergen International Festival,01/01/0001
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