An Interview with Bengt Hambraeus: By Norma Beecroft

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Bengt Hambreaus
b. Stockholm, 29 January, 1928 – d. Montreal, 22 September, 2000

Interviewed by Norma Beecroft as part of her ebook, Conversations With Post World War II Pioneers of Electronic Music.
Recorded on audio cassette.
Digital transfer and editing: William Van Ree

A prolific composer of almost 200 works, Bengt Hambraeus earned the reputation in his youth as the most rebellious and experimental young composer in Sweden. He was a pioneer in writing new music for organ, the instrument that captured his interest as a young musician and which he began studying at age 16. His Constellations 1 of 1958 was acknowledged as a primary influence on György Ligeti’s well known Volumina (1961). Hambraeus was the first Swedish composer to write an electroacoustic score, placing him at the forefront of the Nordic avant garde.

Hambraeus was a distinguished scholar and writer, teacher and administrator. His music, articles and books challenged traditional methods of teaching and composition, being influenced by his exposure to the most recent developments in music at the Darmstadt annual summer courses in the early 1950s. At the same time, his love of music of the past remained central in his approach to composing, and he produced many scores now well established in the organ repertoire reflecting this interest.

Hambraeus worked for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation from 1957 to 1972, as a producer and finally as a head of music production. He was invited by McGill University in 1972 as a visiting professor and head of the electronic music studio, became a full professor in 1975, and settled permanently in Canada. After 25 years of teaching at McGill, he published “Aspects of Twentieth-Century Performance Practice: Memories and Reflections”, a summation of all the concerns presented to him during his career.

You can read the transcript of the interview, along with interviews of 22 other electroacoustic composers, by purchasing the ebook here.