Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2019

Esben Nordborg Møller

“I thrive with freedom!”

Esben Nordborg Møller grew up on a farm in Central Jutland with three dogs, six cats and 28 cows. They only met other people, when the postman came by.

His mother was a farmer, and his father was associate professor of Russian .... and a fan of Wagner. As a child, Esben was dragged to the Danish National Opera to see Wagner, Puccini, etc. His father had a musical background and made sure that classical music was heard and prioritised.

However, Esben remembers it as a duty, but the revelation came to him when his was approx. 15 when hearing Mahler’s Symphony no. 1 in Berlin. To Esben, it seemed as if he analysed the music for the first time himself: “It was a powerful experience - just great!”

He remembers it as a moment of education where he went from being a child to an adult. Suddenly, he could stay awake through an entire symphony and enjoy every second. His father had succeeded with his mission, and Esben decided to be actively interested in music and started composing brief string quartets on his computer.

Two worlds that, together, provide freedom

Esben works within two main areas: The acoustic and the electronic. And when everything has to form a synthesis, these two elements come together in a complete work.

When working with electronic music, Esben works as a sculptor. He collects ideas and starts putting them together, cutting up, putting together and chopping off until he is satisfied with the result. The computer sets the limits.

When working with acoustic music, the composer has to think more practically because real musicians have to perform the music. So, it requires that you know what it is practically possible to do as a musician. And even though Esben also uses his computer in this situation, the human skills set the limits.

But altogether, access to both approaches is a freedom that suits Esben very well. “It is satisfying to be in both worlds and have two different identities to navigate within”, he says and concludes: “I feel good about the freedom and having a lot of options”.

From Bach to heavy metal

As a farmer’s son, Esben knows that you have to rotate your crops so that the soil is not exhausted. The same philosophy applies to Esben as a composer: you have to renew yourself all the time and search for new methods and artistic expressions in order not to exhaust your material.

But this does not prevent Esben from making repetitions within the same work. “You do not necessarily have to have a fantastic tone combination or harmonics. What may be fantastic is if you use the same elements over and over again. If you are stubborn and use the same elements again in many various forms and colours, it will eventually be fantastic.”

As inspiration, Esben finds elements in numerous places. As an organist and church musician, Esben is very fond of Bach, and, being a new parent, it has now become his mission to ensure his son’s musical education: “So far, it has been heavy metal - perhaps a little bit too much. But he sleeps very well to heavy metal!”

Esben Nordborg Møller in brief

Born in 1985. Raised close to Thyregod, Central Jutland.
Graduated as composer from the Royal Danish Academy of Music under
Niels Rosing-Schow, Jeppe Just and Bent Sørensen in 2018.
Admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Music’s soloist programme in composition in the autumn of 2018.
Worked with the ACK Quartet, Ensemble Alternance, Diotima Quartet, Figura Ensemble, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.
Member of the sound community SOUNDS.
Master of Arts in musicology (minor subject in dramaturgy) from the University of Copenhagen (2012).
Part-time studies in organ and choir conducting with Sjællands Kirkemusikskole.
Awarded the Axel Borup-Jørgensen Composer Award 2019.
Lives in Solrød Strand with his wife and child.

The scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation

Esben will spend the scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation on new equipment for his home studio, for instance a computer, speakers and microphones.