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Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard - Personfølsom Musik

In one of the most fascinating gestures of musical conceptualism we've encountered in years, the Danish composer, sound artist, and saxophonist, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard, delivers “Personfølsom Musik (Personal Sensitive Music)”, a brilliant album of generative sound structures, utilizing digital keycards from beyond the sonic realm. Realized on organ by Løkkegaard and issued by Topos in an edition of 100 copies only as a beautiful clear vinyl LP housed in a screen-printed PVC sleeve, beneath sublime simplicity and elegance of its tones, rests a brilliant social and cultural critique, as well the spirit of innovation that makes experimental music the incredible world that it is.

Since its founding in 2019 by the composers Jacob Kirkegaard, Tobias R. Kirstein and Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard, the Copenhagen based imprint, Topos, has displayed a remarkable commitment to cross cultural and cross media activities that transcend the boundaries between distinct creative fields. Working at prolific pace, not only has it become a vehicle for their own work and collaborations with artists like Keiko Higuchi, Pär Thörn, and CM von Hausswolff, but also for similarly genre defiant gestures by David Tudor and John Cage. Launching into 2022, they’re back with Personfølsom Musik (Personal Sensitive Music), a stunning new LP by Løkkegaard that draws on computer technologies that normally exist outside of a musical context. Creatively thrilling and conceptually fascinating, beneath its seductively meditative tones are rigorous bridges to the roots of experimental practice itself.

First emerging during the early 2000’s in a number of collaborative projects, for more than 20 years the Danish composer, sound artist, and saxophonist, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard, has slowly built a striking sonic universe that’s entirely his own, pushing instruments and traditional musical practices beyond their perceived bounds. Løkkegaard often describes this practice as research into the reality of how bubble-like systems unfold themselves as human conditions, and how to escape these bubbles, or warp and renegotiate them. In the past, much of this work has centred around systems and sound sources historically aligned with the musical world, but for his latest, Personfølsom Musik (Personal Sensitive Music), he draws on a technology that occupies a part of everyday Danish life.

For many years, Løkkegaard has been fascinated by sources of sound that work as cultural markers embedded within different systems and hierarchies. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that he arrived at NemID (EasyID) keycards, which came into use in Denmark in 2010. These objects, used as a means to log into private and public digital platforms like banking, health care, etc., generating one-time codes, have been integral part of Danish society. When an individual uses all the codes on a NemID keycard, the keycard remains as a record of the person’s activities over a period of time. It is also an expression of privilege, since the NemID facilitates access to the benefits of the Danish welfare state in one of the world’s richest societies.

Doubling a conceptual critique and a historical continuum of experimental music’s long-standing remodeling of technologies invented from other uses, from computer music to circuit bending, Personfølsom Musik is the product of a series of live sonifications, during which Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard translated the numbers of the NemID keycards into music using various musical instruments. In this iteration, Løkkegaard plays two different NemID-keycards - W807-345-296 and Y453-199-562 - on a church organ, exploring the objects as part of a phenomenon that is on the both anonymous and alienating, as well as private and personal.

Across the album’s two side, recorded by Løkkegaard at Koncertkirken in December 2020, meandering patterns of tone sculpt a meditative space of sublime simplicity, the warmth of the organ balanced against an almost algorithmic directness that carries the more alarming conceptual components as the work unfolds. Creating a fascinating reading that feels at once ancient, fundamental, and futuristic, as though exploration, learning and creation are occurring in slow motion before your ears, Løkkegaard’s ingeniously generative musical gestures push the radical uses and possibilities of technology into surprising new realms of sonic and social possibility.

Issued by Topos as a 100 copies limited-edition clear vinyl LP, housed in a beautiful screen-printed transparent PVC sleeve reproducing the codes used to produce its sounds, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard’s Personfølsom Musik (Personal Sensitive Music) is a stunning piece of work, joining a world of generative conceptualism occupied by artists like Roland Kayn and Bruce Nauman (Violin Tuned D.E.A.D., etc.). Easily one of the most curious and engaging records we’ve heard so far this year, and not to be missed.