NRK radio and television
The NRK, or Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, commenced regular broadcasting in 1925 (as the licensed company Kringskastingsselskapet AS), and since 1933 it has been a national institution, with a public mission of education, based on the BBC model. On 2 April 1955, Arne Nordheim appeared in the NRK's Big Studio in Marienlyst to listen to the first Norwegian concert of electroacoustic music, where the works of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry were presented. The latter was even in the studio. The concert sparked a discussion in the artistic world. At first, Nordheim, like most of the musicians listening, rejected such sound compositions.
In December 1956, Nordheim’s String Quartet No. 2 was presented in the studio, and the composer gave an interview. That was the beginning of Nordheim's long-term relationship with radio.
From 1957, he hosted educational programmes about music. From 1960, he wrote music for radio plays. By 1989, he had written the incidental music to thirty-four radio plays, which were often repeated. During that time, he also wrote music for around twenty TV dramas and programmes. In addition, radio and television transmitted many concerts, ballets and stage plays from Norwegian and international music festivals where Nordheim’s works were presented. As Nordheim’s fame grew, programmes appeared devoted to the composer and his works, on both radio and television.
In 1961, a small sound studio was built at the NRK, equipped with several tone generators, a white noise generator, a filter and several tape recorders. With this equipment, Nordheim created his first electroacoustic works and music for radio plays, stage plays and films.
The NRK's television station was officially launched on 20 August 1960. In 1962, Arne Nordheim started to write music for television plays; soon after, he began composing his own works for television, such as Favola for two singers, ten dancers, orchestra and tape, which was broadcasted by Norwegian TV in 1965. Favola was the first Norwegian music drama and won the Norwegian Composers Association's "Work of the Year" prize. A year later, Nordheim wrote the music for the image-and-sound composition Evolution, by the multitalented artist Rolf Aamot. That was the first time that television had been used as a stand-alone medium of expression in the graphic arts.
Arne Nordheim composed many works exploiting the possibilities offered by radio and television. Forbindelser [Connections] (1975) is music for radio, television and five cities, composed for the fiftieth anniversary of the NRK. It was performed by 300 people grouped in five Norwegian cities. The signals were transmitted to the NRK's central broadcasting station, where they were mixed by the composer and sent back. This was the first and the biggest multimedia project in Norway. One should also note Nedstigningen [Descent] (1980), a radio composition for choir and orchestra with the electronic manipulation of a tape recording. For this piece, in September 1980, Nordheim won the Prix Italia, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious radio prizes.
The music for Favola and Nedstigningen was performed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, established in 1946 as a popular music band. With time, it became perhaps the most versatile symphony orchestra in the country, and it gave numerous world premieres of contemporary Norwegian music.