The erection of the City Hall was completed in 1950. It houses the office of the mayor, the chair of the city council and the officers of the city's central administration. The City Hall is often used as a venue for official ceremonies, including the annual award ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize and the gala reception during the Ultima Festival every September.
In 1989, the municipal government of Oslo commissioned a work from Arne Nordheim to celebrate the 175th anniversary of its status as the capital city, falling on 9 May. Acantus Firmus Osloensis for Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele), electric guitar, orchestra and tape is a rework of Acantus Firmus, composed two years earlier (1987).
The eastern tower of the City Hall houses a carillon of forty-nine bells, considered to be the biggest instrument of its type in the North. Church bells and carillons always played an important role in the life of Arne Nordheim and occupied an important place in his works. It is no wonder then that he wanted to use the City Hall’s carillon whenever the opportunity arose. The first such occasion was his marriage to Rannveig Getz on 20 June 1981. He played a waltz himself on the carillon in the tower, while the bride and guests listened below.
For the 75th anniversary of the National Academy of Arts, on 25 May 1984, Nordheim composed a three-minute piece entitled Utposter [Outposts] for 24 trumpets, brass orchestra and carillon on the tower. For the performance, the musicians were placed on the roofs of the Academy, the City Hall and the Parliament. Some of them had to sit on the ground in the space between the National Theatre and the Parliament (Stortinget) called “Spikersuppa” [Nail soup].
In connection with the official visit of Pope John Paul II to Oslo, on 1 June 1989, Nordheim composed a four-minute piece that he called Johannesgangaren [John’s walking dance] for hardingfele solo, female choir, three trumpets, double percussion, synthesiser and carillon.
On 13 May 1990, when the pianist Kjell Bækkelund celebrated his sixtieth birthday, the guests were accompanied to the party by Kjellsgangaren [Kjell’s walking dance], played on the City Hall’s carillon.
In 1996, Nordheim wrote Partitaper Carillon. In the commentary to this work, the composer wrote:
"The sound of bells accompanies humans from the cradle to the grave. Their constant presence reminds one of the passing – or the coming – of time.
All these sounds can be found in the Oslo City Hall carillon, the signals of which flow down upon us as we hurry past the Hall. For a long time, I wanted to compose music for this instrument, and here it is. I know it will reach many people hurrying somewhere on their business, as well as those who will just listen to it calmly”.