PROBABLY THE MOST WHISTLED DANISH COMPOSER IN MODERN TIMESThe headline is a comment by modern historian Paul Hammerich on composer Kai Normann Andersen (1900-1967). Quite an accolade for a composer who wrote for the cinema and revue theatre, both of which were extremely active fields of artistic endeavour in Denmark in the 1930s and 40s.
It was a time when talent popped up all over the place, and the public’s appetite for such entertainment was insatiable. And there was music to satisfy every conceivable mood. Jolly, folksy films and musical comedy brought out the cheerful, funny, rather sentimental side of Kai Normann Andersen - in such numbers as “Come along into the Grove” (“Gaa med i lunden”) and “Have you forgotten” (“Glemmer du”) - lyrics by Boerge & Arvid Mueller - while veritable pearls such as “The Very Last Dance” (“Den Allersidste Dans”) and “Song of the Muse” (“Musens Sang”) - lyrics by Boerge Mueller - written for more soulful, thoughtful films saw him in a very different vein.
Then there was the revue theatre. On the one side there was the lightweight, superficial summer revue, on the other theatrical revues with a message - and Kai Normann specialised in both styles. Examples of the former genre are such numbers as “Everyone’s going around falling in love” (“Alle gaar rundt og forelsker sig”) and “Come along into the Grove” (“Gaa med i lunden”) - both with lyrics by Boerge Mueller - depicting sweet springtime love in musical terms. But Kai Normann Andersen’s music was at its best when he had something on his mind, when something was up. The most famous of his songs from the World War II Nazi occupation is undoubtedly “They tie us down mouth and hand” (“Man binder os paa mund og haand”) from Dyveke(Dyveke (1940) with lyrics by Poul Henningsen. The double entendre of the text can only really be understood by Danes, so the German censors let it through unknowingly. In the piece, Kai Normann’s tune is precisely as ambivalent as the text - the tango refrain lending both elegance and thoughtprovoking profundity to the innate seriousness of the song, restoring the original sense of danger to the rather formal bourgeois dance form. Kai Normann also gave the middle class waltz new significance, one of the finest examples being in Poul Henningsen’s 1941 masterpiece “In your short life” (“I dit korte liv”), where the tune gives the song a persistent intensity and strength.
Written by Finn Gravesen