Finn Mortensen (1922-83) was an exception in Norwegian music life in that, unlike most of his colleagues, he never felt the need to use folk music or so-called "Norwegian mode of expression" as the basis for his own style. On the contrary, he was receptive to continental currents ranging from neo-classisism and twelve-tone technique to serialism and aleatoric music.
Mortensen studied privately composition, piano and double bass in Norway. During the nineteen- fifties and sixties he also studied in Copenhagen and attended Karlheinz Stockhausen's classes in the electronic studio in Cologne. In spite of this, he considered himself a self-taught composer.
For many years Mortensen earned his living as a teacher of music theory and as a music critic. In 1970 he was appointed teacher of composition at the Conservatory of Music in Oslo. When the latter changed over to the Norwegian State Academy of Music in 1973, Mortensen became the country's first professor of composition.
Mortensen's production consists almost entirely of instrumental music. In his compositions there is a fascinating balance between a definite constructive attitude towards the material and an intense emotional involvement.
His development as a composer can be divided into three periods: Up to 1953 his works can be characterized as neoclassical. In 1956 he broke through the boundaries of tonality, and his subsequent compositions reflect the influence of twelve-tone music and the more recent serialism and aleatoric music. Since the nineteen-seventies he combined features from classical twelve-tone technique and serialism into a characteristic mode of expression which he called "neo-serialism".
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