Tag Archives: Copenhagen

Music for abusers


For some decades the back entrance of the Hovedbanegård (Central Station) in København served as a shelter and meeting place for alcoholics, drug abusers, and drug dealers, because this part of the station faces Istedgade Kvarteret (Isted Street Quarter, above), a part of the city that accommodates prostitution and pornography shops and cinemas. When narcotics entered the milieu of prostitution, this part of the city also became the home of junkies and drug dealers.

After a major restoration of the station in the 1990s the management wanted to get rid of the abusers in the back entrance. So did many travelers. And as the police did not succeed, they adopted a concept that had proved its efficiency at the central station in Hamburg. By playing music from the Romantic period through a loudspeaker, they stressed the abusers so much that, after a few days of persistence, they left the entrance hall.

Most of the junkies and alcoholics are not familiar with nor attracted to classical Romanticism, and popular music has been a vital part of their lifestyle. Therefore they feel uncomfortable when smoking, fixing, or dealing accompanied by strange classical music. For the travelers, however, Romantic-era music is a preferred genre compared to, for example, medieval music, atonal music, bebop, or modern jazz, and they are not bothered by it during the half minute it takes to pass through the entrance.

This according to “Musik for misbrugere” by Olav Harsløf (Antropologi LIV [2006–2007] pp. 87–98). Below, an excerpt from Berlioz’s opium-themed Symphonie fantastique, a Romantic-era work suitable for the station’s loudspeaker.

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Filed under Curiosities, Reception, Romantic era

Hans Christian Andersen, music critic

As many people know, Hans Christian Andersen, whose children’s stories have proven to be his most widespread source of fame, was the most prominent Danish author of the nineteenth century. As fewer people know, he enjoyed a brief career as an opera singer and dancer at Det Kongelige Teater in Copenhagen, and in later years he went on to produce opera libretti for the Danish and German stage. He made 30 major European tours, and on each of these trips he regularly attended opera and concert performances, recording his impressions in a series of travel diaries; a well-informed listener,  his reflections comprise valuable sources for the study of music reception during this period.

Over the course of his life Andersen embraced and later rejected performers such as Liszt, Maria Malibran, and Ole Bull, and his interest in opera and instrumental music underwent a series of dramatic transformations. In his final years he promoted figures as disparate as Wagner and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, while strongly objecting to Brahms. Although these changes in taste might be interpreted as indiscriminate, such shifts in opinion were not contradictory—rather, they were quite logical given the social and cultural climate.

This according to “Music history as reflected in the works of Hans Christian Andersen” by Anna Harwell Celenza, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

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Filed under Literature, Reception, Romantic era