Morten Søndergaard was born in 1964 in Copenhagen. In 1992 he published his poetry debut Sahara i mine hænder (Sahara in My Hands). His poetry collection Bier dør sovende (Bees Die in their Sleep) was awarded the Michael Strunge Prisen in 1998. Søndergaard himself has translated several works of the argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges into Danish. From 2002 to 2007 he was the editor oft he magazine hvedekorn (wheat grains) together with Thomas Thøfner. As well as poetry, he has produced several sound installations, CDs and art pieces. His audio piece Monte Altissimo – Falling off the White Mountain, in which he worked with recordings from a piece of marble near the town of Carrara, was broadcast on Deutschlandradio in 2004. Most recently, the collection Døden er en del af mit navn was published in Danish.
Morten Søndergaard: They
By Florian Neuner
In his six-part language composition “They,” Morten Søndergaard works with greatly reduced language material from pronouns of several languages (English, German, Danish, Finnish, and Italian). The material is musicalized with the help of repetitive structures and by modeling out individual syllables and sounds. Dialogic and polyphonic passages alternate, but the three voices repeatedly come together in unison. Thus, Søndergaard explores the tension between collective and individual, and the question always hangs in the air: for whom do the pronouns act as placeholders? Søndergaard speaks of having based his composition on the swarm behavior of bees; a volume of poetry from 1998 already bore the title Bees die in their sleep. What happens when a swarm of bees starts looking for a new home? Scouts are sent out: after all, a decision is made collectively. The six parts of the language composition span an arc from thinking about a departure to the search, a “democratic” bee dance for decision-making and to the departure to the new hive.
The individuals unite to form a swarm, which represents a kind of “superorganism.” Morten Søndergaard, for whom the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters provided an important reference point in his artistic development, also regards the sprechbohrer ensemble as such an organism. In his accompanying text to “They,” he writes that repetitive structures can serve to put listeners in a pre-linguistic state, as it were, in which sounds and inflections come to the fore and semantics take a back seat – just as infants perceive their linguistic environment before acquiring a language. Søndergaard sees an analogy between the departure of the swarm of bees into the unknown and the departure of the assured language into the linguistic “intermediate realm.” In the end, a “nostro” emerges from the flock of pronouns, taking possession of the new territory.