Crystal Palace is about the attraction of abandoned places and the poetics of eroding surfaces. Conceived as an exploration of a sonic architecture in an advanced state of decay Crystal Palace takes the listener through six locations of an imaginative ruined structure. With the haunting images of the dying city of Detroit as a backdrop Peter Jensen sets out to create a milestone and a manifesto for future work.
The inspiration for Crystal Palace came while reflecting on how composers during the first decades of the big band era strived to create personal sounds through dogmatic approaches to orchestration and composition. While Duke Ellington still remains the beacon of inventiveness, arrangers like Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland, Claus Ogerman and Nelson Riddle, all set an example of seeking new sounds through reflecting on, and differentiating from, the techniques used by their peers and predecessors. By consciously avoiding the compositional practices and instrumental colours used by most contemporary big band composers, Peter Jensen pays homage to the legacy of the masters by choosing a tabula rasa approach for Crystal Palace. This approach – combined with a meticulous analysis of his own musical language in retrospect – led to the definition of a set of dogmas that guided the artistic choices for composing the work. One of the dogmas was the avoidance of contemporary jazz harmony. Another was the commitment to a uniform consistent orchestral palette free from the signature sounds of a big band. Asymmetric rhythmic patterns were preferred almost entirely and a constructivist/serial approach to composition, rather than intuitive, was employed. The narrative about sonic decay was masterfully interpreted by sound designer Morten Büchert through the medium of re-recording with defunct audio equipment and prepared and punctured speaker membranes. Although pushing the limits and bordering on other genres, Crystal Palace is to be perceived within the context of contemporary big band music and is meant to be a celebration of the idiom rather than an abandonment of it.
Since the beginning of writing music in his teens, Peter Jensen has been seeking new answers to the arts and craft of arranging and composing. He is a mainly self taught composer, arranger, trombonist, producer, conductor, writer, teacher and occasional radio host working from his base in Copenhagen, Denmark. For nearly two decades Peter Jensen has been an important contributor to the Danish Radio Big Band. Besides being a musician in the band from 1996-2016, he has contributed dozens of compositions and arrangement, as well as developed and produced projects for the band. In 2016 he won a Danish Music Award for his extended work “At The Heart Of A Selkie” in collaboration with singer/songwriter Eivør, and author Marjun Syderbø Kjelnæs. He also received a nomination for best instrumental arrangement at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012, as well as numerous grants from the Danish Arts Council. In addition to pushing forward his own artistic projects with a series of planned releases for the coming years, Peter Jensen is working as the artistic director in the Tivoli Gardens and as counselor at the Advanced Postgraduate Diploma at RMC – Rhythmic Music Conservatorium, in Copenhagen.