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John Persen (1941-2014)

By Tomas Lauvland Pettersen Posted: 13. Dec, 2014

A vital voice on Norway´s contemporary music scene went silent this week: composer, entrepeneur and organisational veteran John Persen has passed.

It is with sadness that we report the passing of one of Norwegian contemporary music´s strongest voices; composer John Persen (1941-2014).


As a composer, Persen created monumental orchestral works such as his majestic ´Over Cross and Crown, a work that depicts the Kautokeino uprising in 1852 – a revolt among the Saami population (Persen was himself of Sami descent) directed against the oppressive representatives of the central Norwegian government the local sheriff, priest and alcohol vendor. The original opera (titled ‘Under Cross and Crown’) took ten years of Persen’s life to compose and a orchestral version of the work was later recorded by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.


Persen has also played a pivotal role on Norwegian contemporary music´s organisational scene. He was instrumental in the establisment of the Norwegian State Academy of Music, the Music Information Centre Norway (Music Norway´s predecessor) and the Ultima Festival of Contemporary Music.


Norway´s contemporary music scene ows much to Persen who was an advocate for the scene for more than four decades. John Persen will be long remembered and greatly missed.




Cultural/political activities

– central to the establishment of the Norwegian State Academy of Music

– leader of the Norwegian Section of Young Nordic Music

– central to the establishment of the Music Information Centre Norway

– leader of the Ny Musikk society (Norwegian Section of ISCM)

– one of the founders and leader of Kunstneraksjonen -74

– board-member of the Norwegian Society of Composers

– board-member of the Norwegian Cultural Council

– founder and first Festival Director of the ULTIMA Oslo Contemporary Music Festival

– Manager of Oslo Sinfonietta since 1993

– Initiatior and Chariman of the Board of Opera Oslo since 2000

– Chairman of the Board of the Norwegian Music Information Centre 2000-2001

– Chairman of the Board of oslo opera net since 2002


Prizes and Awards

– The Norwegian Society of Composers – Work of the Year – 1974 for Orkesterverk II

– The Norwegian Society of Composers – Work of the Year – 1986 for Et Cetera

– Oslo City Cultural ward – 1996, for establishing and leading the ULTIMA festival

– Edvard Prize 1998 – for Heirloom Waste

– Lindeman Prize 1999 (from the Lindeman Foundation)

– Edvard Prize 2000 for Over Kors og Krone

– Honorary Membership in the Society of Norwegian Composers 2000