Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand On Your Feet and Fight - Voices of the Danish West Indies
”Stand On Your Feet and Fight” is a new release by Peter Jensen & DR Big Band that deals with Danish colonial history through music and field recordings. The work is intended as a contribution to the debate on how we hold a past as slave nation and colonial power in our national identity.
On the occasion of the centennial of the sale of The Danish West Indian colonies to The United States, The Royal Danish Library asked composer Peter Jensen to write a work for the DR Big Band, based on material from the library's collections. The result ended far from the "calypso project" that the DR Big Band had wanted and the concert performances received mixed receptions with both enthusiastic reviews and furious audiences demonstratively walking out during performances. The current release is the result of a studio recording made after the work's concert premiere in the autumn of 2017.
Peter Jensen has previously integrated field recordings in his compositions for the DR Big Band in works such as "At The Heart Of A Selkie" and "Crystal Palace". It was therefore obvious for him to search The Royal Danish Library’s collections for auditory evidence of Danish colonial history in the West Indies. Ethnologist Mary Jane Soule has donated countless hours of field recordings from the islands to the Royal Danish Library and after researching her collection, Peter selected three distinctive recordings, by West Indian women, which are now placed centrally in the work. "Stand On Your Feet and Fight" is the title of one of these as well as "Fireburn" and "The Only Laugh He Could Get". In addition to the material from the Soule collection, a recording of Virgin Islander Victor Cornelins telling how he as a child, in 1905, was exhibited in a cage in the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is included. Peter Jensen is today working as artistic director in Tivoli beside his work as a composer. Also a current YouTube recording by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen's speech at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of “Transfer Day” on 31 March 2017 appears as a dramaturgical counterpoint to the recordings of the West Indian women.
Peter Jensen's acoustic compositions seek to elevate the field recordings by means of a contrasting musical energy fields. He has has deliberately avoided direct references to Caribbean music and not wanted to dramatize the field recordings or manipulate them to imply a political agenda. The artistic response has been found in the compositional expression that Peter Jensen has developed over the past few years. In addition to the movements based on interaction between field recordings and music, the work is initiated and rounded off by two instrumental movements. The Initial - "Bad Men In St. Croix” should be perceived as a meditative space for contemplation leading into the first field recording:” The Only Laugh He Could Get ”and the final - ”Triangular Trade” is intended as a sound sculpture and could function as the missing monument over Denmark's participation in the transatlantic slave trade for more than 200 years.
Peter Jensen is a self-taught composer and lives with his family in Copenhagen. As a member of DR Big Band from 1996-2016, he has contributed several compositions and arrangements, as well as produced recordings and developed projects for the band. In 2018, his latest release "Crystal Palace" was nominated for a Danish Music Award and in 2016 he won a Danish Music Award for "At The Heart Of A Selkie" in collaboration with Eivør and author Marjun Syderbø Kjelnæs. In 2012 he was nominated for a Grammy as best arranger and he has received several grants from the Danish Arts Council. He is currently working on new large-scale compositions and will release more recordings of his work with the DR Big Band on ILK.