Year of Election: 2002
Born on 30th August 1933 in Stockholm, died 22nd November 2002 in Stockholm. He studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm 1953-1961, where he first passed the Music Teacher Examination in 1958 and thereafter studied composition with Erland von Koch, Lars-Erik Larsson, Karl-Birger Blomdahl and Bo Wallner. Mellnäs then studied music theory until 1963. He travelled abroad during this time, and studied composition with Boris Blacher in Berlin 1959, Max Deutsch in Paris 1961 and György Ligeti in Vienna 1962. The latter composer proved to be of decisive influence on Mellnäs. He also studied electronic music during the following years. He visited Gottfried Michael Koenig at Bilthoven in Holland 1962-1963 and worked at the Tape Music Center in San Francisco in 1964. Mellnäs taught music theory at Stockholm Citizens’ School 1961-63 and in 1963 he was employed at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm where he taught orchestration 1972-86. He was chairman of the Swedish section of the ISCM 1983-96, and a member of the Board of the Society of Swedish Composers 1979-89. He was elected Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1984. President of the International ISCM 1996-2002.
The important position that Arne Mellnäs holds as a technical innovator and introducer of avant-garde styles to Swedish music can hardly be overestimated. The breadth of his understanding of the capabilities of different instruments is quite astonishing. The results of his explorative energy during the expansive 1960s crystallized into a personal musical language full of diverse moods. Nocturnes is one of his best works as far as chamber music clarity and perfect sentiment is concerned. The choral work L’Infinito is characterized by a strong radiance and vibrating beauty, rich in nuance. The writer Rolf Haglund has exquisitely described Mellnäs’ art: “Synthesis – so obvious that one almost does not notice it – that (as Kandinsky said) replaces the words ‘either-or’ with the determining and qualifying words ‘both-and’; music that can be enjoyed, regarded, studied, imbibed and digested lying on your back in the hammock looking at the clouds, in total relaxation and, therefore in total concentration—this is the great synthesis that I so often experience in Arne Mellnäs’ music.“ (Rolf Haglund, Musikrevy, 1985 / 5)
Hans-Gunnar Peterson (rev. 2002) Photo Lars Torndahl