Tranformative Reflections – Beyond The Light

Compositions, Improvisations – Reflections, Impressions, of Danish 19 century painters Hammershøi, LA Ring, Købke & Eckersberg.

Danish pianist/composer Nikolaj Hess has created solo piano music for the exhibition “Beyond The Light” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Getty Museum for his concerts April 11th and June 8th. The music takes inspiration and interest from the perspectives on Danish nature, and contrasting themes of light and dark, ideal and human, local traits and foreign influence, grand and small, existential perspectives and technical representations, and the cross-pollinations between art and science.

Hess has developed and worked with his personal methods for translating and drawing inspiration from painting to music, and reflecting back on the painting with composition and improvisation. The music for the concert is based on the perspectives and works in the exhibition, drawings and paintings by Eckersberg and Købke, and the enigmatic Dahl moonlight scenery of Copenhagens harbor. Hess will also incorporate some of his impressions from painters Hammershøi and LA Ring, whose works have been part of the collaboration between AFSMK and Hess.

The composition process based on paintings is seen from four different methodological categories, with the labels 1)Intuitive, 2)Element-Analytical, 3)Concrete, and 4)Idea-Analytical. Furthermore, there is a fifth perspective of the music reflecting back on the painting, seeking to create a dialogue between the sound and sight, and an experience of the two combined.

“I find immersing in the roots of the Danish painting tradition and how it grew into next generations all the way up to the presentinspiring. It feels still very relevant,  and besides being just stunningly beautiful, balanced and soulful, it seems at the same time like an important part of what might be seen as the big ongoing multi- and interdisciplinary artwork co-created by the past, present and future artists in different domains”

This collaboration with The Met is part of a far back reaching collaboration with the Danish National Gallery SMK and American Friends of SMK. In the fall 2023 Hess similarly created and performed a series of compositions and improvisations for the iconic Matisse painting at the Red Studio exhibition in 2022 at the Museum of Modern Art and SMK.

The music is connected to Hess’s research project Transformative Reflections, which is being funded by the Danish Ministry of Culture’s national program for artistic research (KUV) and being carried out as part of Hess’s tenure at The Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen as associate professor. The project has developed and worked with methods for translating and drawing inspiration from painting to music, and reflecting back on the painting with composition and improvisation.


You can listen to the Getty Live concert here:

the music only:


the concert with talk between the music pieces:


Link to the individual music pieces and introductions:


Listen here to the piece WHLARing, which is an impression of similarities between Hammershøi and LA Ring:

listen to WHLARing

Download-link to other pieces from the concert in different instrumentations, performed by Nikolaj Hess Trio, Prague Symphony, Nikolaj Hess and Strings:

download here