City of Stavanger is closing down The Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound

«It’s important not only to preserve sound, to preserve books, to preserve paintings, it’s also important to preserve properties, old trees, houses, interiors, old furniture. All these things are important because they tell about our past, and show the path we have had to take, and into the future we do not know, and in which culture will help us to survive»

Arne Dørumsgaard in the TV portrait in The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in 1983.

One of the world’s largest collections

The same year, 1983, Arne Dørumsgaard donated his music collection to Stavanger Municipality for a symbolic sum of one Norwegian kroner. City court judge and Labor Party politician Olav T. Laake is the man who got the audio collection to Stavanger. One of the world’s largest collections of classical music that is also open to the public. Until now, the collection has been further developed in accordance with the agreement with Arne Dørumsgaard, and added a number of other rare collections. But now it’s over; Stavanger municipality will close down the collection and spend the 2.8 million on performing artists.

«I believe that everyone can benefit from culture. And I do not believe in any fine culture, I do not believe in any high culture, I do not believe in any low culture, I believe in one thing, and that is culture. It’s just about making sure that everyone has the opportunity to take part in it. «

The board of the Sound Institute

consists of: Bjarne Kvadsheim (SP, Chairman of the Board), Mette Vabø (V, Deputy Chairman), Olav T. Laake (AP), Stein Bjelland (represents the State), Mark Drews (represents UIS, Faculty of Performing Arts), and Terje Dørumsgaard , which represents the family. In addition, lawyer Carl Gunnar Sandvold meets as Dørumsgaards deputy representative.

The board, and general manager Iselin Grayston, have done a formidable job for the Norwegian Sound Institute to be able to continue operations in accordance with the agreement with Arne Dørumsgaard. They are admittedly Stavanger municipality’s representatives on the board, but they have seen and understood what the collection represents, and they are aware of what a board in a foundation must relate to. The municipality’s breach of contract is not just a disaster for the institute and what the collection represents locally and internationally. It is also a mockery of the man who spent large parts of his life collecting these invaluable treasures, and who gave the collection to Stavanger municipality for a symbolic sum of one kroner. And a mockery of cultural understanding in its broadest sense.

Not just records and music books

Arne Dørumsgaard did not only collect gramophone records, sound recordings and music books. He also collected more than 2,000 folk songs from around the world, and released some of them in a new arrangement. Here is a poster from the opening of the La Scala opera in the autumn season 1986, where the concert «A tribute to Claude Debussy» was opened with three of his new songs.

The Dørumsgaard / Valenza collection also includes 14,000 hours of recordings from European radios. Recording not only of music, but also of political and other important events. Recordings that do not exist anywhere else in the world, and which are therefore irreplaceable. Recordings that can be released when the conditions are right for it. 

In 1947, Kirsten Flagstad got her passport back

Listen to Kirsten Flagstad sing «Søvnen» (The Sleep), composed by Arne Dørumsgaard. Lyrics by Arnulf Øverland. Piano: Gerald Moore. Tap the arrow below. The song received standing ovations during a concert in Metropolitan after the war, and had to be sung da capo.


In 1947, Kirsten Flagstad got her passport back. The Norwegian government had previously taken it from her. The world’s greatest Wagnerian interpreter of all time was able to return to the United States and continue her career at the Metropolitan Opera thanks to a signature campaign launched by Arne Dørumsgaard and the famous Norwegian singer Bokken Lasson. The country’s leading cultural personalities at the time signed the petition and made this possible.

Now it is Arne Dørumsgaard’s great gift to the city of Stavanger that needs help; help to continue the cultural work that has been done since 1984.

(The post was written before the decision to close down the collection was made.)

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