Arne Dørumsgaard was born on December 7th 1921 in Fredrikstad, a coastal town in South-Eastern Norway. He showed an interest in literature and music early on, and his first musical instructor was the pianist Jens Bugge Olsen in Fredrikstad. He later continued his piano studies with Ivar Johnsen in Oslo. He made his debut as a composer at age 13 (the same year that he bought his first gramophone record) and performed own compositions at a recital when he was 20 years old, but ended his career as a composer before he reached 30.
Dørumsgaard's compositions show a melody line that flows without effort and with distinct character, dramatic use of rhythm, and harmonies with clear roots in the national emotion sweeping the country at the time.
In 1942 he married the pianist Tora Øwre, with whom he had two children. In the period 1942-46 he taught musical theory at Barrat-Dues Musikkinstitutt in Oslo, and 1945-46 he also worked as a music critic for the newspaper Friheten. In 1946 he composed the musical score for the feature movie "Vi vil leve".
In the years after the war, Dørumsgaard was strongly opposed to the Norwegian government's treatment of the soprano Kirsten Flagstad: owing to the fact that Flagstad's husband was listed in the Nazi party's roster at one point, the government refused to issue her a passport for several years after the war. Dørumsgaard found it impossible to stay in Norway, and in 1950 he chose a self-imposed exile, with France becoming his first refuge.
In Paris he studied song with Maria Castellazzi and with time became a highly respected connoisseur of the vocal arts, both as a supporting musician for among others Poul Robeson and as an instructor and producer for recording sessions. He made his own debut as a singer on the record label Chant du Monde in 1955. Dørumsgaard developed an exceptionally uniform voice which could move from his natural baritone to soprano without the voice breaking or moving to falsetto. Towards the end of his singing career he relied on his voice as a medical check-up - if the voice was ok, the rest of the body was ok as well.
In 1949 Dørumsgaard started working on interpretation of Eastern poetry, and in 1951 he published the book "Blomster fra de keiserlige haver" (Flowers from the Imperial Gardens). In keeping with Dørumsgaard's systematic and holistic character, this turned out to be the first in a series of over 20 volumes containing interpretations of Chinese, Japanese and Korean poetry from the earlier dynasties (starting 1100 BC) and up to the 20th century.
Dørumsgaard has performed significant interpretative work within vocal music as well. In 1987 the series "Canzone Scordate" was published, containing 22 volumes of vocal music from the period 1250-1850, arranged for voice and piano by Dørumsgaard. The series was published as facsimile of his own eminent calligraphy. His arrangements were, like a number of his own compositions, very popular among contemporary vocal performers and have been recorded by, among others, Kirsten Flagstad, Teresa Berganza, Axel Schiøtz, and Gerard Souzay.
The collector Dørumsgaard
In 1968 Arne Dørumsgaard moved to Marzio in northern Italy, where he continued his interpretations of Eastern poetry and found ample opportunity to extend his already major collection of recorded music. The collection has its main focus on the performer and in addition to records it also contains record catalogues, programmes, music literature and video recordings. The collection is unique in its portrayal of interpretative history, and among the largest private collections of recorded sound in the world.
Dørumsgaard was awarded a scholarship from the Norwegian state in 1975, and served as cultural adviser for the Norwegian cabinet from 1976-88. His work on reinterpretation of Eastern poetry gave Dørumsgaard an award from the magazine Ordet in 1971, the Bastian Award in 1979 and an honorary doctorate at the university of Tapei, China, in 1982. For his lifetime achievements within the fields of music and literature he was created a knight a St. Olav Knight 1st Class in 1993.
In 1971 Dørumsgaard married the poet and painter Nella Valenza in Marzio, where he lived until his death on March 13th, 2006.