The name “Homo ludens,” or “the play of man,” is based on the philosophical idea and book by Dutch philosopher Johan Huizinga, who “defines play as the central activity in flourishing societies. Like civilization, play requires structure and participants willing to create within limits.”(1)
The idea of “play” is integral for musical pursuits. Musical instruments are played. Music compositions that are played, most often, have structure, whether strict or loose. And in all this playing, the musician is actively creating, often with set rules and objectives.
The genesis of our publishing company’s name traces back to a fun conversation with Icelandic composer Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson when we were constructing an authoritative edition of his solo piano works. “So, what shall we name our publishing company?” he said with a big smile. We threw some ideas around, but nothing seemed to work.
Early in 2013, Ríkisútvarpið (the National Radio Broadcasting Service of Iceland) aired an in memoriam program to honor Þorkell and his music. The program was named “Homo ludens.” I listened over the Internet, and the first words were Þorkell speaking: “Homo ludens… Hinn leikandi maður.” (“Homo ludens… The Play of Man.”) In that moment, our publishing company’s name was created.
Homo ludens Publishing showcases additional composers, like Þorkell, who exhibit a “playful” nature in their music, whether cast in a humorous spirit with fanciful titles, or music that reflects knowledge of literature, poetry, history, and the arts; or simply absolute, non-programmatic music with powerful communicative intent.
-Dr. Kristín Jónína Taylor, editor
1 Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A study of the Play-Element in Culture, London: Routledge, 1938.