"I am proud that I am a Latvian composer, since we have an incalculable wealth – Latvian folk songs, whose melodic intonations and substantive imagery is an inexhaustible fountain for works in many different compositional techniques."
Selga Mence was born on January 12th, 1953 in Liepāja. Her father – math teacher Jānis Mencis. In his youth, he studied choir conducting at the Jēkabs Vītoliņš Education Institute of Riga. Her brother Jānis Mencis Jr. is also a mathematician. Selga Mence graduated the 5th High School of Liepāja, with a focus on German (gold medal, 1971), after two years she was at the Emīls Melngailis Music College of Liepāja, then the composition class at the Latvian State Conservatory and studies with Pauls Dambis (1978, 1988). She has studied musicology.
She worked for many years at the Latvian Culture Ministry Repertoire Editorial Council (1980–1987). In the 80s, she managed the children’s music sphere in the Composers’ Union. As of 1985, she is a lecturer and is currently an associate professor in the Latvian Academy of Music composition department. As of 2004, Selga Mence has been the head of the composition department at the Latvian Academy of Music.
Selga Mence’s name was first highlighted in association with choir music. Her works were performed at the Scandinavian Song Festival in Norway in 2000 and at many Song Festivals in Latvia, the United States, and Canada. Many Latvian choirs have achieved victory at international competitions with her works. Selga Mence has participated in such projects as the Songbridge 2000 festival Europa Cantat XIV in Nevers, France, and at the Month of European Music in 2001, Basel. Her cycle Dziesmas (Songs) for two pianos was included in the top ten recommended works at the 1999 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.
Choir songs, children’s music – in these genres of creative work Selga Mence’s bright emotionality has been especially expressed, as well as the liveliness of musical images, love of Latvian folk verses with the traditional, stable world of value. Often using Latvian (and Liv) folk melodies and texts (often blurring the boundary between folksong arrangement and original music) altogether included in the national romantic tradition that still is developed with contemporary compositional materials. The works display sonoric colouristic possibilities and aleatoric characteristically improvisational games. Of highest importance is the intonative material that, determinedly and logically – Selga Mence’s characteristic qualities – directs, sets alight the work’s overall perception. Guntars Pupa correctly wrote, that she, as one of the first of the new composers, actualised melody in Latvian music in the 80s. (Literatūra un Māksla, 1986). It is possible that, due to this creative influence, the song genre has become significant in her newest instrumental writings, in a symbolic way concentrating within herself a very nuanced poetic character.
Lolita Fūrmane, supplemented by Mārīte Dombrovska Photo - Edmunds Mickus © LMIC