Olav Fartein Valen was a Norwegian composer and music theorist, notable for his work in atonal polyphonic music. Valen was born in Stavanger, Norway in 1887 into a deeply Christian religious family and maintained his religious beliefs all his life. His parents were missionaries, and he spent five years of his childhood in Madagascar. In addition to his aptitude for music, he was also a polyglot, mastering at least nine languages. He earned his examen artium with the highest grades in all subjects except mathematics. He loved cats, nature, and literature, cultivated roses (even developed an award-winning hybrid), and after losing them in a devastating freeze took up growing cacti.