The son of a missionary Valen was born in Stavanger in 1887, he received his first musical education in between 1907 and 1909 in Kristiania (Oslo) under Elling and then at the Berlin Conservatory (1909–1911) under Bruch. He returned to Norway in 1916 settling in Valevåg in his native Hardaland. He moved to Oslo in 1924 working part-time in the university library and doing some teaching. Despite acquiring a reputuation as a superb teacher and being awarded an annual grant for life by Norway's National Assembly he felt uncomfortable in the city and returned to the country. I'm mostly interested in his choral music but his large-scale instrumental music from this period including four symphonies a violin concerto and a piano concerto are well worth seeking out by those with an interest in modern music.
His setting of Psalm 121 which you can hear below reflects his increasingly successful attempts to explore tonal harmony and to express his belief that nature's marvels and beauty reflect God's power that "holds its protecting hand over the doubting soul of the pilgrim". Enjoy :-).