Interpreting Finn Mortensen’s Piano Music in an International Perspective
Finn Mortensen (1922-1983) was one of Norway’s most central composers and influential modernists in the decades following the Second World War. Nevertheless, his music is little studied among both researchers and performers. The dominant contemporary view that Mortensen was, as the renowned Norwegian musicologist Finn Benestad put it, “[t]echnically competent and emotionally cold” (Benestad 1959), and a composer more occupied with the constructivist than the expressive and emotional sides of music has largely remained a prevailing paradigm. This perception was not improved by Mortensen’s tendency to always talk about his music in purely technical, compositional terms and to remain silent about the stylistic, aesthetic and emotional content on the few occasions he reluctantly commented on his music. In addition, his scores, characterised by an ascetic notational style, contain very few expressive marks, dynamic nuances, tempo modifications, or other signs that could reveal aesthetic or emotional intentions.
In my PhD project, which focuses on the performance and recording of Mortensen’s complete piano music, my starting point has been the opposing view that his music has dynamic power, flexible gestures, colourful harmonic language, and what I perceive as strong and varied emotional content. By juxtaposing Mortensen’s piano compositions with some of the most iconic music of the twentieth century, including music by composers that heavily influenced Mortensen’s development and fuelled his search towards an internationally oriented modernist style, I hope to expose a broader range of viable ways of performing Mortensen’s music. This way, I intend to challenge the view of Mortensen as merely a cold constructivist and instead shine a light on his other sides, the impulsiveness, expressivity and emotionality I have always perceived as inherently present in his compositions. The project could thus significantly impact the understanding of his music and enable performers to make artistic choices based on a broader and more nuanced frame of reference, facilitating a deeper insight into his musical intentions.
My main goal with this project has been to explore some of the music’s interpretational possibilities and, as an extension of this, disseminate and discuss the knowledge, methods and processes that can lead to new and personal interpretations. Through this project, I hope to contribute to a new assessment of the aesthetic, stylistic and expressive aspects of performing Mortensen’s piano music, and that way, challenge and nuance history’s judgment of one of Norway’s most central modernists.
Benestad, Finn. "Ny Musikk." Vårt Land, December 8th 1959.
PPC – A PROJECT TO CRITICAL REAPPRAISAL OF THE HISTORY OF THE MÜHL "COMMUNE".
This open exposition was designed by Elisabeth Schäfer, Paul-Julien Robert, and Ida Clay as members of the PPC FWF PEEK project to critically examine the history of the Mühl "commune"/sect at Friedrichshof/Burgenland Austria.
Founded by the Viennese Actionist artist Otto Mühl in 1972 and dissolved by the Communards in 1990, the "AA Commune" was initially dedicated to raising awareness of habitualization through domination in everyday socio-cultural life practice and to liberating people from the sphere of influence of powerful social institutions. Their declared goal was to overcome authoritarian institutions such as the state, the church, the bourgeois family, capitalism, and patriarchy with the help of science, art, and liberated sexuality. The social experiment ended in a highly authoritarian system within a controlled community. Mühl was sentenced to seven years in prison for multiple sexual abuse.
Together with contemporary witnesses, the project strives for a re-examination and reappraisal of the commune and its effects through "research in and through the arts" by building a research space collaboratively designed by artists, contemporary witnesses and scholars as a reservoir for the joint exploration of individual and collective historical aspects of the AAO: (Re)writing of Reality Through Discourse.
This open exposition is one share of this (re-)writing through discourse. It presents an overview and excerpt from the three-year artistic research project in the form of a research landscape in which various formats can be visited as stages of research. In the form of a mapping we have embedded audio, video and text products into the research landscape of our project. Central locations of this landscape are the Friedrichshof in Burgenland, Austria, site of the former "commune"/sect & the Volkskunde Museum Vienna as national cooperation partner of the project.
Title of the project: PPC - Performing Primal Communism. (Re)writing of Reality Through Discourse
Principal investigator: Paul-Julien Robert
Project Team: Ida Clay, Thomas Marschall, Elisabeth Schäfer
Research location: Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Institute of Fine Arts | IBK) | Karl-Schweighofergasse 3 | 1070 Vienna
Cooperation partner: Volkskundemuseum Wien
Funding: PPC is an FWF PEEK project [AR568] Project duration: 2020-2023
The E(c)lect(r)ic Guitar in The Mechanical Forest
Vidar Schanche, Per Zanussi, Jonas Howden Sjøvaag
The E(c)lect(r)ic Guitar in The Mechanical Forest is my investigation into how to expand my improvisational palette as an electric guitarist, by working with compositional techniques and concepts used in composed contemporary western art music. In my work, I have focused on incorporating movement, microtonality, as well as multimedia composition techniques and application of technology, both in the performance as well as in the creative process. A key focus of my artistic practice has been exploration of the transcorporeal nature of my relationship with the guitar. This has resulted in creative work which has grown from a deep focus on the materiality of the guitar and the visual, tactile (touch) and kinetic (movement) aspects of sound production.
1 How can I use compositional techniques and concepts from contemporary composed western art music to expand my palette as an improvising guitarist?
2 How can I transfer musical techniques and concepts, which often are used in a strictly predetermined environment, to a musical situation where improvisation is an important element in the performance.
3 How can I reconfigure/extend the electric guitar, and how can the reconfigured/extended guitar reshape the way I create and perform music?