Symphonies Reframed recreates symphonies as chamber music. The project aims to capture the features that are unique for chamber music, at the juncture between the “soloistic small” and the “orchestral large”. A new ensemble model, the “triharmonic ensemble” with 7-9 musicians, has been created to serve this purpose. By choosing this size range, we are looking to facilitate group interplay without the need of a conductor. We also want to facilitate a richness of sound colours by involving piano, strings and winds. The exact combination of instruments is chosen in accordance with the features of the original score. The ensemble setup may take two forms: nonet with piano, wind quartet and string quartet (with double bass) or septet with piano, wind trio and string trio. As a group, these instruments have a rich tonal range with continuous and partly overlapping registers.
This paper will illuminate three core questions: What artistic features emerge when changing from large orchestral structures to mid-sized chamber groups? How do the performers reflect on their musical roles in the chamber ensemble? What educational value might the reframing unfold?
Since its inception in 2014, the project has evolved to include works with vocal, choral and soloistic parts, as well as sonata literature. Ensembles of students and professors have rehearsed, interpreted and performed our transcriptions of works by Brahms, Schumann and Mozart. We have also carried out interviews and critical discussions with the students, on their experiences of the concrete projects and on their reflections on own learning processes in general.
Chamber ensembles and orchestras are exponents of different original repertoire. The difference in artistic output thus hinges upon both ensemble structure and the composition at hand. Symphonies Reframed seeks to enable an assessment of the qualities that are specific to the performing corpus and not beholden to any particular piece of music. Our transcriptions have enabled comparisons and reflections, using original compositions as a reference point. Some of our ensemble musicians have had first-hand experience with performing the original works as well. Others have encountered the works for the first time through our productions. This has enabled a multi-angled approach to the three central themes of our research.
This text is produced in 2018.
Wood or Blood?
New scores and new sounds for voice and clarinet
Astrid Kvalbein and Gjertrud Pedersen, Norwegian Academy of Music
What is this thing called a score, and how do we relate to it as performers, in order to realize a musical work? This is the fundamental question of this exposition. As a duo we have related to scores in a variety of ways over the years: from the traditional reading and interpreting of sheet music of works by distant (some dead) composers, to learning new works in dialogue with living composers and to taking part in the creative processes from the commissioning of a work to its premiere and beyond.
This reflective practice has triggered many questions: could the score for instance be conceptualized as a contract, in which some elements are negotiable and others are not? Where two equal parts, the performer(s) and the composer might have qualitatively different assignments on how to realize the music? Finally: might reflecting on such questions influence our interpretative practices?
To shed light on these issues, we take as examples three works from our recent repertoire: Ragnhild Berstad’s Vevtråd (Weaving thread, 2010), Jan Martin Smørdal’s The Lesser Nighthawk (2012) and Lene Grenager’s Tre eller blod (Wood or blood, 2005). We will share – attempt to unfold – some of the experiences gained from working with this music, in close collaboration and dialogue with the composers. Observing the processes from a certain temporal distance, we see how our attitudes as a duo has developed over a longer span of time, into a more confident 'we'.