My artistic research deals with how the unpredictable and spontaneously vivacious improvisation can be maintained, while inspiring the improvisers with my own musical ideas notated as graphic compositional structures. "The improvisers" is the name I have bestowed on the co-creating and improvising musicians, including myself, who have participated in the project by performing the compositions. During the project, my compositions have continually been designed as graphic scores. As the music was being created, it would be rehearsed and performed by the improvisers. Every time the occasion to do so arose, I would use graphic symbols and notation in order to incorporate input - contributed by the improvisers - into the compositions. Video recordings of rehearsals and performances constituted an important part of my working method.

The compositions: Q, R, S, T, U and V 

The first thing that I decided, when I initiated the compositional processes in this project, was to choose which musicians I wanted to play with at the project’s first concert. Not so long before, I had played a very interesting concert with a trio, Dødens Garderobe. So I thought that, in connection with this project, it would be great to work with them again. Fortunately, they agreed to take part in the project and to perform my graphic scores at the project’s first concert, which took place in May 2015 at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. I then had a much clearer picture of the music that I was going to make: the sound of Jeppe Zeeberg’s piano, Nicolai Kaas Claesson’s bass and Rune Lohse’s drums, and I could imagine different groupings of these three instruments coupled with the sound of my alto saxophone. I wanted to create ten different pieces of music in all. Four of the pieces would be solos, presenting each instrument individually. These solo pieces were not going to be paired with any graphic scores because they were supposed to provide a free space for the musicians themselves to decide what to do. So, what I needed to create were six compositions and graphic scores.

At that time, I had just played music that was originally made by Ornette Coleman in the 1970s/-80s at a concert together with, among other players, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who was one of the bassists in Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time bandThis was truly wonderful music, and I had it fresh in my mind at the time I was starting to gather ideas for making my own music. So, I came up with three ideas. Firstly, I wanted a composition with some sort of an “almost groove” in it. As things came to pass, this eventually became the composition called Q. Secondly, I wanted a composition with an uneven number of bars in its melody, and this later became the composition named R. Thirdly, I wanted a very short repeated melody line of five or seven beats; this turned out to be the composition named S. 

I had also just recently played at a recording session with Marilyn Mazur and Simon Toldam. The result, an LP album called PLADESHOPwas released on the ILK Music label, July 2016. ILK Music is a Copenhagen-based independent record label run by artists. I have been part of ILK from when it was founded in 2003. Moreover, I was entrusted with the responsibility of being chairwoman of the board, in the period 2013-2015. 

The improvisations with Mazur and Toldam, and our interpretations of a number of songs that I brought to the recording session were on my mind as well. That led to ideas for two more of the compositions that I was going to make: I wanted to make a lullaby, which would be played on my clarinet in its chalumeau register, and this later became the composition called U. And, I wanted to make a specifically dynamics-oriented composition that was later named V. I wanted the last of the compositions to be a waltz and to be kind of Aylerian “folk song”-ish and simple. I cannot tell exactly where this idea stemmed from, but for a long time I have been attracted to the idea of placing elements of simple songs within the framework of a concert. What I mean by “a simple song” is something that you think you’ve heard before, even though you haven’t. And something you could easily join in on, after hearing it only once. It felt right to have a song like that in this concert, and this turned out to be the composition called T. 

The compositions: QUA, RAW, SHY, TIC, URN and VOW 

After the concert in May 2015, I planned another concert with Dødens Garderobe, which was slated to be part of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015 programme, presented at ILK Music’s venue, “5e”, in Kødbyen. For this new concert, I set out to write new compositions and I was intent on using the method that I had decided to use in the project. The method was based on observations of video recordings of the concert in May, and of the rehearsal we had before the concert. Besides watching and listening to the videos, I examined the notes I had jotted down just after the rehearsal and the concert. Many ideas contributed by the musicians had entered into the compositions. 

And the way that the musicians were interpreting the graphic scores had become expressions of the compositions by now. I wanted the musicians’ ideas to find their way into the new compositions I was making. At the same time, I was also inclined to regard the musicians’ expressions of the compositions as validating results of the compositional process thus far. The graphic scores of the respective antecedent compositions tell something about the elements I initially wanted to be in the composition, but I came to realize that it was the musicians who were gathering these elements in the respective antecedent graphic scores into indivisible expressions of the compositions. What I now wanted to try, and maintain in the graphic scores of the new compositions, was this indivisibility, and I was aiming to display a composition as one whole work of art, while still telling about the elements that I wanted embedded in the compositions. 

All the new compositions that were performed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015 had titles with exactly three letters. The first letter of every composition is taken from the respective antecedent compositions that had been performed at the concert in May. One composition was called QUA, and its first letter was borrowed from the composition Q. The composition RAW borrowed its R from the composition R, SHY borrowed S, TIC took its first letter from T, URN took its from U and VOW from V. This was my way of showing that some elements and aspects from the earlier compositions are still there in the new compositions. However, the aspects and elements had been developed through a new compositional process where the musicians’ interpretations and improvisations were taken into consideration. Because I now had my focus trained on each of the works as a whole, these new graphic scores express the new compositions in a radically different way. 


At the concert at Copenhagen Jazz Festival concert, we performed the new compositions and their graphic scores and I recorded the concert with a video camera. I also recorded the rehearsal that we had before the concert. Now I had new material to study in order to compose the last six compositions of the project, namely: QUARREL, RAWHIDE, SHYSTER, TICKLED, URNABLE and VOWELLY, which were all given titles with seven letters. The first three letters of each of these titles, as you might have guessed by now, are borrowed from the six compositions made just before. What this also entails, of course, is that each of the compositions’ very first letter is taken from the project’s first six compositions. 

As mentioned the final concert of this project was held at Jazzhouse on March 17, 2016. This concert was a double concert, where Dødens Garderobe and I performed the same compositions that we played at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015, namely: QUA, RAW, SHY, TIC, URN and VOW. However, the concert led off with a performance of the project’s newest compositions: QUARREL, RAWHIDE, SHYSTER, TICKLED, URNABLE and VOWELLY, interpreted and presented by an ensemble that had never played my graphic scores before. We had only one rehearsal, on the very same day that we played the concert at night. The ensemble for this section of the concert was the pianist, Carsten Dahl, the drummer, Raymond Strid, Jonas Westergaard on double bass and vocal, and myself, on alto saxophone and vocal. When composing the six compositions for this ensemble, I used the working method that I used earlier on: I watched and listened to video recordings of the concert played at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015, and of the rehearsal before that concert. And I read through – and carefully reviewed – my notes from just after the rehearsal and the concert. 

The difference now was that it was a new ensemble that I was composing for. Instead of the sound of the musicians in Dødens Garderobe, I had to imagine the sound of Carsten Dahl’s piano, Raymond Strid’s drums and Jonas Westergaard’s double bass. And the combined sound of these musicians and myself had never before been heard. Because the ensemble had never played together before, I thought that it was important to design graphic scores that would have a firm indivisibility, and would show a composition as one whole work of art. Proceeding in this way ought to make it possible for the ensemble to meet the composition together, in a shared experience. I thought that this would be the best way of attaining an indivisible expression of the composition, in our performance of the work. 

Because there was limited time for the ensemble to establish familiarity with the compositions, I was acutely conscious of the fact that each of the compositions had to be easy to distinguish from each other. I therefore chose to assign two main colors to each one of the graphic scores. I had not done this earlier: the graphic scores of the project’s first six compositions were sketched out in different shades of grey, and the graphic scores of the three-letter compositions were sketched out in many colors. And so QUARREL became light and dark blue, RAWHIDE was burgundy and purple, SHYSTER was painted in light and dark brown, TICKLED was light and dark green, URNABLE became red and orange and VOWELLY was pink and gray. 

Working with these new compositions and graphic scores for the ensemble’s different musicians, I started to imagine all kinds of possibilities. And, new ideas began to develop. I decided that I would play clarinet only with Dødens Garderobe, and would refrain entirely from playing clarinet with the new ensemble. Instead, I would add lyrics to a couple of the compositions. I decided that one female and one male voice should sing the lyrics, together: I would sing the female voice and the double bassist would sing the male voice. 

When I performed with Dødens Garderobe, we simply placed the solo pieces played by each instrument in between the six ensemble-scored works. In the compositions for this new ensemble, however, I chose to incorporate the musicians’ solo improvisations right into the graphic scores of the compositions. By doing this, the solos came to be an integrated compositional choice for me – and I thus had to conjoin my compositions with the sound of an individually improvising musician’s instrument. 

On methods  

The project's working method could, by and large, be characterized as an iterative artistic developmental process, which shuttles back and forth between two extremes: on the one pole, my own compositional work, together with the design and elaboration of the graphic scores; on the other, the rehearsals and performances of my compositions, with the collaborating musicians, for the two process-concerts that were presented in the course of the project’s lapse. I have become engrossed with these musicians’ improvised musical reactions, to the graphic notation I have been employing. And, I made use of my familiarity with their reactions, and of my insight into how they perceived and interpreted the graphic notation, in order to elaborate the next composition and its appurtenant graphic score.

This particular method was specifically selected by me in order to be able to embed the improvising musicians’ co-creation in the compositional work. By watching video footage of the rehearsals of the works with the musicians, and by watching video footage of our concert performances, by taking notes immediately afterward, and by remembering these situations, I managed to gain some insight into how the graphical notations were being apprehended and processed by the musicians. In some cases, the manner of registering the instructions graphically might have proven to be unclear, and might have to be recast, while in other cases, certain sections of the pieces might have proven to be especially exacting on the improvisation, or maybe ideas contributed by the musicians could give rise to alterations in the scores.