Via the terms “graphic notation” and “post-jazz”, I have delimited my area of investigation. I have made my mark, historically speaking, in a tradition of notation that was developed within the realm of experimental music, and then I have narrowed down the field to that faction of jazz music that employs elements of post-tonal improvisation. Formally speaking, what we have here is a way of composing works that are geared toward improvisation and are, moreover, stylistically geared toward a kind of composition that expresses itself in a decidedly abstract language in relation to chords, tones and rhythms. 


In this project, an approach to composition was applied wherein the performance of the piece is not separated from the work, as a construct, and where relatively few detailed instructions related to the work’s execution have been given. As has been said before, the project’s overriding aim has been to create works that are recognizable, and not only graphically but which also are in possession of a distinctive sonic character – thus making it possible to recognize them from one performance to the next. For this very reason, I have deliberately and programmatically refrained here from using a graphically notated composition that would revolve exclusively around the performer’s utterly free interpretation, without specific instructions of any kind whatsoever. 


There are distinct paths, which come to light, relating to the project’s artistic practice. Firstly, there is an anchoring in post-jazz, the practice of which is collective, improvised and performative, and which has been formed and developed from, for example, Ellington’s and Mingus’s enlisting of their own band members’ personal artistic expression as part of the compositional process; this is a tradition that leads up to the present day practice, as it manifests itself in the work of composers like Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, John Zorn, Barry Guy and Richard Barrett. Secondly, there is an anchoring in experimental music, where the composition’s musical sum and substance is connected to unpredictability and indeterminasy; this is a tradition that takes its mark in the 1950s’ experiments with graphic notation – an activity that sprung up around the summer courses in Darmstadt – as well as in the New York School of composers like Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff and John Cage’s publication of Notations and the Fluxus movement.

Also worth mentioning in this regard is Cornelius Cardew’s music philosophy, which found expression in the Scratch Orchestra’s activity from 1969. This tradition has continued up to the present day, where these various tendencies are exemplified in a praxis that has been rendered fully transparent in Notations21, an anthology of scores edited by Theresa Sauer and published in 2009 by Mark Batty Publisher, in New York City, and in the ensuing international distribution of this particular book, through a programme that included exhibitions of the scores, lectures at universities and concert performances. The book contains musical scores from more than 50 different countries and over 100 composers including myself represented with the graphic score "Cacklecabin". 


Within the field of artistic research, this project (when it run from 2015-2016) related itself to Scandinavian studies such as: Free Improvisation - Method and Genre by Michael Francis Duch from 2011, where the focus is on free improvisation and improvisation-based experimental music, and Sten Sandell’s Music On the Inside of Silence from 2013, where the author’s own improvisational practice is the object of the study. In 2016 we also got Torben Snekkestad's The Poetics of a Multiphonic Landscape with solo improvisations created out of discovered saxophone sonorities. If we combine this field with improvisers in groups we find Ivar Grydeland's Ensemble & Ensemble of Me from 2016 with production of solo improvisations derived from improvising ensembles and production of collective improvisations with these ensembles. We also have Per Zanussi's Natural Patterns from 2017 making music with an ensemble of improvisers in the continuum of composition and free improvisation. Concerning musical scores there is Einar Torfi Einarsson's Decontextualized Notation from 2014 that critically and creatively investigates approaches to notation.”


Speaking generally, the previous artistic research on graphic notation and improvisation has not sought to embed the improvisers’ co-creation within the development of artistic interdisciplinary works with distinctive graphic and sonic characteristics. The dissemination of this project’s results therefore offers the possibility of providing insight into how the improvisers’ co-creation is embedded – on the one hand, in the elaboration of the graphic scores and, on the other, in the composition of works with a distinctive sonic character. And it concomitantly offers the possibility of providing insight into how this could lead to the creation of new aesthetic forms of expression.


Meetings and dissemination

When it comes to taking part and sharing achievements in the international field of artistic research, I had the opportunity, already early on in the project – in March 2015 – to be a guest at both the Supervisor’s Seminar and the Norwegian Artistic Research Spring Forum in Norway. The seminar “crossed over” traditional artistic-discipline borders, thus entailing that I could experience presentations of artistic research from other branches of the arts; this proved to be extremely fruitful. A month later, in April 2015, I traveled to Austria in order to attend the conference of the European Platform for Artistic Research in Music, where the fruits of artistic research in many parts of the world were presented. 


Later that year, in October 2015, I was a guest at the Norwegian Artistic Research Autumn Forum in Kristiansand and in November, I presented my project, as it had crystallized at that point in time, on two separate occasions: at the Danish Ministry of Culture’s artistically interdisciplinary Artistic Research Seminar; and at the “Unfolding the Process” symposium (peer-reviewed), which was held at the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. 


I consider philosophy and pedagogy of music to be strong and essential influences in my compositional practice. In addition to my education at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, I earned a Master of Arts in Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies (Music Education) from Aarhus University. A paper based on my final thesis was published in the peer-reviewed Nordic Research in Music Education Yearbook Vol. 15. The title of my paper is: “Processes of ensemble playing – a hermeneutical study as a contribution to the understanding of the phenomenology of musical ensemble playing”. At the conclusion of the project, in February 2016, and in connection with the publication of this paper, I made a research visit to the Department of Music & Performing Arts at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and there, with Professor David J. Elliott, I discussed the pedagogical aspects of my compositions. 


After completing the project I presented it at the peer-reviewed international conference Doctors in Performance” held in August 2016 at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Furthermore I had a peer-reviewed paper about the project published in Kunstnerisk Udviklingsvirksomhed – antologi 2016 (ed. A. G. Haugland), the Royal Danish Academy of Music. The book was presented in November 2016 at the Danish artistic research network’s Artistic Research Festival, which I co-arranged. At the festival, I participated in the panel of discussion and played a concert with my new trio. In August 2017, this trio performed my project’s graphic scores on a US tour with concerts in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York. The live recording of the NY-concert will be released as an album in 2021.


Certainly, we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants; this is a preliminary condition for being able to work in a project-oriented or conceptual way, as it were. For this reason, I feel a need to speak about the different contexts within which I have had the opportunity to meet with others, and to communicate my thoughts and results to others, working within and around this field of research. 

Within the realm of experimental music that makes use of graphic notation and within the circle of post-jazz which, apart from improvisation, also makes use of an abstract language in relation to chords, tones and rhythms, many kinds of graphic notation techniques have cropped up. In different ways, these notation techniques call the improvisational execution of the work into play. 

Like other composers in this international milieu, I strive to open up the compositions and their process. In this regard, my efforts here are not at odds with the work of other composers and researchers. However, my project differentiates itself from other research projects in this field insofar as I am adding something novel by virtue of rendering transparent the processes related to how I introduce concrete ideas, contributed by the improvisers, into my compositions.