Writing and artistic research
Writing is not so much an activity that is ‘about’ or pursed alongside music as it is a way of critically thinking, reinventing and experimenting with music. This sentence is a paraphrase on a statement by Brett Steele, originally coined at writing on architecture.[i] It holds true for these reflections on my artistic work. The texts are not written after the fact, as some afterthought; they have been conceived as an integral part of the artistic process, reflecting not in hindsight, but in the real-time of creative work.
The essays are at the not-quite-scholarly core of my reflection, but represent only one mode of this process. Some ideas have been dealt with in literary forms, exploring how fiction can open up to quite different thought-formations. During the fellowship I have also published more popularized texts in literary and musical periodicals. Some of them address the issues I have dealt with extensively, some of them are more peripheral, but I have chosen to exclude most of this material from the formation that the Norwegian Artistic Fellowship refer to as ‘critical reflection’.
As can be seen from the references, I have looked for source-material in a wide area. I have taken the liberty to choose by sensibility and intuitive affinity, not always by theoretical savviness. Traditional musicology is scarcely present; my main interest has been to do excursions in the fields of critical theory and history of art. There are several reasons for this, the main is maybe the feeling that these theories tend to deal with a wide network of contact points with politics, philosophy and present-day-culture in general. My emphasis on contextual relations and discursive possibilities for music is the background for this interest, a desire to see music as a part of a bigger picture than what is provided by traditional musicology.
At one point Ina Blom, in capacity of being my secondary supervisor, asked me “…but what are your desires, in the music?” This could be as good a place as any to try to give an answer, and I think it is about this: A music where you can hear something that is conveyed, a questioning of established truths, not beyond or beside or after the musical fact, but in the sounding music itself. A performance where you can experience, in the fabric of what is performed, an opening up of a given situation. This is my desire, and the starting point of my investigation. The result can be heard in the pieces Standing Stones, Johannes Brahms Klarinetten-Trio and Schubert Lounge. These texts are my conscious thinking, reinventing and experimenting with those desires.
A few words on the format of my reflections: They consist of three levels of text: Essays, Brief Notes and excerpts from my two novels Enmannsorkester and Allsang (translated by Ian Giles). Some essays, like “Excavation/Exhumation/Autopsy” and “Body and Site” address underlying ideas and structures in my project. Others, like “Delirious Brahms” discuss the musical works in a more direct manner. None of the essays deal with the works on levels of compositional technique or musical detail. The novels are a literary way to reflect on my musical topic, written in parallel with and in response to the musical investigations. The Brief Notes are short texts clarifying my use of terms or deal with delineated topics. To avoid confusion with the genre of the strictly academic essay I have tried to keep the use of footnotes to a minimum, and to use the device for certain structural or literary functions not always in line with proper scholarly form.
Before we go into the subject matter, let me take a little time to thank some people that have, in different ways, been important to me in this work. As I write each name I pause briefly (but thoughtfully) and send a mental flower to each and one of you: Ole Lützow-Holm, Ina Blom, Olav Anton Thommesen, Trond Reinholdtsen, Lars Petter Hagen, Tanja Orning, Anders Førisdal, Håkon Stene, Harriet Karoliussen, Frederik Lønstad, Audun Vinger and last but in no way least the fabulous Charlotte Thiis-Evensen.
For the scores, I refer to the first printed edition. Where a score or recording is mentioned on several occasions, only the first instance is referenced.
[i] Brett Steele (ed.), Supercritical (London: Architects Association, 2010) p.104.