One in Norway by One of Them: Vlogging for Classical Musicians

1. Introduction

1.1 Origins of and Motivation for the Project

When I applied to the Masters Programme of the Royal Conservatoire of The Hauge, I wanted to produce a musical theatre performance with my viola duo. I was attracted to musical theatre because of its more interactive nature than the standard concert practice in classical music. I hoped to learn more about combining classical viola performance with theatrical elements or acting in order to appeal to a broader audience. Unfortunately, around March 2020, Covid-19 hindered the realization of this project plan, so I had to find a different format to present my concept.

The new format had to be so Covid-proof that no lockdown or sudden theatre shutdown could have an impact on the production’s progress. Marco Blaauw, my professional integration supervisor, suggested that I try making videos where I would act out and play music from the script’s scenes at home. Through this project, I could work on various new skills, gain insights on video as a stage and produce something that I could share with an audience after I graduate. I liked the scope and the challenge of the project, so I moved forward with it.

During preliminary research on classical music and online video, the impression emerged that online classical music videos are often either a recording of a live performance, or an “online performance” from a musician who acts as if they are part of a regular live concert with an audience. In short, the performer does not seem to acknowledge the existence of the audience behind the screen, and sometimes the performer even seems oblivious to the camera itself. Some examples of this are this recording of the Brandenburg concerto, or this recording of the Hindemith Sonata op. 11 no. 4. There is nothing inherently wrong with this style of music video, especially if we observe it from the perspective of the traditional classical music practice. Perhaps the viewer can enjoy a performance much better through a video than from their seats in the concert hall, particularly if the audio quality is excellent (i.e., recorded and mixed by an engineer) and if images enhance the ambiance of the music.

However, if we look beyond most classical music videos online, we see that performers from other domains make videos with a very distinctive feature; the performer is aware of the audience behind the camera and thus addresses them directly. The online video format possibly requires a different way of engaging with the musical material and performance. What if classical musicians created videos that emulated the online video platforms’ more casual and chatty style?

According to Micha Hamel, the new way forward for the concert practice of classical music is radical cross-over. (Hamel et al., 2016) In his book “Speelruimte voor Klassieke Muziek in de 21e eeuw” he argues that we live in a multi-point attention economy, and therefore we should accommodate the new generation of listeners with not only the highest quality of music, but also exquisite images, feelings, and a lot of context. In the new concert practice the musician becomes a performer that is part of an event that takes place within a bigger network of context. (Hamel et al., 2016) With this in mind, I think a vlog series ticks a lot of boxes; it is a shorter format than a traditional concert, contains both auditory and visual content, it can be interactive and it is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

There are many musicians who have made videos about music theory, tips for practicing a musical instrument, or vlogged about their lives as professional musicians. The music in these vlogs often remains in the background, and when not in the backgound, the (live performance of) music plays a minor role in the video. I have yet to find examples of vlogs by musicians where a live musical performance is part of the narrative of the video.

The vlog with a live musical performance as part of its narrative is a medium that should interest both musicians and audiences because of its more direct manner of engaging with the interdisciplinary art practice in a digital world. Furthermore, the vlog as a stage gives classical musicians a new way to package their particular qualities.

Creating these vlogs is however not simply a question of fitting music to stories, but also a question of fitting the stories to the music. This should be done in a manner where the musical fragment is an intrinsic part of the video, and not just a gimmick or a soundbyte. In order to strike this balance, one needs a deep understanding of music and its function on a multidisciplinary stage.

An instinctive step towards this radical cross-over in vlogs is that a musician explores this balance. A musician should possess a deep understanding of the musical material, and this comprehension combined with previous experiences from the concert hall make for a solid starting point for vlogging.

Moreover, a musician often views their instrument as an extension of their voice or body. A musician might therefore be able to realize a more gradual transition between the spoken and musical contents of the vlog, and can perhaps even translate and interchange parts one aspect to the other.

1.2 Three in Norway by Two of Them

The theme of my vlog series is liberally based on the book “Three In Norway by Two of Them”. James A. Lees and Walter J. Clutterbuck wrote this book with lots of deadpan humor and plenty of detail. In 1882, three men set for a big hike through the Norwegian mountains. They encounter all sorts of problems and solve them by either gritting their teeth and getting on with it, or with their humor.

Three in Norway is basically one big series of contiguous anecdotes with vivid images of Esau, Skipper, and John’s travel stories. (Lees en Clutterbuck, 2005) The specific regions of the Norwegian mountains mentioned in the book are Jotunheimen and Rondane mountains, where I spent almost every Summer of my life. The stories and scenery are therefore very relatable to me. Because of the many anecdotes, the book lends itself well for cutting the story up into different episodes, which could be turned into scripts for vlogs. Moreover, the vivid writing style of the authors could help with envisioning the staging of my vlogs.

1.3 Grieg, Röntgen, Beyer and Norway

The famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and German-Dutch composer Julius Röntgen met in 1875 in Leipzig, but they got to know each other better when Grieg visited Amsterdam in 1883, where he stayed with Röntgen in his house on the Van Baerlestraat.(Röntgen en Grieg | Julius Röntgen, z.d.)

Grieg and Röntgens friendship resulted in many mutual visits, and an exhaustive exchange of letters with criticism on each other’s works. Grieg would invite his friends Frantz Beyer (a lawyer) and Röntgen for long Summer vacations in Jotunheimen in Norway. Röntgen was always left inspired from these vacations, as he continued to write many works inspired by Norwegian folk music. (Röntgen en Grieg | Julius Röntgen, z.d.)

There is a parallel between the lives of Grieg, Röntgen and Beyer and the story of Three In Norway; in both cases three men go on long hikes through the Norwegian mountains around the same year. I think this could make for an exciting crossover of music, Norwegian culture and humor.

1.4 Vlogspiration

Online videos come in many shapes and sizes. In this chapter I want to mention a few video-creators in particular who have influenced aspects of the research. These aspects range from the length and tone of the video to the objectives of the pilot experiments.

"The Lizzie Bennett Diaries" (Pemberley Digital, 2012)

“The Lizzie Bennett Diaries” is a social media adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. In the series, “Lizzie Bennett”, the modern day version of Elizabeth Bennett, vlogs about her experiences as a 20-something at the start of her professional career while looking for a boyfriend. In the first few episodes Lizzie impersonates the other characters of her story, instead of showing or inviting them on camera.

The production value of the Lizzie Bennett Diaries was relatively high for a web series; the characters in the vlogs are professional actors, and there was a team of about ten other professionals off-camera. Next to the short vlogs on YouTube, the characters had a Twitter and Facebook account each where they posted status updates that corresponded with the story. This series inspired me to adapt “Three in Norway by Two of Them” in a similar fashion.

The Vlogbrothers (Green & Green, 2007)

The Vlogbrothers (Hank and John Green) started their Brotherhood project back in 2007. During this project, they could only communicate via online videos posted to YouTube. Since then, they have helped start many iconic things within the YouTube community, like VidCon. Hank and John still make a weekly vlog for the channel each, where specific rules apply to the duration and contents of the videos they post.

TwoSetViolin (Yang & Chen, 2013)

This Australian violin duo are breaking the barrier between classical music culture and popular culture. They try and explain how the classical music world works with a healthy dose of humor.

2. Research Question and Objectives, Method and Parameters

2.1 Objectives of the Research and Research Question

The main objective of this research is to find an engaging and playful way of presenting my classical music practice in a vlog (an online video format). I hope to learn about the balance between spoken texts and live music performance on video, and if the order of introduction of those elements matter. The live classical music performance should be a highlight of the video, while blending in with the story arch.

Therefore, my research question is: “What makes a live classical music performance stand out in a vlog?”

2.2 Research Method

I will investigate the research topic through an iterative process, where I call each new iteration a “pilot experiment”. Each pilot experiment goes through five phases:

  1. Pre-Production; a description of the parameters and goals set for the experiment, the storyline, the music, and items needed for the production of the vlog.
  2. Production; the product itself; the vlog
  3. Description; quantitative data of the video
  4. Reflection; thoughts on certain aspects of the vlog, the (sub)conscious choices I made and if the live classical music stood out in the vlog.
  5. Learnings; the lessons this experiment taught me and things I could improve upon.

I write the findings of each phase in my journal, where I keep all my notes and ideas for the research. Through my reflections on the results on the pilot experiments, I try to write general notes and departure points for other musicians with similar ambitions for their musical practice. From these findings I will assess if I deem vlogging a possibly promising route to follow, for my own professional practise as a classical musician, and the rest of the classical music scene.

2.3 Limits and Defined Parameters of the Research

In order to create a sense of uniformity and a starting point, I will start by applying certain ideas and limits to it, according to the thesis I have about vlogging.

First of all, I think that it is crucial to keep my videos relatively short in duration. In order to realize this, I chose an arbitrary four-minute rule, meaning my videos will be shorter than four minutes. This rule was inspired by John Green from the Vlogbrothers. (vlogbrothers & Green, 2010) I believe the four-minute rule will help me in three ways; firstly the short duration of the video forces me to focus on the music and the story, omitting most diversions. Additionally, the duration of video could hypothetically encourage the audience to watch the full video, because it is only less than four minutes long. And last but not least, it is a quantitative rule, so I can easily know if I kept to the rule.

Another fixed parameter in the vlogs is that I have to play the viola for at least a minute per vlog. The exact duration will of course depend on the story and the context of the video, and the choice of music. During my viola performance in the vlog, I have to be visible as the performer of the music for at least half a minute. This ensures that there will be “enough” viola playing for it to be a prominent feature of the video, and that it is clear that I am the performer of the music heard.

Furthermore, the theme and music for the pilot experiments will be comparable; the music choices have been narrowed down to two composers; Edvard Grieg and Julius Röntgen, and the theme is Norwegian nature and culture. All musical excerpts in the videos are going to be live solo viola performances, played by heart.

In the first two pilot experiments, I structure the video so that the live musical performance happens in the middle of the video, meaning that I will speak first and then introduce the music, and speak afterwards, too. In pilot experiments three and four I apply the structur in the inversion, so that the vlog starts with a live musical performance, I talk in the middle, and the video concludes with a musical performance.

When the production of the vlog is done, I reflect on a certain aspects of the vlog. These aspects are;

  1. Story, Text and Acting
  2. Choice of Music and Musical Performance
  3. Visuals and Video Edit
  4. Balance of Spoken Text and Music

After a short critical contemplation on these aspects, I ask the question;

  1. Was the live musical performance standing out in the vlog?

From the analyses of the aspects and the reflective answer to the question above, I draw lessons for the next pilot experiment.

It is important to note that the research excludes one factor of the vlog production process. This factor is the technical quality of the audio and video footage of the vlogs, for instance the resolution of the images or the distortion of the sound. Of course I could borrow better equipment, or hire someone to help me give my videos a more professional look. The exclusion of these technical matters is however an intentional choice for simplicity, in order to focus on the contents and artistic ideas of the vlogs. On a related note, one should view the results of the pilot experiments in this research as “rough drafts” or preliminary studies for videos I could produce in the future.

In summary, this research focuses on creating short videos where musical performance and spoken text have to be balanced in a playful and engaging way. It investigates this balance through reflecting on certain aspects of the vlog. The scope of the research is limited to the balance and quality of the content of the videos that result from the experiments, and does not reflect on the technical qualities of the video or audio footage. The results of the experiments should be regarded as preliminary studies for future video productions.

3. The Research Process

Note: the videos are for the most part in Dutch. The transcript of each video can be found in the appendices. The transcripts are in Dutch and English. There is also the possibility to watch the video on YouTube with subtitles, the link for that is at the top of the corresponding appendix.

3.1 Pilot Experiment 1

3.1.1. Pre-Production

Starting points for the first vlog:

  1. The maximum length of the video is 4 minutes
  2. The minimum length of the music performed on the viola is 1 minute, and the performer needs to be on camera for a minimum of 30 seconds
  3. The music performed in the video has to be composed by Grieg or Röntgen
  4. The theme or story has to have something to do with Norway
  5. The structure of the video I want to try is: (text - music - text)
  6. Other: this vlog has to introduce the project to the audience

The story points:

Filming/technical equipment available: iPhone SE (2016), iPad Pro (2020).

Props and clothes:

3.1.2 Vlog 1: “Inpakken”/“Packing”

Transcript of this video can be found in Appendix A.

3.1.3 Description

See Appendix B

3.1.4 Reflection

1. Story, Text and Acting

I think the storyline was comprehensible, but the details about the project plan were not stated clearly enough. It was evident that I was uncomfortable and nervous when talking to the camera; I stumbled and did not finish my sentences. The transition from the explanation of the project to the packing should have been longer. The last part of the story also felt somewhat rushed; the one-sided conversation takes more than thirty seconds, while we only hear of the pandemic and that I have to think of an alternative project in the last six seconds. Moreover, it was not clear what music I was playing or why I was playing it, because I failed to mention the connection between the music in the video and my adventures. So story- and text wise, there is a lot I could improve upon!

2. Music Choice and Musical Performance

The choice of the melody from Griegs’ violin sonata was too dramatic and emotional for the part of the story where I performed it. This melody would have been more suitable for the discovery of the pandemic situation, for instance. I liked that the melody still works without any accompaniement. Furthermore, the videos theme was heightened by the Norwegian sound of the melody (clear influences from folk music) and that it was composed by a Norwegian. The performance of the excerpt was good enough for the first experiment, my vibrato could have been faster and more consistent, and the intonation of the faster parts the intonation could be better.

3. Visuals and Video Edit

I had to cut and stick a lot of different takes together to make semi-understandable lines, because I did not finish each line every take as I was uncomfortable speaking for the camera. My face was nicely within frame in the clips where I just talked about the project. The camera angle of the clips where I played the viola was tilted slightly upwards, which makes for a rather awkward view. The colors of the video seemed quite dark, perhaps this was due to only using artificial lighting.

4. Balance of Spoken Text and Music

The balance between text and music was good, neither aspect overpowered the other. The live music performance was a prominent feature of the video, and there was enough time for the story.

5. Was the live viola performance standing out in the vlog?

The live viola performance was noticeable, but I think its prominence could be enhanced by an announcement or explanation beforehand. Another factor to look into is the movement in my body when I’m playing the music. The image of the performance felt static, which is not a bad quality in itself, but because the only other thing to look at was the packing sequence, some visual interest was lacking.

3.1.5 Learnings from Pilot Experiment 1

  1. Speaking or playing music alone in front of a camera is difficult, so I have to practice it more.
  2. The pacing of the story could be improved, the important plot points should get enough time to resonate with the audience.
  3. I should in some way mention what I am playing on the viola, and maybe even explain the connection between the story of the video and the music.
  4. The choice of music should fit (or clearly contrast) the mood of the part of the video it will be in.
  5. I need to finish my sentences when I speak, so the audience can understand the text and thus the story better.
  6. The use of artificial lighting only can make the footage seem dark, so try filming with (more) natural light instead.
  7. Record footage on multiple locations, or include clips from locations.
  8. Create visual interest in the viola performance.

3.2 Pilot Experiment 2

3.2.1. Pre-Production

Starting points for the second vlog:

  1. The maximum length of the video is 4 minutes
  2. The minimum length of the music performed on the viola is 1 minute, and the performer needs to be on camera for a minimum of 30 seconds
  3. The music performed in the video has to be composed by Röntgen
  4. The theme or story has to have something to do with Norway
  5. The structure of the video I want to try is: (text - music - text)
  6. I should in some way mention what I am playing on the viola, and maybe even explain the connection between the story of the video and the music
  7. I need to finish my sentences when I speak so the audience can understand the story better
  8. Film with natural light instead of artificial lighting only
  9. Record footage on multiple locations, or include clips from locations
  10. Create visual interest in the viola performance

The story points:

Props and clothes:

3.2.2 Vlog 2: “Vogeltelling”/“Bird Counting”

Transcript of this video can be found in Appendix C.

3.2.3. Description

See Appendix D

3.2.4. Reflection

1. Story, text and acting

There was no script for this vlog, which is noticeable; you see me think up the words as I am trying to talk. The delivery of the texts is already much better than the previous video in terms of pronunciation and finishing my sentences. The texts were adequate, especially if you take into account that they were improvised. The dangerous side of improvisation however, is that it can lead to failing to mention crucial information to the story, and then the consistency of the story suffers from it. This happened for instance in the announcement of the musical excerpt; I explained the relation of the piece to the theme of the video and the title of the work, but I failed to talk about Julius Röntgen, which meant I failed talking about the connection of the music to the project.

The theme of this vlog was playful, inventive and relatable, but the direct connections to the previous vlog or Norway were absent. The beats of the story were not evenly spread throughout the video, and this time the vlog did not have a conclusion nor a cliffhanger. I do not mind, and even mildly prefer to deviate from the anecdotes “Three in Norway by Two of Them” entirely and keep telling stories that are very loosely based on the theme of Norway and nature, because it is more relatable and closer to my truth as a person. This change in the approach requires careful planning and execution in advance for the next experiments.

2. Choice of Music and Musical Performance

The selected excerpt from Röntgens viola sonata in a minor fit the theme of the video well, because the melody matched the curious and airy nature of bird watching with its irregular meter. During the less melodic and transitional parts of the excerpt, the context of the piano part was missed, so in that regard this fragment is not the ideal choice for an outstanding musical performance.

The preparation of the excerpt was better than the previous vlog, although there are still some perceptible intonation and coordination issues that could have been fixed before recording. Lastly, there was a discernable stronger and more conscious effort to show an active attitude in the video footage of the musical performance, which made the musical performance more interesting to look at than last time. You can see this effort for example in the last chord of the excerpt (2:54 of Vlog 2: “Vogeltelling”).

3. Visuals and Video Edit

The use of natural light and the variety in the footage were huge moves towards vast improvements from last vlog. The colors brought a brighter and fresher look to the video, which in turn helped the music to sound like that, too. The video edit was better, but the result is still too fragmented for my taste.

4. Balance of Spoken Text and Music

Although in this video had more music than text (see Appendix D), it felt like a perfect balance of vlogging and music. I think the musical performance does not feel as long as it is, due to the three things; firstly the more active viola performance, secondly the different clips of birds and bird counting, and mostly the inner movement of the excerpt itself.

5. Was the live musical performance standing out in the vlog?

The musical fragment matched the theme of the video well, which made it an enhancement to the vlog overall. The introduction of the work also helped to focus on the musical ideas in the excerpt. I wonder if the audience notices that the music is in fact performed in one take, since the musician could only be seen for about 30 seconds total as the performer of the work. Would this fact be more clear if the whole video were shot in one take?

3.2.5. Learnings from Pilot Experiment 2

  1. A rehearsed text or at least pre-written storyline is essential for delivering a story
  2. When improvising the texts certain plot points or facts can not be left out, because this will ruin the storyline of the video.
  3. Maybe I do not want to adapt “Three in Norway by Two of Them” so literally, and focus more on the loose relation between the composers Grieg and Röntgen and Norwegian culture and nature.
  4. The match in the tone or theme of the story and the musical fragment is very important, a good choice can enhance the video in many ways.
  5. The attitude and energy of the musical performance for the camera is palpable and changes the impression of the video and the music played.
  6. The use of a variety of clips from different locations in the vlog can support the theme of the video.
  7. Introducing the musical excerpt and its relation to the story can help the audience understand the concept of the video.

3.3 Pilot Experiment 3

3.3.1. Pre-Production

Starting points for the third vlog:

  1. The maximum length of the video is 4 minutes
  2. The minimum length of the music performed on the viola is 1 minute
  3. The music performed in the video has to be composed by Grieg
  4. The theme or story has to have something to do with Norway
  5. The structure of the video I want to try is: (music-text-music)
  6. The complete video has to be recorded in one take
  7. Try to tell a personal first-hand experience instead of telling an adapted anecdote from the book “Three In Norway by Two of Them”
  8. Create visual interest in the viola performance

The story points:

Props and clothes: none

3.3.2 Vlog 3: “De Eland”/“The Moose”

Transcript of this video can be found in Appendix E.

3.3.3 Description of Vlog 3

See Appendix F

3.3.4 Reflection

1. Story, Text and Acting

Telling a personal experience instead of an adapted anecdote from “Three in Norway by Two of Them” made it much easier for me to remember the full text for the video, and to state all the main points of the story. The acting is exaggerated; the arm that points to the mountain is unnecessary for example. I talked slower because I was concentrating on making as little mistakes as possible, as I could not simply cut to a better take mid-sentence in this one-take video style. I think the one-take concept gave the vlog a calming, quiet, intimate and more exciting character than its previous iterations, because of the more natural pauses between lines that would normally be cut in the edit.

2. Choice of Music and Musical Performance

The choice of music was excellent; it has Norwegian features and sounds like it is up to some mischief. In this experiment, I tried looking in the camera as if I were playing music to someone in particular. This felt very intimate for me, but I also looked as if I was telling the viewer of the video something secret. The eyecontact is another way to thicken the emotion you want to convey. Musically speaking, I liked the timing of the accented notes in the performance, and felt it reflected the mood well. I did notice however that I sped up in the repetition of the melody when it goes an octave up from the first time.

3. Visuals and Video Edit

There was no major video editing involved in this vlog; the experiment was to record the whole video in one take. The only thing I changed is that I put 12 seconds of moose footage from 2013 in the middle of the take, but I think the original attention span of the video is still intact, as the moose was a climax. The lighting of the footage was on the dark side, which I did not notice when I recorded the video.

4. Balance of the Spoken Text and Music

In this vlog the emphasis was on the story about the moose, while the music almost functioned like bookends on a bookshelf. This is not to say that the music went unnoticed; it just was not part of the bigger narrative of the story.

5. Was the live musical performance standing out in the vlog?

The silly nature of the music with the additional eyecontact made it a unique performance in the series so far, where I almost immediately ask the audience to look at my live viola performance. The melody is very catchy, and because it is played almost three times in full, people might remember it. I doubt that my musical performance was the very highlight of this vlog; I think the moose stole my show.

3.3.5. Learnings from Pilot Experiment 3

  1. Vlogging about a personal experience can be much easier than acting out an anecdote from someone else
  2. Filming a vlog in one take led to better concentration on the plan, and the determination to get as many things as perfect as possible after each other
  3. The one-take concept also brings a more quiet and intimate atmosphere to the vlog
  4. When playing the viola, you can try and look in the camera for an intimate effect, as if you were introducing the theme of the video.
  5. If you talk about a moose, you will have to show a moose to the audience
  6. If you show a real moose in your vlog, it will unfortunately steal your show

3.4 Pilot Experiment 4

3.4.1. Pre-Production

Starting points for the fourth vlog:

  1. The maximum length of the video is 4 minutes
  2. The minimum length of the music performed on the viola is 1 minute
  3. The music performed in the video has to be composed by Röntgen
  4. The theme or story has to have something to do with Norway
  5. The structure of the video I want to use is: (music-text-music)
  6. The vlog does not have to be recorded in one take

The story points:

Props and clothes:

3.4.2 Vlog 4: “Na Regen…”/“After Rain…”

Transcript of this video can be found in Appendix G

3.4.3 Description of Vlog 3

See Appendix H

3.4.4 Reflection

1. Story, Text and Acting

What I liked about this vlog is that it combined the historical element of Grieg and Röntgen with a talk about Norwegian weather. The text is far from perfect, but it did the job. The presentation starts off in a more serious and factual manner than the previous vlogs. As the vlog progresses, the playfulness shines through more and that gives some air to the situation. One can notice this for example when I wear a fake moustache, put on my sunglasses or slide out of frame at the start of each motif during the credits. It is obvious that I had more fun filming this vlog than when I filmed vlog no 1.

2. Choice of Music and Musical Performance

It is fun that the same movement of a piece can have such different temperaments. The motif played at the beginning of the vlog is both stirring and static, while the lush “lento quasi fantasia” (bars 61-69) is radiant like the sun in Summer. This latter excerpt is especially difficult to play without a pianist, because there is no chord or moving note to bounce off from.

Taking these factors into mind, I thought the choice of musical excerpts and execution of the performances were truly meaningful and helped enhance the story.

3. Visuals and Video Edit

The flow of the text in the first half felt awkward, maybe the cuts between the lines should have been faster. The effects on Röntgens quote were fun, although my changing the speed meant that the clip also went on for longer than planned. Another amusing effect in the edit was that the lighting got brighter as the vlog proceeds.

4. Balance of Spoken Text and Music

Unlike last vlog, the text and the music were now much better in balance. One can not see this in the numbers; I spoke much longer than the live musical performances in total, but the musical material of the climax was demanding and therefore “weighed” heavier than its duration on the scale of this vlog. However, the text was still slightly more prevalent than the music, which is I think is mainly due to the long quote that the reconstructed Julius Röntgen read.

On a vaguely related note, I believe that showing the transition of the performer between narrator and musician makes a difference in how the audience receives the musical content. In this vlog this transition happens twice; once from musician to narrator, and then from narrator back to musician before the last live musical performance. The brief moment of silence followed by sounds of placing the viola on the collarbone might give the viewer time to anticipate the rest of the vlog.

5. Was the live musical performance standing out in the vlog?

In this vlog, viola playing was the resolution to the problem of the endless rainfall, and combined this with the history about Grieg and Röntgen. The musical excerpt was now not solely a soothing song in a major key at the end of the story, but it actually played an important role in the narrative.

Furthermore, I looked at the camera while playing this excerpt again, like I did in the previous vlog. Even though I was wearing sunglasses during the musical performance, playing facing towards the camera made for a more affectionate, inviting and capturing presentation than playing facing away from the camera.

3.4.5. Learnings from Pilot Experiment 4

  1. Connecting history with the present is a satisfying way of rounding off your story
  2. Contrasting musical excerpts are together more than the sum of one
  3. Let the viewer witness the transition of the performer from actor to musician, because it builds anticipation
  4. Music can be the conclusion to your vlog as part of the narrative of the story

4. Discussion and Conclusion

4.1 What makes live classical music stand out in a vlog?

There are various ways to make live classical music the highlight of a vlog. The first way of accomplishing a compelling performance is the choice of music. If the musical excerpt does not enhance or contrast the story of the vlog, it will be dismissed as not being a part of the vlogs’ narrative. Therefore it is crucial to think of what story you want to tell and what role the music will play in the narrative of the vlog. This is not as easy as it seems and takes careful planning of the materials.

When the choice of music has been made, the performer should work on learning the musical excerpt by heart. Knowing musical material by heart is always a boost of confidence in itself, but it also gives the performer the freedom to engage in the next step.

The next step is to create visual interest in the viola performance in some way. This can be done by exuding more energy while playing, or moving with more conviction. My preferred way of accomplishing visual interest and engagemnt is to look at the camera during the performance, as it is a direct way of capturing the attention of the viewer.

Another aspect to consider when producing a vlog with live classical music is the balance between spoken texts and live musical performance. In my four pilot experiments, the latter two vlogs had a better overall balance between text and music than the first two vlogs. This is probably partly due to my vlogging skills improving with every new pilot experiment. However, one could argue that the music-text-music structure made the viola part of both the beginning and the ending of the vlog, and that this “book-end” structure combined with the repetition of the musical material in those fragments can make the music more memorable.

On the whole, it is key that in the creation of a vlog with live classical music in its narrative the performer masters their materials, and takes the aspects mentioned into consideration.

4.2 Reflection on the Research Method

The research method succeeded in reflecting on the balance of the music and spoken text in vlogs, and the production process of the vlog itself. Each pilot experiment resulted in a list of learnings, and fortunately most of those learnings could be applied to the following pilot experiment.

There were however inevitable shortcomings in my research method. For one, I have not asked many people to reflect extensively on the vlogs I made. All opinions and findings are based on my own perceptions. If I were to study this research topic more, I would ask someone to reflect on one of my vlogs with me every other week. I would be interested in how they perceive the balance and musical highlights in the video.

Moreover, I could have uploaded my vlogs to YouTube and shared it with the world wide web. If I had done that, I might have had more (meta)data and insights on the online aspect of vlogging by now. But in order not to embarrass myself on the internet with the first few pilot experiments of a brand new skill, I passed on this opportunity.

To conclude, there were many factors left out of the research, but I am content with the findings from my own analyses. I think they are a solid outset of my search for the cross-over vlog.

4.3 Recommendations and suggestions

Based on the materials I have studied, I can suggest some departure points for a compelling and playful theatrical vlog involving a live classical performance in its narrative.

Practice makes perfect: Speaking or playing an instrument in front of a camera by yourself can feel very awkward at first. Therefore it is key that you do not expect your first vlog to be perfect, as your confidence as a vlogger will grow naturally over time if you practice.

Start off with vlogging about personal experience that is close to your heart: It is much easier to remember your plot points and music if you can relate to the story you want to tell.

Try making eye contact with the camera when you are performing: When you intentionally look at the camera during music making, you are actually addressing your audience in a very intimate way. This can make for an inviting and engaging look.

4.4 Further Work

I would like to look into the capacity of these vlogs as a stage for classical musicians compared to normal concert recordings with theatrical elements, to see what kind of impact the performer has on their audience in each situation.

Another point for further investigation is the popularity and metadata of the vlogs if they were available for a broader audience; does this video format attract a younger audience?

4.5 Reflection on the Research Trajectory

At the time of publication, only a handful of people have seen and commented on my vlogs, mostly my close friends and family. Showing these vlogs to others feels very different from sharing my viola performances; I was almost more nervous about showing the first two vlogs than about playing my final Bachelors’ exam, even though the stakes in the vlog were much lower than the exam.

The creation of a vlog takes a lot of time; I estimate it takes a minimum of 40 hours between the first concept of a story for a vlog and the export of the final video. Fortunately, I noticed that by the fourth vlog I was getting into a flow; I was already much more aware of what steps needed to be taken in accomplishing the goals of the vlog.

This research was very interesting to execute, because I have tried to develop a format that used my expertise as a musician and made me grow skills that were outside my comfort zone. This process taught me useful lessons about the values I have as an artist, and I am confident I want to continue on this path to see where it might take me.

4.6 Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to Andrew Wright for helping me design my research, and writing supportive emails with helpful notes.

I would also like to thank my family (Marianna, Kristofer, Sunniva and my boyfriend Simon) for making sure I kept up with the work and talking me through issues with my experiments.

5. Reference List

EuroArtsChannel. (2015, July 3). Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051 (Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado). YouTube.

Green, H., & Green, J. (2007, January 2). Vlogbrothers (Youtube Channel). YouTube.

Grieg, E. (2019) Sonata No. 2 Opus 13 in G major for violin and piano, G. Henle Verlag (Original work published in 1867)

Grieg, E. (2017) Norwegische Tänze Opus 35 No.2, G. Henle Verlag (Original work published in 1881)

Hamel, M., Maas, van, S., Weelden, van, D., & Luijten, A. (2016). Speelruimte voor klassieke muziek in de 21ste eeuw. Hogeschool Codarts Rotterdam

Lees, J. A., & Clutterbuck, W. J. (2005). Three in Norway by two of them. Andresen & Butenschøn AS.

Röntgen en Grieg | Julius Röntgen. (n.d.). Julius Röntgen. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from

Röntgen, J. (2004). Sonata for Viola and Piano in a minor. Nederlands Muziek Instituut (Original work published in 1925)

Röntgen, J. (2006). Sonata for Viola and Piano in c minor. Donemus (Original work published in 1924)

Ursula Skaug. (2020, May 24). Hindemith Sonata op. 11 no. 4 - Ursula Skaug, viola. YouTube.

Vlogbrothers, & Green, J. (2010, January 4). It Hurts In My Toof: The 2010 Rules. YouTube.

Yang, B., & Chen, E. (2013, September 21). TwoSetViolin (YouTube Channel). YouTube.

6. Appendices

Appendix A: Transcript of Vlog 1: “Inpakken”/“Packing”

Link to subtitled YouTube video:

Vlog 1- Inpakken (Dutch Transcript)

[0:00] Hee! Ik ben Ursula, en dit is mijn vlog.

[0:07] De komende tijd neem ik jullie mee op reis door Noorwegen.

[0:12] Ik ben al heel vaak in Noorwegen geweest, want mijn familie woont daar.

[0:19] Maar deze keer wordt het wel anders.

[0:22] Ik heb een reis gepland gebaseerd op het boek “Three in Norway by Two of Them”.

[0:29] In dit boek, dat 140 jaar geleden geschreven is, gaan drie Britse mannen op reis (er staan allemaal mooie plaatjes in)

[0:43] Ze wandelen dan door de Noorse bergen, en

[0:46] Edvard Grieg en Julius Röntgen, twee van mijn favoriete componisten, hebben precies zoiets gedaan samen met hun vriend Frantz Beyer.

[0:55] Ze wandelden door de Noorse bergen en euhhh ja… ze spraken over van alles.

[1:06] Dus dat leek mij ook heel leuk om te doen. Maar ik moet nog wel even inpakken.

[1:09] Grieg violin sonata

[2:14] Oh! Hallo? Wat zeg je nou?!

[2:23] Nee maar dat… Is het zo erg?

[2:35] Tjonge jonge jonge. Ja, daar heb je wel gelijk in. Ja, ok, tot gauw! Ja… Doei

[2:52] Dan moet ik maar een alternatief verzinnen…

Vlog 1 - Packing (English Transcript)

[0:00] Hey! I’m Ursula, and this is my vlog.

[0:07] I’ll bring you with me on my travels to Norway the coming time.

[0:12] I’ve been to Norway many times before, because my family lives there.

[0:19] This time will be different though.

[0:22] I’ve planned a trip based on the book “Three in Norway by Two of Them”.

[0:29] In this book, which was written 140 years ago, three British men go on an adventure (there are some nice pictures in it as well).

[0:43] They hike in the Norwegian mountains and…

[0:46] Edvard Grieg and Julius Röntgen, two of my favorite composers, have done something like that together with their friend Frantz Beyer.

[0:55] They hiked through the Norwegian mountains and err yeah…. they spoke about all sorts of things.

[1:06] So I thought that was a fun thing to do. I still have to pack my bag

[1:09] Grieg music

[2:14] Oh! Hello? What did you say?

[2:23] No but that is… Is it that bad?

[2:35] Boy oh boy…. Yes, you are right about that…. Yes, okay, see you soon! Bye…!

[2:52] Well, then I have to think of an alternative…

Appendix B: Data about Vlog 1

Quantitative Data

Duration of video: 175 seconds

Duration of text (total): 111 seconds

Duration of musical excerpt (total): 64 seconds


Piece: Edvard Grieg, Violin Sonata no. 2, Opus 13, II. Allegretto Tranquillo, bars 11-36

Changes made to the original score: I played the whole excerpt an octave lower, and I left the piano part out. In bar 28 I play quarter notes instead of a run.


Performers: 1 performer; Ursula

Camera: iPhone SE (2016), front camera

Location: 1; Ursula’s bedroom

Appendix C: Transcripts of Vlog 2: “Vogeltelling”/“Bourd Counting”

Link to subtitled YouTube video:

Vlog 2 - Vogeltelling (Dutch Transcript)

[0:00] Vorige aflevering in one in Norway by one of them

[0:04] Ik ben Ursula.

[0:06] Edvard Grieg en Julius Röntgen.

[0:12] Wat zeg je nou?

[0:15] Dan moet ik maar een alternatief verzinnen.

[0:17] Nou Ursula uit het verleden, ik heb een alternatief gevonden.

[0:21] Vandaag ga ik vogels tellen want we hebben er nog wel wat en het is Nationale Vogelteldag.

[0:28] Op de website van de vogelbescherming kan ik dan doorgeven hoeveel vogels ik heb gezien in een half uur. Dan weten de vogel onderzoekers hoeveel vogels er allemaal zijn.

[0:37] Ik heb nog een extra hulpmiddel, we hebben altijd dit hangen: “Herken uw tuinvogels”.

[0:42] Ik ben benieuwd of ik er meer zie alleen maar de koolmees en de pimpelmees maar misschien ook een merel of een groenling.

[0:52] Een deel van het alternatief is dat ik niet altviool speel in Noorwegen maar dat ik hier thuis stukken op altviool speel van Grieg en Röntgen.

[1:03] En vandaag speel ik het allegro vivace uit de sonate in a klein voor altviool en piano. Want het klinkt vrij en licht net zoals vogels!

[2:57] Oké ik ben klaar met tellen, ik heb precies een half uur aandacht gekeken naar de tuin.

[3:03] Wat heb ik gespot: vier koolmezen, een zwarte kraai, drie merels, een vink, een halsbandparkiet, twee meeuwen, een houtduif en een zanglijster. Hoe cool is dat!

[3:18] Het was heel leerzaam, ik wist niet hoe ik een zanglijster moest herkennen bijvoorbeeld.

[3:22] De volgende stap is dat ik dit allemaal invoer op de website van de Vogelbescherming.

Vlog 2 - Bird Counting (English Transcript)

[0:00] Previous Episode in “One in Norway by One of Them”

[0:04] I am Ursula.

[0:06] Edvard Grieg and Julius Röntgen.

[0:12] What did you say?

[0:15] Well, then I have to think of an alternative…

[0:17] Well Ursula from the past, I have found an alternative.

[0:21] Today I am going to count birds, because we have so many and it is National Bird Counting Day.

[0:28] On the website of the Bird Protection Society I can fill in how many birds I have seen in half an hour. Then the bird researcher know how many birds there are.

[0:37] I have an extra tool, it always hangs here: “Recognize the birds in your garden”.

[0:42] I am curious if I see more than just the great tit and the blue tit, but perhaps also a blackbird or a greenfinch.

[0:52] Part of the alternative is that I don’t play the viola in Norway, but that I play works on my viola here at home by Grieg and Röntgen.

[1:03] And today I am playing the allegro vivace from the Sonata in a minor for viola and piano. Because it sounds free and light, like birds do!

[2:57] Alright, I am done counting; I have watched my garden for precisely half an hour.

[3:03] What did I spot: four great tits, a black crow, three blackbirds, a finch, a ring-necked parakeet, two seagulls, one wood pigeon and a mavis. How cool is that!

[3:18] I learned a lot, I did not know how to recognize a mavis before, for example.

[3:22] The next step is that I enter this information on the website of the Bird Protection Society.

[3:30] text: done with counting!

Appendix D: Data about Vlog 2

**Quantitative Data**

Duration of video: 232 seconds

Duration of texts (total): 104 seconds

Duration of musical excerpts (total): 128 seconds


Piece: Julius Röntgen, Sonata in a minor for Viola and Piano, II. Allegro Vivace, bars 5-160

Changes made to the original score: bars 128-131 I simplified the melodic line.


Performers: 1 performer; Ursula

Camera: iPhone SE (2016), front camera

Locations: 3; living room, garden, Ursula’s bedroom

Appendix E: Transcripts of Vlog 3: “De Eland”/“The Moose”

Link to subtitled YouTube video:

Vlog 3 - De Eland (Dutch Transcript)

[0:52] Dit is het verhaal over de Eland. Ik heb namelijk ooit een eland in het echt gezien.

[1:02] Het was een zwoele zomeravond in 2013 in de Noorse bergen. Ik slaap daar altijd met mijn hele familie in allemaal hutjes.

[1:14] En het mooie aan Noorse zomeravonden is dat de zon pas super laat ondergaat, ergens na 12 uur ‘s avonds,

[1:23] Wij wandelden dus van de berg af om een uur of elf, en ergens in de schemering zagen wij een silhouet van elanden geweien.

[1:33] Ja niet één, maar twee! Het was een groot gewei en een klein gewei.

[1:41] Maar helemaal zeker weten konden we niet, dus we liepen steeds dichterbij en dichterbij.

[1:48] En jawel hoor: daar stond de eland!

[1:54] Kijk eens, en dan is de hytte daar,

[2:03] Gewoon pal bij ons voor de deur!

[2:07] Ik liep direct onze hut binnen en pakte de altviool. En ik speelde wat Bach voor hem.

[2:18] Dat concertje ging nog een hele poos door en terwijl ik speelde kwam ik erachter dat dat tweede gewei zijn baby eland was geweest. aaah

[2:29] Dus dat was een super goede foto-op (foto-optie).

[2:34] En de volgende ochtend waren ze daar nog steeds. Misschien hielden ze wel erg van Bach, of waren ze te lui om ergens anders naartoe te lopen, dat weten we natuurlijk niet.

[2:47] Later die middag stonden ze ook achter onze wc hut.

[2:53] Alleen, de volgende dag was hij weer vertrokken.

[2:58] Misschien was hij wel niet helemaal niet zo’n fan van altviool.

[3:02] Maar ik heb ook wel eens gehoord dat er trollen bij onze hut wonen. En misschien hebben die trollen hem wel eens opgegeten. Wie zal het zeggen?

Vlog 3 - “The Moose” (English Transcript) [0:52] This is the story about the Moose. I once saw an actual moose in the wild. [1:02] It was a sultry Summer evening in 2013 in the Norwegian mountains. My family and I sleep there in small huts. [1:14] The nice thing about Norwegian Summer nights is that the sun goes down very late, somewhere after 12 at night. [1:23] We were hiking downhill from the mountains back to our huts at about 11 PM, and somewhere in the dusk, we saw the contours of moose antlers. [1:33] Yes not one, but two! there was a big antler and a small antler [1:41] We weren’t completely sure of our presumption, so we walked closer and closer…. [1:48] And there you had him: the moose. [1:54] And look, the hut is over there [2:03] He’s in front of our door! [2:07] I quickly walked to our hut and grabbed my viola. I played some Bach for him. [2:18] That concert continued for quite a while, and while I was playing the second pair of antlers appeared, presumably his baby moose. (aww) [2:29] That was an excellent photo-op (opportunity for a picture). [2:34] The next morning they were still there. Maybe they love Bach so much, or they were to lazy to walk away, this, of course, we can not know. [2:47] Later that afternoon they stood behind our toilet hut. [2:53] But the next day he was gone… [2:58] Perhaps he was not such a big fan of the viola. [3:02] I’ve also heard about trolls who live nearby our hut, and maybe those trolls ate him. Who can say?

Appendix F: Data about Vlog 3

**Quantitative Data**

Duration of video: 217 seconds

Duration of texts (total): 143 seconds

Duration of musical excerpts (total): 72 seconds

Other: 2 seconds of silence during title card


Piece: Edvard Grieg, Norwegischer Tanz op. 35 no. 2, originally for piano 4-hands

Changes to the score: the melody is still in its original key, but everything was performed an octave lower.


Performers: 1 performer; Ursula

Camera: iPad Pro (2020) front camera

Locations: 2; Ursula’s bedroom and Norwegian mountains

Appendix G: Transcripts of Vlog 4: “Na Regen…”/“After Rain…”

Link to subtitled YouTube video:

Vlog 4 - Na Regen (Dutch Transcript)

[0:09] In 1875 kwam Julius Röntgen Edvard Grieg voor het eerst tegen. Vanaf dat moment ontstond er een hechte vriendschap.

[0:18] Vervolgens is Röntgen wel veertien keer naar Noorwegen geweest om Grieg op te zoeken.

[0:24] Samen met Röntgen en hun vriend Frans Beyer hebben ze door de bergen gewandeld bij Jotunheimen.

[0:31] Veel van zijn composities raakten geïnspireerd door de landschappen en de mensen en de volksmuziek. En daar heb ik een quote over:

[0:42] "Jotunheim is een wereld geheel voor zich. Alleen zomers door herders bewoond.

[0:50] Grieg en ik reisden van Lofthus per “stolkjärre”, een klein karretje op twee wielen, naar de Sognefjord waar wij per roeiboot Skjolden bereikten.

[1:02] Onderweg namen wij een speelman op de Hardangerviool in ons wagentje mee. En hij speelde ons muziek gedurende die heerlijke tocht.

[1:13] Hoe past deze muziek bij de natuur.

[1:17] Grieg luisterde met verrukking, in zijn hand een glas portwijn dat hij van tijd tot tijd de speelman aanbod.

[1:25] ‘Dat is Noorwegen’ zei hij.

[1:29] Het was een warme augustus middag. De fjord diepgroen, en wij uitgestrekt op hooizakken lieten het grootste berglandschap aan ons voorbijtrekken. " (Röntgen en Grieg | Julius Röntgen, z.d.; as cited in Röntgens letters written in 1884)

[1:40] Wat een heerlijk leven beschrijft Röntgen daar. Want als de zon schijnt dan kun je eindeloos wandelen en heerlijk kletsen buiten.

[1:50] Maar als dat niet doet, en het heel veel regent, kun je nergens naar toe.

[1;57] Het kan zelfs zo zijn dat je tent wordt weggespoeld. Tenminste dat is vrienden van ons overkomen.

[2:04] Als de zon weer schijnt, na al die regenachtige dagen, dan zet ik mijn zonnebril op en denk ik aan Grieg en aan Röntgen.

Vlog 4 - “After Rain…” (English Transcript)

[0:09] In 1875 Julius Röntgen met Edvard Grieg for the first time. From that moment on, they were very good friends.

[0:18] Subsequently, Röntgen visited Norway fourteen times to see Grieg.

[0:24] Together with Röntgen and their friend Frans Beyer they hiked through the mountains of Jotunheimen.

[0:31] Many of his compositions from that time onwards were inspired by the scenery, people and folk music. I have a quote about that:

[0:42] Jotunheim is a world entire unto itself, merely inhabited by shepherds in Summer

[0:50] Grieg and I travelled from Lofthus by “stolkjärre”, a small cart on two wheels, to the Sognefjord from where we reached Skjolden by rowing boat.

[1:02] On the way we took a minstrel and his Hardanger violin with us in our cart and he played us his music for the rest of that wonderful journey.

[1:13] How this music goes with nature.

[1:17] Grieg listened, enchanted, a glass of port in his hand which he would offer to the minstrel every now and again.

[1:25] “That is Norway “, he said.

[1:29] It was a warm August afternoon, the fjord a deep green and we, stretched out on bags of hay, let the magnificent mountain scenery pass us by.” (Röntgen en Grieg | Julius Röntgen, z.d.; as cited in Röntgens letters written in 1884)

[1:40] What a wonderful way of life Röntgen talks about. Because when the sun is out, you can walk endlessly and talk outside.

[1:50] But when the sun does not shine, and it rains a lot, you can not escape to another place.

[1:57] It can happen that your whole tent is washed away by rain. That happened to friends of ours.

[2:04] When the sun shines, after all these rainy days, then I put my sunglasses on and think about Grieg and Röntgen.

Appendix H: Data about Vlog 4

Quantitative Data

Duration of video: 212 seconds

Duration of texts (total): 129 seconds

Duration of musical excerpts (total): 83 seconds


Piece: Julius Röntgen, Sonata for Viola and Piano in c minor (1924), II. Andante Mesto; bars 1-4, 61-69, and 94-end of movement.

Changes to the score; I changed the notes in bar 69 en on a full cadence (C major) instead of a Trugschluss (Original score), in order to make the excerpt function as a culmination. I also cut repetitions of the motif from bars 94 to the end of the movement because of time constraints, and its repetitiveness without the piano part.


Performers: 1 performer; Ursula

Camera: iPad Pro (2020) front camera

Locations: 1; Ursula’s bedroom