by Anna Einarsson



Getting a commission is like being a hired assassin: you agree on a target, you receive some money and you do not meet again until the dark and sordid deed has been performed.


 In 2010 I received a commission to compose a chamber opera for MalmöOperaverkstad, an opera company in the southern part of Sweden. I envisioned a work integrating different forms of electronics together with traditional instruments, for over the last few years this was the timbral palate I had come to establish in my practice. At the time of the commission I also commenced a PhD in singing voice and interactive electronics at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Therefore I decided to implement interactive electronics using vocal analysis in some part of the work. 

  The idea for the work emerged after reading the book Kung Kalle av Kurrekurreduttön, where the presumed historical role model of Pippi Longstockings father Efraim was portrayed (Langer & Regius, 2002). The story was fascinatingly multifaceted, the themes of longing and loneliness universal, and the connection with one of the most beloved fairy tale characters in Sweden was appealing, yet at the same time challenging; most Swedes have a relationship to Pippi Longstocking. For the opera company, this was a way of approaching Pippi as part of their series of Astrid Lindgren characters in childrens operas. In addition to working with a mix of acoustic instruments and electronics, and having the above-mentioned book as a point of departure, I wanted to work by negotiating the performance space and the great divide between audience and stage. During the last few years, bringing in everyday sounds and synthetic electronic sounds as music material had expanded my compositional palette. I wanted this for me personally attractive state - the expansion of listening and attention - also to influence the performance situation. This approach had an antecedent in for example a work I initiated called Ljudspår (2008) where I performed with tram sounds live on the old tramway to Djurgården in Stockholm together with two fellow composers. Ljudspår was a concert-in-motion, and Ps! I will be home soon! opened for an exploration of the possibilities of an audience-in-motion, the division between seated passive audience and standing active performers feeling inhibitory.

  Returning to the initial quote, a comment made by a renowned fellow composer regarding the commissioning procedure, the scenario is unfortunately a quite common way to go about the commissioning of new works. But is it necessarily the only course of action? 

Visual artist and researcher Paul Carter (2009) – albeit from another art discipline - similarly brings awareness to problems that may arise when a commissioner does not acknowledge the value of a collaborative process. He identifies three conditions common in a fruitful collaborative situation: the forming situation, the discursive momentum and the necessity of design, conditions to which I will return later in the exposition. Turning the tables, Hayden and Windsor (2007, p. 29) make the claim that composers are poorly prepared (or motivated) to engage in committed collaborations, and they quote Nash in an article from the 1950s saying that from a composers point of view, the most ideal form of collaboration for a composer be with a dead artist! Nevertheless they emphasise a need for exploring new ways of proceeding when commissioning music, and this constitutes the backdrop for the discussion to follow. 

  Together with the artistic director of MalmöOperaverkstad Maria Sundqvist, a series of workshops with different topics for each occasion was decided upon. The overall aim was to explore different themes related to the narrative and the musical content of the work-in-becoming Ps! Jag kommer snart hem! (Ps! I will be home soon!) (Einarsson & Sundqvist, 2012). In the following, benefits and challenges of the workshop structure as a method towards a new work of music drama are presented through the use of thematic examples. The process is tentatively summoned up in the final section as a multi-layered calibration towards the new work.

Ps. I will be home soon!


On the work

  Ps! I will be home soon! is a musical composition with a written score, fixed time between events and performing musicians and artists; thus it is not a music-theatre with a script nor an installation where one can enter or leave at will. The fact that the work was housed inside an opera company further emphasises its situation in a music discourse.

  Elektrikal was the neologism I entitled the work-to-be, suggesting the intersection of different musical styles in my compositional language. Also it hints at the discursive field (Barrett, 2009, p. 137) within which the work takes place: in the intersection of writing opera and writing popular music, highlighting issues of combining electronics with acoustic instruments in the realm of the mixed work (Emmerson, 2009).

  The parts included are: Vykort (Postcards), Vrakgods (Wreckage), Skeppsbrott (Shipwreck), Big Charley and Kompass (Compass). 


Table 1. Instrumentation.


Vykort             Mezzo-soprano, tenor saxophone and live interactive electronics.

Vrakgods        Assembled physical sound objects and objects rigged with motion detectors for the audience to interact

                        with by touching, lifting, opening, shaking etc. Tape part creating the environment for the other sound

                        events to take place in.

Skeppsbrott   Tape electronics, live electronics, all four singers (2 soprano, 1, mezzo, 1 baritone) and all six

                        instrumentalists (DB, vlc, vl, el. git, bar. sax, live el.).

Big Charley    Live electronics, violin, 2 sopranos.

Kompass        Live interactive electronics, violin.


  The narrative in Ps! is non-linear. The parts can be assembled in different ways to provide different meanings. Thus, focus is on the individual experience. In the piece the audience is divided into two groups, each group guided by an actor and following the piece clockwise and counterclockwise. There were no chairs so the audience was free to move about or sit down as they wished, scenography allowing (for a sketch on the audiences trail - see Image 12 below). The piece opens with the two actors telling the tale of Calle Petterssons shipwreck.

  The interactive technology implemented was a motion-tracking system in the scene Kompassen, voice analysis in the scene Vykort, and found objects reacting to touch, elevation etc. in the scene Vrakgods. The analysis tools for voice and motion capture were developed in collaboration with Dr Anders Friberg, researcher at the Royal Technical University in Stockholm. (The voice implementation is further described in Einarsson & Friberg, 2015, In press).

On interactivity

  The discourse regarding how to define and demarcate interactivity is ongoing. Many authors have stated that interactivity is a concept too all-encompassing (Morse, 2003; Kim & Siefert, 2007; Drummond, 2009; Paine, 2002), and different definitions flourish within different domains, without any clear consensus. The concept interactivity assumes interplay between two parties different in nature. Therefore, some authors prefer the term responsivity, since it also allows for a technology not always working flawlessly, yet bringing about interesting artistic results (Morse, 2003; Kozel, 2007). The most significant distinctions to be made between a poetics of interactivity and one of responsivity relate to the nature of action and the construction of subject” (Kozel, 2007, p. 187). I am inclined to denote my work as responsive, to impact rather than control, yet when collaborating with musicians I have found that such wording calls for much more explanation. I will not go further into this taxonomy discourse in this paper, but conclude that there is a need for defining interactivity in a less polarized manner, allowing for the same flexibility as technology does to also influence how we conceptualise, and instead leaning on how performers perceive the interplay. Preliminary results from my continuous work in a project called Metamorfoser (Metamorphoses) (Einarsson, 2015) suggest that a unique feature of technology is its capacity to be experienced as both intra- and inter-, and this will be further elucidated in forthcoming publications.





Participants and Procedures

  Three workshops were held: two of them before the reception of the libretto/start of composing and one of them during the phase of composing. The current theme and aim for each workshop formed the basis for the choice of participants. The topics for each workshop were actively discussed and finally decided upon by the artistic director Maria Sundqvist, then planned and led by MalmöOperaverkstad. Each workshop was documented by videotape.

  This collaborative artistic work in the making was studied through an approach of direct and participatory observations, as well as formal and informal discussions intersecting throughout the workshops.

  Workshop 1: September 10th and 11th 2010. Participants: the composer, the librettist, the scenographer Leif Andersson and the drama pedagogue Lars Fembro together with invited children from the culture school and some additional adults associated with the MalmöOpera.

Aim: to explore the narrative through different group exercises led by Lars and an arts teacher from a local school.

How: improvisation of scenes made up with our bodies as material for living statues, creation of collages, discussions and much more.

  Workshop 2: November 4th and 5th 2010. Participants: the composer, the librettist, the scenographer, musicians, opera-singers and two film-pedagogues.

Aim: to explore musical interactivity, design of the room and of movement. Video-projection through blue screen technique was also explored.

How: improvisation with words, with music, with live-electronics, and experiences of creating drama improvisation with the blue screen technique.

  Workshop 3: March 31st and April 1st 2011. Participants: the composer, the librettist, the scenographer, 6 opera singers, one live-electronic musician, one pianist and one conductor. Some additional observers: staff from Malmöopera.

Aim: to explore staging, movement and musical excerpts with live electronics.

How: different placements of singers performing different actions, different movements through the room, different singer approaches towards the audience, different placements of an audience.

  Study visits. Two study visits were also part of the process: one where the composer and the scenographer visited a Malmö art exhibition and experienced sculptures by the artist Pascale Marthine Tayous; one where the librettist, the scenographer and the composer visited the Ethnographical museum in Stockholm and had a private showing of the malangan carvings that originated from the area where Kalle Petterson lived.


A note on concepts

  Before the process with workshops is further described, a distinction needs to be made between rehearsal and workshop. In the realm of a workshop, techniques and ideas can be explored without having the final result in focus. Through the workshops a piece of the process is bracketed out that – eventually – will lead to a goal, yet for the moment during the workshop, the goal is set aside. Still, there is no fixed point in space where the concept of workshop ends and the concept of rehearsal commences. Elements will be overlapping, as learning does not happen as isolated events of sudden change, but as slow and gradual accommodation.

Outcome of Workshops


  Following below is a synthesis of experiences from the workshop process, with examples given for each claim.


1. To Establish a Common Frame of Reference and Platform for Dialogue

  A musical drama is at its very nature interdisciplinary. One of the benefits of arranging workshops in a very early stage of the collaborative process – even before any music or text is notated – is that one thereby forms a shared basis of references, experiences from which a dialogue may stem. I would say much of what it means to establish a dialogue is contained in listening and sharing work-related experiences.

  Example 1.1. In one workshop the procedure was as follows: A rough summary of the book was presented to the participants, accompanied by a slide show with authentic images from this historical period of time. A critical discussion followed with the content as point of departure: What stood out in todays context? What elements from the account lingered? Participants then anonymously wrote down their chosen key concepts, and the artistic director assembled the notes. These key concepts guided further inquiry, not least what scenes should be picked out for the final work. It is difficult to say at what point that decision was made. During coffee breaks or during exercises the dialogue was kept moving, everybody being very much engaged in the process. The scenes were agreed on when the librettist sat down to fill the scenes with content. Later on in the workshop, they playfully improvised possible scenes from the story with their bodies, music and drawn images as material; some participants watched while others performed the scenes. Again critical discussions followed. For example one scene where the natives met with the stranded Calle Pettersson was very elucidating (see Image 4). We had many thoughts on how this encounter from the story should take place, or whether it should take place at all, with the awareness of trying to avoid the largest pitfalls of exoticism. Performing this scene, yet in a playful manner, made it clear that it felt kind of awkward and should not be included. This exemplifies the worth of actually performing an idea. Through this process, where others mirrored the material and filtered out what they found to be core elements, we all gained experiences to take into account when moulding the essence of the story to be told. The shipwreck was one such cornerstone; in the final piece the shipwreck was staged as the middle scene. To leave ones children behind was yet another; the work came to picture abandoned children on two continents talking and having fantasies of their long gone father. These were archetypes of the story - the backbone - that through this shared process, and not through a priori theoretical decisions, became our mutual common ground in the work to come. The collages, the result of one exercise, became mood boards for the librettist and the scenographer to draw inspiration from (examples: Image 2 & 3). The idea of a warmzone and a coldzone was distilled and found its way into choice of the scenographys colours and the visual presentation of a libretto delivered by the librettist to me, the composer. Through this they also became concepts I related to in an early phase of composing, not however in an allegorical way, but rather as words to improvise from and reflect upon, written down on a large piece of paper pinned above the piano.




  Example 1.2. The condition I aimed for in the piece was one of different states and snapshots, a notion Maria picked-up from conversations on the form of the narrative and the role of the audience, and in particular, she said, from me performing my music together with two fellow musicians in one of the workshops (improvisations and songs from the CD Archipelago). This exemplifies how the act of me singing informed her writing the libretto, without us ever explicitly discussing the matter until long after the work with Ps! was over. So when she later wrote the libretto, she integrated this approach of a non-linear narrative with pieces open for assembly by the audience. Such a narrative as well as having an audience moving about, acting at and reacting upon the concert space and its performers as further described below, shares a common feature; it is to renounce part of the control over the final result, over the meaning-making shaped by the narration and the physical actions in the performance space. Again, it was nothing we explicitly discussed, but part of the shared experience during workshops.

  Example 1.3. As part of my preconception I had the works of Pippilotti Rist, in particular Tyngdkraft, var min vän (Gravity, be my friend) from 2007. Among other things, this work addresses issues of audience perspective taking, one lies down together with complete strangers to experience the work projected on the ceiling. Through one of the study visits we could form a shared point of reference in regards to this topic. Namely, in the Malmöart gallery, statues of Pascale Marthine Tayous were exhibited.  We the visitors were able to ascend a built platform and watch the exhibition from above (see Image 9). The sensation of this shift in perspective was simple yet strong. The experience became an important piece of inspiration for the part Sjörapporten, lingering with the scenographer and me for quite some time after and how an elevation could be constructed was thoroughly discussed.  Even though the inspiration was not realised as elevation in the final work, the idea of enabling audience perspective-taking was a powerful shared reference remaining in the music (see about spatialisation under Calibration/within the work) as well as in the scenography (see Image 8).





2. To Experience Unorthodox Phenomena

  The workshops served as an important platform for evaluating, experiencing and giving way to unorthodox phenomena. One of the over-arching ideas of mine for Ps! was to examine how the audience could be made more actively participant without assigning compositional choices to the audience (common for example in some works by means of mobile phones). The use of interactivity in the performance was in part motivated by this wish to encourage a more active audience, and thereby the choice became an integrated part of the whole.

  Example 2.1. Early on in the process I envisioned the audience led through different scenes in the opera by one of the singers performing. This idea, stemming from a wish to negotiate the stage room, was tested during one workshop with a male opera singer as guideand the remaining workshop participants as audience (approximately 4-5 persons were being led, me being one).  As it turned out, the situation with the singer at the same time singing and guiding felt too theatrical. It appeared as too much of a gesture - a rather comical one - and the musical content got somewhat lost along the way. Quite instantly I made the decision that for this work in the making, this was not the way to continue. There is a difficulty in walking and guiding a crowd; it easily becomes actuating, which was not at all the sought for expression. Or perhaps it was the combination of the sung expression and the bodily gestural expression that became overly explicit? 

  In the final performances, instead of singers there were two actors in the role of sea pilots that guided the audience through the work. Rather than being impelled by a musical need, this was more of a practical solution to instil some movement into the crowd without giving verbal instructions, and a directors choice. The actors showed the way without speaking, and used flashlights to signal that one scene was over and it was time to move to the next in an adjacent room. The idea attempted at the workshop, having the performer move together with the audience, was transformed into a violin-player, whom I assigned the role of guiding the audience between two of the five scenes.  Interestingly enough this did not have the same overly explicit outcome as singers guiding. Somehow the theatrical aspect disappeared in the absence of language, or even so, in the absence of the singing voice.




Image 10 & 11. Guiding actor Matthias Thorbjörnsson and guiding violin player Martina Lassbo.


  Example 2.2. During one workshop, opera singers were trying out interactive software presented to them, on this occasion software from collaborations between composer Mattias Sköld and me. This gave the artistic crew an opportunity to witness live interplay with technology similar to what I would eventually be using for Ps!. In the final work, in the scene Vrakgods (Wreckage) (between Vykort (Postcards) and Skeppsbrott (Shipwreck)), the audience is left to explore the room and the objects it contains. The objects eliciting sound when interacted with were chosen in collaboration with the artistic team: A doll spoke when lifted; a door squeaked when opened; coins could be counted in a coffer, and so forth. This, I propose, would not have been so smoothly worked out without the process of workshops, in different ways communicating the role of interactivity in the work. Furthermore I suggest that an awareness of everyday sound as compositional material and sound as carrier of the narrative had emerged.

  Example 2.3. During rehearsals director Ragna Weisteen was brought in and she had some ideas about adding sound to the existing composition. She had not gained the same common frame of reference as the rest of us had through workshops. The artistic leader could then, drawing upon the experiences from workshops of how sound was used as compositional material and integrated into the coherent whole of the work, more easily communicate how this would be an alteration to the composed piece, and turn the suggestion down when the issue came up. 

  Example 2.4. One technique we did not bring into the final work was the green screen film technique explored in one of the workshops. It was fun to use, but a costly technique and it did not add to the core narrative or musical elements pertinent to Ps! something we all agreed upon when discussing matters.     

3. To Define the Playfield and Identify Challenges

  When is a challenge challenging enough?  In todays contemporary music scene there is a gap between the environment established during musiciansformal training in conservatories and the aesthetic impulses and demands of professional music life. This is brought forward by Caroline Wilkins (2011) in her dissertation The Instrument in Space: The Embodiment of Music in the Machine Age. It is far from given, she pinpoints, that a musician has experiences of performing with live-electronics or alternative playing techniques. In this regard a workshop may serve the purpose of circling in on the playing field, i.e. defining the frames within which a musician/ensemble/institution may be challenged.

  Example 3.1. A general observation from the elaborations during workshops was the difficulties with keeping to a fixed beat, i.e. a rhythmical sequence with static pulse. This fact is well acknowledged in the literature in respect to electronics and acoustic instruments. Some musicians experience staying aligned with a fixed pulse as restrictive, as expressivity many times is tightly connected to moving freely in the time domain (Emmerson, 2007; McNutt 2003).  Despite these observations I chose to integrate such parts, but expected difficulties due to this. During the process of casting this awareness was nevertheless valuable; it enabled the crew to highlight the need for musical openmindedness and look for a more diverse musical background in the singers. 

  Example 3.1. A general observation from the elaborations during workshops was the difficulties with keeping to a fixed beat, i.e. a rhythmical sequence with static pulse. This fact is well acknowledged in the literature in respect to electronics and acoustic instruments. Some musicians experience staying aligned with a fixed pulse as restrictive, as expressivity many times is tightly connected to moving freely in the time domain (Emmerson, 2007; McNutt 2003).  Despite these observations I chose to integrate such parts, but expected difficulties due to this. During the process of casting this awareness was nevertheless valuable; it enabled the crew to highlight the need for musical openmindedness and look for a more diverse musical background in the singers. 

  Example 3.2. To work with a project requiring an assembly of much technical equipment such as multiple sound systems, and to find different sorts of technical solutions, for instance building temporary soundproof walls dividing the concert space (see Image 11), may indeed pose challenges to an institution. The economical challenge is obvious, but the challenge may also be in terms of know-how. On the one hand, these are issues technical staff deals with on daily basis. Nevertheless, since technical staff attended workshops, the opportunity was provided to be better prepared in terms of making an inventory of necessary soft and hard resources. Awareness arose from the workshop experiences among the technicians that the work to come would demand advanced programming to control sound and light. Following this, they asked for working hours to deepen their knowledge in designated software. Similarly, director Ragna Weisteen was chosen due to her experiences working with site-specific theatre, and again it was through the workshop process the need for this particular competence was identified.

  All in all, the workshop process enabled an anchoring of the work within the receiving institution in such a way that its ingredients did not become a surprise on the day of delivery, something known to jeopardize the staging of new commissions. The same goes for the artistic crew as for the technical staff; most of the challenges the work encompassed were already known beforehand.






  The above described workshop method may be integrated into a larger over-arching concept of calibration. In different ways the examples given have illustrated this process of calibration towards the work, involving the artistic team (composer included) and the receiving institution. In addition to calibration towards the work, calibration may also be housed as a principle within the final work, functioning almost like an amplifier of core elements, directed at the relationship towards the audience. At the end of this section thoughts on this will be introduced in brief.

       Calibration is a notion I use for the harmonisation process where pre-compositional ideas and concepts are explored: tested, rejected or refined, as well as sanctioned. When I say ideas and concepts, I encompass the sharing of an experience related to the work to be. This emphasises an important facet of calibration, namely that the embodied knowledge brought along into the workshops and study visits by each participant is made part of the process through acts involving reflection, action, sensing and decision-making. This entails that calibration is not only a means to an end but part of an ongoing development of existing embodied knowledge, transformed through the material and the shared experiences in the workshop-process. A vital part of this embodied way of knowing stems from feelings, approaching or estranging material and other beings, human or non-human. As Mark Johnson puts it, [] we must recognize the role of the body, especially sensori-motor processes and our emotions and feelings, in our capacity for understanding and knowing(Johnson, 2010, p. 145).

  With calibration the aim is not to level out the authorship of the composer, but to allow for a more dynamic stance, less concerned with guarding ideas in their embryonic stage something which indeed demands a certain amount of bravery - and with more reflective input from participants in the workshop. Issues arising during workshops that directly or indirectly have impact on the music are left for the composer to decide upon, with the artistic director having the final say in the case of differences in opinions between parties in the collaboration. Hayden and Windsor (2007) define three different collaborative positions for the composer: one end being the approach of the directive composer, which simply put resembles the traditional way to proceed on a commission; in the middle the interactive composer, the approach closest to the approach contained within calibration; and the other end the collaborative composer, where it can not be made clear who has contributed with what towards the new work.The interactive composers approach is where the composer is involved more directly in negotiation with musicians and/or technicians [than the directive composers approach]. The process is more interactive, discursive and reflective, with more input from collaborators than in the directive category, but ultimately, the composer is still the author(2007, p.33).

  My concept of calibration bears some resemblance to what Carter describes as a discursive momentum(Carter, 2009, p. 22). A discursive momentum results from a situation he calls the forming situation, which he proposes could be a commission. The discursive momentum is according to Carter what provides an interest impelling the invention(ibid, p. 22), invention pointing towards a new work. Though as I read Carter, the discursive momentum he refers to is a much looser condition than calibration; more of a state (he also refers to Sigmund Freuds description of the state prior to dreaming), and as Carter describes it, an anything-goes mode(ibid) of invention, where usual logic is suspended.

  Carter has a key concept denoted material thinking, where it is the handling of material in practice that provides a way of knowing the world. Carter mainly puts emphasis on a process that issues from, and folds back into, a social relation(ibid, p. 19). Barbara Bolt (2009, p.30) differentiates her understanding of Carters concept of material thinking to material productivity, with the necessity of relations being between the material and the artist, not merely the social relations, talking about ones practice. I would say that this is an important aspect of the concept of calibration; talking only does not suffice. Nevertheless neither do the social relations simply form background to the relation between material and artist. Together the two kinds of relations serve as equally important and intertwined constituents of calibration.

  There are examples in the literature describing artistic processes similar to the workshop-process I am presenting here. In the account of the intermedia work The Flood, Hannan (2009) describes what resembles the formation of a common frame of reference (see Example 1.1) through an intense discussion of concepts, visiting possible sites for the play and watching video documentation. Yet, they never stage or practically attempt any ideas, and it is difficult to tell what the true impact of this week of intense collaborationactually provided. Did it alter or further develop individual contributions? The description of the process unfortunately remains on a much too superficial level and the collaboration seems mostly to concern sharing verbal information, thus seeming not to include the sharing of embodied knowledge, at least not from what is brought forward in his writing.

  To reconnect with Bolt (2009), it is not the talking but the making that is at stake, it is the dialogue mediated through the material specific for each art discipline that brings a shift in perspectives and a potential to transform knowledge, as in the case of Ps!: vocalising, performing or moving about in the concert space and experiencing, adjusting and trying anew. And with the word perspective in a corporeal sense of knowing the world in mind, I am arriving at the point where I wanted to end up; namely what I am suggesting is that what is calibrated is a bodily rooted attention, forming a kind of joint attention towards the work in the making.


Calibration Within the Final Work

  Having elaborated on my use of the notion calibration, I will also briefly outline what calibration within the work could purport. In Ps! there was a sort of calibration also taking place within the final work, in relation to the particular use of interactive technology.

  In one of the five scenes of Ps! described in the section Unorthodox phenomena (Example 2.2), the audience themselves were invited to interact with objects eliciting sound when acted upon. Moreover the spatialisation of sounds in the space was arranged in order to invite aural exploration, providing the listener with a different mix of sound depending on where they positioned themselves in the concert space. Taken together these experiences were thought to resonate with, and enhance, the apprehension of the interactivity between performers and sounding electronics encompassed in the work; perhaps even facilitating the formation of inferred relationships between musicians and electronics, even where there were no such composed relationships at hand (composed in terms of cause and effect), by directing the attention towards certain elements (i.e. relationships) in the work.


Concluding remarks

  In this exposition, I have shown how advantages of a workshop-process towards a new work include: a) establishing a common frame of reference and platform for dialogue; b) introducing and experiencing unorthodox phenomena in the situation at hand; c) defining the playing field in regard to potential challenges. Hence it is a process that lays the foundation for oscillation between reflection and practice, exploring, experiencing and evaluating. I have argued that the workshop-process can be accounted for in a larger concept of calibration, which may be applied in at least two different layers: calibration towards the work and calibration within the work.

The concept has also been applied in a just recently finished work, Metamorphoses (Einarsson, 2015), and preliminary findings from these experiences emphasise that working in this vein brings about a particular work-specific embodied way of knowing that facilitates the collaborators apprehension for example of the technologies at hand and the artistic intentions of the composer.

  Importantly, this is not to say that there is but one way to experience a work of music; rather this idea should be seen as related to the concept of subject position, where a frame for possible interpretations is assumed (Clarke, 2005). This concept, originally from film theory, is part of musicologist Eric Clarkes effort to place an ecological approach to the perception of musical meaning. The almost infinite plurality of ways an individual is shaped by his or her preconceptions when listening is limited by characteristics of the musical work. 

  A prerequisite for a creative and explorative stance during workshops is - of course - a secure working environment, which may emerge in the encounter between participants of a workshop, through adherence to the task at hand, and openness toward the development of the on-going process. Elaborating on the notion of being secure, it is very important that the work at this stage is allowed to be inclusive and explorative rather than questioning and instrumental, but sad to say, many times being uncertain is equated with unknowing (Molander, 1996). 

  Furthermore, Vera John-Steiner in her book Creative Collaboration brings forward cognitive and emotional aspects of collaborations among artists and scientists and she describes how: [I] integrative collaboration requires a prolonged period of committed activity, and thrives on dialogue, risk taking and a shared vision to transform existing knowledge, thought styles or artistic approaches into new visions(John-Steiner, 2000, p. 203). Ideally, this is what a workshop-method would provide grounds for.

  The claim that composers would be less suited for collaboration needs to be responded to. Hayden and Windsor (2007) do not go further into any underlying mechanisms, but mention the (self-) stereotype of the composer as solitary genius.  They refer to Donald Schön who notes that professions (music included) tend to build a repertoire of technical knowledge which are only questionable by individuals from within that profession[] resulting in defensive and controlling behaviour rather than a focus on mutually beneficial goals(Schön in Hayden & Windsor, 2007, p. 30). Turning to John-Steiner, she underlines how productive collaboration demands sustained time and effortas well as the shaping of a shared language, the pleasures and risks of honest dialogue, and the search for a common ground(John-Steiner, p. 204). The risk-taking, according to her, includes both intellectual and emotional risks. Indeed this unveils a possible conflict that needs bridging, and I believe a keystone is articulating the roles of the participants when deciding upon the workshop-structure.

  Yet another clarification is at hand; the situation accounted for here is where a commission has already been made. I want to emphasise that I am not advocating workshop as a competition in disguise. A workshop method is by no means a quick fix and as Hayden and Windsor (2007, p.37) warn, collaboration may be an ideology that by itself does not warrant a good outcome. However strongly the collaborative model is valued, it can only operate when all parties are prepared to enter into collaboration. Neither is the message that an author must decline his or her artistic intention in order to attract a broader category of visitors.

  In conclusion, the calibrations in Ps! took place in the context of the making of a musical drama. This may not immediately translate into other contexts, but my hope for the future is that this may inspire others, and nurture a discussion about the conditions for commissioning new music as well as what practical tools are needed for framing this process. There is much yet to explore in order to deepen the knowledge about how different parts couple in the endeavours towards new artistic works.   



  I wish to express my gratitude towards MalmöOpera for permission to use the images, to all participants in workshops and performances, and to the artistic team at MalmöOperaverkstad for a valuable collaboration. The full final work can be accessed through MalmöOperas channel at you tube.

Trailer, Part one, Part two, Part three




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Image 7. The scene The shipwreck,picturing singer Daniel Hällström. In courtesy of MalmöOpera.

Image 8.Part of Leif Anderssons scenography in the making: allowing the audience to watch the performer from the outside as well as enter the space.




Image 9.Perspective-taking: climbing the stairs to watch the works from above. Images from:


Image 12. A sketch of how the audience was moving and the division of the concert space, included in the score for Ps! (Graphics: Lars Fembro).

We Can Work It Out - Calibration As Artistic Method