When I started this artistic research in October 2018, as a composer determined to let the everyday life be the main area to explore artistically as a subject, my ambition was to produce several works of art for the stage, with both music and text in central roles and, therefore, with an ambition to write my own libretti. I was going to explore the format of storytelling in musical composition, through the theme of ordinary language and everyday life (“with a twist at some point”), and with the promise that the works and the research would jointly teach us about the relationship between words and music. In terms of specific projects, my initial plan was to make a radio play, a chamber opera, a short music theatre piece and a song cycle.

What about these initial themes that I planned to explore; have some become more important than others?


Storytelling has become very important. It soon became clear that my way into vocal music was not through song, but via form. The possibility to structure musical time through the rhythms and cadences of verbal stories was very new to me five years ago, and was a welcome addition to my compositional palette. Writing my own lyrics, dialogues and prose opened previously unknown possibilities, and has made me discover a literary voice of my own. 

I came to the realization that the relationship between text and music manifests itself through the form of the finished piece, and will differ from one work to the next. As the body of work grew, I could observe – sometimes to my surprise – how important the aspect of storytelling was to my aesthetics. I became closely attached to my texts, and to how a text would shape the musical form and how it unfolds in time; and, indeed, this turned out to be probably my main subject. 

All the projects in my doctoral submission have had in common that they started from the libretto. And, as the libretti tended to be rather linear (perhaps with the exception of On Location), and I would often worry that if the audience could not hear every single word they might lose the thread of the storyline and, therefore, fail to apprehend the form. I therefore took care to make every sentence absolutely audible – something that had inevitable consequences for the sound of the music. Since, in the past, I have made quite noisy and multi-layered music, this fear of not communicating resulted in a more open and naked sound world, which I saw as a rather unexpected step in my development. 

Original Project Description, 2018.

Click to read:



I have chosen three keywords for this exposition: COLLECTION, EVERYDAY and FORM. While each of these has its unique and separate character, there are several links that operate back and forth between them. As an artist, I am one of those whose methods involve moving in between them too, taking on different roles in the process: I frequently collect external material for use in my creative projects; I may do this by observing, eavesdropping or spying on the everyday and relying on whatever presents itself; and, finally, I must then take whatever has been collected and, using all the different methods at my disposal, work this into a form that is meaningful and communicable, acting as both curator and creator in a way that honors the material while, at the same time, shaping it to my purposes. 


These processes do not necessarily happen logically, in a step-by-step sequence. In an early draft for a future lecture, I see the tempting sentence “The observer steps into the everyday, makes observations there until a collection has been built up, which is later given form, and the result is theatre.” But this is only one of the possible itineraries between the keywords. The fields they describe influence one another. For instance, the form – meaning here the desired end product, the art work to be performed next month – dictates why, as a collector, I stepped out into the everyday in the first place. Why exactly the everyday? Why not look at the holy, or the new roles for performing musicians, or the piano concerto in the twenty-first century? 

An interest in a specific end-product leads me towards the everyday, and prompts me to collect material from which to make pieces. It is an attraction to a whole aesthetic world that makes the artist in me think: Hmmm, there is something here. This thought, this instinct, may be thought of as an arrow pointing from FORM to EVERYDAY. 

The arrow can point from FORM to COLLECTION as well. It might be that, as a form-giver, I become attracted to the idea of an art work that has a form like a big overview of something, such as a whole house in the middle of the city, and that I therefore decide to make a project creating the verisimilitude of such a house, doing so by collecting elements that can be useful in a description of that house. 

Then, one day, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, inside one such city house and overhearing a conversation between an eccentric couple, thinking “ha-ha, this would be great material”, I might suddenly being shaken by a terrible, racist remark from one of them, at which the brakes are put on immediately. It becomes obvious that this cannot be presented without some kind of filtering.

I have chosen this rather extreme example but, in fact, there are active filters at work all the time; they are what we see with. We are just not always so aware of them. But if we see something that we really don’t like to see, or hear something we don’t want to hear, the jolt this gives us makes us realize how important is our own relationship with, and reaction to, the material we witness. And, a collector who observes everyday situations and strangers in order, for example, to quote them, and thereby somehow make their words my own, then I see “oops! This is not possible. Not without this or that procedure to mold and re-shape the raw material.” 

So: the collection is curated; the material misbehaves, it breaks the boundaries that the form-giver wants the work to have; and, as a result, choices, such as editing out, have to be made. (Note also that, in the example, the artist/spy did not say anything to the eccentric couple. Perhaps he should have.) 

© Lars A. Skoglund 2021