The project  ·  Ensemble Studies  ·  BLY  ·  The Hands. The Double.  ·  Seminars

About Extended Composition


The Extended Composition project (2018–2022) was initiated and led by Henrik Hellstenius, composer and professor at The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo (NMH). Extended Composition started out with the idea of being a platform for experimenting and creating smaller works in a collective work form with collaboration between composers and musicians and in dialogue with the skills of a dramaturge and a performer/dancer of theatre, dance, text, and space. The project developed into three sub-projects where the artistic development and organization were done by the composers and performers involved in the groups. Common workshops were organized four to five times a year focusing on sharing material and discussing the works, as well as issues connected to general aesthetic questions, skills, and the interdisciplinary nature of the works. All three final artistic works were developed in an intimate cooperation between composers and performers between 2019 and 2021, trying out relationships between movement, space, image, objects, language, and sound in different ways. The creative process during these years, experimenting with extended material and artistic practices, as well as the discussions emerging from the common meetings, feels to be as important for the project as the final artistic results. The final artistic work was presented at two concerts and a seminar at the Ultima festival in Oslo in September 2021.



Research questions


What is a possible material for musical composition and performance, and how can light, movement, language, objects, and space be musical parameters? This question is frequently asked and answered within the contemporary art music scene, where a multitude of projects and works with “non-musical” material are emerging at the music festival scenes around the world. When the limits for musical composition and performance are stretched beyond the traditional material of organized sound, questions arise. How do musical composition and performance change when new material is included? In what way does it change what music is and can be? Are the fundamental principles that define something as music or having «musicality», still present when performed by light, movement, language, or objects, and not musical sounds?


  • What new strategies for composition and performance will have to be developed to master the multitude of new possibilities emerging from music’s expanded material?
  • What new significance is emerging from the layers in an extended composition of sound, language, and movements. To put it simply: does this change what “music” is, and can mean?
  • How do we evaluate it, discuss it, and understand it?
  • When opening up the process of composition and performance to material and practices that are outside of the musical/sound domain, not only do the aesthetics and content of the works change radically. For composers and musicians new skills are practiced, that in turn opens up new working methods, both for composers and performers, and more time is needed for the process than in standard musical life.
  • Interdisciplinary collaborations challenge notions and standards of ‘quality, ‘virtuosity’, and skills. We have to consider how to deal with these concepts in the practice.
  • Composition fundamentally is dealing with the dialogue between different forms and material.




Individual artistic research and artistic work in three groups were the core parts of the project. Christian Blom, Henrik Hellstenius and Tanja Orning had the main responsibilities for the three groups. The groups developed the artistic work in a workshop-based form. Trying out different materials and methods. The groups met regularly in common workshops, sharing the material on different stages of development, getting feedback, and involving the other artists and advisers in the project in discussions around material, composition, performance, reception, and skills.




Extended Composition was an artistic research project hosted at The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo (NMH). It was financed by NMH, Norwegian Artistic Research Program at DIKU and Norwegian Centre for Technology in Arts and Music (NOTAM). The project began in October 2018 and concluded in June 2022.


The Extended Composition project group consisted of artists Tanja Orning, Ellen Ugelvik, Christian Blom, Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk and Henrik Hellstenius, with the main adviser to the project performer/dancer Shila Anaraki. Other advisers, co-creators, and performers in the project include Ali Djabbary, Cecilie Lindemann Steen, Gry Kipperberg, Kristin Ryg Helgebostad, Silje Aker Johnsen and Helga Myhr.



The three projects

The Hands. The Double,

a choreographic piano work for

Ellen Ugelvik, pianist and physical performer, with Henrik Hellstenius on electronics. An artistic investigation into movements as compositional elements in polyphony with musical-sounding objects, gestures, harmonies and melodic lines. The work was developed, composed and created by Henrik Hellstenius, Ellen Ugelvik and dancer/choreographer Kristin Ryg Helgebostad.


Ensemble studies, composed by cellist Tanja Orning with violinist Helga Myhr, dancer Gry Kipperberg and dramaturg Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk, explores what it means to be an ensemble – in a quartet, where all four members practice and perform as a cello quartet. Central methods of investigation were: sound of movement, or movement of sound. Ensemble studies examine transitions, transformations, and borders between the collective and the individual, between democracy and anarchy, between different hierarchical states; how to perceive the different layers, the multitude and ambivalence of meaning, positions, and perspectives, amateurism and professionalism.


Christian Blom developed the piece BLY, working on a piece for three performers, Ellen Ugelvik, Ali Djabbary, and Cecilie Lindemann Steen. The piece was developed into the world of a chamber play, music theatre, and performance theatre. It explores a live process that builds the piece as it develops, moving between naive childlike pictures to abstract art, from silliness to concentrated seriousness and from a pencil drawing to a sonic instrument, all by way of reconfiguring present elements.