The accordionist has worked with the composer before, in a piece [1] that ends up having the musicians violently beat up an old piano with drumsticks while screaming Japanese-resembling syllables into it, and the accordionist has seen the composer perform some of their own works: raw expression, apparent absurdity, humour but also – and crucially – tenderness and vulnerability. The composer has seen the accordionist perform Jennifer Walshe’s SELF-CARE, by which they were very moved. 


Since it is the first piece of the PhD project period, the experience of actually performing SELF-CARE is probably still lingering within the accordionist: the extraordinary involvement on stage and in creating the performed material, the challenge of doing completely new things on stage, the sense of freedom and radical presence. Presumably the accordionist is hoping to continue further in the same direction.


[e-mail from the accordionist to the composer] 


Would anything be inappropriate to do as a musician or to ask from one? 

I’m not sure. In any case situations that are awkward for me and/or the audience are not necessarily to be avoided.


I find the connection to the audience and the two-(or more)-sided personality of the performer interesting: How much is the musician and how much is the piece? And how much of the musician is the private person and how much is the professional? How much is me and how much is me doing stuff?


Relevant questions for all musicians who strive to make genuine, convincing performances (I hope...), but with the whole bodily performance aspect in play here, the issue of ‘real vs. fake’ could become even more apparent. 


The accordionist and the composer meet a couple of times and talk about ideas for the piece. The composer is interested in multilayered complex situations that put too many simultaneous tasks on the performer, referencing the section in SELF-CARE where the accordionist improvises ‘idiomatic new music atonal/serial pointillistic style’ (Walshe 2017, p. 7) in response to a soundfile whilst speaking various sentences that explain the functionality and history of bitcoins and sometimes directing the attention to specific audience members. The accordionist keeps going back to the question of the stage performer’s mixed identities from previous e-mails.   


[e-mail from accordionist to composer] 


It was an interesting talk about this balancing fragile situation where actions/demands are so complex or overwhelming that it seems impossible to realize them unless from a place of utter zen (a place that probably only occurs when one resolutely and wholeheartedly tries to embrace the impossible).


But how about when musicians/performers that are not you perform your work. How much of you is in their performance and how much is themselves? Or themselves trying to do/be something other than themselves.


There are gaps in their communication. Caught in the chicken-and-egg paradox of the contemporary music industry the accordionist spends a lot of time trying to convince festivals to programme the yet non-existing PhD pieces to obtain letters of intent from these festivals in order to be able to fundraise to be able to pay the composers so they can actually start working, and in order to agree on dates for the premieres so that the composers can have a deadline to work towards.  


When the accordionist and composer next meet, the composer presents a core idea for the piece, clearly inspired by all the talk about relationships between personal and performing identities: a number of actual situations from the composer’s own life will be performed by the accordionist on stage.


This idea thrills the accordionist. Reenacting situations from someone else’s life will enable the merging of identities on stage that he is drawn to, and it will certainly push the performance far beyond mere accordion playing. 


The composer generates material and the accordionist is busy fundraising and organizing.  


They met for workshops to try out ideas: major-minor blurred chords in the accordion’s deepest range with different registers in the right and left hand to find the right sound and balance. The surprisingly audible difference tones occurring between notes are played in the accordion’s highest octave.

Early versions of the score are attempted, sight-read by the accordionist whilst video-snippets run on a laptop screen so that the composer can see how the material functions together. Does it synchronize well enough?


At one point the composer asks the accordionist to suggest moves/poses for the 3rd movement. 

The accordionist hesitates.

Why does the accordionist hesitate? 

It seems he has no idea what to suggest. Strange, isn’t it, considering that he wants to research bodily performance.

The accordionist does not seem to understand where the composer is heading. 

What type of movements is the composer looking for? What are these poses all about? What is the intention?

The accordionist is annoyed that he is not able to just chip in with something. But he feels he needs to have some kind of purpose to relate to. 

He will have to think about it. 

But he ends up not thinking so much about it and by the next meeting the composer presents three different poses. 


The first draft of the score is finished. There are three movements:


I. The Glass Bead Game, for amplified glass bead game and video.

In which the performer sits at a table, stage right, presumably playing a glass bead game, performing rhythmical patterns by hitting the beads into their holes on the game’s wooden board. Sometimes a sustained sound is created by circulating a bead in the rim of the board. On the screen a series of naive semi-angry drawings of faces accompanied by samples of organ music is gradually introduced.      

II. U R DOOMD, for amplified accordion and video.  

In which the performer sits at a stool behind a music stand, stage left, and plays sustained sounds alternating between sections in the deepest and highest octaves of the accordion. Sharp bellow turns result in precisely timed re-articulations of the sounding notes. Within both the deep and high sounds there is a constant redistribution of notes between hands but no clearly recurrent patterns or melodic lines. The difference notes created in the high register obscures the normally audible pitch. The video shows various situations with blindfolded people, traffic in road crossings and metro journeys, changing together with the deep-high switching of accordion sounds. 

III. Fully Integrated Practice, for poses, croquet mallet and video.

In which the performer, standing centre stage facing away from audience, looking at the screen and a musicstand, alternates between three different bodily poses. Two of these include specific finger movements, the third uses trembling of elbows and knees. Guttural screams from the performer are cut off by loud slams as the composer hits the croquet mallet into the floor, which indicates the change between poses. The video shows an irregularly changing slideshow with photos from around the world of objects, nature, buildings, drawings, birds, symbols, people, churches.

After a test-performance at a ‘Work in Progress’ concert organized by some of the accordionist’s fellow PhD-fellows at NMH in November 2019 it is decided to add a click-track to the first two movements in order to synchronize sound with the video.


The world premiere scheduled for Only Connect festival in Oslo in the spring of 2020 is cancelled due to covid. A scheduled second performance in the spring (SPOR festival in Aarhus) is also obstructed by covid, but is later rescheduled to September 2020. This becomes the official premiere of the piece.


The accordionist invites the Danish actor, Jonas Kriegbaum, to attend the SPOR concert in order to receive feedback and critique from an acting expert’s viewpoint.