Reflections on Relations





look at me 


keep looking at me


when everything is seen there is nothing 




the lines nothing unsaid 


there is no beginning no 


end the in-between is no


space but only


the only




you cannot be








Relations (original Danish title: ‘Relationer’) is a 30 minute piece for solo accordion performer written by Louise Alenius and Andreas Borregaard. It consists of 9 short movements – in the following denoted Situations – and 9 Transitions (one after each of the 9 Situations). Besides conventional and unconventional accordion playing, the piece involves moving, talking, singing, and screaming. The piece is written in Danish and performed without amplification.   


When the audience enters the performance space, the accordionist is already lying flat on the stage floor, face down and towards the back wall with the accordion placed on the lower back, bellows all out so the bass side of the instrument rests on the floor next to the accordionist’s hips.[1] 


Each of the 9 Situations last between one and six minutes. They are conceived as individual parts disconnected from each other – except the last one, which can comment on the piece as a whole. 

Each Situation stops abruptly almost before its distinct compositional idea has properly manifested itself. In writing this could be illustrated by leaving out the last words in a






Relations was developed over 18 months from March 2020 to the premiere in September 2021. Alenius and I were not actively working on the piece the entire time – months could go by without activity from any of us – but the luxuriously long period offered space for ideas to develop and mature slowly.


During our first conversation it quickly became clear that Alenius and I had mutual interests regarding both conceptual content and collaborative process. Alenius was intrigued by the relationship between the performer’s body and the instrument – something obviously relevant to the main topic of my PhD – and she was particularly interested how the emotional connection of love and care that many instrumentalists have to their instruments could be preserved and perceptible when the physical connection would fluctuate between states of completely symbiosis and complete separation. 


We talked about taking off and on the accordion as part of the performance, about possibilities of playing the accordion from a distance, or from alternative positions, or with the tongue, we talked about crawling with the accordion like a pregnant cow, about animals giving birth and seeing in front of them for the first time a new tiny creature that used to be part of them, about parents transferring language and sounds to their offspring and about getting to know oneself through the examination of someone else. Also we talked about the beauty of slowness, about performers rejecting the audience or craving their confirmation, about when and where an event actually begins: is it when the performer walks on stage, when the first note is played, or when the audience buys the tickets online at home?

Finally we talked about how descriptive words or sentences can often be a quicker pathway to realising musical intention than meticulous instrument-idiosyncratic notation, and how the many ideas for unorthodox accordion playing called for an onwards process where Alenius would make small sketches either for me to develop alone or for the two of us to meet and workshop together.


Sometimes in the workshops a spiraling interaction was established between Alenius, me and the situation: Alenius sitting on a table having a greater overview giving instructions like a theatre director, me ‘in character’ on the floor, listening and connecting to her voice, trying to embody and explore her instructions, enacting them to create the situation we were exploring together, her attention following my every move, altering the situation with comments and new directions to which I would then adjust and improvise. Sometimes we would break off and discuss more practical matters – can the buttons be taped, can the bass somehow wobble on the floor, can a glissando be played with the cheek – before we went back into the interactivity of the exploration.  


Alenius’ instructions were quite descriptive, often phrased like ‘do it as if you…’, which clarified the imaginative circumstances in which I was behaving and gave my movements a raison d’être. Any inhibiting fogs of doubt or self-evaluation were cleared away and it was easy to feel connected to my movements and to the moment.[2] 


We also did more instrumental experiments. Again, Alenius came with initial concepts and a few raw sketches, for example playing the instrument upside down, blending accordion notes with air or accordion air with my breathing. I intensely tried to achieve what Alenius envisioned – or what I thought she envisioned – and although I had the feeling that most of it failed, that I struggled because the ideas in the material contradicted the nature of the accordion, many essential parts of the final piece were actually created in these struggles.[3] 


Based on the workshops, Alenius then made a selection of Situations that I started to work on in more depth. It turned out that all except one made it to the final piece with only minor changes. The one we decided to cut had the accordion lying on the floor where it was supposed to make sounds when poked at. However, making the instrument sound on its own required delicate external preparation (balancing the bass side on wooded beads on the floor and keeping buttons pushed down with tape or other devices) for which I did not manage to find a reliable 






In English, the 9 Situations are called: Worth, Pattern, Angst, Help, Reversed, Night, Bomb, Same and Meta. Notated in a conventional score using conventional notes as well as text and graphic notation, each Situation gives clear instructions to the performer with regards to both musical and performative 






Leading up to each Situation, the performer gets into a specific Condition, described in the score:



      Condition: Lie on the floor on the stomach with the instrument balancing on the back



      Condition: Normal

      Words are pronounced clearly



      Condition: Sit extremely straight with ‘light’ legs



      Condition: Instrument lies on a chair

      The accordion is pulled in and out very slowly

      - notes and air sounds should be completely regular



      Condition: Instrument is placed reversed on the body



      Condition: Sitting with closed eyes, head tilted



      Condition: Standing like an orangutang

      - head in a constantly shaking motion



      Condition: Instrument placed normally, closed

      Top of triangle indicates bellows or lungs filled with air.

      Head hanging/resting heavily on instrument. 



      Condition: Look at a person in the audience

      keep eye contant in natural ways 


‘Exaggerated ‘movement’ into the ‘condition’ – which is held for one long bar’ is written in a text box in the score above the first bar of each 






The order of the Situations in my current version of the piece was decided based on practical and dramaturgical considerations with Alenius: How long does it take to get into the different Conditions(and does it work to do it when the audience is watching), how many times should the accordion be taken on and off, where is a suitable place for an energetic explosion, when will it be most camouflaged that the instrument is put on up-side down, and so on. Although the present order works well, it does not mean that I – or another performer – cannot change it sometime in the 






Since the score clearly communicates the conceptual and practical content of each Situation, it is relatively straightforward to practise and perform these. Some are physically demanding (Help, Bomb), some constitute specific accordionistic obstacles due to the various bodily actions (Angst, Reversed, Same), but in general it resembles regular non-performative music: The information from the score is nuanced and brought to life through the interpreter’s active choices and expression of characters, atmospheres, emotions. An overarching challenge in the piece is to uphold a sense of urgency so audience’s attention is not lost although only relatively sparse material is being 






In his book In Concert - performing musical persona (2021) Philip Auslander uses the term frame as an analytical tool to describe how assumptions and expectations of the audience determines the way any performance is perceived. When expectations and perception coincide – that is, when the frame of a performance matches its content – no conflicting communication will disturb the experience. 

If the frame is altered, distorted or broken, a part of the audience’s experience will be to decipher the surprising situation and establish (consciously or unconsciously) a new frame through which they can appreciate the performance. We probably also recognize this mechanism from various social interactions in our every day life – from garden parties to job interviews – and indeed recent neuro science suggests that our brains fundamentally function by predicting what we ought to sense – that is, how the brain expects the world to be – rather than using actual sensory inputs to create an image from scratch. So-called prediction errors [4] occur when sensory input conflicts the brain’s predictions; errors the brain then corrects in order to improve the accuracy of its future predictions. So essentially, as well as when going to, for example, a concert, we grasp the world through expectations [5] we already






When performing Relations at a music venue like the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo for an audience who predominantly knows me as a musician, the opening of the piece is somewhat of an Auslanderian frame-breaker: already lying on an empty stage floor subdued by my accordion when the audience enters the concert hall causes a (conceptual) ‘prediction error’. The expected common concert convention is cancelled – or at least strongly 






The resulting uncertainty (and hopefully curiosity) in the audience induces a strong attention towards the stage in order to correct the prediction error: what is this!? What is going to happen? However, the excruciating slowness of the first Situation delays – and ultimately declines – to give clear answers to such questions. This hones the attention even further and sets forth the claim that the body of the performer and its relationship to the accordion is now the true kernel of






As with any other performance, only the spectator can define the appropriate frame for Relations. But the prediction error combined with the slow, silent, visual, and body-fixated opening of the piece defines fundamental conditions for the performer: the entire performer-body is constitutive of the piece – and there is nowhere to hide. Every action, every sound, every movement of every moment throughout the full duration of the performance is part of 





How to get from one Situation to the next became a critical question already early in the development of the piece. The customary moments of page-turning-and-audience-coughing known from classical recitals had to be avoided. Partly because it would break the flow of the performance and the attention of the audience, partly because it would potentially and counterproductively pull the performance situation back towards a more conventional frameBut there are no descriptions or instructions in the score for the Transitions – these in-between moments are completely open and






In her PhD thesis Sonic Silhouettes, Musical Movement (2022) violinist and gestural performer Winnie Huang uses Karlheinz Stockhausen’s piece for symphony orchestra and 1-2 soloist(s) INORI (1973/74) as one of her case studies. After describing her impressive process of learning, interpreting, memorizing and performing the piece’s 70 minutes long gestural solo part, she reflects on the score’s precise notation as follows:


At first glance, it seems to allow only limited freedom for the performer, because of its precise placement of specific gestures in the vertical, horizontal, and sagittal planes; but, in fact, during the learning process, it became evident that the intent, energy, drama, and atmosphere were all freely available for thorough development, most evidently in experiments regarding posture and in the speed of the journey required to get from one gesture to the next—what I came to call the ‘in-between movement’. 


Similarly with regards to another case study, namely Huang’s own gestural composition Tentacles, she writes that ‘in rehearsals it was not so much the poses or positions themselves, but rather the movement from one position to the other that needed clarification’. She continues to quote the famous French stage actor and acting movement coach Jacques Lecoq, stating that ‘movement is more than just a matter of covering the distance between points A and B. The important thing is how the distance is covered’. 


These three quotations bring to mind what is often said to be true about written text or spoken words – the most important information is found between the lines – but it could also be compared to music: the connection between notes (or other notated instructions in a score) is crucial to how the whole is perceived as music. ‘The journey required’ or ‘distance covered’ between notated instructions is exactly where the musician can negotiate ‘intent, energy, drama, and atmosphere’ and infuse this into the fixed, scored instructions to in order to create living music. One could say that in scored music, this journey is indeed the interpretative 






When playing instrumental music I seek to always be charged with the music’s expressive potential – its ‘intent, energy, drama, and atmosphere’, as Huang would say. Conflating the mental activity of imagining the accordion sounds I desire to express this potential with the physical activity of actually creating these sounds generates a heightened sense of presence. In a conventional musical piece, for example a sonata with four movements, the gaps between movements offer me a pause from this heightened sense of presence. I am of course still sitting on the stage in full view of the audience, so following the view of musicologist Nicholas Cook, who in his book Beyond the Score: Music as Performance (2013) convincingly asserts that musical works should be accessed and assessed not through their written scores but through the performances of these scores, the in-between moments are part of the total performance and therefore actually part of the work itself. From the performer’s view, however, I would specify that the degree of presence between the sonata’s movements is still significantly different than in the movements. In these gaps, I express nothing but the notion of pause – by actually taking a break. 


In Relations the ‘sounds I create’ are expanded to include everything my body does, so in order to establish the same strong degree of presence on stage, every bodily action must – similarly to music playing – be charged with the material’s expressive potential. However, since everything I do with my body is constitutive of the piece, the in-between moments – that is, the Transitions – do not offer any pause or release from the heightened state of being. The piece becomes a continuum, and in order to make the performance a matching continuum, I need to be continuously charged with expression – not only in the Situations, but also in the  






Since the performer in Relations has nowhere to hide, the Transitions are no longer restful gaps between movements. Instead they become active parts of the performance – journeys between the fixed points of the Situations, journeys full of interpretative potential. And since the frame of the performance is broken from the very beginning, but the conceptually clear Situations can still be understood as conventional movements in a larger piece, the Transitions also become the work’s most radical deviation from the expected classical concert frame. This is where the particular performer-role of Relations emerges and where a correction to the audience’s initial prediction error can be settled

It is therefore crucial that the performer stays connected to a deliberate expressivity through all the Transitions, and since the score has left them blank, an important creative task is to






In the following section Between the Lines I will briefly describe way(s) I have tried to shape and perform the Transitions until now, including some evaluative remarks from Alenius, myself, a scenographer and a singer. This Transition-exploration is not over, and towards future performances of the piece, I am sure I can













Making sense of Transitions

1st Strategy 

1) In continuation of the Situation’s last note/action, keep your right elbow in playing position and – if possible – the chest/shoulders slightly lifted. 

2) Release elbow(s) and chest/shoulder while releasing your breath to indicate the end of the Situation.

3) Let an internal, pondering voice fill your attention and shape your movements towards the next Condition. Well, that didn’t really work, what could I do in stead, maybe I should try this register here, does the strap feel ok? I could just turn my neck once.

4) To clarify entering into the Condition, lift right elbow to playing position and lift/straighten upper body. Then hold for a the duration of the first bar of the Situation. 




Louise Alenius’ evaluation of a test performance prior to the premiere:

The in-betweens work really well. The durations are so nicely balanced.

On a micro micro level it’s just about making the contrasts clearer. 



 My own reaction to the video recording of the premiere:

Are the shifts between Situation and Transition clear enough?

Maybe the Transitions are too passive and vague. Do they need a bit more energy?








2nd Strategy

1), 2) and 4) as in 1st Strategy

3) Make the internal voice more energetic. You are frustrated that none of your attempts (i.e. the Situations) are working properly. But it has to work somehow, you must keep searching!




Scenographer Louise Beck’s and singer Katinka Fogh Vindelev’s 

evaluation of DKDM-performance:

What were these strangely stressed breaks in-between?

It was not clear what/who you were doing,

they didn’t really fit the persona in the Situations,

it just seemed like…’Andreas’ was in a hurry?


Own evaluation of DKDM-performance:

How ridiculous of me to think that I could convey something convincingly based on something so halfhearted and unspecific as ‘more energy’. Considering the degree of attention put into the surrounding Situations, this feels pretty ignorant. I’d never be so careless about the expression in instrumental music. This is exactly the kind of mindless approach to bodily performance I dislike and that initiated my research questions in the first place.








3rd Strategy

1), 2) and 4) as in 1st Strategy

3) Make a specific choice about the atmosphere of each Transitions. What do you think of? How are you reacting to the end of the previous Situation – and why? What mood carries you to the next Situation?



Standing like this really doesn’t make sense. I should sit down.

Neutral. Slightly Annoyed.



Ok, so the sentence is complete: ‘Recognize your pattern’. 

Would I even recognize my pattern?




Dammit, I’m out of control!

I don’t want to be out of control. 

I want to try something else.

What could I think of?

Rejection. Curiosity. 



Ok, enough with the slowness already.

Let’s move on.

Let’s try this instead.




That last little melody felt rather nice.

I think I’ll lie down for a moment.

Just need to find the sweet spot for my head.

Calm. Listening.



Well, that’s fair enough.

But now want to say something.

Just wait and see.

Determined. Grounded. Loaded.



‘No Comments’



Strange. I though breathing would help.

Maybe not. 

But then let’s talk about us.



I think…I think that’s it.

Anything else?

No. I’m out.




Own evaluation of video recording of final presentation:

[not done yet]











In between

between the lines 

is the unspoken



In between

between the lies

is the unbroken












Performer's Manual / Response to Performance

WORTH | wəːθ | (Condition: Lie on the floor on the stomach with the instrument balancing on the back)

1) Moving so so so slowly. Not forgetting your legs, seeking the ‘full-body experience’ that Adriene from Yoga with Adriene keeps talking about. Enjoying the ride. 

2) Resisting any quickness of habitual movement when operating the accordion straps. 

3) Moving slowly: Drifting gently from the spine weightless against water

4) Moving slowly: Watching – no, staring at – the envelope of skin, concurrently sensing its inside, thinking this right here is what I do.

5) Taking 6 minutes to get up on your feet, so the audience will know that your body is to be contemplated.





Standing like this really doesn’t make sense. I should sit down.

Neutral. Slightly Annoyed. 




PATTERN  | ˈpat(ə)n | (                  Condition: Normal. Words are pronounced clearly)

1) The mood of the speaking voice. Mechanical? Matter-of-factly? Gentle? Reaching out?

2) That certain way of treating the instrument (you would wish you always lived up to), where no sound is made without a deep connection to the supporting air and where this connection must be kept even slightly after the note is gone, because if it isn’t, the flow is lost and your muscle memory is nulled and you suddenly struggle to remember what comes next. 

3) The static (boring?) result of too many repeats, too much security. 

4) The row of letters in the optician’s eye test. Most are sharp and clear, but at least one time you are uncertain, right?





Ok, so the sentence is complete: ‘Recognize your pattern’. 

Would I even recognize my pattern?







ANGST | aŋst | (Condition: Sit extremely straight with ‘light’ legs)

1) When the fingers essentially need help from the feet on the solid ground in order to make an even and adequate articulation, BUT THE FEET ARE LIFTED AND LIGHT BECAUSE THEY NEED TO BE READY TO TAP THE FLOOR.

2) Sitting ready, seconds before starting to play considering: how many wrong notes will I play this time because I stress the tempo, cramp the articulation, do not support my fingers properly from the arm, from the back, from the core and from the flow of the pulse.  

3) When the tempo of feet-tapping does not synchronize with the tempo of notes because the connection to and control over such alternating leg movements is still not sufficiently cultivated despite the practise sessions with a metronome starting very slowly and incrementally speeding up.

4) Crampy feeling in the body as opposed to desired sense of freely floating movements.







Dammit, I’m out of control!

I don’t want to be out of control. 

I want to try something else.

What can I think of?

Rejection. Curiosity. 







HELP | hɛlp | (Condition: Instrument lies on a chair. The accordion is pulled in and out very slowly - notes and air sounds should be completely regular)

1) When you hold your breath and then release it because you want to release ‘it’.

2) When you want to ‘make an effort’ and your arms begin to tremble all by themselves because it is so damned heavy that they have to make an effort. 

3) When you look intensely on the bellows of the accordion trying to keep perfectly aligned and this in itself generates a strong sense of presence and care. 

4) When the victim of a car accident is transferred into an ambulance, but the neck is broken and the person will die immediately by the slightest haste of movements.*)






Ok, enough with the slowness already.

Let’s move on.

Let’s try this instead.






REVERSED | rɪˈvəːst | (Condition: Instrument is placed reversed on the body)

1) Having fun being a fool

2) Insisting on the wrong 

3) Exploring the awkward sensation of brushing your teeth with the other hand






That last melody actually felt rather nice.

I think I’ll lie down for a moment.

Just need to find the sweet spot.

Calm. Listening.






NIGHT | nʌɪt | (Condition: Sitting with closed eyes, head tilted)

1) When the slow vibrato would be less demanding if my voice was not blocked so much because the head is twisted far to the side and the accordion straps clench my throat. 

2) Being an old man, humming sentimentally-melancholically in the middle of the night as if to say 'oh well, I’m probably the only one awake here, but I am awake, I am awake, I can’t sleep, hmm, maybe it’s better on the other side of the pillow.' *)







Well, that’s fair enough.

But now I want to say something.

Just wait and see.

Determined. Grounded. Loaded.







BOMB | bɒm | (Condition: Standing like an orangutang - head in a constantly shaking motion)


Waiting to detonate.  

When you halt your breath and wonder how fast your heart is actually beating right now.



Sensing the maximum volume capacity of the accordion’s reeds.

Eyes closed, attention stretched in the matrix of: (sound-projection in the room) x (how the voice feels) x (how the stamping feels) x (keeping balance) x (not forgetting to swing the head).



Surprisingly out of breath. 




‘No Comments’




SAME | seɪm | (Condition: Instrument placed normally, closed. Top of triangle indicates bellows or lungs filled with air. Head hanging/resting heavily on instrument)

1) Attempting to camouflage being out of breath from Bomb whilst having make calm audible breaths to match the accordion.

2) When your finger/arm are left alone to do the coordinated teeny-weeny movements necessary to start an accordion note from silence – which are normally (and easily) synchronized in a preparatory breath – because the breath is now occupied by rigorous panting. 





Strange. I though breathing would help.

Maybe not. 

But then let’s talk about us.





META | ˈmɛtə | (Condition: Look at a person in the audience, keep eye contant in natural ways) 

1) (of a creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

2) Imagining being the type of personality that would have the appropriate voice to signify a combination of profound concern and utter ignorance.  

3) The moment you look an audience member in the eye and speak to them and realize what it is you are actually doing. 





I think…I think that’s it.

Anything else?

No. I’m out.






*) These sentences are (a mildly rephrased version of) how Alenius described the Situations. Such descriptions communicate clear images that provide an immediate understanding of the essential emotional state of the Situations, which in turn influences my bodily movements. Partly consciously when deciding how specific details could best support the totality of the expression, for example, volume and intensity of whispering ‘slowly! slowly!’ in Help or the duration/speed of turning my head from one side of the instrument to the other in Night, and partly unconsciously through microscopic changes in muscle tone, plasticity of movements and sense of energy and timing. The clear mental image induces a certain sensation in the body, and by recreating this sensation in performance, the minuscule – but essential – change of nuance will also reappear. Thus, the descriptive image functions both as a catalyst for quick changes into the desired expression, and as a lens that merges mental and physical activity in one focal point in the moment of performance.