PERSONHOOD (2021) is a 40 minute long concerto for sinfonietta and accordionist by Jennifer Walshe. In the programme note she writes: 


What does it mean to be a person at a time when our every moment is surveilled, mined and monetized by the devices we have extended our consciousness into? What agency can we hope to have, when even one of the most famous pop stars in the world has no control over her own life?  What does it mean to be human when a billionaire class dreams of upgrading their existence and living forever, while the rest of us struggle with what to do with our hands when talking to a stranger at a party?


In this commissioned work by the Irish composer and vocalist Jennifer Walshe, the Oslo Sinfonietta surround me, the accordionist Andreas Borregaard, and subject me to a range of tests and procedures. I play the accordion, perform obscure choreographies and watch films laden with subliminal messages; I am scored for how well I can fall over, move objects in endless patterns and drink smoothies in strange colours. Are we in a laboratory? Mission control? A luxury spa? Or are we simply at home?


This text not only reveals that the piece requires a broad variety of bodily performance from me as the soloist, but also that the general themes of the piece resonate well with topics that have surfaced several times in my artistic reflection: degrees of presence, the performer’s subjectivity in relation to the performed material, embodying and becoming an expression or a character.     


Jennifer Walshe's earlier work for solo accordion SELF-CARE (2017) initiated the PhD-project Just Do It!, and it is fair to say that PERSONHOOD concludes it: the physical involvement in this piece is so diverse and demanding that it encompasses most of the elements that I have scrutinized in all the solo works combined: 

– movement with and without accordion playing 

– text with and without accordion playing

– reacting physically to verbal instructions from others

– speaking and singing with a supported voice

– managing energy in sound and movement from the delicate to the explosive

– awareness to every corner of the body

– awareness to every corner of the space

– imitating and embodying imagined or real persons

– finding and embodying expression through verbal descriptions and intentions

– exploring a situational self in imagined circumstances

– directing energy and attention outwards

– practising again and again and again in front of mirrors and video cameras

– letting go of considerations and evaluations and just owning it, becoming it, doing it, in the moment


The process of learning and performing PERSONHOOD drew on the experience and skill I had obtained through the solo pieces, but it would almost be a research project in itself to unfold the full process behind this overwhelming piece [1]. Rather than making a feeble attempt at this here, I will let the video documentation of the performance at New Music Dublin 2022 speak for itself.