closing concerts 16-17 august 2016


16 August 2016


Morten Qvenild – HyPer(sonal) Piano


Hilde Marie Holsen – Trumpet


Al Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester


Gard Nilssen – Drums (sPacemonKey)

Morten Qvenild: The HyPer(sonal) piano project

Currently in section: Artistic Results

personal piano 17

My project and especially this album came to life for one main reason: I really wanted to realize a personal song material with lyrics, and I couldn´t do it with the piano as it was. 

The solutions I found using the studio-tool was implemented in the instrument, and the instrumental changes I found when researching the technical field were used for recording and became integral in the music. The compositional process is now totally depending upon my instrument to function. One might say that I have recomposed this music again and again using the instrument´s attributes as a composition tool. And one might say that I have restructured the instrument again and again, using the music as technical tool. 

I wrote these songs in 2011–2012, at the same time as I applied for the position as a research fellow. I thought they would be a good backdrop for instrument-building. Mirrors for my sounds. I thought I could go ahead and make my instrument right away. Yet, when the instrument started to take form, and I was going to record these songs in the studio, a full-blown avalanche came. An avalanche of doubts, technical considerations, poetic reflections. There were no songs anymore. The songs had to adapt to the instrument, not the other way around like I had thought…

When the instrument changed, the composition started. The songs fell apart, became skeletons of ideas, bits and pieces, structural baselines. The instrument demanded re-composition. Further down the line, the music changed through this compositional process, establishing a dialogue between music and instrument. This dialogue opened up to a constant discussion in which both agencies underwent a change in response to the other. The music changed in ways that I didn’t expect, and this again made for changes in the instrument. And so it went on: the songs were reworked again and again in the studio for almost two years. Then I finally could say: ‘YES, this is the way I want the music to come across!’ 

Workflow: Adding layers, editing, removing, writing, learning to programme, improvising, switching technical devices, new setup, reshuffling, programming, recording, improvising, rearranging, writing lyrics, patching, soldering, writing… 

There was/is a paradox here. I also did this project because I wanted to move away from myself being the premise-maker and main source of content in the music. I wanted to leave something for the technology. But I called the project the HyPer(sonal) Piano… And made personal lyrics about depression and my daughter… Still, I have changed through the constant interventions that my project was exposed for: the supervision, the discussions with other research fellows, the short talks in the elevator (what is your project?), the private reflections, the public reflections, the public presentation of unfinished works, the electronic device´s complex and partly autonomous voice, the writing. These occurrences have been mirroring me when making this album and doing this project. Now I am using these mirrors in my artistic process to a larger extent. 


Here are some examples of song material from before/after the project start. The before-examples are from May 2011, and the after examples were recorded between January 2013 and February 2015.

I needed to alter my voice

Change my instrument

The music changed, the instrument changed, my voice changed

This swirl, again and again and again

between the stations

behind the temple, behind the spine

under the underwood

the piano slowly lying down 

between seaweed and a plastic whale

the piano gurgling, floating

towards destruction

before it; against all odds

rises towards the surface

slowly slowly slowly (slowly slowly slowly)

the frail station of quietness

the transistor of slowness

the human piano

broadcasting all night long 18



My music longed for other things, other directions. It talked differently, unfolded otherwise. The music became an amalgam of my personal voice and the instrumental complexity. Together they shouted out:

WE want pop music

WE want melodies

WE want resistance

WE want noise

WE want the birch, the listlessness, the kids, the snow, the James Blake, the words,

the wood, the Radiohead, the plastic, the running, the stutter, the kid, the pine,

the melancholia, the travelling, the travelling too much, the not travelling, the travelling to the wrong places, the cabin, the ash, the Olivier Messiaen, 

the not knowing, the euphoria, the brooding, 

the skis, the underground, the Murakami, the kayak, the country, the countryside, 


the in the country, the dark chords and the shimmering flutter.

In the beginning there was no music. There was Gard Nilssen on drums, and me on my augmented piano that was in the making. This was the first duet-experiment in my project. It was November 2013.

There were no rehearsals, no compositions. 

There was a studio, Propeller. In Oslo. They wanted to test their new recording space for drums and a new grand piano. They invited us. This was also an experiment for them. None of us had an idea about what we were going to make. 

We did our setup, tested sound, started to play. Talked a little in-between the takes. Changed setups. Played more. Words appeared when we talked about the music; abrupt, space oddities, ambient, darkness, energetic, cat fights, uneasiness. Some safe houses incarnated as small melodies, a chord sequence, a rhythmical pattern came to. References. Svein Finnerud Trio, Elephant 9, Beck´s album Sea Change

We listened. Picked out passages that we liked. Deleted others. Shuffled different parts. Reshuffled. Changed setups. Re-recorded some stretches based on what we heard. Went on like this for three days. New keywords appeared, images, titles. The Karman Line, the point in the atmosphere where the air is to thin for aeronautical flights. Chopping wood in my brand new moon boots. Landing day. Digital cigarettes. 

Pause for three months. Listening on and off. 

New studio session. Reshuffling. Composing with the improvised material. Doing drum overdubs. Playing recorded sounds through the grand piano and recording them once again. Abstracting the concrete, concretizing the abstract. Balance. Making the piano disappear/making the piano more visible.

My instrument was very unstable at this point. I used my different modules separately on this recording, focusing on one element at a time rather than layering and connecting them like I am able to do now. The work-method of improvisation and substantial editing made it possible to realize ideas in post-production that were not realized fully in the initial improvisation. This realization showed me what the material could be like if my instrument was constructed and played differently. The method gave pointers towards strategies to realize material in real-time, but I needed the studio investigation to arrive at these strategies


Mixing. Finding rooms for the sounds. Connecting them. Separating them. Ambiences, dust, grains, edges, seasickness, ring modulation, distortion. Clean up. Bigger. Less noodling. More sub bass. Less clever. More 70´s. 


Playing in duets has been a specific arena for testing in my project. The making of music in these duets has happened spontaneously in real-time. The musical communication with the other reveals the flexibility and agility in the performer/instrument relation and the musical content that our instruments can produce. I get to mirror my musical expression in another performer and use the other performer´s musical output as a catalyst for my own music making. This changes my output. 

When performers create together in real-time, one might say that there is a negotiation going on, a negotiation that results in one collective output. This negotiation puts poetics and technical solutions to the test. Closing in on or contrasting another musician´s sound or expression can be a valuable work-situation to develop the instrument and the strategies on playing it.

Playing solo, I have more time. I don´t necessarily need to respond or change musical material very quickly, and this allows me to involve in complex transformations. I can have a different relation to how sounds are distributed in time, and let the instrument unfold more autonomously. In a duo or with ensembles I need more control, being able to respond quickly and with a content relating to the other performer´s output. I base my output on simpler, fewer and more perspicuous processes to minimize response time. I adapt my sonic layout to the other performer´s sounds. I am forced to work more simply and in a more clear-cut way. 


DUO with Hilde Marie Holsen: 

)Triad chords, a shimmer, a broken trumpet tries to come through. Will she make it? Searching for every tone. Will she find it? The search is it. 

Breathing, far beyond anxiety. Almost a respiratory failure… Is it possible to live in this place? It is blowing everywhere, from all directions. There is no heartbeat, no pulse. It is cold. 20

Piano and trumpet. Electronics. Caught in a spider web of references from traditional jazz, Nordic jazz, ambient music… You name it. It sounds like we are searching for a way out of and beside these references. We are searching for an originality, whatever that is. We are trying to take a stand and comment on our references, and maybe also on yours? The ambient music, the tonality, the unresisting beauty, the noise music. We are trying to steward our inclination towards tonal material and our urge to go in the opposite direction. This tug of war keeps the music moving. It sounds like we are talking about this balance through playing. It sounds like we both try to be poetic but without the traditional means. No pure sounds. No melting together like butter. The poetics is in the resistance, the surprises, the strange hiccups, the irregularity, and the long distorted tone popping out of a windy, chaotic landscape. 


DUO with Al Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester.

Another duo cooperation was done with Christian Blom and his work Al Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester in October 2014. This is an algorithmic instrument with bells, strings, bellows and a flute.
It does not listen. It has all the challenges of a deaf and stubborn colleague. It will stay silent for five minutes, leaving the floor to the improviser, only to burst into something completely unrelated. 21
This calls for a different interplay. I need to relate to what the instrument is doing in real-time, but because there is no human interaction and no logic, it is impossible to know what is coming next. It is difficult to work with formal aspects because of this. On the other hand, I find that this chance-operation-based interplay is opening up for other musical and formal possibilities. These were my thoughts after playing this duo:

The output of the mechanical instrument is very low on volume, especially the ‘flute’ and the ‘string’-sounds. I had to place myself in the soft dynamic range of my instrument, working with details in a narrow dynamic area. 22

In the interplay with Al K. I couldn´t use too many elements, and the result was that the single sounds and the details of my instrument became clearer and easier to grasp. This experience was an eye opener for using the softer part of my dynamic register.


Other duets: sPacemoNkey (See ”the karman line” on page 26), with Ivar Grydeland (guitar and electronics) using the Folktek Sound Field, with Thomas Strønen (drums and electronics) on the Serendip Festival at NMH 2015, with Pål Hausken (drums) on jöK & seasicK, with Roger Arntzen (bass) on jöK & seasicK, with Sigbjørn Apeland (harmonium and manual wood-pipe organ) at the Orgelkraft Festival in Stavanger Konserthus. 

memory #2


24 Feb 2015, 08:35


I am walking down the main street in Shibuya Tokyo. I see real people in a robotic, synthetic, neon lit world. This meeting… I want it to occur inside my instrument. 

The mixture of synthetic and human is disturbing. The conflict and tension between nature´s chaos and silence and technology saying Now! Come on! Buy me! Use me now cause I am dying in two



Make something new! Kinder, schaft neues! 23


17 Morten Qvenild, Personal Piano, Hubromusic, 2015 (Cd, Lp, Digital). [back]

18 Excerpt from Frode Grytten´s poem Til Morten Qvenild, performed on the radio programme Salongen, NRK P2, by Frode Grytten 25 January 2016. Translated by Morten Qvenild with permission. [back]

19 sPacemoNkey, The Karman Line, Hubromusic 2014 (Cd, Lp, Digital). [back]

20 These sound-examples are extracts of the duet work in progress. The duets with Hilde Marie Holsen, Al Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester and Gard Nilssen (sPacemoNkey) were presented at the closing concert on 16 August 2016. The videos of the closing concerts will be published as a part of an RC-exposition of the project. [back]

21 From Christian Blom´s reflection text on his artistic research project Organized time – strategies for trans-medial composition. Norwegian Academy of Music, 2016. [back]

22 Text from my RC-log written down after the concert. [back]

23 Wagner´s injunction in a letter to Franz Liszt in 1852. [back]


the karman line 19


17 August 2016


Morten Qvenild: HyPer(sonal) Piano

Sound Engineers: Daniel Wold and Ståle Jóhann Fossheim

Light Design: Bjørnar Mæland