As described above, there was little material to play on the piano in this piano concerto, and most of it was repetitive and mechanical, with little variation. Where was my co-creative role in this work? My primary job in the composition was to be a kind of actor, but I felt I lacked both the knowledge and experience required to develop my stage personality. I was an amateur actor. I became, therefore, a recipient and executant of specific instructions, as in Ø (episode 9) where all the instructions were communicated via in-ear monitoring. I was not supposed to be Ellen Ugelvik, the pianist, but an ‘actor who played the character of Ellen Ugelvik, the pianist’ without making contact with the public in any way. I could neither smile nor communicate with the orchestra or the audience in any way; I was expected to look apathetic and not express anything physically. I felt my options were pretty limited. Since I was not familiar with the composition as a whole before the premiere and was unable to match Reinholdtsen’s knowledge of philosophy, politics and art history, I could not provide anything of value at the more elevated artistic plane of the composition either.
The co-creative role in Theory of the subject was different than in the other concerti. The challenge was to assume another role from that of a pianist, to be something else and to believe this other character had great value. I dared to take such a curious role (which consists of deconstructing the role of the soloist, myself) because I am used to performing pioneering repertoire. I am used to demolishing something in myself to make room to build something new, which at first does feel rather strange. The preliminary project Konserthuset was very demanding, because of the unusual duration of the performance playing exclusively complex music. The fact that what I was playing was being tracked closely by another pianist who sat reading the same sheet music was uncomfortable. Mark Knoop was observing my performance in detail with his finger on the score, and my actual reading of the score was projected to the audience as well. My relationship with a score is for me in a concert situation rather private, and this privacy feeds my feeling of room for artistic freedom in the concert situation. In Konserthuset I felt this freedom was disturbed.
All this was in addition to the sense of exhaustion from playing for so long in an unfamiliar and challenging setting. As the hours passed in this way, I crossed a limit, and the experience of playing became liberating rather than inhibiting; I accepted the role. In doing so I gained more freedom in the situation, I did not play a concert anymore, I was part of a performance.
In Theory of the subject, I filled my new hybrid role with the same kind of dedication as in a more traditional soloist role in which I play the piano. I tried to execute my assignments with the same type of concentration, focus, and energy as when I play the piano, with absolutely no ironic distance or other theatrical gesticulations. This piano concerto is not about music and the presentation of music, but about an overall idea or meta-focus. It was a principle I learned to accept.
Being the soloist in such a work demands lots of flexibility concerning the progressive mindset I am exploring. It pushed me in an another direction than the other works that are part of the project. I was struggling with the feeling of not participating in a co-creative way, but at the same time that was the premise that this concerto demanded; a soloist that accepted to step back and be able to perform in an active/passive way. It was challenging, but it was necessary to fill the role. This aspect also gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizon and to explore the multifaceted soloist role.
a) Explore your role potential as a soloist and musician in every composition and cooperation, in old and new music, and enjoy the variety and shifts that apply to each situation. Be prepared for conflicts in your attempts to gain a versatile position. Exploration contains willingness to risk failure. The potential of the soloist role should be developed in close dialogue with the music and the context, not with the aim of changing the composition to something unrecognisable, but with the goal of pushing your freedom.
b) Introduce your students to a rich repertoire of music to give them the possibility to experience new aesthetics and different types of roles through playing. By testing out different kinds of approaches, the students are given a stronger foundation for reflecting upon their choices when building a professional career. Very, very few piano students will become one of the star soloists touring the world playing the canonical piano concerti. It is our responsibility to equip students with diverse tools to accomplish various tasks in the professional field and inspire them to create their way as performers. Our area will benefit from a greater variation of performances.