Composing within the Wheels project

Ensemble Currentes was a laboratory over three years for these interactions, meeting regularly to take part in workshops, rehearsals and concerts. The project has come to an end, and it is time to sum up the experiences. This exposition will show work composed by or initiated by Ruben Sverre Gjertsen, one of two composers within this project. I will have to follow my paths, efforts and interests as a composer, and their encounters with Ensemble Currentes and the "Wheels within wheels" research group.

A medieval repertoire met musical aesthetics of the past century, which have strongly influenced the author as a composer. I composed precisely notated works, following my previous practice as  a composer, with for me new inspirational materials and starting points. Other notated fragments were more like sketches, to be completed by the musicians. It was hinted what type of materials to find, and the performers were looking into medival sources for materials to tweek and reuse in a new context. Other projects used medieval scores followed by a text suggesting timbral alienation and abstraction. I will in the following presentations provide examples of these different approaches.

I did numerous recordings over three years, and I had a large bank of sound materials to go through, from first attempts with very few guidelines, through increasingly precise limitations, to points where expressions started to mature. I will focus on sounds and textures which found their way to the final project, as live performances or as part of a sound installation.

The field of Historically Informed Performance (HIP) has been seeking for guidelines in performance of historical works, and revitalized early music, while in recent years faced risks of standardization. 1 My recomposings, creative reuses and performance suggestions would fall outside the commonly accepted field of HIP.

As a composer I have for many years seen the need to define performance practice, in a time of pluralism without a common consensus for the performance of a new composition. With a strong general focus on the romantic repertoire, anything could be performed with a strong vibrato. I specified where there should be a vibrato and what kind of vibrato. Introduction texts to the score define ideals for extended sound qualities, where will it be inside and outside the sound aesthetics of a piece?

Helmut Lachenmann has been a pioner in using noise sonds performed by an orchestra, finding his 'musique concrète instrumental'. His orchestral works have lengthy introductions describing sound production and kinds of biproducts to avoid. I heard him introduce one of his works at a concert in Berlin:

"Wie es bei Mozart gibt reine oder falsche Tönen, gibt es in meiner Musik reine oder falsche Geräusche."

Extended sounds have been charted on many instruments, for instance in the Bärenreiter series with titles like "The techniques of [fill in instrument name] playing". Reconstructions of medieval instruments are less standardized, built after the taste of the instrument maker. Fidel bows and bowing techniques are different from on modern string instruments, strings are tuned differently, much knowledge of extended string techniques can be transferred to fidels.

The final performance "Mouvance III: Distortion", was meant to cover the range between late medieval repertoire, abstractions, new compositions and sound installation elements. 

Electro acoustic elements were primarily based on our recording sessions, with processings and spatial projections, as third order ambisonics encodings. 16 channel sound files were decoded for the speaker setup in each performance space. For this presentation, all examples are decoded as stereo.

Surrounding the audience with sounds, live performance and projected sound, creates an experience you can only fully experience at the event itself. You can consider this exposition an online sound installation. Do not be afraid to play multiple sounds at once.

From left to right: Ingeborg Dalheim, Hans Lub, Ruben Sverre Gjertsen, Barnabé Janin, Anna Danilevskaia, Ingvill Holter.

I will quote from our first conference presentation of the "Wheels within wheels" project:

"Wheels within wheels
New approaches to interactions between performers and composers
The project «Wheels within wheels. New approaches to interactions between performers and composers» will research the potential for new forms of expression through interaction between performers from the field of HIP and contemporary composers.
The project has three main sources of interaction:
1. the polyphonic repertoire of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance
2. the performers´ interpretation of that repertoire, including strategies for improvising polyphonic structures and diminutions
3. the composers´ abstractions and manipulations of traits of both the repertoire and the performers´ interpretations of and improvisations with it."

The following visualization was made by Jostein Gundersen.