2.1  An overview


As dancer and choreographer Toby Kassell and I set out to collaborate on a piece for music and dance, we found it important to start by asking ourselves how to relate these two practices to each other; their similarities in practice and theory, their shared history and traditions, the politics between them and how we could connect them in an attempt at creating a coherent piece. We decided to start out at a shared catalogue of basic movements that had both acoustic and visual-gestural qualities. Our first task was to agree on movements that we felt were both comprehensible from the perspectives of the two art fields and multifacetedenough to be developed towards either a sounding or visual outcome of high integrity. The catalogue that we agreed upon contained: walking, running, turning (opt. on one foot), opening-closing mouth, breathing with diaphragm, snapping fingers, dragging someone on the floor, and flutter-tonguing. We then each investigated and evaluated this shared material from the perspective of the two different fields while at the same time maintaining a dialogue on the evolution of the piece overall form and aesthetic. Most of the movements, indeedbeing very basic, were always a natural part of any choreography and some of them were developed further to work better as either sounding or visual material. Another reason for us to start from a shared set of movements was to attempt what Anne Margete Fiskvik calls: “…regarding dance and music as both parallel and simultaneous elements” (Fiskvik, 2008, p. 144)3, later to bring up Stephanie Jordan’s book Moving Music and emphasize how striking the title of one of Jordan’s chapters is: Hearing the Dance, Watching the Music. Kassell and I continued these investigations in Study piece 3: barren cont. budapest double quartet (further elaborated on below in chapter 4). We strived to formulate a starting point where we could avoid a pre-compartmentalized music-, and dance –disposition. In that sense we also tried to close the gap of interpretation between the two fields and, indeed, reached for interdisciplinarity. But an interdisciplinarity that would still recognize the immanent knowledge and vast understanding for sounds in the music tradition and movement in the dancetradition.

      Barren (2015) was created for 3:e Våningen, Gothenburg with funding from Kulturbryggan (the Swedish Arts Grants Committee) by: Toby Kassell, myself, the performers Anna Ozerskaia, Fan Luo, Ingeborg Zackariassen, Janine Koertge, Linda Oláh, Maxime Lachaume, Oleg Stepanov, and sound technician Linus Andersson. The piece was performed in two rooms at 3:e Våningen simultaneously: one where Fan Luo, Ingeborg Zackariassen, Linda Oláh and myself performed the music score and one where Anna Ozerskaia, Janine Koertge, Maxime Lachaume, and Oleg Stepanov performed Kassell’s choreography. The audience was seated in the room where Kassell’s choreography was performed while listening to the music that was performed in the adjacent room; recordedbinaurally by a Neumann dummy head microphone and streamed to headphones worn by the audience. The dancers performing Kassell’s choreography also heard the music through an in- ear system and the musicians performing the music saw the dancers live on three monitors via a video feed. With this disposition, we strived to establish a clear separation between the shared material as visual on the one hand and sounding on the other, allowing us to overlap the two materials and work more intricately with them on the basis of this clear initial separation. The music score is divided in three categories of function: modi, movement and event. The modi functions as molded improvisations over sets of specific material. The movements are strictly composed segments that are performed as written. The events are aimed at a very direct communication between the music ensemble and the dance ensemble in the other room. There are two events in the score (not including the coda which could very well be seen as operating in the same type of logic): one where a designated dancer (Lachaume) runs with pinnae microphones creating a distorted beat due to wind resistance and his feet hitting the floor (similar to material found in the experiments of Antechamber-antechamber presented above) that is contained in the room where the dance is performed. For the first time the audience would hear what they saw. The second event was a blackout in the room where the audience was seated. This corresponded with a movement in the music score and for the first time the audience would only hear and as such be transported, in a sense, to the room where the music was performed, via the dummy head—their avatar. Kassell’s choreography was communicated verbally and solidified through practice, in accordance with contemporary dance methodology. The choreography functioned as a set of generative rules for the dancers to engage through improvisation. During the creation of the choreography Kassell also instructed the dancers to regard the sounds that they made while moving as part of the dance material –similarly to the music that I had composed. The sounds that a dancer’s heel would make when turning, for example, could inform the rhythm and feel of the following gesture. Even though this method didn’t necessarily have a great visual impact on the dance material, there seemed to be a change of focus in the dance ensemble. This focus carried through in details, changing the texture and rhythms of the movements and reshaped the ensemble dynamic.

     The relationship between choreographer Jonathan Burrows and composer Matteo Fargion might be somewhat close in scope to what Kassell and I attempted with our collaboration—and indeed with my artistic research project at large. Burrows explains in an introduction to the four pieces that he and Fargion presented at the Panorama Festival 2015, that:


…the thing that connects all these pieces is that, at some level, they deal with the body and they deal with physicality and they deal with gesture, but the root of them is music […] this thinking underpins everything that we do. And at the same time we disrupt those formal means of music composition with very particular approaches to performance (Burrows2015)…


     However, besides a somewhat shared locus, the aesthetics, reasoning and outcome of our collaboration differ quite substantially from Burrows and Fargion.


2. Study piece 1: Barren (2015)

“The problem is we keep staring at the past 50 years to try and reassure ourselves what we’re doing is new, and we forget we have this thing called a body which hasn’t changed much in the last 150,000 years” (Burrows, 2017, p. 92)...



Excerpt from a conversation with Toby Kassell on Barren (scroll down for further reading):

J = (Johan) Jutterström K = (Toby) Kassell

J: You actually saw and heard the performance in its totality as an audience member, even though you had that one light cue. What are your thoughts on the outcome of Barren?

K: Well, in Barren things are expressed in a very pragmatic way. I can’t really address the music score other than to say that I find it very organic. I believe that this has to do with the incorporation of dancers into the music ensemble. Dancers perceive time differently than musicians, it would seem. Dancers are trained to work with body time in such a way that their bodies inform them of rhythm and length whereas musicians and music, at least conventionally in the western tradition, seem to work with time more mathematically, dividing time into bpm and the sounds into notes of semibreves, minims, crotches, quavers, and so on, in relation to the bpm.

J: Right.

K: I had different experiences every time I saw the piece. During the first performance half the headphones didn’t work! But this seemed to instigate quite a passionate discussion between those who heard the music and those who didn’t. The piece metamorphoses in accordance with what the audience brings and over the different days of performance as well. The audience will view it however they will view it and if it becomes something else than what we intended in their eyes, I think it’s beautiful. During one of the performances, towards the end of the piece when the dancers left one by one, I thought “Oh my God, they’re going into heaven, leaving the physical world for another plane of existence.” And believe me, that was not my intention with the choreography!


3My translation; original: ”…se dans og musikk både som parallelle og som samtidige elementer.”

During the summer of 2015 I started investigating spoken language as music material; something already thoroughly investigated by e.g. Alvin Lucier, Språkgruppen4, contemporary text-ljud composers like Tomas Hulenvik, Diamanda Galás, perhaps John Baldessari in his piece Baldessari Sings LeWitt, Kurt Schwitters in Ursonate, Jaap Blonk, and in the hiphop scene and rap music—but something that I wanted to internalize as part of my artistic practice and in relation to my aesthetic preferences. I wanted to make the theoretical choices that I made part of the sounding music material and was looking for a point, a boarder site, where how I was reading the text would qualify it as both a formal explanation of a theoretical standpoint and at the same time make out the music that implemented this standpoint. Something not too far in aim, but perhaps not in execution or aesthetics, from Brian Ferneyhough when he asks: “…Why not have music which is at one and the same time experience per se and theoretical formulation, rethinking of “normality” as a form of philosophical activity’”(Fitch,2013,p.202)? I carried out my first experiments on these lines together with aesthetician, artist and musician Andreas Hiroui Larsson during the PAF Summer University in St Erme, France–one year after I premiered Ng there. Since then I have continued to pursue these experiments and as an artistic researcher I have found them to be useful in trying to strike a balance between the artistic and the academic (this will be further elaborated on in chapter 5).

     When starting to compose the first study piece of my artistic research project, it became clear that many of the questions that I arrived at with Ng had already been asked. Quite explicitly, in fact, by Paul Craenen in Composing under the skin, published in 2014 – about the same time as I was working on Ng. Though Craenen came at it with a richer understanding of the western art music canon, and was more theory laden, when asking: “Can we reappraise compositional material by integrating the performing body and perhaps the listening body as well? Can compositional practice be redrawn as an inclusive practice that genuinely transcends the boundaries of music, choreography, or theatre” (Craenen, 2014, p. 204)? These questions tangent the ones that I ask in my artistic research. However, instead of theatre, I look to language manifested as speech or text as a companion to music and choreography. G DouglasBarrett writes about this in After Sound:“…prior to the advent of absolute music, the concept of music included language (“lyrics”, for example) within the premodern tripartite harmonia, rhythmos, and logos—or harmony, rhythm, and language, or rational thought” (Barret, 2016, p. 2). Further, the ties between music, choreography, text and language dates back to the early conceptions and definitions of music in ancient Greece, as is stated by Lelouda Stamou in her article Plato and Aristotle on music and education: lessons from ancient Greece: “In ancient Greece, music was not the discrete art form that we, today, consider as music. It was the complete combination of poetry, melody, and dance in one unity” (Stamou, 2002, p. 3)… Music consisting without all these parts, was considered to be inferior. Exemplified by the fact that: “Wind instruments are generally criticized by Plato because they also prevent the performer from singing or speaking while playing, thus violating the unity of speech or song, instrumental playing, and dance”(Stamou, 2002, p. 6). Later Stamou even let us know that: “Singing and speaking were close in the ancient Greek culture.[…]In many literary descriptions, the words singing and speaking are coupled or used interchangeably, and one cannot tell whether speech or song is in question” (Stamou, 2002, p. 3). Far from trying to adopt the views of ancient Greece, I simply want to show that the isolated disposition of music that was formulated demand the inclusion of choreography and language. Music seemed no trivial entertainment, neither, but a very serious matter: “Plato’s concept of the relationship between musical laws and legislation is characteristic. As he notes in his Laws, “it is to be remembered above all that our songs are our laws – a paradoxical assumption, but one which we should accept” (799e 10-11). This is why he believes that one must be careful when introducing a new kind of music” (Stamou, 2002, p. 6). It is interesting to see how the relationship between music, culture, state and legislation was intertwined so early in their conception. Later voices like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno would remind us of this: “Culture has always played its part in taming revolutionary and barbaric instincts” (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944/1997), though my knowledge of philosophy is too limited to further converse with them with any confidence.

      Further, in In search of a concrete music, Pierre Schaeffer asks: “Let’s record a spoken phrase, listen to it, distort it as much as necessary so that all that is left is the melody, the rhythm, and all verbal content is lost. Haven’t we got an excellent schema for the composer? Isn’t he bound to find melodic and rhythmic inflexions here that are very far from harmonic norms, but, because of the way they have been constructed, are in tune with human sensibility” (Schaeffer, 1952/2012, p. 172)? Schaeffer’s question was later to be answered and realized—quite brilliantly—by Alvin Lucier with I’m sitting in a room. Hopefully I will be able to demonstrate the use of language in the research project clearer by further discussing how language was used in Barren. In Barren my unpublished article On the subject of dance as acoustic phenomena, as sounding material and its possible appliance in the field of music: a point of departure was read in relay. I chose to have this article make up part of the music material because it concerns topics that were being practiced in the piece –as such the article could arguably even have been used as a score in and of itself. The text is not poetic or philosophic, but concerns itself with questions from the field of music. I hoped to work with an ambivalence in how the information of the text was communicated, investigating if it carried through as it was transformed into music, into a part of a sound image and a sounding room. I asked Luo, Oláh and Zackariassen to translate the article into their native languages: (Mandarin) Chinese, Swedish and Norwegian respectively. The translations were aimed at allowing everyone to gain a more personal relationship to the text, something that I believe is unavoidable when translating from one language to another. The variations of texture in the different languages were also a compositional consideration and a natural way of creating variety in how the text sounded. For the coda of the piece Kassell and I agreed on using the word subject spoken by the dancers in their respective native languages: Russian, German and French (it might be worth noting that subject is the same in these languages and that the only difference are small variations in the pronunciation). The dancers would leave their room one by one as the lights were turned off. Entering the room where the music was performed they would repeatedly say subject. When the first dancer said subject the music would stop and be reduced only to applauses of finger snaps, rendering the sounds of the room more tangible as the abstracted sounds of movement stopped. The word subject could have many meanings in this context: the performers being subjects for the audiences considerations, the subject of dance or music at large and subject as the root of subjective: something existing in the mind, belonging to the thinking subject—the specific people that had gathered for the performance—rather than the object of thought; stressing the need for a personal, local, interpretation of the piece. The finger-snap-applauses were part of an internal communication within the two ensembles. The dancers would use it when they succeeded in repeating a stage pattern in accordance with the rules of the choreography and the musicians could superimpose it on any given material, forcing the other musicians to join in at any time – granting it a special status throughout the piece. In my mind this was meant to be an unmasking action revealing part of the inner mechanics of the piece –the craft of communication in the ensembles through a material that could easily be recognized as something extra-musical or extra-choreographic, usually at the hands of the audience. As such it could arguably also be understood in relation to the discussion on reality-music above in chapter 1.4.

2.2 Language

4Språkgruppen was a group of poets and artists consisting of Bengt Emil Johnson, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Sten Hanson and Åke Hodell, et al., that experimented on what today is called Text-ljud-komposition, at Fylkingen, Stockholm in the late 1960s and early 1970s.