Artistic researcher and percussionist Jennifer Torrence commissioned a piece of me in early 2016 as part of her own artistic research project Percussion Theatre: Mastering Inter[nal]disciplines. I saw this as an opportunity to get to tap into the knowledge and expertise of an accomplished musician from the top layer of the new music scene, and to try my own hypothesis together with a musician—i.e. not any longer together with a mixed ensemble of musicians and dancers (remember the suggested narrative from above in chapter1.4) When Torrence and I started out working on the piece, we discussed the different relationships that came into focus. Together with barren cont. budapest double quartet, Blaha Lujza Tér is the only piece that I am not also part of performing and it was also the chronologically first piece in my research project where this was the case. I thought it important to define Torrence as my audience. My musical action was only aimed at her and it was for her, in this case, that I performed. After we had found a piece that we agreed on as acceptable and after I had completed the notation of said piece, whatever audience it would be performed to was her audience. This is clearly nothing new but something that I needed to make clear for myself—similar to how I needed to meditate over the history of western art music through Spahlinger and Dunn in chapter 1.4.1. My and Torrence’s first experiment on Blaha Lujza Tér was to investigate the timbre, rhythm and melody of making a circle on the floor with your hand. This material carried over from Barren but now became a focal point that was more thoroughly investigated. As I had nominated Torrence as my sole audience while working on Blaha Lujza Tér all our experiments were also part of my performance, and Torrence’s interpretation of these experiments became my interest. I asked her to retell the experience of investigating or improvising, as it were, with this material and transcribed her answer. In the transcription sound is almost never alluded to, but only the experience of producing it (or at very least the gesture). We decided to include this transcription as a separate part of the score, possible to hand out or e-mail to an audience before a concert, providing them with a interpretational tool, emphasizing that this music was created with an interest in the musician’s condition. The gestural-sonorous material in Blaha Lujza Tér is in fact quite mundane and hardly virtuoso. It is also repeated in two different proximities to an audience, once from afar and once very close. The spoken phrase: “A claim needs to be made. There is nothing else here to be heard.” (a paraphrase of Hiroui Larsson work Here Is Nothing Else To Be Seen) is included in the piece and Torrence also points to the space between her and the audience twice, once from each position. This, in my mind, all aims at allowing the audience to fantasize about the musician’s condition during the performance. When faced with the task of presenting Blaha Lujza Tér digitally, we took this further, as discussed below in chapter 3.1. It might not be the most clearly made point, but I believe it does inform the sonorous qualities of the piece in an intricate way that makes for a scenario where concept and perception are weaved together in a suggestive tapestry. Both the way the music sounds, the way these sounds are produced and fantasies over how it would be to produce these sounds— seeing as they are so easily made, to the point where one has a kind of direct access to them; made possible also by the exclusion of the music instrument—are all part of the music and no part is regarded as more important than the other. This standpoint corresponds, in part, with the hyper-idiomatic music that Paul Craenen writes about in Composing under the skin:

  “In contemporary music practice […] a tendency can be seen in many composers since the 1960s towards the “concrete”. The young composer Simon Steen-Andersen (2010, 54) labels this tendency as aiming for a “hyper-idiomatic” approach to music, a tendency that, in his view, reaches its tipping point at the moment when performance and sound ideal coincide. From that point on, the possibility of reversing the hierarchy in the musical creation process arises: the ultimate goal towards which the performer aims is no longer the sound ideal but instrumental actions that have now become autonomous, thus degrading sound output, as it were, to a variable by-product. This provocative claim makes it clear that the issues of the abstract and the concrete are far more than a semantic debate. The allocation of abstract or concrete qualities to specific actors in musical practice typifies both the allocation of roles and responsibility and, more generally, the relationship between composition and performance in practice” (Craenen, 2014, p.63).    

Though the circles made on the floor can indeed remind of the circles in Hans Abrahamssen’s Schnee, I believe that they are quite different. Abrahamssen, as far as I understand, positions himself within the new simplicity movement in a polemical or at least problematizing relationship to the new complexity music. I don’t necessarily agree in the critique of new complexity, particularly the music of Brian Ferneyhough. The relationship between composer, score, musician and audience that Ferneyhough—at least in my understanding—wish to put in the forefront of his music, i.e. the fact that his extremely complex scores forces the musician to internalize the music, does in my mind partly correspond with the aims of Blaha Lujza Tér –though the aesthetics and method might differ drastically. This could of course be Abrahamssen’s approach as well, —and Schnee is indeed a beautiful piece of music—but then, at least to the extent of this research project, I feel that the critique of new complexity is misguided:

“Critics who lambast Ferneyhough’s notation, associating it with his supposed intellectualism, rightly sense its deliberate problematization of the performer-score relationship and its provocative nature. However, whilst they perceive the impossibility of meaningful communication between performer and score (regarding the performer as little more than an automaton bound by unreasonable demands), the excess of notation, wrongly construed as a blueprint for totally accurate performance, is precisely where Ferneyhough himself locates musical communication. He argues that ‘It seems at least conceivable that a thoroughly reformulated approach to notation/realization might be in a position to throw some light on the essential nature of the ‘work’(its preconditions, situational validity etc.) as such and, in doing so, allow the very concept of closed form in present-day compositional practice to acquire a renewed esthetic foundation’“ (Fitch,2013,p. 10).


Though the score of Blaha Lujza Tér looks nothing like a score composed by Brian Fernyhough I at least share the feeling of need to looking for a new approach to notation and the notion of a musical ‘work’. I looked for this, with Blaha Lujza Tér, in “the relationship between composition and performance in practice”, that Craenen mentions, in my mind similar to Fernyhough’s “provocative performer-score relationship”.

     In correspondence with the strategies I wish to investigate through my artistic research I, for the first time, included choreological (perhaps better known as Benesh) notation in the score. This, in a sense, also points to—if not “degrading sound output to variable by-product”, at least—an attempt at leveling the hierarchal relationship between gesture and sound that western music has historically upheld. Choreology being an already established notational system in dance (particularly ballet) it seems reasonable to me to simply apply this type of notation to my scores when needed –instead of creating my own esoteric symbols as has been the case so far. This will be discussed further in chapter 6.3.


3. Study piece 2: Blaha Lujza Tér (2016)

“…the music-making body becoming audible can almost always also be seen as the symptom of a musical crisis” (Craenen, 2014, p. 204)...



3.1 A third—digital—position.    
“Here is nothing else to be seen” (Hiroui Larsson, 2015)    

The score of Blaha Lujza Tér calls for two positions in different proximities to an audience. When Torrence and I decided to write an article on the piece, we found it necessary to discuss how to present it in a digital space; as the piece is site specific, or perhaps rather site sensitive, in the sense that the floor of where the piece is performed will have a big impact on how the piece sounds. After experimenting we chose to look at the possibilities that the digital medium offered and decided to create a third digital position. Incorporating the experiments from Antechamber-antechamber and Barren, once again we used pinnae microphones positioned his time in the ears of Torrence, in an attempt at coming closer to the performing body. This experiment also seemed to correspond with the initial aims of the piece, concerned with conveying something about the musician’s condition. Perhaps there are parallels to be drawn in an attempt to achieve an intimacy similar to what Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller do with their sound walks –but from within the act of playing music; from Torrence’s highly trained ears?

      In 2016 Torrence and I wrote an article over Blaha Lujza Tér that was never published. As artistic researchers, we attempted a disposition where the use of language was to be of less importance than the documentation of the piece. This disposition was allowed to have consequences also on what type of language that was used and how speculative and eclectic we were. We recorded ourselves at three occasions discussing Blaha Lujza Tér and how to write the article that we were currently writing. During the discussions we tried to not perform for the microphone, but to speak as much as possible as we would have done if the microphone was not there. Perhaps this can also be read on the lines of the musician’s condition, though not from within the performance situation; could it say something about the interaction between a musician and a composer? I am, of course, not suggesting that Torrence’s and my interaction would in any sense be representative of such an interaction in general, but simply offering the reader a way to come closer to the specific musician and the specific composer. The dialogues were then transcribed as closely to how they were spoken as possible and with as little censorship as possible; the unpolished language helping to unmask us and tear down certain facades that could  easily  have  been  upheld  in   presenting   our   shared   work   on   Blaha   Lujza   Tér. Embarrassing as they might be at times our ineloquent and not beforehand articulated dialogues offers an atmosphere, I believe, and an attitude that—at least at the time—was part of my and Torrence’s relationship. The question of how far these parameters were possible to separate from the piece of music that we made together comes into light through the  dialogues –where formulations were, perhaps arrogantly, overlooked in order to attempt the documentation of a piece of music as well as an underlying professional relationship and friendship becoming the locus.

3.2 Excerpts from a series of conversations with Jennifer Torrence on Blaha Lujza Tér

“…Cage posed such a threat, for he presented the possibility that beneath that discontinuous surface there lurks…nothing at all” (McClary, 2000, p. 136).


The following text consist of excerpts from Torrence’s and my unpublished article that was divided in three dialogues (please scroll down for further reading):

J = (Johan) Jutterström

T = (Jennifer) Torrence




     T: …the work itself has… its structure is everything. It has some content but it is very minimal and the fact that it’s the same material played twice and at two different positions... for me it doesn’t really matter what I do at the two positions, it’s the fact that I do the same thing at different positions. Which is why I put so much more emphasis on the site- specific reading rather than the other things. So then I had the thought that it could be interesting to develop, to actually try to be site-specific, perhaps in Venice, which maybe... the space will just be a box and we’ll just do it like we’ve always done. But, like the room in Berlin, I wish so much that you were there because it was basically like this: (one room split in half by a wall and a doorway), and I was there and then here. It was really weird.
     J: But yeah, it’s been touched upon in Stockholm and Khimaira, but me and Katt Hernandez were in that other room.
     T: That was good, I think.
     J: …site-specificity kind of bothers me a bit. Like, oh well, yeah, there is site- specificity if we start talking about communities and local musicians and stuff like that. That could be an interesting site-specificity perhaps. But site-specificity in this sense of over- stating the particularities of every space we would do it in, I feel that there is a risk of exhausting that and maybe perhaps writing people on the nose a bit too much with that. But I think rather, again with the ambivalence the piece carries with it, also of being very site- particular but not necessarily perhaps site-specific, because it kind of carries its own space with it and you can just insert it to exist in physical spaces with its imagined space of 10 meters between the audience and you, and this and that, and the floor of course. I mean, it's already there. Different floors will sound different. That doesn’t need to be emphasized more. Perhaps. And, well, I’m thinking that maybe that refusal to take another step in that direction and to try and keep it ambivalent or to keep it unrefined in that regard could actually say more about these ideas of site-specificity than to replicate them.
      T: There are people that certainly make work that deals with space, sure. That’s been going on forever, well, basically since the 50’s. People have been making work for this aim. But using it as a material for an extended period of time over many works is something else.
     J: Yeah… I guess there is an urgency to it if it has to be slightly reworked for every space it comes in to. I mean, that way at least we can keep it alive in a way, I suppose. But there are, I’m thinking, at least there could be, other ways of doing that as well, that could also be investigated. Perhaps we could also do it in a completely other direction, like to perform it on stage. On a physical stage. What would that do with the piece? And if in a bigger arena on a stage with microphones... and then the difference in proximity would be emphasized by moving a microphone to you, or something like that. Well, then again, I don’t know what that would add necessarily, but just as a brain-storm.
     T: When you say we could think of another way of doing it in Venice, a way of taking a step further... we have other music directly before, after, and between the two sections. This has been half-way tested, I mean by having music in between the sections, as was done in Stockholm.
     J: This we could look into, I think. This intrigues me a bit. I actually have portable vinyl players.
      T: Oh, good idea. We can go back to the very first idea.
      J: Yeah, we could try it.
     T: Anyways. So we have that possible thing. We have the way, potentially, or not... the room itself could actively be a part of how it is performed rather than just having the two spaces (physical and imagined) colliding. What else is there, though? On one level the content inside the containers of part 1 and part 2 can change, but it’s so… it’s really like Stockhausen... because I’m learning Zyklus… have you seen the score?
      J: No.
     T: I feel like, since I have some pages here… I mean, it’s a little like what Tanja Orning was saying in that talk in Stavanger…  

(Jennifer points out how the score to Zyklus works and how it is only a perceived sense of indeterminacy or choice on the side of the performer.)    

     (T:) It’s a little bit like that for me, in Blaha, that I have these boxes that I can change. How I do the circles on the ground, I can hum when I feel like humming, for example, but actually it is very rigid. Like, it’s always snapping there with that rhythm, it’s always pointing there, right? So it doesn’t feel fragile at all, it doesn’t feel very moldable. It’s quite strong.
     J: Exactly. I mean, we could go in and change it if we want to.
     T: Do we?
     J: Yeah, exactly! Do we? I’m thinking more importantly, I guess the circles are kind of… they are important for the piece, they are kind of the core of the material, somehow, and I’m thinking they alone, at least in my mind, have so much to do with... I guess it’s trying to be archetypical, I guess, about the conditions of performing or playing music. But reduced to a point where it’s one action, but this action tries to carry in it the conditions of performing sounds. To me, it’s much more interesting to think about how it would feel to make that music yourself, for example, what you probably feel when you’re doing it or listening to it. That’s kind of where I want to place the piece. It’s really as simple as that. This could also be just a very personal thing, and again it’s already there, it’s in the piece. It is the core of the piece. So it doesn’t really need to be emphasized. I’m speaking now as someone who has heard the piece, not just as someone who worked on the piece, and I find the circles to be interesting. They sound nice. They look nice. They make sense. And I think they bring something up that’s not necessarily only of theoretical value, but I think has something to say about, at least for me, about playing music. And maybe even about the metaphysics of playing music. Like, that you would trust to elevate such an action to the point where it would be considered music. And the willingness to listen and the willingness to do it.
     T:…the person witnessing it, I think people still go “Wow!”, they say to me “The teeth, what an interesting sound! How beautiful, how fragile!” or even Elsbeth Bergh, who said “Let’s take a picture of the floor.” It’s this intimacy with an object that we normally just walk on. I think it does do something to the viewer, which may or may not be musical. It could be for some and not others. Those are my reflections.
     J: Exactly. And is there really something else to say about it? I think perhaps both you and I are more fine-tuned and better when it comes to working with the material of the piece and to actually develop from that practice than to try to develop it theoretically… the piece itself isn’t about that. It’s not really reactionary or radical or anything like that. And I would say it doesn’t really try to be either.
     T: Right, I totally agree with you. I wonder what, are there parts of the… if we take the issue of the same material presented twice at difference perspectives, is this something that is possible to do in this form of a website article? What are you thinking?
     J: I don’t know yet, but it seems it would be possible. We could repeat ourselves in text, for example, and perhaps more interestingly, is there a way of repeating ourselves in language that would correspond with repeating sounds at different proximities in space? Could we use different languages, well, different styles of language in English, or could we work with Swedish and English?
      T: I think the translation idea could be a way, since you’ve already been working this way. One of the things, one of my heroes Anne Carson...  

(Jennifer shows a picture of her and Anne Carson)    

    J: Looks great!
    T: Yeah, right there she said, “Say prostitute!”
    J: Ha! And did you?
    T: Of course, we are very obliging around heroes.    


    J: There are many things like that, as well, where you try to at least problematize those conventional compartmentalizations between written score and actualization, or performance and listening, which seem a bit, perhaps, I mean, again, it’s all right to challenge those things today. It’s not a problem. Well, anyway maybe we should go.
     T: I’m ready.    


     J: (reads) “The musician’s condition becomes political in itself so that it corresponds with any given concert situation. At the premiere at Röda Sten, for example, where there were almost 200 people in the audience, the space claimed by the musician both physical, attention-wise and acoustically, can easily be read as political. One person is insisting on the attention of 200 people. This, I believe, is played out and tangible through the piece and permitted because of its musical agreement, where as when the piece is performed for no audience in a home late at night these political ramifications change and one could instead start to question if this space should really be given to this piece. Or if one is positive towards the music it can be just another display and invitation to be a part of the musicians condition, as challenging as when faced with a big audience but on different grounds.” So, I would say that... what I’m trying to say is that the, not the site-specific but the space particular-ness of the piece could be read, if we want to, as a political something, which is something I think we failed to mention yesterday when we listed these different interpretations and this and that.
     T:…specifically that performance in Gothenburg. It was not only that it was a huge number of people, it’s that we were briefed that they were high school students. And we could feel that they were high school students. So there was this urgency, this radical feeling like we are going to force these children not only to listen to something they had never considered before but in a really brutal, insisting way. And they suffered because of it. We could all feel that they just wanted to leave. So to keep them there, and because of conventions of being polite and the fact that their teachers were tracking their movements and stuff, then it was definitely political.
     J: Yeah. Almost fascist, in fact.
    T: Definitely.  

(Jennifer presents a nearly incomprehensible question about contextualizing the piece for the purposes of this article. She seems to be challenging the idea that the piece alone has the ability to present all of its internal ideas and knowledge.)  

     J: Well, I think as has happened, I guess organically, I suppose. The piece kind of... and as we’ve been talking about as well, the piece has suffered through different contexts or at least different conditions so far. And I think I’d say that’s one of the main strengths... if there is any strength in this music, it would be that the aesthetic claims are quite small and it’s not super clear where it positions itself, the piece, so I think that keeping exposing it to different types of contexts and conditions would be very beneficial for it. And that’s where it could be considered asinteresting.
     T: So when it’s presented in the context of a website, in a documented form...
     J: And in gif-form, it can survive the gif-form.
    T: Yes and no. That it is a work for performance, if we want to give it a medium, it’s live performance in a space. So for it to be through speakers--we’re doing our best using microphones to try to simulate these phenomena--but, I think, it’s a very special situation for it to be put in an online context, that it's very different than if it were played in that room at the Academy of Music or whatever. This probably does throw into question what the work is, and this perhaps is where my initial question comes from dealing with some contexts you seem to be not interested in sharing. But when it’s in this website format, maybe this format is even more interesting than a pre-performance talk or whatever to talk about the many layers of the piece which can’t be shared through a performance alone. I.e. it’s possible to share the score. And we probably will share the score. And that changes, obviously, how someone reads through the recorded material. And then the context of, to go back to Ng, this isobviously a piece that’s really important to your practice and also to you as an artist, and could be a process that one could use to contextualize Blaha. One could use more than one piece as context, and to know more than one work by you could be important. Or you can put a diary entry about your life dreams or whatever… But I mean, are we interested in going far beyond the recorded material, or are you still there that this is a simulation of a live performance with some media specific, meaning media specific to the internet and the computer, media specific expressions (gif, or whatever), and then some pithy quotes? Is this still all your interested in giving to this presentation? What I’m driving at is, is the presentation that you’ve proposed, which I’m totally open to, more a reflection on your aesthetics, of how you like to see texts, or is it what we think is what should be shared?
     J: Well, I think those two correspond, or at least they should. As we were talking about earlier, I think one of those key things, I think, to try to do in artistic research is to actually acknowledge that presentation and subject matter do correspond. And what means you chose to mediate your thoughts or research findings through and how you present that, is also part of what you’re mediating. Especially when you’re talking about music or art at large. And I don’t think we should underestimate that.
     T: I’m just always so disappointed by the website form.
     J: We have to do something that won’t disappoint us. We have to try, I think… and we should look at the website as a context in itself and try to work with it and not against it.
     T: Against technology?
     J: Yeah. This is why I’ve been thinking about gifs the entire day. That is so Internet and digital software specific.
     T: My instinct is to make explicit what the medium lacks and to make explicit the thing that it would never be able to offer. I’m not really interested in presenting the recording we just made and saying “There it is, you can watch the whole thing now and experience it”. In my mind it would be to make explicit that this is not the work.
      J: Yeah, but in lack of a real concert to go to… maybe that’s just what they have.
    T: I’m happy to include the recording we made yesterday, with the above head perspective, because it uses a vantage point that could never have been done live. So, in that way it’s an autonomous thing and it’s suited for the Internet. So, I’m cool with that. But then maybe it’s something explicit to say that this is a reformatted version of Blaha for this arena, so to say. Because it’s also not the piece.
     J: Yeah, but maybe it is. Let’s say that it’s not reformatted, just that we performed Blaha Lujza Tér with the knowledge that we were performing it for the internet and not a live audience, wouldn’t it be more interesting to think about it, again coming back to my idea of Blaha Lujza Tér being this piece that we will just expose for different conditions? Now we expose it for the Internet, but it is still Blaha, it is the piece, no need to say its a reformatted this and that.
     T: I don’t think it’s the same piece, I think it’s the same material used in a totally different way. The structure is totally different. It’s just the content of a section that is the same.
     J: I find it more intriguing to think about it as a piece that can work in different contexts. I think it’s boring to say the piece is only the piece when it’s performed live in front of an audience.
     T: Maybe we have to do the recording again that we did last night but with the microphones at the position of the camera. It will be a huge difference because you won’t have these mouth sounds and breathing. Is it not far away enough?
     J: I rather liked the recording as it was, it was super clear, the sounds, and it was this mis-… the recorded video and recorded sound did not… the ratio was off. And I liked it.
    T: Which ratio?
    J: Between sound and video. And I think that in itself it's already clear that this is a something that is meant to be shared via a video something. It doesn’t need to be stated, it’s already there. If you don’t think about it, even better, then you get to experience Blaha Lujza Tér from the Internet. Now if this is your first encounter with it, great. It sounds perfect with all the mouth sounds and shit like that and maybe you see it will be performed in your town and you’re like, “I’m gonna go there and see it live, damn”. Then we can start talking about if it’s the same piece of music or not and this and that. But to me that would make me curious and make me feel creative, I can be creative with this then because I can start thinking about why it is made like this live. "I can hardly hear those sounds at all, they were so crisp and clear on the internet." And maybe there is something to that, maybe you can think that the internet is a polished version of reality, maybe it's not true what’s on the internet, maybe that’s a very blunt thought but maybe that’s a thought that you could start to go off to. You can perhaps appreciate this being in a room with other people, you can think, “I listened to this alone with headphones and now I’m here with a lot of people and the musician is far away and, wow, this is really a spacious room. Not at all like my living room where I listened to this on the Internet”. So, I would rather want to encourage these types of investigations for people, if they want to, to use the material in different ways. And as such I really want to avoid making those clear statements. This is not the work, which is not even a word that, I think, is that useful anymore but this is not the song or the piece anymore, this is the internet version, beware!
     T: What I think is intriguing is if we think in terms of distance, i.e. close to the microphone, if we think of these as ranges of proximities. That’s interesting but only if it’s framed that way. Blaha, a piece that has been performed 6 times now, has a structure that is in two parts and the repetition is actually very important for what the piece is communicating. So the fact that it’s not repeating is a totally different expression, so this is important to address.
     J: But at this point there are really three proximities in Blaha Lujza Tér.
     T: Yes!
     J: I’m all for that. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, as well. The third proximity is when you would listen alone with headphones.
     T: Yes. Cool.


     T: Can you discuss the material of the work?
     J: You mean...
     T: The sonic material.
     J: The sonic material of Blaha Lujza Tér?
     T: Yes. Can you also state your intentions, your motivations, your interests?
     J: Uh, so I guess you are asking me to discuss them?
    T: Yes, it’s like an interview style…I mean, it can develop away of the interview style but it’s mostly on you as the capital A-author.
     J: Ok, yeah, sure. I mean, that would suggest a sound fetishist reading of this tune or this piece of music, I suppose. Or at least it could… They are sophisticated sounds, I think. I enjoy listening to them. The circles in particular. I find there is a richness to it that surprised me when I started playing around with it, depending on how you cup your hand and things like that. And I like, for example, at least that particular material, the circle, I would like that to be played with in such a way that I think you’re doing, that you interact with it and you play with the pitches and you activate it and use it as any other, really, musical material. If you would be asked to play a note or a stroke there are certain qualities to both the gesture and also the corresponding sounding outcome. I find that all of those things exist in making a circle with your hand on the floor. It’s nothing more than that really…There is a richness to the sound that you can play with as a musician and also as I suggested before, I guess yesterday... but as we said on our way over here, this probably has to do with me being forced to be the audience of this piece many times. So I’m looking for new ways into the piece and new interpretations. But at the moment I’m fascinated, that’s a big word... but it interests me to think about this in terms of also archetypical gestures that can be said to be symbols for, to be used or activated in such a way that you can gain knowledge of the musician’s condition. And, as such, I think the circle works particularly well. Because it is such a clear gesture with such a clear correspondence between gesture and sound. And it’s also a perpetual motion and the sound never stops, so in a way it can relate to other types of music that are not necessarily acoustic. You could think of it as a drone. Even though its acoustic and craves an ongoing motion, it craves constant activation, the fact that it is a gesture with the hand but the circle itself is perpetual, so it’s also an inhabiting of a room with a continuous sound, in a way. These are all of course spontaneous thoughts on the material of the piece. Then the percussive parts, the hitting of the teeth and finger snapping, they’re written very indifferently. It’s a transcription of a timetable board for flight departures in, I think, a Paris airport, and when they change time…
     T: They go 'rrrrr'.
    J: Yeah, exactly, so it’s a transcription of, I don’t know, a minute of that. But that’s not at all important. There is an indifference to how I wrote them. All I knew is that I wanted percussive strokes in groups without variation, but only a variation between two parts, so, the right hand part and the left hand part. If I would write them as 8th notes or 16th notes, probably 32nd notes, it doesn’t make a difference, what is important is, how they correspond to the other.      
     T:…I also felt the circles more drone-like at times. If I keep doing them long enough or let my mind wander away it becomes a drone. But the moment the listening goes back, it’s impossible to not hear it as something that is rhythmic.
     J: Exactly. And that’s where, again, it intrigues me. Because even though it could be used as a symbol of a drone, or whatever, as an archetype or just, you know, you could put it in the drone category, again coming back to the constant activation of a musician, it is not digital or electrical or machine-like perpetual motion but it is made by a person and in fact it is made by a percussionist, and it definitely has a rhythm to it. Those circles really, I would say, really swing at times. It’s really swinging. So I agree definitely.
     T: Where do you now place this piece in relation to the history and its many, many trajectories?    
       J: Well, I’m not sure that that’s such an interesting excursion. Again, coming back to the art world of today or the music scene today and again recognizing the need or the reason behind having a pluralistic view point on it. It might not be that interesting to talk about, but at the same time, or maybe as a consequence, or a symptom of that, I feel that this piece could actually be read through many traditions, at least the two ones I’ve been dealing with, which is basically jazz music, and western art music. I think it could be read in both of those traditions.
     T: How so? Especially in the jazz side.
     J: Right. Well the circle, for example, could be corresponding to playing brushes on a drum kit, perhaps. I mean, it is obviously written for a percussionist and a percussionist perhaps then could be said to be a drummer in a jazz music ensemble. And all of these materials could be translated to a drum kit quite easily. You can hear many times if you listen to bebop or hardbop you can hear those “gak-gak-gak-gak” like as you would play on a snare drum with a click on the rim. Those things could be corresponding with these things. I don’t know. Now this is trying to create quite a blunt relationship to jazz music. More profoundly so is that many of these… again coming back to the circle, the reasoning behind the circle actually traces back to basically me picking up a saxophone for the first time and starting to play, struggling to play the saxophone because I didn’t understand it but sticking by it, trying to become a jazz musician. But through this instrument or this object that I couldn’t really understand, so I was never really talented, I tried to find new approaches to it. Which lead me to improvised music, which can quite easily be seen, at least in parts, as a progression from jazz music or at least something that came from jazz music. And from the improvised music... in that scene, there are a lot of extended techniques and you challenge the instruments. It’s one of the things that is very present in that scene, that places the instrument as an object quite clearly in the foreground, I would say… at least at times. So I did that with the saxophone, then in the end rendered it an object, not an instrument, to such a point where I would start just making circles with the saxophone’s body on the floor, and then I wanted to emphasize the significance of the saxophone by removing it and only having the saxophonist present. Then I would make circles on the floor with my own hand. This is the history of that material. That quite clearly comes from not from jazz music at large but from a very particular and personal journey through jazz music. Something like that.      
     T:…a material in the piece which we haven’t discussed yet is this small sentence that I say, “A claim needs to be made. There is nothing else here to be heard”. And this opened up a larger conversation around Lucier, that definitely, in my humble opinion, I am totally convinced, that I am Sitting in a Room is one of the greatest works in music, conceptual art, period. It’s incredible, I don’t see any flaws with it. I love it so much... But that this piece, Blaha, in many ways is handling similar material, the phenomenon that is sound traveling in space and then the voice as some way of articulating sound in space and it’s offering a very boring, banal statement about nothing really. We’ll come back to that. This is more what I’m driving at, you don’t have to respond to it, but, driving at where this piece is for you now having going through your own study of the canon so to say, and our own progression.
     J: Yeah, well, at this very point I’m not that keen to make any clear statements of where to place it in western art music. It’s just there as so many other pieces of art. And I think rather perhaps the sentences “A claim needs to be made. There is nothing else here to be heard” themselves, to me, quite clearly talks about something on that trajectory. That it’s an acknowledgement that the time of these grand theories and narratives have passed. In correspondence, perhaps with Andreas Hiroui Larsson's installation piece Here is nothing else to be seen that I’m paraphrasing. But also addressing the situation as it is, like when listening to this piece. Just reaffirming or a confirmation that you won’t hear new material, there will be nothing, nothing will happen. It’s really, and that in itself could perhaps suggest that... in a way I’ve been thinking about, perhaps very clearly, writing down the duration of the piece, for example, just for people to relax, and to listen, if they would, to... or to start fantasizing. Is that how you say it?
     T: Sure. Maybe: to let their mind wander…
     J: But you can’t say fantasize?
    T: I think that’s more directly from the Scandinavian languages… that usually means they are running porno in their brains…
     J: Yeah, that’s fine. That would be a-o-k. But at least to have this confirmation first of all that there is nothing that you need to get. You’re not missing the punch lines. It really is this boring or this beautiful or this touching or this indifferent. And also this statement could perhaps open up for this room where you can also allow yourself to listen to the sounds, for example the circle, which I think is a rich and nice sound with variety. You can enjoy that sound, if you do. But also very importantly, its ok if you don’t have anything to say about this piece, that it does nothing for you. That is fine as well.
     T: What you are saying now is a slight shift from the origins of why it was so urgent to put that particular text in. Because at the time, if we go back to that very first conversation in my office, there was another fascination which was the relationship between author or composer, performer and spectator, and drawing very clear lines between who is responsible for which 'audience'. But also, the fact that the audience has a role in completing the work. Yes?
     J: Sure.
   T: Part of the reason that it’s that sentence versus any other sentence is to say that you as spectator... the plikt (duty) is on you. Værsågod (You're welcome). And it’s very, it’s kind of as simple as that on some level.
    J: Definitely, but those early discussions and those things, like talking about nomination and saying that a discussion can be a piece that is being performed by us and for us, I think that’s more method than anything else. It still makes sense to me I suppose, but then again that piece has already played out, it can only be performed once, if we want to stick to that narrative. And yeah, sure, but it was also a method to create this one piece that can be performed for other people, arguably. See, I’m much more eager... as we were talking about adding this third position or this third spot when we were talking about one of the main things form-wise with the piece is that the same material is performed twice exactly the same from two relations to the audience. And now we’re working on presenting it digitally in an article on the internet and as such we’ve created this third position where you can actually become, not become, but one can listen from the position of your, the performer’s, ears. Which you can’t do live. Now these things are much more interesting than to go back to earlier methods or reasoning behind it. How can we develop this piece further and keep it alive, do we want to keep it alive, and can these materials, these circles and stuff like that, can they be contextualized or re-contextualized in different ways? And this is part of why I... you were calling this piece of music or this tune a work earlier, but that word has a connotation with very closed things for me, that the composer would just hand down as a deity.
     T: I think we are on the same page. I don’t know… 'progress'. I think we just have to be careful with that word. There’s a progression or some kind of step that’s taken that may be good for the art or bad for it or indifferent to it’s sort of value or quality. It’s not an act of conservation, it’s a… in order to say this part has to be performed live...
     J: Agreed.    

    T: There are a few things that came up. One was about the circle, the other thing is... we have to keep going back to just establish, to document it in order to see where this is going. That’s why I warned you that the questions would be banal. But it’s to have them in this format. So we have it covered... So, back to the circle. In one of the very first texts that you made it was a lot about the instrumentality, to remove the instrument and to reveal the significance of that, as you explained with the saxophone. And then I gave a talk in October in Stockholm where I was reconciling the fact that it doesn’t reveal anything for a percussionist to not have a snare drum there. Because the art form is completely... talk about plurality and multiple trajectories. The question is how to reflect that, given that that was a starting point?
     J: Well, I tried to evolve with this new knowledge. This is also part of why, for example, that clarification from you as a percussionist has helped me to reinterpret Blaha Lujza Tér and try it against different interpretations.
     T: But that being said, to go back to this Röda Sten performance, I think what created a magic in the room was the fact that there was no instrument, the fact that I was only using the floor. It was completely lopsided. Normally a percussionist has this fortress to somehow fill the void. There is something there, it’s just not directly related to instrumentality per se.
     J: Well there is something there but perhaps that’s not the point to be made. It’s there, and it was clear and obvious at Röda Sten, but as you say, the work can only be performed live. Maybe those things can only happen in that particular live situation and we kind of have to, to just be glad that this particular piece of music could carry that with it. And those things again, as I also said earlier today, could be perhaps read as political or in many different ways. It was just a great time, really.
     T: The other thing to go back to is the material, not the material that is the musical scored material, the instrumentation if we call that... let’s call it the body in several ways including the voice, fingers, teeth, and then the floor. This is part of a larger project, this particular material, if you could say something about it and maybe it will open up the symbolisms?
     J: Well, there are a few points perhaps to make here. The site-specific-ness or site- specificity verses or contra the space particular-ness, haha, if we want to try different semantics or different words. That is interesting to me. That the piece itself suggests certain spatial conditions but it’s not site-specific. But it is site-specific seeing as you will be playing for example on the floor. But it’s not written for a specific site. So it’s like a nomad site- specificity or space particularity. I don’t know. That ambivalence I think is fun. It’s intriguing and perhaps it has a critique in it against site-specific art, maybe, that would in a way be a regression towards modernism and the idea that we can talk about the work again, that this one piece can survive different conditions, unlike many contemporary art works of today. So there is a double-ness I suppose here that I at this point just want to keep alive. That is intriguing to me. Or interesting at least. And it’s a joy to hear this piece in different places with different floors, different types of rooms. And it is in the end, I am happy to acknowledge, that it is, or could also be, a visual piece, a performance piece in a way. Even though, my stance would always be to point to this being music and nothing else. But there is a visual quality to it, or there could be, even though it doesn’t have to be, and as such the visual qualities of the room also have something to them, and of course also the social environments.  


     T: Ok, the final topic that we should address is that of the form and the proximity element to the piece. Can you say something about this?
     J: Yes, I can, of course, but at the same time it’s very obvious if you’ve seen the piece or if you know the piece, as we do. I think it’s an insisting on, in terms of rumination and regurgitation, which can beautifully in Swedish be just idissling, which is a great word, a kind of idisslande, of the material, which I think has to do with many of those things that we’ve been talking about this hour. Just insisting on these things, would be one part of it, but also there is a slight, call it re-contextualization, socially, spatially with having you very far away and very close, that also has to do very much with dance and choreography, with proximities. All of those body related things also comes with it. There is of course and most obviously acoustical qualities that come with the sound fetishism of the piece, those things are also amplified. It doesn’t sound the same, the piece, it simply doesn’t sound the same in the first position, if we should call it, of the piece... the sound of the room would be very present for example and then it would, in a way... but one of those silent pieces where we emphasize silence and the sounds of the room and the audience and whatever could be read into that. But then by coming to the audience in the second position and doing the same thing again the piece also insists on itself in the material sense. It also insists that those things that we previously emphasized, the room or the silence, are also quite sophisticated sounds. And with this third perspective or third position that we have now with digital media or at least with sound technology, we will also try to find a position where we can almost become the musician and hear the sounds the way you would them. And form-wise the piece is as clear as a piece can be. It’s small sections insisting on one particular material each section done twice and now with the addition of the article, thrice. There is really nothing else to say about it. It’s so obvious.  

(Jennifer goes to use the bathroom, Blue Jazz Tv’s record Pierced Cony Lanky Bolo becomes more present, Johan pours another glass of wine.)  

     T: Two things. First was that, of course the form couldn’t be more clear, but were you just being a ‘lazy composer’ that you wouldn’t write a second music for the second time, or is there some meaning in performing it exactly-ish twice?
     J: Well, yeah. I think I said that. It’s about insisting on it and the fact that one thing can change depending on how close you are, metaphorically if you want to, or just plain acoustically. In both of those examples there is a very clear statement, and I think that that statement is best made with exact or quasi-exact repetition. It becomes very clear.
   T: Do you think that it should be performed exactly the same? Should I remember what I’ve done and do it again? This is something I struggle with because I don’t want to do it again, exactly, it’s boring for me as the performer.
     J: Well I’m sad to hear that first of all,
    T: No no. It’s boring to do it exactly as I’ve done it before.
    J: Oh right. Yeah, no I wouldn’t suggest that. I think the gesture of having these things repeat is enough because otherwise we would loose other qualities. It needs to be performed by someone who hopefully wants to perform it and will invest in the music. As such we need somebody to activate the music live and, yeah, I think the gesture of having the form or the music repeat is more than enough really.  


     T:…another 'problem', maybe, in quotes, that comes up that even when I’m close it’s even more annoying because at least the people in the back could see me when I was far away, but now they can’t see me and I’m still far from them. Well, we didn’t ask anyone what they thought. Perhaps there is some happy medium if one should really experience the two perspectives.

     J: Well, today one shouldn’t underestimate boredom as,

     T: Ha!

     J: No, I thoroughly believe that. People are so, nobody is bored today, or at least the ideal is not to be bored, and I think that if making a political statement then perhaps that would be as good as any other. This will be a boring 20 or 30 minutes for you because you will hardly see or hear anyone but your kind of forced to think then, huh? To activate your own thought process in your brain at least because you are so fucking bored. And you’re not allowed to take out your cell phone because of social conventions so forget about Facebook, you know, and those, like, instant gratifications. You’re kind of stuck here with this fucking person 15 meters away from you, or hidden behind layers of other audience members.

     T: Suddenly the piece takes an even more activist turn than I expected.

     J: Yeah, why not?