In early 2016, right after our piece Barren was performed, Toby Kassell and I started discussing the possibilities of continuing our collaboration aiming mainly at composing a joint music-and-dance score. There was a particular line of inquiry from Barren that we wanted to investigate further: was the separation between something defined as music and something defined as dance successful –could we instead just write the exact same material for two mixed ensembles of musicians and dancers but separate them spatially so that one of the ensembles would be heard and the other seen? If so, would that create a situation where one material performed by two groups could simultaneously be interpreted as music and dance? At the time when we started to work on the score we both found it hard to decide what the material should be. We made several experiments and improvised together to try and find this out. In the end we came to the conclusion that we would find it more interesting if these considerations, concerning what could qualify as a music-, or dance- material, were negotiated in a constant flux by the performers during the performance. Something that we believed called for a score that, in an almost algorithmic fashion, consisted of a series of letters that could be filled with any gestural or sonorous material. We also decided that these letters could take on different meanings within the two different ensembles, something that abstracted the idea that the exact same material should be both heard and seen, even though the spatial disposition would still point to the see-music-hear-dance proposition. As composers and choreographers, Kassell and I became more interested in the performers and what kind of interaction we wanted our score to suggest to them. We wanted the score to be more of a catalyst that would push performers—and later an audience—into a situation where the initial line of inquiry concerning interpretation of gestural-sonorous material could be more openly meditated on. As such we decided that we would make as few dictations as possible outside of what we considered the bare minimum—time and space—and instead try to incorporate extra-instructional suggestions into the score. With a series of etudes we hoped to give the ensembles performing the score some shared references and experiences that were not necessarily explicitly aimed at manifesting during the performance of the score, but rather at the social structures of the ensembles. There is also a moment in the score that asks for music to be replayed. The music would be chosen by a person in each ensemble based solely on their interpretation and feel for what was needed musically at this point in the performance. This moment would take on the symbolic meaning of having one of the members of each ensemble’s own aesthetic preferences shine through and lead. This quite clear action would also occur at the same time in both ensembles, resembling the so-called events of Barren. The score, as composed, consists of a few speculative aphorisms, a bare- minimum explanation of how to read it, a series of etudes, a transparent template that shows the spatial disposition (one ensemble is situated behind the audience that is seated in a circle around and facing the other ensemble) and nine pages of letters (a – d + mm) with modifiers like rhythmic considerations, direction and time indications. Looking at the series of letters, the score is certainly reminiscent of Matthew Shlomowitz’s Letter Pieces, understood as showing that: “[t]he imposition of literal relationships created temporary synaesthesias in which one element can come to function as the expectation of the other. The direct link created between action and sound can itself come to function as the subject of variation and thus be used to provide form and structure time” (Craenen, 2014, p. 217). However, without the clear separation and beforehand agreement that one of the actions is a musical action and the other a dance, or choreographic action—alluded to, in Shlomowitz’s case, by the efficiency of the music instrument—synesthesia is never quite achieved in the case of barren cont. budapest double quartet. Instead, the score seems to end up with a slow-moving ambiguity that refuses to give any clear interpretational direction—perhaps frustratingly so.

     In chapter 2.1 I mention the collaboration between Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion. Can Kassell’s and my collaboration be said to share some similarities with the works of John Cage and Merce Cunningham –a composer and choreographer we certainly discussed during our collaboration? This seems even more farfetched as chance never was part of our interest; this is in fact explicitly stated in our shared score barren cont. budapest double quartet, where it says:

      6.  the placement of material, direction, rhythm and duration was conceived in silent duo improvisation by the piece choreographer toby kassell and composer johan jutterström, where only the name of the signs representing material were spoken.

     6.1   using terms like aleatoric or stochastic to describe this process is misleading as mathematics was never an explicitchoice.

      6.2  rather the placement of material, direction rhythm and duration was conceived in practice.

“In regular usage, it is […] understood that improvisation tends to involve agency of one or more musicians, while indeterminacy can often be more prescriptive […] Anthony Braxton made a parallel statement with another layer of connotations: “Both aleatory and indeterminism are words which have been coined…to bypass the word improvisation and as such the influence of non-white sensibility” (Gottschalk, 2016, p. 189).


4. Study piece 3: barren cont. budapest double quartet (2016/2017)


“The notation must not be […] a one-way system, attempting to predicate the sound arising from performance; it must suggest actions rather than their results” (Fitch, 2013, pp. 47- 48).


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

 J = (Johan) Jutterström

K = (Toby) Kassell


     K: … through concentration and solving problems, when dancers are put in a situation with certain tools that they’re allowed to work with, the concentration perceive people doing that is very touching to me. They’re really doing something. It’s real. They’re not telling you a story, they’re just working through a problem. Solving a riddle with their bodies. You observe people in their everyday life, they’re not showing you that they’re driving but the car is still being driven. Still, when we give the score to people I believe that a certain discipline must be agreed upon as part of the score instructions. Certain strategies have to be studied and agreed upon before starting to work on the piece.

     J: In fact I think we could go even further, having the score also be a kind of preparation. It would tell you to listen to specific pieces before attempting to perform it. Sharing references… Making the score force you to really take your time with it, studying other music and other dance before going into it as part of the actual score itself. I think we can allow ourselves to be very ambitious.

      K: Agreed. Though this might contradict what I said earlier about pure problem solving. I don’t really know what dance references I would want an ensemble to study before approaching the score, neither. But I suppose that we can let these things remain open until we get to Budapest and start working. Anyway, I need to go pick up Alan at kindergarten now. Let’s continue this later.



 Kassell and I saw the score as a document to be interpreted by performers without our involvement, hoping to have several ensembles to take it on later to observe the differences in the outcomes. However, due to logistics the preparation and performance of barren cont. budapest double quartet became something quite different.


 4.1 Changes

      Professor of dance at the University of Stavanger, Faculty of performing Arts, Siri Dybwik invited Toby Kassell and me to teach in the subject artistic research, during one week in 2017—basing it on the barren cont. budapest double quartet score. Together with the third year students of the dance program: Anne Bratteberg, Camilla Schnack Tellefsen, Ingrid Marie Thorsen, Jøran Ravndal, Karoline Aspaas Kvinnesland, Lina Birgitte Anvik Løvdal, we took the score as a point of departure for discussions and exercises aiming for a performance at Tou Scene in Stavanger. Seeing as the ensemble consisted solely of dance students, much of the reasoning behind the score changed. In addition to that, the room at Tou Scene that we decided to perform the score in became very influential in the spatial disposition of the performance. Instead of having the score try to drive home an argument, we—i.e. Kassell, me and the performers—had to be agile in our approach, situating ourselves much closer to our practices. Being bold in our interpretation, the seemingly complicated score that Kassell and I had composed, turned out to be quite flexible when used as a catalyst or as a document that could be questioned –calling perhaps for a precision in decision making, rather than fidelity and reliance on premeditated dispositions –in line with the letter- based mechanics of the score itself. The six performers Bratteberg, Aspaas Kvinnesland, Anvik Løvdal, Ravndal, Schnack Tellefsen and Thorsen made up two trios during the performance of the piece. During the week leading up to the performance the trios had alternated. The score itself was reduced down to a series of letters (a – d), representing gestural-sonorous material to be designated during the performance in improvisation, corresponding to a series of numbers (1 – 4) alluding to where said material was to be performed. This series was written on the wall of the room (seen in the left corner during the beginning of the video documentation; 00:00-00:25). The room we chose at Tou Scene was divided in two levels. Instead of insisting on the circular disposition that the score calls for we used this architectural division in placing half the audience of each level facing one trio each. Half the audience would see one trio and hear the other, and vice versa. One of the more interesting moments of the performance, to me, was when the performers replayed music from their phones (they had the option of replaying music from basically any medium: vinyl, CD, tape, etc., but all of them chose their phones as their preferred and at-hand device) (seen and heard at 13:00 in the video documentation above). Often, albeit far from always, one would see a dance performance paired with either scored music performed live or replayed prerecorded music. The act of listening in barren cont. budapest double quartet was aimed at an expanded choreographic action and as such the dancers were motionless during the replaying of the music, questioning this conventional pairing of music and dance. The friction between motionlessness and replayed music is something that I took with me when working on Ng revisited (discussed further in chapter 6.3).

     As stated above, Kassell and I never intended to be so involved in the rehearsals and preparation of the performance when we wrote the score to barren cont. budapest double quartet. We allowed ourselves, in a similar fashion to what I discuss concerning my considerations on the composer-performer relationship in chapter 3, but drawn further, to consider our artistic action to only be the score itself. To us, the music and choreography was manifested as ink on paper. In line with this reasoning we tried to be as balanced as possible when deciding what to share through the medium of the score. Trying to be as true as possible to these intentions, I will now after this short account simply refer to the score and the documentation of the piece as performed at Tou Scene.