7. Learning outcomes
My piece Ng revisited (2018) was performed on 29 April 2018 at Rimi/Imir Scenekunst in Stavanger by Ingeborg Zackariassen, Jennifer Torrence, Linda Oláh, Sofia Jernberg, Toby Kassell and myself. The days leading up to the concert I had been at Rimi/Imir Scenekunst to put things in order, always walking from Bjergsted and feeling how my thoughts and choices were affected by the place where I had lived for almost three years. I tried to get to know the space by organizing it and to make myself and my musical ideas at home there. I set the lights together with Iver Findlay and Ingmar R. Nilsen, who were working there, I organized the lobby area so that I could put the scores that the research project had generated on display, I set up a record player and a circle of chairs surrounding it in a space framed by pillars that suggested a square room –close to how Ng (2013) had been performed before, and I spent hours in a black box-like space that was framed by heavy black curtains arranging chairs, microphones and a film camera for documentation purposes and marking the floor with chalk. These days of intense calm and meditation-like activities over the concert that was to be were of great help to me and gave me a soft focus. On Friday 27 April, the ensemble arrived to Stavanger. During two intense days we rehearsed Ng revisited (2018). Following the advice of Sofia Jernberg, I divided the score into three segments and, started the rehearsal with the last segment –remembering how we used to learn hard passages of music in the youth big band G.U.B.B, under directions of Bertil Fält, when I was younger. That way we always knew where the composition was heading while rehearsing it. As we walked around in the black box-like room, clapping our hands dragging our feet on the floor and grinding our teeth, I certainly questioned the value of my research project and the substance of what I had done during three years. Had I reached any new insights since when I sat in the rehearsal space in Gothenburg? Were the developments in the material substantial enough to set it apart from the original composition Ng (2013)? I longed for the performance to start so that I could trust my focus as a musician. So that I could fall back into a reality, if only just over thirty minutes, where my life was defined by making a circle with my hand on a floor -where my existence was nothing else. It would all make sense then. The final presentation of my research consisted of three parts: the displayed, but uncommented, scores that the research project had generated, the performance, or rather replaying of, my hypothesis Ng (2013) and the live performance of my main research finding Ng revisited (2018). As I write above I consider the juxtaposition of Ng (2013) and Ng revisited (2018) to be the very core of the research project. The way my final presentation was structured the audience would first hear Ng (2013) in headphones, replayed from a vinyl disc and then the live performance of Ng revisited (2018), making this juxtaposition inevitable. (Half the audience heard Ng (2013) after the performance of Ng revisited (2018) due to a lack of headphones.) My own thoughts concerning the value of this juxtaposition, the space in-between these two pieces, will now follow.
There is a naivety to Ng (2013) that appeals to me, a certain conviction that I believe is moving. Ng revisited (2018) feels more weighted down. It is clear to me that the experience of being a researcher changed the way the piece unfolded. Though there is certainly still naivety to Ng revisited (2018) there is less conviction to the material. I do believe that this is healthy, speaking mainly as an academic, but also as a composer and musician. Looking back at the chronology or narrative that I propose in chapter 1.4 one can see how material has carried over and taken on new meaning between the pieces and throughout the research project. I do believe that the material speaks best for itself, but focusing in on one particular material might help bringing some clarity as to how the research project has unfolded. I will therefore look at how walking has functioned throughout the research project. Ng (2013) starts with the acousmatic sound of six people walking on the front of their feet in a big circle. Walking is recurring throughout the piece in different ways, but is with few exceptions considered to be a carrier of sound. Barren (2015) starts almost exactly as Ng (2013) but with the great difference that the people walking are now being seen by an audience as a prelude of sorts, before moving into a different room to experience a dance performance. The walking in Barren (2015) could be considered a preface to the music score accompanying the choreography of Barren (2015). In Blaha Lujza Tér (2016) walking is just a function for moving between position one (far from the audience) and position two (close to the audience) and as such completely unmediated –however, seen in retrospect, the functional walking of Jennfier Torrence and the way hear shoes squeaks (heard in the video documentation of Blaha Lujza Tér (2016) might be one of the most poignant moments in the whole research project. Walking in barren cont. budapest double quartet (2016/2017) can be considered dancing more than anywhere else in the research project. And finally walking in Ng revisited (2018) attempts to keep all the qualities above; being a preface to the piece as it starts with the ensemble walking into the space, being a carrier of sound in the opening segment, unmediated and functional at pp. 4, 6, 7, 16 referring to the score (pp. 7, 9, 10, 19 in the pdf), and to function as dance at pp. 4 – 5 (pp. 7 – 8 in the pdf). Considering the juxtaposition of Ng (2013) and Ng revisited (2018) I believe that the diversity of a simple material like walking in Ng revisited (2018) could be said to show development. With the repetition of specific material (e.g. walking as described above) or themes from the vinyl disc to the live performance of Ng revisited (2018) I attempted to frame the time period of the research project in its entirety. It also spoke of the rumination of material that has been part of this research project.
During the performance of Ng revisited (2018) the difference between performing similar material solely for a microphone (Ng (2013), Barren (2015) and performing it live for an audience, was striking. I do believe that listening to Ng (2013) reads as listening to a piece of music while listening to and seeing Ng revisited (2018) reads as a piece where the perspectives of music and choreography has collapsed. I write above that I hoped for the research project to make sense during the performance of Ng revisited (2018), and for me as a musician, it did. This is where the most knowledge gained lays, tacitly. This is also why the research questions I propose in the beginning of my research project perhaps are not completely on point. To me “a choreographic approach to Western art music” definitely offered a substantial donation, that premise also challenged the way I approached notation and helped me expanding the way I thought of musical structure, and changed the way I approached time and space in music. As with the aims of Ng (2013), expecting to be able to answer whether this research project offers a substantial donation to Western art music in general, might be disproportionate. However, for me the difference between playing my saxophone and performing a music-choreographic-poetic material is palpable. The absence of any object to be played has during the process of composing, rehearsing and performing been substantial; though any theoretical construction attempted to be built on it might end up rickety. Lifting my eyes and looking at the future of my research I am envisioning three pieces:
1) ‘Etudes, and a little number’. A piece for solo dancer, small gestures being amplified by microphones. Small sounds being investigated thoroughly. Certain segments performed in running shoes, others in socks and some barefooted. During one segment a person, kneeling next to a record player and a stack of vinyl discs, would play music, changing the records ad lib. and the dancer would dance next to them.
2) Mun. Hand. Lunga (2018) to be performed by Sofia Jernberg (voice) and Jim Denley (saxophone) during the Resonant Bodies festival in Sydney 2018. Looking to reconcile with the saxophone I have used much gestural material, sounding material and choreological notation found in this research project to apply on a music instrument; the saxophone. Having stayed stubbornly true to investigating music without instruments, now might be the time to open this investigation up for other possibilities. Casting off the stringency of this delimited research project.
3) A piece of music where four people would run around in the space where it is to be performed with pinnae microphones in their ears, creating a distorted beat. They would run in different tempos and rhythm making up a beat, closer to club music that one is expected to dance to. One or several musicians would play on this beat, either synthesizers, to put it even closer to dance music, or acoustic instruments. The people running would run in the same space as the audience and hopefully, by generating music trough their own momentum, create an atmosphere where music and dance interlocks and inspires people to get involved.
Where it would go after that I do not know.