PRACTICE grounds

John Cage's prepared piano work along with David Tudor's pioneering performance of Cage's piano music, including Music For Changes, lay as a ground, a tradition, which this project is in part standing (stumbling) on.

As the project evolved, a variety of approaches began to formalize and constitute as eight areas of practice, designated here as "works", each offering a different perspective on the core topic of multilayeredness. To a varying degree, these works merge sonic, instrumental, visual, contextual, reflective and bodily aspects of the practice. Arranged here in a vibrating grid of interweaving economies, between which insights are imported and exported. This flux of information was important in the development of the works, and as such, the grid resembles a living network that connects practice approaches across the larger terrain of the project.


In their vertical stacking, stickworks, footworks, fieldworks and fireworks make up a fourfold that covers the piano practice from a basic territory towards a more performative unfolding. At first, to work with a series of practice sequences, which ritualize over time in order to embody basic movements and orientations at the piano. Preliminary to the performative situation where the basics are heated-up (fireworks) in more flexible combinations, igniting a more reflexive and intuitive co-ordination.

These approaches link up with the practice of the transdisciplinary artist and athlete, Torben Ulrich and more specifically to his film Before The Wall: Body & Being. In the liner notes, in which we are introduced to some of the same categories (stickworks, footworks, fireworks, frameworks, networks), it goes: 


"Movement and play. The chapters that follow these opening minutes try to look into what might constitute, within a larger athletic field, some basic territory: 1) basic in the sense of being perhaps “prior” to a more finely articulated (elite-oriented) athletic practice; 2) basic in the sense of being a kind of distillation, drawn from already experienced practices, not too tied to any particular discipline, still 3) basically open to a range of possibilities, exacting as well as playfully untried."

This prior, pre-elite, pre-established and yet "playfully untried" basic territory, also points to a basic openness that imply not only a practical but also an ethical dimension: a diminishing of (elite) ambitions in order to intensify an alternative way of (bodily) being: active and listening, receptive and responsive, open and playful.

In context of this project, the gradual process involves a kind of constructive and iterative testing of actions, in order to let the daily exercises evolve over time to a point where they become resources for the solo performer to draw upon intuitively.

In the artistic research project Habitable Exomusics, fellow pianist and artistic researcher, Jacob Anderskov, mentions an approach that is very relatable, which he coins "conscious osmosis":


Based on the recognition that improvised material often cannot arise based on an ideal decision about what one wants to create, a number of activities are created in the artist's daily practice that ensure that the elements one wants to emerge in the intuitive moment, actually appear as natural deposits.

In this regard, the horizontal lines of the grid could be said to represent the continuous flow of daily practice: a gradual, osmotic process that develops towards an embodied capacity, which is more a potentiality that may reveal itself during a performance (or in any moment of play), rather than a ready-made set of strategies for the solo performer to follow.



A collection of sticks, a scale of dimensions.


In developing the stickworks, I distinguished between two primarily different approaches: kinetic and static stickworks. A somewhat rigid distinction, since the two approaches would often converge during performances. However, as basic practices, they embark from two different points of departure. 

Static stickworks is to be understood as a placement of the stick across the horizontal plane of the keyboard, partly covering its field of play. The stick thus becomes an obstacle to the mobility of the player, an obstruction to habitual patterns, a spoke in the wheel, which calls for inventiveness: A search for new routes, routines, opening up other lines of motion, alternative passages of play. Approached less so by compositional strategies but rather insisting on a quicker, bodily-intuitive decisioning (precisioning). A throwing of sticks. Now, Play! 

This, linked up with the etymological meaning of the word, improvisation, meaning both unforeseeability and unprovided for. From the perspective of the hands, fingers, the keyboard terrain looked different, a situation unprovided for, calling for different movements.

Simultaneously, as the stick is placed across the keyboard, covering a certain register, it not only blocks the keys but also becomes a potentized block of sound, a cluster of notes, which the player can activate. The dimension of the stick, its length, thickness, weight, position on the black or white keys, the speed of attack and so on, all affecting register, volume, density, dynamics, harmony, harmonics. Clusters of sound, clouds of harmonic turmoil, soon beginning to open a whole range of densities: low clouds, high clouds, heavy clouds, distant clouds. 

As such, the use of sticks not only extended the technical reach but also expanded the sonic range in the practice, and even if stickworks was not envisioned to begin with, the spatial and sculptural sonic approach was anticipated in my early notes:


"Multilayeredness” could be approached as both a multiplicity of musical characteristics (sonically, dynamically, energetically) and as a differentiality of movements, gestures and speeds. These perspectives make ground for working simultaneously with varying degrees of horizontal and vertical orientations in the musical material, opening up a spatial and sculptural approach (planes, clouds, clusters) in contrast to a more linear polyphony.

This spatial and sculptural approach links up with the dense sonic qualities one can create with the sticks - opening a range of densities according to the size range of the sticks. The opening track entitled Clouds on the solo piano album Concrescence, is a distillation of these imagined sonic planes, clouds and clusters.


The feet at work, silently and not so silently. Silently as in secretly, hidden from the sight of the pianist and the attention of the audience: beneath keys, below strings, at ground level, in the shadows. Still, a core pianistic technique, connoting a secret, almost magic function: the shaping, softening, sustaining, expanding, obscuring and gluing together of resonances.

Also, to take a step back from the conventional functions of the pedals (una corda, sustain, sustenuto) in order to investigate the sounds of the pedals themselves, the clunks and quirks of their mechanics. Working with a change of timings. One step, two steps. The feet and pedals interacting in an unplanned choreography, a dialogue, dance, rag, stomp.


Extending our orientation towards an investigation of the whole body of the piano, here viewed as a differential field of sonic potential: multilayered, manifold. A coming together of stickworks and footworks joined by other more or less conventional techniques: the strike of a note, the snap of a string, the brushing of the harp.

Fieldworks as an inquiry of the piano-geography across its poles, paying attention also to the approach itself. Of how to enter this field, picking up and laying down sounds, objects, rhythms, aware of the relations of speed and slowness, motion and rest, material and force, calling for an all-directional awareness.

‘Field’ understood here on different levels.

At ground level, the piano is seen as an instrument made of various materials; metal, plastic, felt, wood, brass, lacquer. A multilayered, mechanic construction.

On a more virtual level, the piano is seen as a vibrant field of sonic potential, heard and unheard, acoustic and imaginative.

In a more conjugated understanding, the piano represents a field of play into which we can enter both physically, bodily and imaginally. Its design and curvature inviting various kinds of movements and gestures.

This playing field could be seen as consisting of some invisible lines that follow the design of the instrument and suggest different orientations of movement.


A horizontal line spanning across the keyboard, its register of 88 keys, each locating a pitch from low to high.

The longitude seen as a line that extends across the instrument body, its field of resonance. Across the soundboard and harp of interweaving strings: meridians of a myriad harmonic locations.

Adding to this grid, a third line of attention: the vertical axis of action, of attack and release. The upward-downward motions of the mechanics (hammer, pedal) suggesting an awareness of the gravitational forces of pulse, rhythm, speed, bounce. 


A heating-up of rituals, testing different timings, (im)pulses. Firing up the firmness of practice sequences, a certain order of events. Working with speeds of action and interaction, alert to what the moment brings.

Fireworks also as a launch towards a more performative ground where events are both charged and discharged. Charged by the accumulated potentiality of repetition, the gradual build up of daily practice rituals; discharged in a more sudden release: a setting free of sonic and bodily motions, or at least an attempt at freeing up those motions to the full, and perhaps even beyond the known capacity of the player. Also to pay attention to the teaching of Spinoza: "We do not know what a body is capable of". Thus staying open to the practice rituals to be played out in more intuitive ways, inviting repetition of known elements in unforeseeable forms.

Still, the question of form is core to how the improviser formulates the musical event during a performance, well aware of the challenges of being present in the unfolding moment of play, while keeping an all-directional awareness on the overarching form of the improvisation. 

After a solo performance in the early stages of the project, I wrote down these considerations:


Where lies the balance between overview and creation of form? My flow is often broken by an attempt to have an overview, which results in analytical reflection, after-thoughts that delay. There is no time for this. When I slow down the pace of the music, it is easier to orient and navigate without obstructing the flow of the playing process. However (and I also experienced this yesterday) when I operate with more constant, high-frequency activity, I lose touch with the material, both as form-structure and in the unfolding of it. What seems to be a mix of habits (because I have no surplus and fall back on them) and an underlying analysis that runs as a parallel track of abstraction prevents a flowing improvisational process.


Taking a step back from the playing practice in order observe it from other perspectives, trying out various angles with a variety of scopes, lenses, cameras, qualities; single point camera, multi-camera, action camera. Working with a scale of proportions through different framings: sizing up the feet and pedals, zooming in on the keyboard horizon, overviewing the topography of the piano. Horizontal and vertical perspectives.

Inviting also a different listening: hearing the image, its amplified movements, visible speeds. A listening that becomes more visual as the sounds and sonic gestures are visualized.

This expansion towards a synaesthetic perception of sound and image makes up a core turning point in the process. Seeing a video of the feet only, changed my sonic experience of the music. Also opening another perspective within the tactile and kinaesthetic aspects of the playing practice. By framing certain movements from certain angles, my perception of what the playing body, in relation to the piano, would begin to change. The simple action of opening and closing the keyboard lid, of approaching the bench and sitting down, of getting up and moving around the piano etc. became part of the repertoire of movements because they were interesting to watch as pure movement. It reminded me of how even the simplest actions related to piano playing are expressive and communicative. Filming and watching it, elucidated the expressive potential of these transitory actions when seen as movements and positionings that take place before, in-between and after what is conventionally regarded as musical activity. In that sense, preparatory, intermissionary and transitory.


Working here with listening as an active, attentive faculty of mind. An attention that, in the words of Jean Luc Nancy:

"(...) rings out, or shouts between “listening” and “understanding”: between two kinds of hearing, between two paces [allures] of the same (the same sense, but what sense precisely? That’s another question), between a tension and a balance, or else, if you prefer, between a sense (that one listens to) and a truth (that one understands), although the one cannot, in the long run, do without the other?"

Again, a form of listening that attempts to be both sensual, perceptual while upholding a certain criticality to what’s heard. A listening which in this project is coined 'critical listening', as the diary notes explain here:

Embarking on the project, I had implemented a method called critical listening. The idea was to develop ways of relating, more responsively and spontaneously, to my research practice, again, in order to approach the on-going challenge of working alone. On a more concrete level, it was intended as a way to enter into a dialogue with the audio documentations that I was continuously making. The idea was simply to record my playing, spanning from simple exercises to expanded improvisations, and listen to them afterwards, while commenting into a microphone that would pick up my verbal utterances and map them out alongside the recorded audio track. 


The idea was to try out a different way of reflecting on the work. An approach that would both call for a more immediate, verbal response and perhaps open up another kind of listening which would create synergies between the immediate sonic experience and critical reflection. Critical here, in the sense of sharpening the faculty of listening, tuning in on critical (dis)connections in the music and playing. Still with the point of leaving less time for reflective after-thought and leaning more towards a reflexive response sparked by the immediate experience: What do I hear? How is this experienced? What movements, gestures, sounds, layers interplay? (ex. 1)

At the same time, I realized the need to pay parallel attention to the method itself: How do I listen (critically)? How does that affect my (verbal) reaction? This again led to all kinds of questions: What do I listen for? How quickly after a recording session should I comment? When should I listen to the verbal comments afterwards? What is the balance between commenting and listening? 

The aforementioned relations between speed-slowness, motion-rest, repetition-difference, affecting-affected body etc., where productive scopes for the listening, since my instrument practice revolved around movements and gestural actions. In addition, the proprioceptive aspect of my piano practice, that which involves movement, coordination and positioning, seemed to call for a listening that involved also tactile and kinaesthetic sensing. 

When I started out, I realized that my comments also became visible as audio tracks, which mapped out the verbal comments in relation to the recorded sound track. This was helpful in creating an overview in the hours of material that was 'listened' through.


Two examples are given of a critical listening session, on the right hand side. These are excerpts that date back to before I began to video document my work.


Remapping, reviewing, rewriting

Now giving yet a different circuitry to the recorded frameworks by recontextualizing the performance practice in a new instrumental paradigm where recorded events are remapped to a digital keyboard.

The 88 keys becoming an altogether different field of play, now containing 88 partials of previous continuities to be played out anew, illuminating a different vision of the works. A dialoguge between past actions and present activity, between keyboard technologies, instrument mechanics and computer code, between acoustic and electronic sound aesthetics, between the well-tempered piano and more flexible tunings and temparaments.


Codeworks represent the process of writing this new new instrument, the video keyboard, in two coding languages: C++ and SuperCollider. Ideas being formulated, and instrument taking form.



Mapping practices, connecting ends, looking for circuits in a wider network in terms of method, approach, aesthetics, tradition, lineage etc. 

At first, to structure the intra-practical domains of the research project by organizing its constituents into a network of works: stickworks, footworks, fieldworks etc. of which networks also is part domain. 

Then to transcend the grid into a more inter-practical view of the connections in-between the work grounds. The grid now as a vibrant field of interweaving impulses, information, insights.

Also widening the circles to be informed by a larger context, connecting the project across disciplines, traditions, aesthetics, approaches.


Morton Feldman's work for solo piano was long before this project a core influence. During this project, especially Triadic Memories, Piano and String Quartet and Piece for Four Pianos were of interest to this project, in their different, repetitive lay(er)ing out of sounds and motions. As in the case of Ann Southam, it is a teaching in being calm and patient, yet intensely aware.

Xenakis wrote Mists for Roger Woodward, the Australian pianist who was also acquinted to Sviatoslav Richter (below). The piece is a study of sound formations, thermo-dynamics, clouds and particles, of relations of speed and slowness along multiple linear trajectories. One does not have to play and study it to learn about these things - the listening experience itself is a teaching. 

Henry Cowell's invention, as the tradition says, of the tone cluster is a discovery that takes a core place in this project, a sonic phenomena highly present in both the acoustic piano and the video keyboard settings. My humble attempt has been to work with further nuances of the cluster by use of different kinds of wooden sticks: short, long, compact, soft, as a way to create dynamic cluster-harmonic space expanding the spectrum of sonic densities beyond (perhaps) what Cowell intended.


















Example 1 – blank video with music + voice over in Danish and subtitles in English

In a diary note (24.01.2017) I wrote down some thoughts on the

stickworks, right after watching a video recording of a practice session, still at a fairly early stage in the project:


The sequence contains new suggestions on how I can make use of cluster sticks. Here I  am using longer and thinner sticks, which give a wider cluster, and due to the thickness and softness of the wood, the sonic impact of the cluster becomes more "foggy", like a carpet of sound, than when I use thicker claves, made out of harder wood.

In this take, two long, thin sticks and two shorter sticks were placed on the keyboard, which also made the regular playing (fingers, hands) more difficult. The keys are blocked, there's less space to move in, at least conventionally speaking, and this obstruction opens up some interesting pianistic solutions, ‘resorts’, in-between spaces, loopholes that suggest news pathways, both as sonic and motionary lines, calling for a different co-ordination of play.

Again and again, I make use of loops, which opens up the material and my playing. It both focuses and expands the ideas I have going on. One could speak of a simultaneity of centripetal (involving) and centrifugal (expanding) forces, which also seemed to involve and expand my experience of the 'playing'. Or should we say, during playing.

The looping quality, again reminiscent of Torben Ulrich's lines of a repetition that intensifies, revealing new insights, also in relation to the larger cycles of repetition: the daily practice, the basic territory of (playfully) testing and trying, again and again.

Below are three excerpts from the video referred to above, where I go through various stages of experimentation with the sticks, which here is still at an early point in the development and explorations of the technique.

The top video is from the beginning of the recording, investigating the resonance of the clusters; the middle video (also mid-take) combines active handheld sticks and static sticks placed on the keyboard; the bottom video is towards the end of the take, where combinations begin to take shape in a more playful flow. 

Fieldworks also involves working with the proprioceptive faculties of bodily movement and positioning.
To reconnect with the introductory lines to this page, the relation between a basic practice and the subsequent basic movements is also an investigation of basic positions and in-between positions. This entails an attention to both the stationary and the motionary, and the relationship between rest and motion, position and positioning.




//  fontPlayer.hpp

//  fontTest


//  Created by Gnlc Elia on 24/11/2018.



#ifndef fontPlayer_hpp

#define fontPlayer_hpp


#include <stdio.h>

#include <string>

#include "ofMain.h"


class MultiFontPlayer;

class FontPlayer{





    constexprstaticconstfloat LETTERS_PER_S = 16;




    enum Alignment{






    enum AnimationType{






    enum SpreadMode{





    Alignment xAlign = Alignment::CENTER;

    Alignment yAlign = Alignment::CENTER;


    float lettersPerSecond = LETTERS_PER_S;


    AnimationType animationType = AnimationType::WORDFADE;

    SpreadMode spreadMode = SpreadMode::TOGETHER;


    std::vector<ofRectangle> constellation;


    ofColor color;


    float margin = 120;

    float marginY = 120;


    float widthRatio=1.0;

    float heightRatio=1.0;


    float fontScale = 1.0;


    bool autoResize = false;



    bool load(std::string text);

    bool load(std::string text,int size);

    std::string setFontSize(int size);

    void setFontScale(float scale);


    std::vector<int> targetWords;



    ofTexture *getTexture();


    void play();

    void stop();

    void update();

    void nextFrame();


    float getWidth() const;

    float getHeight() const;


    float getPosition() const;

    float setPosition(float pct);

    float getDuration() const;


    bool  isPlaying() const;

    void  setSpeed(float speed);

    void setColor(ofColor col);


    ofTexture getFontTexture();

Some of the framings are directly inspired by the piece Rerendered by composer Simon Steen-Andersen (above). In my diary notes, I reflect on some differences, despite the likelihood of framing. These reflections fuelled my intention to develop a more expressive way of presenting the framed video documentations:

Where I am recording and documenting my practice for further inquiry, Rerendered is a performance piece, where the performed actions are visually projected on screen, for the audience. The video projection is in a sense a live documentation of what's going. It reveals (new) insights of piano playing, especially the pedals and inside preparations, explicitly unfolding the scored intention (the score is itself visible). We're seeing a (conventional) piano on a (conventional) stage, but the set up is different: we are invited to look more closely. The image quality is reminiscent of a surveillance camera, and the viewer becomes a little bit like a voyeur, who is watching the secret operations as they unfold.

Part of what makes Rerendered work as a piece, is also what is lacking in our documentations. A composer would perhaps point to the lack of form, decision, frame, however, as I see it, it is in the difference between the documentational and presentational, and, if I may, between the retrospective, the looking back and the spectacular, as in (live) show, that the issues point themselves out. The documented work, all the recorded camera angles, techniques, gestures etc., needs to be given a performative direction, whether composed or improvised, it needs to be "fired" up in more playful wayes.

As one will see in the section on the Video Keyboard these framings were sampled and recontextualized into a setting that launched a multilayered and interactive (re)rendering of the framings.

I was somehow stuck between modes of reflection rather than relying on a more intuition-driven reflexive awareness ...


Two considerations that I need to dive into are partly that some elements / movements / ideas from my practice are more difficult to unfold live. Notwithstanding the above, I still feel that my presence when I become entangled in the performance also makes me unable to have a certain coolness in activating particular kinds of ideas. It can perhaps best be described as being more calm, cooler in modes of practice and in performative situations, especially in interaction with others, becoming more fiery, more heated, and that time feels more tightly packed. A density in time flow. At the same time, and here comes the second observation, I also transcend myself more, discovering unknown landscape. So, the balance between temperatures, between the cool view and the fiery intensity may also be the balance between form and force. Both to have an eye on structure, form, proportion while at the same time reacting unforeseeably with an energy that in its instant transcends, skips and transcends that overview. (The eagle hovers high, looks over the full landscape with an eye for detail. The mouse sets off, escapes in a more dense intensity, without the same kind of overview.)

This iterative process also points to a way of working with repetition in relation to improvisation. Not only in terms of musical content, say, the repetition and gradual variation of certain phrases or rhythms, but perhaps more so in the sense of working with cycles of movement in the practice. To experience again and again certain rituals as a way of expanding the (bodily) awareness, perhaps revealing hidden potentials. Also keeping in mind Spinoza's core line: "We do not know what a body is capable of". 

In the project Toward a Theatre of Transversality, Torben Ulrich touches on repetition ...

"Repetition, then, not as replication but as intensifying: repeating to see if the work may open up, reveal itself further; repeatedly returning, intensifying intensity, to see if we are granted an insight, revealing some unseen "dynamic lines in space" (...)"

This connects to an intention of developing flexible, non-hierarchical form perspectives as a way to (still) be working in a field of suspense between compositional and improvisatory strategies. The compositional aspect not necessarily implying notation or graphic score. If anything, it is more an internalized choreography of certain movements and gestures across a variety of approaches (stickworks, footworks, fieldworks) for the improviser to draw upon intuitively, as Anderskov puts it.






Cory Smythe is perhaps the most relevant contemporary pianist to this project. His solo work is itself multilayered across various aspects: the interplay of piano traditions (stride piano, Broadway standards, new complexity, Anthony Braxton, Xenakis), his reach toward electronic and programmic treatmens of the piano (Max MSP), his seemingly fluid navigation between planned and unplanned actions and his virtuosity as a pianist.






In her hour long solo piano work Simple Lines of Inquiry, Ann Southam presents us to a world of slowly unfolding lines that are perhaps simple in their not-by-note sequence, but  reveals a rich, multilayered space of resonating overtones. The patetient, iterative development also puts into play our memory of just bygone lines, intensifying the experience. Long before this research project came to mind, studying and performing Simple Lines of Inquiry (also giving the Danish premiere at Click Festival in 2012) became a core teaching. 






Chris Brown's work with just intonation, (poly)rhythmic relationships and programming in C++ and supercollider, became a very valuable influence on this project, when I was acquainted with Chris during a visit to San Francisco. Chris set up a duoble solo concert at the Center for New Music in San Francisco, where he and I both played, and months after Chris visited Copenhagen to perform and teach. During this period he was a vital ressource in giving critical perspectives on the development of the video keyboard. 

When Gianluca Elia entered the project, then still as a student on RMC, his impact was immediately felt. As decribed elsewhere in the exposition, he unexpectedly responded to a question that I gave during a talk at RMC, and under his auspices as a programmer, we created the video keyboard during some intense months of work. 






The work of Simon Steen-Andersen is a core inspiration to the project, especially in context of the frameworks and the video keyboard. His work with the relation between bodily gestures and sound aesthetics, between the sonic and visual experience, his way of extending conventional techniques and challenging expectations by developing new forms of presenting and performing his work.

During parts of this project I also collaborated with Simon, being myself embedded in his work. A collaboration that has patiently been evolving since first meeting at ZhDK in Zürich, 2012.

The second fourfold: frameworks, codeworks, mindworks, networks, opens up a more vertical perspective on the aforementioned practices and their horizontality of play. This involves stepping back from the piano in order to work with other (trans)positions of the practice: documentation, retrospection, critical listening and contextualization.

This process led to an an unexpected turn in the project, which resulted in the development of the Video KeyboardAn instrument where video documentations (frameworks) of the piano practice is recontextualized into an audio-visual terrain, shifting the sound from an acoustic domain to an electronic process, from the physical-mechanical piano to a digital code based instrument (codeworks). A shift also in the core relation "player-piano", now taking on a different audio-visual modality which is played out in a space between representation and the presentational.

The vertical perspectives of frameworks, codeworks etc., also invites a disruptive quality to the gradual, day-by-day horizon of instrument practice. As such, they function as interferences, or more precisely, they create interferences: between acoustic and electronic, actual and virtual, bodily intuition and computer code, dissemination and performance, retrospection and improvisation, past actions and present activity, play and replay

Still with the project title in mind: challenging how these seemingly disparate fields can be converged into a multilayered experience.



    ofTrueTypeFont font;

    ofTexture texture;

    ofFbo fbo;

    ofFbo maskFbo;


    std::string text;

    std::string wrappedText;

    std::string currentLineText;

    vector <string> words;

    vector <string> lines;



    int fontSize=20;//24;


    bool reverse = false;

    float animationSpeed = 1.0f;

    float animationCurrPos = 0;

    float currentLetter = 0;

    bool playing;


    int completedLineChars = 0;

    int currentLine = 0;


    float lastUpdateTime;


    void allocateFbos();


    void slideAnimation(int x,int y);

    void wordFadeAnimation(int x,int y);

    void wordFadeAnimationReverse(int x,int y);

    void wordFadeAnimationConstellation();

    void targetWordAnimation(int x,int y);

    void constellationTrembleAnimation(bool transparency=false);



    void drawConstellation();

    void drawConstellationZooming();

    void drawConstellationMask();

    void drawConstellationWord(int i,float zoom=1.0f);


    void drawWords(int x,int y);




    void showCompletedLines(int x,int y);

    ofRectangle showCompletedLettersInCurrentLine(int x,int y);

    ofRectangle getTextBoxToCurrentLine(int x,int y, int additionalChars);

    ofRectangle getTextBoxToCurrentLine(int x,int y, int additionalChars,string txt);

    ofRectangle getWordBoundingBox(int wordIndex,int x, int y);

    int showCompletedWords();



    void updateCurrentLineCount();

    std::string wrapText();

    std::string parseText(std::string text);

    void parseTargetWords();


    std::vector<std::string> getWords(std::string text);

    void makeConstellation();




    void clearFbos();




class MultiFontPlayer{


    ofFbo fbo;




    ofTexture *getTexture();


    bool load(std::string text);

    void setFontScale(float scale);


    void play();

    void stop();

    void update();

    void nextFrame();


    float getWidth() const;

    float getHeight() const;


    float getPosition() const;

    float setPosition(float pct);

    float getDuration() const;


    bool  isPlaying() const;

    void  setSpeed(float speed);


    void setColor(ofColor col);


    ofTexture getFontTexture();



    std::vector<FontPlayer*> players;



#endif /* fontPlayer_hpp */

A contextual thought regarding this approach was noted in my diary:

To pick up on my use of wooden sticks, I have taken a step from working with fixed piano preparations to movement-based sound manipulation, and even though the music of Henry Cowell is perhaps not so contextually relevant to what I am doing, his technical and sonic discoveries on the piano, such as tone clusters and the hands-on manipulation of sound, is closely related. Whereas Cagean preparations feature pre-positioned materials activated by the keys, Cowell alternated the sounds in a direct physical contact that was played out between the body and the instrument during the sound production (i.e. Aeolian Harp). Cowell’s extended techniques grew from an extension of the pianist’s body, the fingers, hands, arms and elbows - performed in unconventional ways, at least according to central and Eastern European schools of pianism. When John Cage came up with the prepared piano at the Cornish School in Seattle back in 1940, he solved a problem by invention, that is, by placing objects between the strings. There was no room for a percussion ensemble on the small auditorium stage at Cornish, but by involving a larger topography of the piano, he set a landmark that forever changed our perspective on its sonic potential. Still, there is something playful about Cowell's discoveries, which are in a sense very tactile, requiring a direct physical contact between the body of player and the body of piano.


Stickworks converges the object preparations of Cage with a more

dynamic and gestural approach to the extension of the player's technique. Not only, the resonating object but also the player's motion affects the sound. This connects to the work of pianist and research fellow, Magda Mayas. In her doctoral thesis on the project Orchestrating Timbre, she points out the following:

"Throughout the years, I have developed a set of techniques that, whilst they draw on the history of a prepared and an inside piano vocabulary, are highly individualized and extend the possibilities for internal piano music-making. The techniques that I use are not so much “preparations” in the Cagean sense, which often involve a fixed setup for specific pieces, but are rather flexible in the sense that all preparations are instantaneously accessible and movable, and thus adaptable to different pianos, the acoustics of different concert spaces, and different musical requirements. The piano is transformed, but it can be returned to its unprepared state in an instant, which is an essential and critical aspect when I improvise.


(...) The objects expand the piano, becoming both instruments in themselves and part of the piano, transforming and adapting it to the situation and to what is required in the moment. Together with the piano, they are also extensions of my movements and body, facilitating and manifesting my musical ideas. As such, they play a major part in my decision making in improvisational processes and timbre orchestration, while I am performing."

This relation between the player's movements and the resulting sound  suggests a choreographical approach to the body-playing-instrument relation. This we also find, as an important aspect, in the work of composer Simon Steen-Andersen. Here, the gestural approach is developed into a scored choreography where the order is flipped: rather than having a scored sound dictate the required instrumental movements, the motion is instead scored in order to 'provoke' a resulting sound. As such, he investigates bodily movement prior to sound, or coemergent with sound, aestheticizing the movements in a scored choreography that "sounds".


In his studies for string instrument (amongst others) he investigates how simple, disciplined movements across the instrument body affect the sound, as if the sounds are more a result of bodily movements than musical intentions supported and played by certain technical skills.

As one will find in other parts of this exposition, Simon Steen-Andersen's work, especially his video pieces, have a core influence on this project, which in part is also due to the fact that I collaborated with him in performances both before and during the time of this research project.



In kinetic stickworks the stick functions as an extension of bodily movements, extending both the players reach and dynamic range. The stick becoming a mediator of the encounter between player and piano, amplifying the movements across the piano, giving sound to its planes, surfaces, composites, solids.

Example 2 – audio track with voice over in Danish, translated below.


- Well, you are really just sitting here practising, but there are actually some possibilities in these moves, so to speak … [ Rrrrmm ] … it’s about focusing in on … a few basic movements to be worked with … and then take off from there ... because otherwise it gets too much ... then I can’t keep track of it.

- When I’m playing those quick phrases upwards … [ Du-du-du-du-du ] … then I always get this need to set a punctuation mark … [ Du-du-du-du-du-Bam ] … again .. [ du-du-du-du-du-Bam ] … there's no need for it" (…) 
- No that doesn’t work, that’s for sure (…)
- I’m obviously sitting and ... trying to fine adjust these … runs, techniques or what we might call them. But concerning this thing of setting a punctuation mark after every phrase, especially fast phrases that move upwards again [da-da-da-da–gong] .. this reaction .. it’s, well, I think it’s more a … habitual reaction than it’s something the music is actually calling for (…)

- It’s also often the same speed of reaction, it’s the same type of punctuation that is being placed, that is, in the attack that follows … then I can … I’m still sitting here and developing (material) … Again [da-da-da-da-Gang] then it came again … So this abruptness and these punctuations … it must also be due to the movement not being carried through. It’s as if I need to catch up on some gesture that isn't completely grounded in what I’m doing (…) 

- Here, I think, I'm obviously hearing how there are more layers operating at the same time.
– postplay —
- Ok … actually some fine things that I’m catching up on here toward the end, that I’m also … (that) I’ve been touching upon earlier (…) this metaphor of bells that move and sound at the same time in each their own pulse, which I can also accelerate and deccelerate (…) but it has been a returning issue, the thing of working with these more expressive phrasings that are somehow playing out of the space I’m situated in, that is, the space of activity (…) they (the phrasings) are kind of speeding up, but it’s (…) I’m capable of doing it and I’m not capable of doing it, in the sense that I have this need to pick them up with a punctuation mark, rather than carrying the movement through, or sometimes, letting it stand and have other ways of reacting or responding to these outbursts of phrases (…) and this is the thing with the sequential, that it becomes [da-da-da-da–bum … gong] (...) and then the next thing happens and so on (...) could there (…) could there be things happening simultaneously with the phrases and without the need to make this stop-motion thing, but rather (…) it could be a contrary motion thing or simultaneity of motions, but not a stop-motion-stop … movement-punctation-movement-punctuation-movement-punctuation (…) This is really, I think, part in narrowing down these spaces, these musical spaces or events, into becoming a little bit of the same approach as to how things are moving. It might be, that there is a complexity in how things are speeding up and slowing down, but it’s being done a little in the same way, again and again and again (…) and this I really have to (…) this needs to be worked on.

The player piano studies of Conlon Nancarrow is a core inspiration in their pointing toward a humanly impossible pianism, which is still tempting to try imitating (and failing in doing so), as a utopia of multilayeredness for the pianist. And yet, in context of the video keyboard, Nancarrows studies take on new meaning, hence the direct link in the subsequent video keyboard album: Studies for Video Keyboard.

See the Video Keyboard section for more.

The term multilayeredness was in this project first conceived of as a Danish term (flerlagethed) which I came across in an interview with the composer Per Nørgård. In describing the relation between his infinity series and the gamelan music and culture of Bali he talks about 'flerlagethed' as non-hierarchical layers of sounds and speeds, both independant and interacting.

Two important contemporary voices that embody the traditions of American jazz piano without displaying them, but channel voices like Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Andrew Hill, Thelonius Monk, Richard Muhal Abrahms etc. Craig Taborn and Jason Moran are today in each their way integrating other aesthetics into the multilayered contextuality of their work.

The life long practice of Torben Ulrich, his writings, music, athetics, spiritual work, along with films done in collaboration with Molly Martin and Rick New.

Torben Ulrich being collaborator on four duo albums, which thanks to T.U. laid the ground for some of the concepts involved in this project: stickworks, footworks etc., and the work with repetition, the gradual and the sudden: looping and leaping.

The stride piano tradition represents a rich, multilayered

style of pianism where the co-ordination and flexibility of speed,

rhythm, melody and harmony is unfolded in deeply personal,

idiosyncratic ways by the different voices of the tradition.  

PRACTICE grounds

Art Tatum