In connection with the project, I decided to ask a number of internationally significant improvisers a few questions about their considerations regarding their own musical language, on the grammar of post tonal music (in their own works), and on their general methodology of improvised (or partly improvised) music. 8 artists responded. 


The collected Habitable Exomusics interviews are available here (PDF, 17 pages).


The text includes the complete responses from my highly valued international colleagues. As I write in the opening chapter:

“All interviews reprinted in the text were carried out via email correspondence, with no following up to the questions. No editing was made, except for spelling and graphic considerations.


The interviewees chose to respond in quite different ways, as can be seen in the full text. I find that their individual answers are beautifully aligned with the aesthetics of their music. It is interesting how different the responses are – and yet, also how much recognition there seems to be, from at least half of them, for the landscape I had been considering during the project.”


Some excerpts from the interviews:

” (…) I have tried to develop a very clear intention with regard to phrasing and rhythmic generation of musical ideas.  From rhythm comes melody.  From this more gestural impulse come the pitches that I hear in the moment.” - Ellery Eskelin.

” (…) Also the question what IS a definable material structuring principle. At the very end it always breaks down to limitation, because every system limits your possibilities.” - Frank Gratkowski.

”For example, it has been a conscious choice to have never read a book on Serialist techniques.” - Django Bates.


Background and interviewing method:


I approached artists that have certain things in common:

- I have a huge respect for all of them, and I would find their answers highly interesting.

- I believe their approach to music is somehow related (aesthetically or conceptually) to dimensions of my project.

- I have previously had personal contact with all of them.

- They are internationally recognized artists, and are generally from outside Scandinavia (with the exception of Sten Sandell). I am still considering making another round of identical interviews with fellow Scandinavian artists.

After a brief introduction, I wrote to each of them:


“The questions are identical for all interviewees.

The SUBJECT in brief:

I am interested in to what extent leading improvisers of today are concerned with / interested in “definable post tonal material structuring principles.”

When I talk about “definable post tonal material structuring principles”, I am thinking about concepts like melodic serialism, quasi-serialism or limitation to a few intervals at a time - melodic symmetry - “cells” - “set theory” - concepts of consistency of dissonances - multiple simultaneous tonalities - tone grids and twisted spectres - etc. … *


– To what extend have your processes as an improviser been informed/influenced by definable material structuring principles? – e.g. from specific concepts/theories, or specific parts of recent music history.

– If applicable, which concepts were or are the most important to you?

– And, to which degree of formative importance to your musical language and approach?

(You may answer in terms of either:

  • Your formative years,
  • Your present day activities,
  • Your daily rituals/ rehearsals/practice routines,
  • Your compositional processes,
  • Your approach to improvisation in your own compositions or in other peoples music,
  • Your focus of awareness on stage, or in the recording studio, or,
  • Your view on which approaches to music you want to pass on to future generations of musicians)

– Which sources of inspiration/information now and then were most crucial to form your present day approach to music? (e.g. in music, art, literature, musicology, pedagogic materials, others…)

– Other comments or additional perspectives on your music or methods?

Best regards,

Jacob Anderskov

*: The focus in this interview - on rather linguistic/rational dimensions in music is in no way meant as an indication that these are neither the only nor the most important aspects of music creation. It is just a chosen focus in this project and in these interviews. And, it is an area that I feel is under-documented in the literature on improvised music.

I recently analysed parts of my own back catalogue, and the mentioned concepts were among the most frequent in my own music, hence the mentioning of them in the interview.”




The interviewees were:









I would like to express my gratitude to all of them for responding. Thank you!