Considering the project as a whole, I think that it has met the originally articulated goals. The published texts closely relate to the research questions I had.
Regarding the quality of the artistic product, I ought to be the last person to evaluate that. But, in a conversation with some of my colleagues a few days before the final presentation, I gave the following answer: “I think that the three albums are on the same level as my other releases - neither weaker nor stronger. And thus, I don’t feel convinced that there is a qualitative quantum leap. However, I believe that I have succeeded in renewing myself more than I would usually do within a corresponding timeframe (1½ year, part time). And, not least, that the depth and the extent of the associated reflection could not have been the same if this project was not born with reflective dimensions – despite my history of similar thoughts in earlier projects outside of the official Artistic Research frame.”
I ended up releasing 3 albums that I perceive as equal parts of the same greater statement. Originally, I had imagined a culmination when I reached the last recording, but for various reasons I now see the releases as equal. For example, the most thoroughly pre-structured statement of the trilogy is Kinetics, Volume 1. When I first got the idea for the final concepts for each individual element of the trilogy, I perceived this movement from structured work to the documentation of improvisational practices as a little dubious, which did not have the right type of romantic macro-narrative. But the more I think about it, I do not just find peace but almost joy that the thoroughly prepared elements arrive before the freer ones. Exactly like in early jazz music, where the theme occurs first and works as a springboard for the following improvisation, here the Kinetics album works as the composed structural starting point, from which the two following albums arise.
This is also a way of acknowledging how much the trilogy music, in the end, owes to jazz tradition.
Seen from a higher abstraction level, I have finally come to terms with the project being so unconditionally focused on the music’s intrinsic properties, at the expense of the same music’s extrinsic properties. Another way of outlining the same discussion could be that this project is more about the productive domain than the receptive domain. It is more focused-on-artistic-material, than focused-on-the-world. The project is mainly about phenomena within the music’s basic grammar and not specifically about how the listener is touched by the music or how surrounding society will perceive the product from a stylistic perspective, for example. Considerations about the audience’s experience have not been as naturally incorporated into the ambitions of the project, in the same way as many of the other dimensions that have been discussed up until now.
In relation to my use of the word “hypostatizing”, which I originally did not perceive as a positively loaded word, I would say that I perceive the “objectifying” tendencies in the project as both defining for the identity of the project and for its possible weaknesses.
I have mentioned elsewhere the strongly exposed reflectional and analytical activities, possibly in contrast to artistic intuition. But I would like to emphasize that I perceive it in this way: There is a lot of room for intuition in the project on the whole, I just haven’t let the overall direction of the project be determined by intuition. I made a number of essential decisions very early on in the application process, and I accepted that these decisions were partly due to structural concerns. I do not perceive this necessarily as a weakness. Even though I do not think I would continue to play music if I no longer felt intuitively inspired, I am ready to admit that I perceive inspiration as one of the more noncommittal words used to describe the process of artistic creativity. Inspiration is often something that happens after you have begun your work. And, I have often experienced that artists who talk about inspiration the most are not necessarily the ones who make the most inspiring music. I clearly remember a conversation I had with Paul Bley about 10 years ago, in which he said that intuition “was among the last things you could base your creation of music on.” As I said, this is not about stating that inspiration has been absent from the project. On the contrary, it has occurred many times – it is just not where my activities have begun. This may risk opening up a discussion, which I think belongs outside this project and thus I will leave it at that.
I realised during the mapping of my own methods (maybe even before) that I have had a weakness for cataloguing for some time. Just like J. S. Bach’s works can be seen as catalogues of for example key signatures (Wohltemperiertes Klavier), the church year (the chorales), fugue techniques (Kunst der fuge) and of distances between the voices in a canon (the Goldberg variations), I have gradually released a great deal of music, which has a clear catalogic structure or at least a catalogic ambition. My “På dansk” album was among other things a catalogue of seasons or months in the Danish climate, expressed through the material of the Danish “Højskolesangbog” (a popular Danish songbook). Anderskov Accident’s “Unity of Action” was a catalogue of the most famous irrational numbers and their possible use in rhythm, primarily π, φ, e & √2. “Granular alchemy” was an (even though imperfect) catalogue of elements, archetypes and types of landscapes etc. In one of the more resistance filled moments during the Habitable Exomusics projects, I suddenly realised that I was now making another catalogue, but this time a catalogue of my own music i.e. of myself and in a scale close to the aspect ratio 1:1. At this point I discovered the analogy to the movie “Being John Malkovich”, in which all sorts of people could get into John Malkovich’s head with bizarre consequences. The story really becomes absurd when John Malkovich himself steps through the door that leads into his own head. A catalogue of the catalogues? To psychoanalyze yourself?
That was when I thought, like now, that this project would soon be approaching the end of the road. But also, that any conclusion drawn within an artistic language will hopefully be become out-dated at the very same moment it has been acknowledged. Because, is it even possible to define the border of a creative language without making it belong in a museum? If the grammar of the language is clear to the speaker, will the statement then still come from the same place as when the language was invented? I comfort myself in the fact that my mission was to expand my language rather than to describe its grammar as a permanent, unchangeable entity. Many of my heroes made their most interesting music before the properties of their linguistic grammar had been fully acknowledged by themselves. On the other hand, I chose to think that the greatest of those have been able to continuously renew their expression, even when others had lurked and imitated what they did last year. It is my prophesy that while the initiated ensembles, new compositions and new ways of thinking in this project will continue to live after the expiration of the project period, at least some of my future releases will go in completely other directions.
The Habitable Exomusics universe was one branch on a bigger tree, which constitutes my music at the moment. In the near future other projects will turn up, which will be far less theoretical, less pianistic, maybe less complex in tonality and at least less preoccupied with definable (pitch) materials.
A few critical comments at the end of the project time line:
The project has been predominantly about musical syntax, and because of prioritising and time limitations, it did not really expand from syntax to texture. It could have done so, and in certain ways that would have been a natural next step for the project, not the least artistically. However, not moving to textural considerations was a conscious decision central to the project’s way of limiting its scope, for the clarity and the depth of the investigations. Since finishing Habitable Exomusics, I have worked on other projects that aim for a stronger awareness and articulation of the textural dimensions of my music.
The interviews were conducted later in the project than I had originally intended. Knowing the relevant questions to ask seemed to require some maturation of the overall project. The late arrival of the interview responses prevented me from truly allowing the answers to affect the direction of the project. I am not sure they would have in any case, given the nature of the answers. However, looking back at the whole project I will acknowledge that these interview answers could have had a stronger effect on the project.