A Play with Traditions - Interpreting and Performing Between Folk and Pianism has been an artistic research doctorate searching for musical possibilities in the tension field between folk music and art music. As a pianist with a background in both fields, I have devoted myself to entwining the two performance traditions in my playing, in various ways. 

My reflections on this work are presented here, organized into two parts. Part I is a constellation of attitudes, images, duologues and listening descriptions from the process of researching the folk musical piano, reflecting portals that have been crucial to expression and artistic choices. 

Movement between different performance traditions enables comparative views. By observing from a greater distance and thus a different viewpoint from one’s usual perspective, other elements may become visible; by looking at folk music from art music or by looking at art music from folk music. The close-sighted perspective has been important by intense listening to Norwegian folk music, from which I have aspired to move elements and intensities over to the piano. 

As an interpreter, it is through interaction with other voices that my view is voiced. In this project, I have been in dialogue with four of today’s Norwegian composers; Lasse Thoresen1, Asbjørn Schaathun2, Øyvind Torvund3 and Erik Dæhlin4.

Part II of this reflection revolves around consideration of ways of working. Here I describe choices and turning points in the artistic processes, and I map out the context of the project. The processes in the chapters Contemporary Perspectives’ and Folk Musical Interpretation’ were undertaken simultanously. The last work done for the project is described in the chapter Pianistic Traditioning’.

With ears, eyes and body, I have moved between three fields: contemporary music (new musical works inspired of folk music); classical music (interpretation of folk musical works) and folk music (’slått’ playing on a non-folk musical instrument). Common to these is my perspective from my position, playing on the grand piano.

What musical possibilities can arise in the field of tension between the performance traditions of classical interpretation and Norwegian folk music, when I, as a performer from both traditions, look at similarities and differences between them and let them intertwine in my playing? What musical possibilities can arise in an equivalent intertwining of these performance traditions in my playing, in cooperation with contemporary composers on new piano works inspired by Norwegian folk music?


These artistic questions have been basis for the artistic processes in A Play with Traditions. They have led to the following CD trilogy and performances, which together form the main result of the artistic research project A Play with Traditions


Abstraction in Folk Art
CD (Nyhus, 2015a)

Øyvind Torvund: Abstraction in Folk Art (2014)

Lasse Thoresen: Solspill (1983)

Asbjørn Schaathun: Nations (2014)



CD (Nyhus, 2015b)


Olav Kielland: Villarkorn, 20 stille-stykkje (1951)

Erik Dæhlin: Den tredje, første, andre,
åttende og sjuende dagen



CD (Nyhus, 2015c)


Ingfrid Breie Nyhus/trad.: Slåttepiano (2015)



Øyvind Torvund: Det abstrakte i folkekunsten (2014)


Erik Dæhlin & Ingfrid Breie Nyhus: Avstandsriss, concert installation (2014)

Johan Halvorsen: Fossegrimen for Hardanger fiddle and piano (1905)

CD (Nyhus, 2016, track 1-4), with Åshild Breie Nyhus, Hardanger fiddle
Score, version for Hardanger fiddle and piano (Halvorsen, 2017)


In addition, Asbjørn Schaathun’s piece Nations for piano and live electronics was further developed into a piano concerto by the same name, Nations (2016), premiered with the Oslo Philharmonic Orhestra and conductor Christian Eggen in March 2016.