Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if …


Desire and motivation to pursue an idea comes from an inner drive; an enthusiastic force that can (or might not) lead to something exciting and interesting for oneself and others, or even in itself. The personal conviction of an ideas excellence can be considered the main force behind the materialisation of new artistic products.


Often the simple question, Wouldn’t it be cool if we …? was how both small and great ideas came into play in the Wikiphonium project. This represented a fundamentally dialogic basis for the ways the artistic works developed. In the following we have chosen to present some of the interactive work processes in the form of different shapes of dialogue.



In dialogue with composers and musicians


When you let other people interrelate with your thoughts and ideas, new creative opportunities emerge. The results of artistic dialogues in the project are something that no single individual could have accomplished and all the involved parties were either transformed and/or enriched by the meetings. During the project period, Davidsen had creative meetings and discussions with several composers and performers. The in-depth dialogues with composers Brustad and Skoglund had a deep impact on the development of the project’s trajectories and the reflective thought processes integrated into the project.


Brustad was interested in using acoustic instruments in live interaction with electronics and in several ways blurring the distinctions between the acoustic and electronic. Two out of three pieces he wrote for Davidsen made use of real-time electronic processing. The composer also had a great interest in, and eventually an insightful understanding of, the use and notation of new playing techniques for euphonium. There were a number of meetings where composer and artist brought ideas and propositions to the table and explored them together. The learning processes were mutual, and they both developed insight in their own and each other’s artistic fields.

The following is an example from one of the reports written at the end of each of the thirteen main performances; in this case, Brustads piece Nwy. It illustrates some of the investigative methods used in the project as tools for both theoretical reflection and practical systematisation.

As we can see, the dialogic interactions was a crucial part of the creative processes; in the communication between Brustad and Davidsen, and between the different artistic expressions, the artistic results, and the contact with the audience. The work process gave a sense of working with composition, interpretation, and performance all at the same time, in close personal dialogue.


Davidsen also had several collaborations with other performing musicians during the course of the project. The collaborations with Ellen Aagaard and Kjell Tore Innervik were especially instrumental in exploring the project’s aims from the perspective of the performers. Ellen is a contemporary singer and works with new singing techniques. She participated in an improvisational duo performance with euphonium and voice as a part of the Wikiphonium project. The ambition was to explore sonic similarities between her singing and Davidsens playing, and through interplay find ground for mutual new expressions through improvisation. The dialogue was the central aim of the piece IMAGO. Aagaard was seeking timbres similar to the multiphonic sounds, and Davidsen was speaking through the euphonium to communicate with her style of gibberish talking. As the two cultures met and sought common ground, they looked into each others cultural position to achieve acceptance and influence.

The collaboration with Kjell Tore Innervik revolved mainly around microtonal music. He had developed a quartertone marimba and Davidsen had developed a microtonal euphonium. The central part of this collaboration was to create music that experimented with the perception of timbre gravitation: the experiences of ‘tonal pull’ in non-diatonic music. It also displayed how you can artistically ‘discuss’ your way to a shared perception of the sonic and tonal environment.

In dialogue with other art forms


In the Wikiphonium project, the performance Recital Night grew from a desire to experiment with interdisciplinary dialogues between a musician and a dancer. The creative process evolved through several meetings and workshops between Davidsen, dancer Gerd Kaisa Worren, composer Lars Skoglund, and choreographer Annika Luschin. Although both composer and choreographer had ambitions regarding the overarching themes of the work, it was meetings and joint exploration that formed the basis for the events, themes and musical material.

The performance addressed what happens if you merge two art forms: What is in focus? Who is in focus? The performance embodied a meta-concept rather than a specific storyline or narrative. Initially, the audience was supposed to observe the performers from the outside – they appear as a worn-out couple that had played backyard performances for years. Gradually, the focus shifted from a battle for attention to the personal relationship between the couple, including their mutual relation and dependency upon each other.

An important tool in creating the performance was the recording of guided improvisations. The choreographer would ask Davidsen to walk across the room while playing an improvised melody. The dancer was instructed to improvise movements that were supposed to interrupt the musician, crawling under and around him. The choreographer used the recordings of the improvisations to recreate the movements, interpret them, and create a fixed choreography. When the dance had been learned by the performers, Skoglund composed music for Davidsen to complete the scene. Every step of the process was discussed by the participants, and regularly tested with different audiences.

For Davidsen, shifting from being a professional musician to being a completely untrained dancer, the challenge became an issue of performative language. With only limited artistic language in common, the dancer and the musician were expected to work together producing a joint performance, where one of the criteria for success was that the result did not look like a musician trying to be a dancer or vice versa.


Creating a common language that appears meaningful to all the participants requires a dialogic attitude towards communication and language. In most art forms this communication contains culturally established codes that don’t need to be discussed. When different art forms meet, these cultural codes must be explicitly expressed – a process that brings new insights into one’s own art form. In Bakhtin’s words:

To be means to be for another, and through the other, for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, he is wholly and always on the boundary; looking inside himself, he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another. (Bakhtin 1984: 287)

To communicate with one another is always a challenge, even without the obstacles of different professions or opinions. In many ways having the opportunities to show and tell alleviated some of these barriers. Used creatively, dialogues can lead to new meanings and creations that never would have happened without the differences.


In dialogue with the music, the audience, and the self


Davidsens interactions with himself, the music, the co-creators, and the audience were interwoven, confusing, and complex processes, and not always open to interpretation. The music had elements of communication in itself, and the ways Davidsen interpreted and expressed the music had consequences for how the music talked to the audience. The dialogic properties of the pieces were directed toward both the inner circle of composers and artists and the outer circle of different audiences. The performances in the project had explicit dialogic aims toward different audiences through humour, surprising elements, and spoken descriptions.


Musical pieces will always be considered in dialogue with traditions and previous musical expressions. Each composition was also in dialogue with other pieces by the composer, other pieces the musician has played or heard before, and different audiences.

The playing techniques and sounds that were developed during the course of the project were also part of a canon of earlier inventions of sounds for brass instruments, for instance, singing into the instrument. One example of a new technique developed by Davidsen was the singpop. The sound was developed as a discussion between Davidsen and the composer of Five Rooms, where the composer wanted a static but energetic sound that could serve as a musical signpost leading the audience physically from room to room. Together Skoglund and Davidsen tried out several possible sounds, and both agreed that a singing, pulsating, and not too loud sound would be effective. By singing a relatively high pitch into the instrument, while opening and shutting the lips (mmmmmm-ammmmmm-ammmmm), Davidsen created a sonar-like sound that was aesthetically interesting and exotic. Skoglund recorded samples of the singpop in different registers, and subsequently made a singpop synthesiser that he reused in Recital Night. Later on in the project the same sound emerged in Davidsen’s collaboration with Brustad in the piece Nwy. Brustad was looking for a way to describe the quiet, static River Nile. Davidsen played the singpop for Brustad, and introduced the already established sounds and notations. Brustad recognised the aesthetic possibilities of the singpop and integrated it into the production of Nwy. The sound was thereafter recorded and transformed into sound effects that reinforced a static sensation with elements of energetic pulsations. The sound was later used by Davidsen on the Norwegian jazz singer Live Foin Friiss album Sailing. The singer wanted an improvised brass background with associations of the freedom of a boat at sea. This is an example of the way different agents might meet in artistic dialogue, exploring sounds that become embedded in new aesthetic expressions.

The creative processes that encompass innovative works of art, such as those in this project, are based on aspects of improvisation; the collaboration with both composers and performers had open-ended outcomes, and were collaborative in their essence. Benson (2003) argues that composers, performers, and listeners can be regarded as improvisers and thus co-authors of the work of art. This means that the artist at some point has to give away ownership and control of the development of the material.

Dialogue with an audience is for most artists a process that is not only going on in the physical meeting with people but is just as much an ongoing negotiation that takes place during the creation of the product. A music listener plays an active part in defining the meaning of the music (Bakhtin 1984). The interpretations and definitions constitute new listenings and give alternative identities to the works of art. The considerations an artist has to make when she or he creates or practises art are often done with an imaginary audience in mind.


The Wikiphonium project encompassed music of a very high technical level, and this meant that only a few euphonium players would be able to play the pieces. Therefore, the main reference for Davidsen was music written for other instruments. In addition, the musical expression changes as the musician matures. So when Davidsen picked up pieces after a year without having played them, his way of interpreting and playing them, in a hermeneutic circle sense, produced new understandings and expressions. The dialogues that time and experience brings to every new confrontation with music is as powerful as any other communicative encounter.


There is a constant non-verbal process of reflection when performing art. The concept of reflection-in-action describes a spontaneous set of tactics/actions that often takes place without thinking about it and is not necessarily an intellectual process (Schön 1991). Nevertheless, reflection-in-action deals with coping and understanding surprising events, projecting the thought back to the self and observing the phenomenon and how we think about it. The many hours spent in a practice room are a prerequisite for developing a performative reflection-in-action, and the dialogues the artist has with the music are to a large degree performed in solitude: practising.


Digital dialogue: Wikiphonium.org


The possibility of operating through multiple modalities and in ever-changing dialogue with the field of performance made the wiki format a very attractive medium for dialogue in this project. A wiki is an open, collaborative, free, and shared internet resource. The philosophy of a wiki as a two-way web also accords with the dialogic spirit of the Wikiphonium project.


The goal of creating the wiki page was to establish a collection of auditory examples to demonstrate the expressive and technical possibilities the instrument has, and to suggest notation and ways of performing them.


The wiki page was created through a discussion on how a manual of playing techniques could reach actual users, and how it could communicate most effectively with as many brass players as possible in a flexible way. The page was constructed and changed throughout the project, categorising recordings of sounds and their corresponding note symbols.


The aim was also to acknowledge the existing notation traditions as a basis for new notations of new sounds. The different playing techniques were organised into classes: multiphonics, articulation, microtonality, voice effects, and breathing sounds.


Some of the playing techniques, especially multiphonics, have excessive timbral variety in many parts of the instrument’s register. This made it necessary to record many examples to illustrate the possibilities they offer. Given the large amount of data, it was necessary to create an efficient way to document it and make it available to others. The aim was to publish it in a format that made further development easy by any future user.


One could have chosen a simple summarising format: an encyclopaedia. But this would have represented only a situated document with limited dialogic potential. Rather, through artistic exploration, a document was created that is open for input, debate, innovation, and use. Now, the website represents a proof of concept in that its purpose was primarily to demonstrate the potential that a wiki has as a potent tool for communication beyond mere documentation. The wiki functions today as a prototype demonstrating that the concept is a feasible application in a real musical setting.


From the outset the wiki served as a meeting place for the artist and his two very diverse supervisors, one a professor of documentation and the other a professor of composition. The wiki developed from the initial idea to make an e-book, through discussions about an open document (Lund 2009, Eco 1989), to the music-technology-inspired idea of a wiki-page. Davidsens previous knowledge of computer technology also played an important role in these dialogues. This meeting was a significant turn in the project because of its surprising outcome – none of the participants could foresee the conclusion. In many ways this represents the core of the dialogic focus of the Wikiphonium project.

The wiki was, and still is, used by composers who are interested in writing music for brass. The possibility of actually hearing the sounds and seeing the notations simplifies the creative process, and the multimodal way of communicating can prevent misunderstandings. Still, there is a need for the performer and the composer to meet and explore the ways in which the sounds function in combination with each other. The wiki also functions as an inspiration for performers and composers who want to experiment with new techniques and sounds.


Nwy by Karsten Brustad

Nwy means water in Egyptian, and water is the basis of all earthly life. Water is soft and wet. Water can also represent huge forces such as waterfalls and oceans. The piece is written for euphonium and electronics including motion tracking.


Technical equipment:


          Two stage microphones

          Stereo microphones

          Large bass drum (grand cassa)

          Quadrophonic sound

          Mac with ProTools

          Video camera


Involved playing techniques:



          Soft tongueslap

          Hard tongueslap

          Air sounds

          Air lip-pop



          Tongue pizzicato



The collaboration with Brustad had been going on for some years, and Nwy was the last piece in his ‘Egyptian trilogy’ for euphonium. The collaborators therefore knew each other well. Brustad wanted to use elements from the previous works, as well as new techniques that hadn’t been explored yet. Davidsen had several meetings with Brustad at his home where they experimented with different sounds and techniques, ‘tasting’ them together. They also discussed the possibility of using motion tracking and, since Brustad had started to experiment with a new tool called Hipno, which could register movements through a regular DV camera, they decided to use this as an important part of the performance. The movements could be used to alter settings on plug-ins in ProTools, which made the body markers superfluous.


The collaboration required many meetings and the piece emerged as a joint composition in many regards. The dialogue was extremely focused and the resultant work was a mixture of ideas from both the composer and Davidsen. Brustad wanted to use space as an active part of the piece. Davidsen moved between different stations, his expression changing from space to space. In Nwy there were three stations. The first encompassed several microphones that sent incoming sound to different plug-ins. The next station had the motion-traction set-up, and the third had a large bass drum hanging over the artist and was equipped with stereo microphones. The drum functioned as a resonance case and a transformer of timbre and was performed as a mixture of acoustic sounds from the drum and manipulated sound from speakers.


In this piece there was no use of ‘normal’ euphonium sounds. Each tone was expanded with an acoustic playing technique, electronics, bass drum, or combinations of these. Many of the musical sequences needed very close collaboration with the technician, who in this case was Brustad himself. For this reason, the performance is best described as chamber music.


Nwy - clip 1

Nwy - clip 2

Examples of notation from wikiphonium.org

Nwy - clip 3

Singpop in Five Rooms

Singpop in Recital Night

Singpop in Nwy

Singpop in Sailing

Clips from live performance at the Nothern Light Festival, 2008

Clips from Recital Night, 2008