VIDEO with rehearsal audio documentation (and studio recording photos)



Setting out to map how I deal with texture in my music, mentally as well as structurally, an important clarifying question would go something like “what do I map when I map texture”.

I realized early on that crucial among the perspectives through which to look at texture would be a dimensional/parametrical position.

The seemingly simple question of “what are the relevant dimensions of music to me” or “what are in my mind the main dimensions of musical texture” could then work as a starting point. In reality it would be articulated as What are the relevant parameters of variation in my music?[1]


Conventional Western understanding consider the dimensions of music to be rhythm, melody and harmony[2]. Most artists that I know to would add dynamics and timbre, though those dimensions were not part of European notation until the classicism era. For some improvisers, melody and harmony could be regarded as both closely related to pitch, leaving us with four, as in this wonderful quote by Sissel Endresen: “Of the musical dimensions pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, never forget that pitch is the least important”[3]  It seemed obvious to me to compare this general position with the nine dimensions that Marilyn Nonken lays out in her PhD thesis, “An ecological approach to music perception: stimulus-driven listening and the Complexity Repertoire", 1999:

Toneness, Amplitude Flux, Rhythm, Horisontal density, Vertical density, Gestural repetition, Pitch salience, Process, Silence.

Among the aims of Nonkens theory is an ambition to propose a paradigm for understanding the possible reactions of our perceptive system to music from the “New Complexity” repertoire. Even though it is coming from another aesthetic than mine, it is highly relevant to my project. Considering Nonken’s list, and how far it is from the “regular” view of music’s four dimensions made a number of things clear to me:

Primarily, that we can understand the parameters of music in many more ways than our habitual thinking patterns normally allow us to do.

Secondly, that the dimensions that Nonken mention all are real and audible, to the degree of being comprehensible and recognizable to even the pre-educated perceptive system, not just within a paradigm of music theory. This means, I believe, that music composed or conceived of through the lens of such a system could potentially show the listener new ways of listening, relating to the concepts of parameter within the compositional process.

Thirdly, that I see no obvious reason why the list has to stop after exactly nine dimensions – depending on which music it aims to describe, that is. For me as an artist, this means that one of the most obvious next things to do after considering Nonken’s list of nine dimensions would be to try to make a longer list that relates to one’s own concept of music. I will return to that in a bit.

Fourthly, having listened to Anthony Braxton’s music and read his writings over several decades, that an extended comment needs to be made right here:


Anthony Braxton has in his ”Language music” defined 12 musical language types. The system is vast in its use and implications, and a full explanation is not the aim of this exposition. Braxton’s language types are named: 

Long Sounds

Accented Long Sounds


Staccato Line Formings

Intervallic Formings


Short Attacks

Angular Attacks

Legato Formings

Diatonic Formings

Gradient Formings

Subidentity Formings

Comparing Braxton’s list of language types to Nonken’s list of dimensions, and upon having read books by George Lakoff, Paul Ricoeur and George Lewis recently, I could not help to consider the following observations:

The underlying differences and relations in thought systems and aesthetics aside, the main difference between the two lists is obvious: Nonken describes parameters or dimensions, whereas Braxton names positions in his dimensions of choice. If Braxton’s list were to be revisited as a list of dimensions, the dimensions could be, a.o.:

Note length (long – short, staccato – legato),

Degree of accentuation (accented – not accented),

Type of modulation, if any (trills, etc.),

Level of timbral distortion (multiphonics etc.),

Degree of angularity,


(I am painfully aware that this approach does not give full justice to Braxton’s concept, but bear with me, this will soon connect in a way relevant to the project described here. And, moreover, the aim of this text is not to research on Braxton, but to explain the chain of though in the Sonic Complexion project)

If, on the contrary, Nonken’s list of dimensions were to be turned into “language types” or “positions” in those dimensions, we would find positions / language types such as

Sounds with constantly shifting velocities (a high degree of amplitude flux),

Sounds with constant velocities (very little amplitude flux),

Many registers or sounds at once (high degree of vertical density),

Only few sounds at once (low degree of vertical density),

Fast actions (high degree of horizontal density),

Slow actions (low degree of horizontal density),



To weave a number of threads in the above into one rug, consider:

George Lakoff argues that abstract concepts are embodied in our metaphorical cognition through their similarities to our earlier experiences. In this view, we need to be able to understand in an embodied way the abstract concepts that we apply, to allow our embodied intuition to work within these concepts.

The so called “first Darmstadt school” of European post-WW2 composition in the 50’s & 60’s did, in the pursuit of nie erhörte Klänge, to paraphrase Karl Aage Rasmussen[4], considered any repetition of previously heard music to be off limits to New Music, and thus ended up partly “painting itself into a corner”. By means of the “avoidance of repetition of any known element”, the obvious next step was the “obsession with parameter”, since thinking in terms of parameters would appear on the surface as being less contaminated by earlier practice than thinking in terms of (recognizable) elements or gestalts/gestures. 

George Lewis uses the terms afrological and eurological to describe different approaches to music-making in socio-cultural circles drawing on respectively European versus African cultural baggage.[5]

I will question whether our subconscious cognition can deal with parameter in an embodied way, nearly as closely as our cognition can subconsciously deal with elements, gestures and gestalts: Is our embodied metaphorical cognition – which Lakoff as well as Ricoeur argue is the root of all cognition – able to create new artistic material in an intuitive way when thinking in parameter, or do we have to think in elements to activate our embodied intuition?

Is it a coincidence that the “parameter focused” Darmstadt school has brought its believers to a point where the systematics of “New Music” composition educations are at risk of delegitimizing young composer’s intuitive ideas? I notice that Nonken, speaking from a very clearly eurological position, applies a chain of thought that perfectly describes how the music in question operates. However, this tradition of consequently parametrical chain of thought also could be an accomplice in painting the composition departments of the western world into that infamous corner.

I notice that Braxton, who is working from a mixture of afrological and eurological concepts, is a highly productive artist, and is obviously able to continuously create contemporary, radically abstract art without struggling with allowing his intuition to be part of a highly reflected process.

And thus, I ask myself: does the secret ingredient that Braxton has found relate to his concept being focused on elements, not parameters? IF so, would this then be a way of articulating from a cognition perspective some of the general differences between an afrological and an eurological approach to material structuring mental representations? In that case, this could be a cognition-theoretical explanation why afrological art forms have been so successful in providing so much “… latitude for creativity … (across) the field of so called Art” during the 20th century.[6] Or, to ask the same question the opposite way around: Did eurological patterns of thinking place the textural parameters of music in an ivory tower away from the domain of intuition, due to it’s theoretical abstraction into non-embody-able concepts? Or, did the parametrical thinking become the actual building blocks of the ivory tower?


All of the above pointed me clearly towards the next step in my own project: I made the long list of relevant parameters of variation in my music. The perpetually evolving list goes something like this:


Dynamics: loud or soft, ff, mp, sfzp, etc.  / Many or few dynamic levels? / vertical dynamic contrast / horisontal dynamic contrast / crescendos & diminuendos / dynamic changes after attacks?

Note- & sound- & sonic qualities: Clean – distorted / harsh – soft / pitch - noise / Short notes - Long notes / accents? / Staccato - legato / Intonation relations / degree of intonation stability

Registers: which registers / high - low / how many registers (density) / width of registers (tessituras)

Densities: registral spacing of events (vertical density)  / Wide pitch – narrow pitch (registral density) / Interval sizes - large, small, few, many? / Degree of spaciousness (Horisontal density) / degree of harmonic complexity / degree of tonal or melodic complexity / The density – rhythm continuum.

Rhythmic dimensions: Recurrences & repetitions? / loops vs transitions? / Pulse: how much pulse, how many pulses / tempo of pulse / tempo of actions (speed / density)  / slowing down vs speeding up? / degree of polyrhythmic content / Approach to subdivisions / tempo & pulse & meter & rhythm & groove

Form and process: Short phrases vs long phrases / Rests – many vs few, long vs short / linear - scattered / epic - broken / static vs development vs permutation vs change / Expressive vs neutral / motivic vs stokastic

Surface fabric & tactility & texture: degree of harmonic complexity / degree of tonal/melodic complexity / unison vs chordal vs choral vs counterpointal etc. / counterpoint by notes vs by rhythms vs by character / ”more than one kind of music at once” / instrumentation / featured soloists

Effects: playing techniques incl. extended technique (arco – pizz, sticks-mallets-brushes, insidepno-keys, multiphonics-clean, growl-clean, ponticello-normal) / sounding materials: wood/ metal/ air/ skin/ breath/ whistling / Tremolo? / Note repetitions? / Level of distortion? / Spectral disturbance?

… etc. …


Then, at least as important, I made a post-Braxton-translation of each of these parameters into elements/values[7] similar to the translation that I applied to Nonken’s list in the above section. And, after that, I considered each parameter as a possible domain for change in the music. 


[1] I define “relevant parameters of variation” as parameters that could be turned one way in one piece or section, and the other way in another piece, by the same artist.

[2] Routledge Handbook, e.g.,  accessed April 1st, 2022.

[3] In conversation, 2013

[4] Karl Aage Rasmussen: Musik i det 20. Århundrede – en fortælling.

[5] George Lewis: “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives”

[6] ]“No culture or community of people have provided as much latitude for creativity and uplifted as many other cultures as the African experience and input into the field of so called Art.” - statement on the cover of At Ensemble of Chicago: Fanfare for the Warriors.

[7] In this sentence, and in the ” Card Decks” section to the right, I use the term ”Elements” in the following way: What actually is named on each ”element card”, is a ”value” in a musical parameter or dimension. E.g, in the dimension ”dynamics”, element card values could be e.g. loud, soft, mf, ppp, etc. In the dimension ”degree of distortion”, element card values could be e.g. ”clean”, ”distorted”, ”from pitch to noise”, etc. – and so forth.

Project Overview       Texture      Harmony      Context      Output and conclusions


(Press release text)

Swarming tracks for ten improvising musicians.


Listening to Spirit of the Hive is to perceive the world from the perspective of birds, bees, bats and bugs. How does it feel to be inside the swarm, the hive, the flock? How does the hive perceive the threats from the outside world – especially those coming from humans? Meanwhile, the album meditates on how the larger patterns emerging from animal behaviour are a constant source of awe and wonder, when perceived through the human sensory system. But first of all, the album deals with the close interdependence between these animals and our way of life.


100 years after Antoni Gaudi, the magically captivating properties of emergent forms from animals continue to offer radical experiences, not the least when perceived as art. I found it highly interesting how our relatedness to nature is operating, even to this day. While depicting a swarming collective, the music is also a parable on humanity’s close entanglement with the swarming animals. We know we are threatening these species, but do we grasp how much the situation can strike back at ourselves? For instance: as fascinating or frightening as bees are, they are first and foremost threatened by our way of life. This can lead to a disaster way beyond the life of bees, since they are crucial to the pollination of plants. Or: Weeks after the live premiere of the music on this album, the world shut down because bats had been forced out of their dwellings in nature, bringing their viruses into cities and then spreading across the global community. The bats reiterated their importance, and we need to think about their way of life, beyond their appearances as entertaining symbols of fright in the movies.


Album line up: Anders Banke, Francesco Bigoni, Calum Builder, Maria Dybbroe, Carolyn Goodwin, Matthias Sigurdsson: clarinets & flutes. Nils Davidsen: cello. Tomo Jacobson, Asger Thomsen: basses. Halym Kim: drums. Jacob Anderskov: composer & conductor.


“What is this ‘spirit of the hive’ - where does it reside?”

- Maurice Maeterlinck, From The Life of the Bee, 1901.


Artist: Jacob Anderskov

Album title: Spirit of the Hive

Catalogue Number: ILK325LP

Format: LP & Digital

Release Date: June 18th, 2021.


Side A:

1) Birds: 8.32

2) Bees: 7.35

3) Bats: 5.37


Side B:

4) Bugs: 18.06

Total time: 40 minutes.


Recorded at The Village, November 2020, by Thomas Vang.

Mix by John Fomsgaard. Mastering by Arnold Kasar at Calyx.

Cover Artwork by Neue Pink. Produced by Jacob Anderskov.


Avalible at multiple digital vendors

Card Decks 


Reading and thinking about metaphorical cognition while working on these mappings, I realized that my project needed to apply an extended cognition approach to be able to transcend the increasingly speculative development that was emerging in the processes. Thus, I made a number of card decks to help me extend my thinking and dissemination on the topics. The two card decks that came out of the above chains of thought were The Elements Card Deck & The Changes Card Deck.

The Elements Card Deck supplies, for each of the (in the left column) mentioned parameters or dimensions, at least two positions in that parameter: As an example, the dimension (parameter) “tempo of actions” became the cards (naming the possible parametric values) “slow tempo actions”, “medium tempo actions” and “fast tempo actions”. Nonken’s dimension “Amplitude flux” became a.o. the cards “constantly changing velocities”, “gradually changing velocities”, “radically changing velocities” & “suddenly changing velocities”. The dimension of vertical density became, a.o., “few sounds in a narrow register”, “few sounds spread across a wide register”, “multiple sounds spread across a wide register”, & “multiple sounds within a narrow register”. And so forth. As of now, the Elements Card Deck contains around 120 cards. The important thing to note is that they can be combined in sets of e.g. 3 to 6 cards, into an almost uncountable number of combinations. In this way, a number of cards viewed together can describe a music that either exists or has not yet been made. E.g., The Opening of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody” could be described as a combination of “high register sounds” & “huge distortion” & “legato” & “slow actions” & “expressive” & “close position between voices”, “not in unison” (staggered) & “one section of the ensemble entering at a time”.

The Changes Card Deck is even closer related to the list of dimensions in the above map. Containing around 45 cards, the Changes Deck contains instructions/descriptions such as: change frequency of rests - change register - change number of layers - change tempo of actions - change interval sizes - change note length - change noise to pitch or vice versa - change tessitura width, etc. The changes within the first minute of Threnody could be described as “change dynamics together” and “increase vibrato”.

I was well aware that multiple other artists had worked with card decks. Most prominently known are probably Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and John Zorn’s Cobra. However, my card deck owes much more to the thinking of Braxton and Nonken (as described in the text to the left) than to these card deck traditions. Eno’s (wonderful) cards are process cards that instruct the creative process, and does not describe the resulting material. Zorn’s Cobra cards, not unlike Walter Thompsons Soundpainting conducting system, describe actual actions by the players, and for that reason can be considered dealing with the improvisational process. In opposition to this, my “Elements” and “Changes” card decks are tools to describe a multidimensional textural and sounding musical universe. I think of “Elements” and “Changes” more as a modular notation system than as a series of instructions. As such, the listing of dimensions and positions is just a prerequisite for arriving at being able to apply the card decks as the modular notation system for music making.

(Both card decks only exist in a beta version, home printed and without any serious layout. I am still considering strongly if designing and physically printing these card decks would be of any interest to the world at large. I am certain that the chain of thought is relevant, but this does not necessarily mean that it needs to be made into a sellable product. Arguments for publishing the decks would be obvious, many musicians and composers could use them. I consider the main argument against publishing the decks to be that each music maker should consider what their own relevant parameters of variation would be, not just import a full list from someone else. Nonetheless, I would be happy to hear from anyone who is interested in acquiring such a card deck in a designed and printed version.)

The Elements and Changes card decks can be viewed here, in a predesign version/text only.

The combination of a number of elements/factors/positions being defined, and one or two gradual changes being superimposed on this structure finally offered me a mental representation of how I imagine musical texture, and thus became the overall operating map that I needed. By combining a number of cards, suitable to how the cards related to each other, it was possible to define quite specific zones with a simple concept. Also, the system allowed the music to keep changing its texture almost forever.

After creating this system, I made a concert with my large ensemble The Onto Occidentals[1], in which the instruction was a live-on-stage presentation of the cards to the musicians. The form was made on the spot, by drawing cards – sometimes by chance, sometimes fishing a card I wanted to hear being applied. Since the musicians did not know the form at all up front, but reacted to the instructions on the cards, all rehearsal time was spent on getting to know the conceptual logic of the card decks. Watching the video that was recorded from this first card deck concert, I was not completely satisfied with the results. The improvised form was not a problem, and the sound was totally ok, but the visual appearance of the actions on stage bothered me when watching it afterwards: the performance did not radiate much with the “it’s-happening-now” vibes that I prefer being present in improvised performances.

For the next encounter with the ensemble, I chose to work from this mapping system and into a score. The cards were not used arbitrarily, not drawn at random, but used as a module based notation system to depict a landscape and it’s transformations. To give the immense number of possibilities some kind of resistance, I decided to work from certain metaphors of my own, not unlike Bastian Balthasar Bux in the section of Michael Ende’s Unendlicher Geschichte in which he is lost in a labyrinth that gives him lots of seemingly arbitrary choices: Brown or green? Tree or fur? Bastian is lost and has no way of knowing whether he is going anywhere – until he starts thinking about his friend Atréju, which makes all of his choices derive from the same metaphorical concept, and before long leads him out of the labyrinth. Working from the module card deck and into a quasi score (partly regular notation, partly graphic notation), I now arrived at a number of compositions with open sections and modules. The main metaphor while composing the music in this ensemble, which later became the music from the album Spirit of the Hive, was about swarming or flocking animals, their emergent patterns of movement, and their entanglement with human civilization in terms of being endangered and losing habitats. This metaphor, stretching over six extended pieces including the four pieces on the album, ended up being the most obvious outcome of the (partly abandoned) metaphorical strand of the project. 


[1] By the album release, June 2021, the ensemble was renamed Spirit of the Hive.

VIDEO with album excerpts and studio recording photos:

Spirit of the Hive, concert intro-zone, Cph live concert june 2021

Excerpt from Bugs (A-section), from the album Spirit of the Hive

Excerpt from Bats (ending), from the album Spirit of the Hive