Context as orientation and practice


In this project, writing about context has to turn two ways. On one side, I will describe my context as the orientation of the project towards existing art and research. On the other side, I will position my context as a practice, a prism through which I researched musical colour and surface, in a daily routine – and how that turned into new music.


Context as Orientation:


Starting with the background for my process, as has been touched on earlier, it is of obvious relevance to mention that during my education I considered myself a jazz musician – though even then, that term was up for negotiation all the time. Coming out of artists such as Paul & Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett, Alice & John Coltrane, Julius Hemphill, Tim Berne, Roscoe Mitchell, Marilyn Crispell, Anthony Braxton, Albert Ayler, Paul Motian, Ornette Coleman, Geri Allen, etc., has formed the way I imagine music on many levels. Also, the entire jazz piano tradition had an immense influence on my path to learning the instrument, from Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington & Teddy Wilson, through Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols & Mary Lou Williams, to Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, Hasaan Ibn Ali, Horace Tapscott, Cecil Taylor, Richie Beirach, Paul Lovens, Richard Grossman, Myra Melford & Alexander von Schlippenbach. On a more contemporary note, my path as well as this project is obviously related to and informed by the work of current artists such as Benoit Delbecq, Tyshawn Sorey, Django Bates, Magda Mayas, Jason Moran, Ingrid Laubroch, Chris Speed, Tony Malaby, Gerald Cleaver, Craig Taborn, Cory Smythe, Kris Davis, Achim Kaufman, Søren Kjærgaard & Kaja Draksler.


All of the above is mentioned here to give perspective to how the project moved some distance away from that background:

1)    In terms of the dimensional/parametrical approach described in the section Texture, very obvious influences would be György Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki, Kaajia Sariaho, Lotte Anker & Art Ensemble of Chicago, and to some extend Giacinto Scelsi, Georg Friedrich Haas, Tristan Murail & Gerard Grisey.

2)    Relating to the systematically pantonal harmony-mapping work described in the section Harmony, the most obvious musical references are to Anton Webern, Morton Feldman, Carla Bley, Jimmy Giuffre & Wayne Shorter.

3)    Regarding the process that I describe on this page (in the column to the right), leading to the “Anterior Current” reinterpretation of European New Music solo piano repertoire, the main context is obviously the post WW2 solo piano music of Ligeti, Boulez, Stockhausen, Feldman, Takemitsu, but also the ethics and aesthetics of Brian Eno & Pauline Oliveros, as well as the whole discussion about what normatively constitutes the core of the contemporary New Music narrative – which I will get back to below.


In terms of Artistic Research (AR) context, I would like to first remind that all of the above mentioned artists were/are artistic researchers as a central part of their practice. Most of them, especially anyone related to the jazz and improvisation tradition, were/are not part of an institutionalized AR community, but we have to not write history the wrong way. Had there been equal opportunities for equal talent and equal level of work, across ethnicities, genre and gender, the history of AR would look vastly different. These years, as the institutions around AR grow, settle and stiffen, we must insist on keeping alive the stories of the artists that unjustly did not see their work officially accepted as Artistic Reserach. We must carry forward their art, insigths and perspectives, though they did not benefit from (the power and economy of) institutionalized AR programmes.

That being said, here are some notes on this project’s Artistic Research context:
Artistic Research Projects, highly related in content as well as topic:
Magda Mayas: Orchestrating Timbre (RC, 2019).
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard: Music for the Inner Ear (RC, 2019).
Marilyn Nonken, “An ecological approach to music perception: stimulus-driven listening and the Complexity Repertoire", (PhD thesis, 1999).
Michael Duch: Free Improvisation – method and genre (RC, 2015).
Søren Kjærgaard: Multi-layeredness in Solo Performance (RC, as of writing still in peer review).
Lotte Anker: Tekstur og formdannelse i komposition for større ensemble af improvisatorer. (in progress)
Steen Sandell: On the Inside of Silence (På insidan av tystnaden). Swedish Doktorant Dissertation, 2013, book + albums. Published on RC: Vertikalakustik med horisontell prosodi (2018).

Magda Mayas, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard & Lotte Anker all have conducted investigations on sounds and timbre, similar to the ones in this project.
Mayas, investigating extended piano playing techniques, shows how the different techniques can be thought of as elements (”Videos of Inside piano Techniques” on the Introduction page) as well as dealt with in a dimensional/parametrical space (on ”Perceptual Timbre Maps”).
Lyhne, in Music for the Inner Ear, and especially in Anthology of Sound, focusing on imaginary sounds, lists a huge number of sound elements, some including combinations of several describing parameters.
Kjærgaard has, through video documentations of elements in his acoustic solo work, arrived at a meta statement, in which the elements are combined in highly permutated form into a whole new work, the dissemination of a creative practice becoming an art work in itself.
Anker, in the still unpublished “Tekstur og formdannelse i komposition for større ensemble af improvisatorer”, works in a medium sized group setting on clarifying zones for improvising. The zones, very open, yet recognizable, are verbally defined as elements, not unlike the logic in Braxton’s Language music.
The direct informedness of this project from the works of Nonken and Braxton has been discussed on the Texture page. Let me reiterate here that of the above mentioned AR projects, only Nonken’s and parts of Mayas’ written reflections address the mapping of not just elements, but also their underlying parameters/dimensions in the mapping of respectively timbre/sound/layers/texture. In any case, all of the above mentioned projects were a huge source of inspiration and information into the project.
Duch’s & Sandell’s projects are also related to this project, especially in terms of their aesthetic (what kind of musical domains were investigated). In very differing ways they share reflections on the meaning and the means of the art work at hand – in Duch’s case, also on a tour of certain traditions of aesthetics. However, their approach to mapping and reflection make them differ quite widely from this project along lines such as what is being mapped during the investigations, and how does the mapping and reflection inform the following actions.

A few additional Artistic Research projects, less related in content or method, though definitely related in topic:
Morten Qvenild: The HyPer(sonal) Piano Project (RC 2019)
Ivar Grydeland: Ensemble & Ensemble of Me (RC 2017)
Also of obvious relevance, though created outside of formalized AR-institutions, are:
- Ingrid Laubroch: Contemporary Chaos Practice,
- the works and process of the ensemble Dell-Lillinger-Westergaard,
- the music and writings of Anthony Braxton,
- Carla Bley’s compositions for the bands of Paul Bley and Jimmy Giuffrie,

- Hermeto Pascoal's compositions for Miles Davis' bands around 1970,
- Morton Feldman’s music after 1970, and
- the 1960’s orchestral works of a.o. György Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki & Iannis Xenakis.

Project Overview       Texture      Harmony      Context      Output and conclusions


Jacob Anderskov Solo piano

(Press text release)

This album is my take on European 20th century modernism. In the optimal studio setting of The Village, I recorded note-by-note versions of pieces by Ligeti, Stockhausen, Webern, Boulez, etc. Then, related to each piece, I did free improvisations on the vibe, the structure, and the texture of it. On the album, the order of events is switched around: first we hear free improvisations, later some of the textures and language types reappear, to reveal their origin in the European “new music” repertoire.


The sonic approach is a statement in itself: We are far from a regular composed new music piano album: The microphones, preamps and converters were chosen for their warmth, not any idealized “neutrality”. The active attitude to recording, compression and reverb makes even the note-by-note renditions clearly positioned in relation to the 20th Century Canon.


Upon the release, I made this statement: “The sounding result here is a less Eurocentric, less Colonialist soundscape than what has been the defining Modernist norm since Pierre Boulez. I think of Anterior Current’s production as a post-Eno, post-Olivieros statement, rather than an echo of Deutsche Grammophon. Furthermore, I imagine this entire album as challenging the strict concepts surrounding the European through-composed tradition - especially regarding the fractures between composition, improvisation and production. It was the unlucky fate of the modernist tradition to disregard the inclusion of the musician’s improvisational and interpretational ideas in the work – which might have been among the key reasons for the gradual marginalisation of this self-perceived music of the future.”

I wondered whether Anterior Current was my attempt at saving modernism from itself?


Notes on titles: Anterior Current: A previous present? The front of the stream? Does this tradition still exist as a voice of our time, and is the scene surrounding it ready to embrace improvisation, production, and the actual present? Most of the track titles are anagrams on their sources: Akut-schönes = Stockhausen = Chaos-Künste, etc.


Album info:

Artist: Jacob Anderskov


Catalogue Number: ILK303

Format: Digital, possibly later also vinyl.

Label: ILK Music

Release: June, 2020



Randolf Moment

Ecrie “Clan”

Alfa Ruin

Akutschönes Chaoskünste

Stockhausen: Klavierstück III

Prude lamb - cool Eel

Lou’s buzzed too, Antoine

Unfair Prälat

Noten Warben (No tan, Webern)

Ligeti: Arc en Ciel

Boulez: Douze Notation - 12: Lent

Pärt: Fur Alina

Total time: 40 minutes. All compositions by Jacob Anderskov except where indicated.


Recorded @ The Village, Dec. 2018.

Recording, mix & mastering by August Wanngren.

Cover Artwork by

Produced by Jacob Anderskov.


Available at multiple digital vendors.

Context as daily practice


For the fall semester of 2018, I was released from a significant part of my other RMC duties to work on this project. During that time, as a practice-based, daily routine, I wanted to investigate the same topic from a very different perspective. I made it a habit to practice 20th century solo piano music from the so-called “New Music” tradition post WW2. A plan was conceived quite early in this process: I would play my way around my European 20th century composed New Music context, then record my way through it, and finally improvise my way out of it. 

It was obviously the same questions that were researched in these practices as were dealt with in the parametrical-dimensional textural investigations and the systematical harmonic mappings. However, in this study of the perceived “New Music Pantheon”, I dealt with it by studying, interpreting and revolting against specific art works, not concepts or theories. I will get back to the implications of this in the section “Reflections on cognition and methods”. In terms of method and experience, working on actual art works by other composers, and filtering it through my own fingers, ended up being a highly relevant contrast to the more speculative strands of the composition processes. The different strands have of course been cross-polinating constantly. It was also of significance that I was thus threading into a musical territory rather different from that of my background. The aesthetic climate was not foreign, and I had been around parts of this repertoire earlier on, but realizing that I was now aiming for recording it made a huge difference in the way I approached this music. 

I imagined this daily routine/ practice as partly warm up, partly a continuous osmotic immersion in music that would point me in new ways. It was a mixture of listening, analysing, playing, reinterpreting, deconstructing, performing and recording.

By way of this, the project had an extra layer of researching possibilities of musical colour and surface through contextual reinterpretations – expanding vocabulary through contextual investigations.


Among the studied pieces were:

Ligeti: Etudes -Feldman: Vertical thoughts & to Philip Guston, Boulez: Douze Notations &  Une page d’ephemeride, Stockhausen: Klavierstück I-III, Crumb: Macrocosmos, Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch, Messiaen: Prelude I “Colombe” & excerpts from “Regards” & Catalogue d’Oiseaux, Webern: Variationen.

Why these pieces of music and not something else? First of all, the main creative choice was not about which music to work on, but how to challenge the notions about what kinds of potentials that tradition of music holds, and imagine other ways in which it could be approached. It was a central part of my idea to dive into what has traditionally, (not necessarily fairly) been considered the epitome of Western post WW2-modernism. The list of composers is painfully dead, white, male. Had I wanted to make a concert tour with in-the-modernist-tradition interpretations of this repertoire, the absence of people of colour, female composers, etc., would have been intolerable as of today, to me as well as to the world (I hope). My career has been influenced by and respectful to music from many cultures, with afro-american music holding a central place. In this single strand of this single project, however, my idea was to step into a domain associated with White, Western Modernism, to aim for restructuring a number of things in its possible manners of operation. Had I interpreted other material than the holy grail of DWM modernism, restructuring these parameters from within would not have been the same kind of artistic-contextual statement (Or so I thought, at the time - now I am not so sure anymore).  

Whatever the validity, the main reasons were as follows: First of all, I wanted to crack open the door to improvisation in this music, which in some ways has been exceptionally intolerant to the very word “improvisation”, as a.o. George Lewis has analysed clearly in several texts.[1] Secondly, I wanted to do so in a studio recording session that did NOT aim at sounding like if the recording took place in a cold concert hall. Thirdly, I had now and then considered certain previous strands of my carreer to date as a slightly similar statement on potentials of modernism, but since my production to date had operated through a mainly afrological, post-jazz & improvised music approach, it had not been received as a statement that pointed toward "European New Music", in the sociocultural circles of that music. And fourthly, I wanted the recording technology to aim for for a post-Eno approach to compression and saturation, not any “objectivite grounds”, and the sound to feel more as if we are in someones house than in a hall in a big institution. The process and the artistic result is documented on the album Anterior Current.  

One peer reviewer of this exposition, Salome Voegelin, writes in the peer review about the potential in this approach to renegotiate the modernism cathedral: “…[the modernity repertoire is seen] as the ultimate period of western art and its aesthetic hegemony, and so writing about it without practice can result in simply reconfirming that status while praxis can shift it for the composer as well as the audience. … I am led to believe it has something to do with such a critical shift. And it presents certainly an intriguing potential for the mapping suggested, as a re-mapping or maybe even an unmapping (of modernity) through practice.”[2]


[1] George Lewis: “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives”, “Gittin’ To Know Y’all: Improvised Music, Interculturalism, and the Racial Imagination”, “Power Stronger Than Itself.”

[2] Salome Voegelin, in the internal peer review of this Exposition for publishing in the RMC portal, winter 2021-22.

Fremont Almond, an unreleased improvisation on Morton Feldman's Vertical Thoughts, excerpt of outtake, studio rec 2018.

Ecrie "Clan" an improvisation on Ligeti's Arc en Ciel, from Anterior Current, studio rec 2018.

Akutschönes Chaoskunste, an improvisation on Stockhausen's Klavierstück III, from Anterior Current, studio rec 2018.

Audio examples from the making of Anterior Current: