S C R O L L   D O W N

Further reading about the research question 3:

What are the essential means of expression for the performers in the research group in relation to conveying expressivity and meaningfulness in the chosen works - and how do the performers find them?





What happens when you play without pedal?


The composer’s contradictory comments on emphasizing the importance of non legato (“the most important piano touch”) on the one hand, and his statements on excessive use of pedal on the other, needed to be investigated in practice (see RESEARCH QUESTION NO. 1). Several pieces were played without pedal over longer periods of time to experience how this restriction effected expression and the use of expressive means. Here are some observations and discoveries from playing without pedal:


  • There was a sense of close contact with the keys. The researcher became more involved in shaping the tones and relationships between them. More expressive possibilities became apparent.

  • There was a sense of greater accuracy of key release, of control over the distance or space between notes. This increased focus on “breaths” between musical figures.

  • Dynamics could be played in more detail, with additional, nuanced shadings. This led to reconsidering the dynamic markings in the score.

  • The composer’s metronome markings were reconsidered. Slower tempos allowed intervals, gestures, and dissonances greater room for being heard and thus experienced as more expressive. A limited use of rubato developed as a necessary result of feeling the natural characteristics of the melody.

  • Varying articulation without pedal opened for a new way of listening and paved the way toward a more delicate pedalling - with many shades and levels – but never at the expense of clear articulation and transparent voicing. 

Investigating space, gesture and motions


Through this non-pedal method, the need to let the music speak became more imperative. Each note became part of a gesture in motion. As if conducting while playing, I experienced the intervallic leaps as larger than they are when looking at the keyboard itself. The space around me seemed to expand.


This invited to a greater care for the expressivity of intervals. The implied tendency or inherent intent within the musical material can be experienced intuitively as having an innate gestural shape and direction that forms character:


  • Does the interval or motif “want” to go forward? (One can imagine gestures of reaching out with a hand or arm or walking towards something/somebody.)

  • In what way does the motif or interval “want” to go forward? (Here one asks: in a generous, giving, or loving way or with confidence, conviction, force, in an agitated way?)

  • Does the interval or motif “want” to hold back or calm down? (One can see gestures of lowering the arm/hand, sitting down, slowing down, exhaling.)

  • In what way does the interval or motif “want” to hold back? (One can ask in a resigned, introverted way, with hesitation, reluctancy, unease or just resting?)


Added indications in scores: showing expressive means beyond the score


I added indications to the composer’s score as a way of notating the nuanced findings from my investigations. See examples 1-3 below for additional score indications.


SCORE 1 (in sidebar): “Revebjølle” (Digitalis Purpurea) Op. 22, No. 1, bars 1-15


Explanation of additional indications:

1. The additional metronome markings (numbers circled) are an attempt to show approximate rubato and tempo fluctuations 2. The additional dynamics are an attempt to show more subtle dynamic directions and tendencies 3. ↓ Arrow down indicates central tones of the overall phrasing such as notes marked with marcato espressivo (<>) or fz.  4. ˅   Indicates a short pause or separation between notes, grouping of tones or phrases. 5. →   Arrow indicates a sense of forward motion of the tempo 6. ← Arrow indicates a holding back of the tempo 7. ∩ Fermata indicates a feeling of slightly extending a note or a rest. 8. ┌┐ Indicates that a group of notes belong together as a motif, figure, or a part of a phrase. 9. Tenuto: - or (-): The tenuto in parenthesis indicates the importance of taking care of syncopated tones to avoid over-emphasizing the metric beats.


Use of analysis, metaphors, associations, and narratives as methods 


“Li-tone” (Hillside Melody) Op. 14, No. 5 was analysed quite freely, without using any defined method. The aim was to get closer to its compositional elements, musical material, indications in the score and a sense of form and emotional content. The tension between the simplicity of the musical material and the ambiguity of the relationship between the two voices create a complexity of feelings that can go deeply into the many shades of sadness and melancholy as announced in the indication Andante Mesto (mesto meaning sad, mournful, pensive). This analysis was a way of finding a sense of meaning and directional tendencies and ambiguities in the musical material.


These reflections formed a basis for different ways of playing the piece. “Li-tone” was thus used to experiment with different interpretational approaches that varied the expressive means (dynamics, tempo, rubato) in extreme ways. This helped to become freer from earlier views of the music and to find out if the musical material could withstand being manipulated and drawn in different directions and still be meaningful. These experiences became a model for inquiry into other pieces. See example 2 and sound example below and also RESEARCH QUESTION NO. 5.

SCORE 2 (in sidebar): “Li-tone” (Hillside Melody) Op. 14, No. 5, bars 1-18 (with additional indications)


In addition to interpreting indications in the score, a method of finding the essential expressive means in the “Six Sonatinas” Op. 30 was to explore how associations to children and their world of play and imagination can help find direction for shaping musical character. This includes also seeing comical situations and dialogues in every-day situations, with thought associations to e.g., Charlie Chaplin’s early silent movies. Examples of such associations can be described as: innocence, spontaneity, sense of wonder, playfulness, abrupt changes of moods, joyfulness, being carefree, silliness, sadness, pleading, disappointment, doubt.


Inspired by the composer’s reference to dialogue in “Rondo Amoroso” Op. 14, No. 7, using dialogue as a narrative became a method in “Sonatina No. 2”. There I sought to find meaning in changing musical figures within a single melody. I imagined a narrative of a little girl talking to her doll, unselfconsciously immersed in play. This became a model for creating dialogues in other pieces. See also RESEARCH QUESTION NO. 5.


Method of finding structure and phrasing: a hierarchy of accents


The variety of accents was analysed and seen as important for the structural ordering of the phrases. These accents form a clear hierarchy of “ready-made” phrasing instructions with e.g., sforzandos at the top. A phrase gets initial energy to push forward from the first important accent and eventually arrives at the next, which again can give energy to the next one. 


The marcato espressivo sign <> is often used in his scores as a special kind of expressive marking on important tones. Jan Henrik Kayser (Kayser: 1997, p.110) and Ricardo Odriozola (Odriozola: 2016, pp.55-56) also refer to it in their books. This accent can have different expressive functions on the piano according to the context of a piece and personal taste. Here are some reflections on the execution of marcato espressivo:


  • Physical execution: The marcato espressivo can be described as a deeper touch that comes from the arm, body, and subtlety of the wrist. The most natural approach is to dive on to the key with the finger and gently go slightly up and inwards with the wrist, supported by elbow and arm.

  • Personal involvement: The marking requires an involvement and attitude from the pianist as a tone that needs more care and depth of touch (into the keys). It is a touch that tries to combine the concrete (direct), mechanical nature of the piano keys with intended intensity.

  • The element of time and rubato: For this touch to be expressive on the piano, it almost always needs to involve some gentle rubato (as a compensation for the instrument’s lack of vibrato). The most natural way of doing this is by either taking time before – by preparing the <> (wait a little before executing) – or after it has been executed (quasi fermata on the <>).

  • The sound quality of the tone: The quality of sound can be experienced as a “deep marcato” without hardness. It is natural to use pedal (mostly light pedalling), to project a more sonorous quality or a ringing, bell-like quality (as in the campana section in “Li-tone” Op. 14, No. 5).

  • Visual projection: There is clearly a visual aspect of playing this touch (in live performance) and it seems natural to use a forward motion of the upper body towards the piano, to project and underline the intensity of the accent.


Spoken language as a method for seeing tones and motifs as meaningful “words” and “syllables”


The differentiated articulation of tones can be compared to different accentuations of syllables and words in spoken language. Choosing to stress or accent one of the words in a sentence can create different shades of meaning. If I say: “I know what I am”, I can choose to stress (accent) one of the words in the sentence and create different inflections and shades of meaning (stress on the word underlined):


I know what I am” – implies me knowing what I am, as opposed to somebody else knowing it.

“I know what I am” – implies my own knowledge of myself and ability to self-insight.

“I know what I am” – implies the content of what I am (e.g., that I’m nice or not nice).

“I know what I am” – implies that I know what I am - and maybe others don’t know who they are.

“I know what I am” – implies that I know what I am in contrast with what I am not.


The tone of voice, the speed or change of speeds, pauses and groupings of words of the sentence are also elements which influence how we understand the message. Written language generally does not, like musical scores, have articulation marks, dynamics and tempo instructions following the text. It is all up to the oral declamation and personal reading to help determine the meaning.


Sæverud’s musical phrases should be understood as “sentences” with specific musical meaning.  The “words” in his musical “speech” function through differentiated articulation markings, accents, and how they function in relation to one another. This analogy to language can help the performer to see the importance of discovering a specific musical meaning behind the notation.


Investigating harmony as method for finding expressive means


Sæverud’s use of harmony plays with conventions of tonality and can progress in an often free and unpredictable way. Unusual harmonies using elements such as whole-tones, tritones or bi-tonality can add a sense of harmonic adventure to a melody. Traditional dissonances (minor seconds, major sevenths, and minor ninths) add a deeper and richer sense of beauty, showing that “real” beauty can contain tensions and doubt within it. An example of this can be seen in the sudden use of whole-tone harmony in bars 5-6 after the diatonic first bars in “Kristi Blodsdråper” (Fucsia) Op. 21, No. 1. Such harmonic tensions can be underlined by rubato. See example 3.


SCORE 3 (in sidebar): “Kristi Blodsdråper” (Fucsia), Op. 21, No. 1, bars 1-24 (with added indications)


See sidebar for:

Sæverud: “Bånlåt“ Op. 21, No. 3

Sæverud: “Den Siste Bånlåt“ Op. 22, No. 3

Sæverud: “Gjætlevise“ Op. 14,4

Sæverud: “Hjuringen'pi Eismodal“ Op. 24, No. 2

Sæverud: “Kristi Blodsdråper“ Op. 21, No. 1

Sæverud: “Kvelding-Sull og Lokk“ Op. 21, No. 4

Sæverud: “Li-Tone“ Op. 14, No. 5

Sæverud: “På Kingelvevstrenger“ Op. 22, No. 4

Sæverud: “Revebjølle“ Op. 22 No. 1

Sæverud: “Rondo Amoroso“ Op. 14, No. 7

Sæverud: “Sonatina No. 2, 2nd mvt.“

Sæverud: “Sonatina No. 3, 2nd mvt.“

Sæverud: “Sonatina No. 4, 2nd mvt.“

Sæverud: “Tones Vuggevise“ Op. 25, No. 4

  • Recorded at Siljustøl, (Concert performance) February 16th, 2020.
  • Performed by Einar Røttingen (piano).

The selections from the concert show:

  • a general, varied use of rubato, articulation, pedal, and dynamics.
  • dialogue within one voice (as in “Rondo Amoroso”) and between two voices (as in “Li-Tone”), including shifts of tempo and dynamics as in the scores, with my added indications. See score examples above.
  • a creative use of a dialogue narrative, as in “Sonatina No. 2”, second movement.



VIDEO 1 (in sidebar): Fartein Valen: Op. 6, “Sakontala”

  • Recorded at the Grieg Academy, December 2018 – “second working session”.

  • Performed by Hilde Haraldsen Sveen (voice) and Torleif Torgersen (piano).

Producer Jørn Pedersen was invited to join our project “Lines and Limits”. Together we worked in depth on the songs of Valen, Irgens-Jensen and Medtner. Over several days, we sought to maximize clarity of intention and expression by shaping lines and using the voice instrumentally, with violin-bowing as a main image. During recordings, Jørn focused on our ability to communicate all the details and on correct intonation. “Where do you want the C-sharp placed?” This and other questions helped us clarify our process. Having Jørn Pedersen as a coach helped free us from instrumental inhibitions and dogma, as he was an expert at reading scores and maximizing clarity of intention.

Our process of perfecting expression, through minute examination of details and many retakes, led us to a certain blindness towards other important aspects in the scores. We were surprised to discover a few wrong notes and intervals in our recordings. The recordings demonstrate and document this process.


VIDEO 2 (in sidebar): Medtner: “Meerstille” Op. 15, No. 7 / Valen: “So lasst mich scheinen” Op. 7, No. 1

  • Recorded at Valevåg Church, August 25th, 2019

  • Performed by Hilde Haraldsen Sveen (voice) and Torleif Torgersen (piano).

“Meerstille” Op. 15, No. 7, by Medtner, is the song we used as a starting point for the sound we wished to create in Valen’s “So lasst mich scheinen” Op. 7, No. 1. As a preparation for the concert, we used a “collage” of these two songs allowing an “osmosis” of expressivity and sound quality between the various singing styles.





Part of Morten Eide Pedersen’s life philosophy was to be an active and attentive listener. Active listening is a central element in his compositions and is reflected by slow tempos and soft dynamics. This challenges the performer to be conscious about lines, touches, timbre, and different ways of listening. Investigations of three different pieces in slow tempos resulted in different ways of addressing slowness.  


SCORE 4 (in sidebar): "Eliot Impressions I: Time and Bell"

AUDIO 1 (in sidebar): “Time and Bell have buried the Day, at the still Point of the turning World (T.S. Eliot).

  • Recorded at a concert in the University Aula in Bergen, 11.03.2019

  • Performed by Signe Bakke (piano).

The composer indicates a very slow tempo and the imitation of bells. I choose a singing sound quality which fills the room. Clear projection of lines keeps the piece together. Dynamic differences within the phrases keep the music alive. By embodying the complicated rhythms, line and flow are focused upon to avoid the resistant rhythm’s stress on the quality of sound. Continuous pedalling sustains the sound in the room. 

Mental focus: being humbly present in this spiritual meeting of the cycle of life and eternity, attentively listening in the room.


SCORE 5 (in sidebar): "Soccorsi"

AUDIO 2 (in sidebar): “Soccorsi”

  • Recorded in the University Aula, Bergen, august 2019
  • From the CD «Soccorsi», LAWO Classics, LWC1213
  • Performed by Signe Bakke (piano).

A two-voiced setting in which the first line is repeated and receives a counter-voice which again is repeated and receives its counter-voice. The synchronisation of the voices is left up to the performer to decide. Active listening, searching in slowness of tempo, starting in ppp. The performer decides further dynamics. The main character is soft.

I search for a fragile sound, brushing out every little fragment, letting quick tones flow easily with breaths between phrases. Showing small differences of character, feeling nuances and the relationship between voices. Being open, listening and finding a sense of wonder in an intimate room, together with the audience. Mental focus: intense listening in the moment.


SCORE 6 (in sidebar): "Slowness studies"

AUDIO 3 (in sidebar): "Slowness studies" - Framework I

  • Recorded in the University Aula, Bergen, august 2019
  • From the CD «Soccorsi», LAWO Classics, LWC1213
  • Performed by Signe Bakke (piano).

Starting by colouring the room with resonating sounds. A sense of tranquillity is sought by shaping the short, fragmentary melodic lines in the way they come to my mind, playing in a relaxed, hesitant, and improvisatory way. Tempos are flexible. Echoes of answering resonances are sensed and die away. After a while, a beautiful, fragile butterfly appears, moving fast and suddenly. Mental focus: catching the moment, listening in the room.


Trying out open form. “In this brief transit where the dreams cross/Ash Wednesday (T.S. Eliot)


This piece consists of nine pages of short fragments which the performer should assemble in a self-chosen order (a circular structure with three rounds), repeating the fragments three times. Character, dynamics, and tempos are left for the performer to decide according to freely-chosen models from the composer. In these pieces, there are endless possibilities of choice. I began by trying out different alternative structures and characterizations but ended up with a modified version of the first intuitively-felt version. Instead, I altered focus to varying the execution of fragments when they were repeated, making them recognizable but in different ways. I included elaborated improvisations, different combinations of fragments and large differences of character. During the process, I experienced that the improvisations took over and became quite crazy in the second round. The piece changed character, influenced by a “romantic” approach in the Aula concert. The approach was then changed to include smaller variations, parts of the fragments, moderate improvisations and differences in dynamics and articulation to suit the minimal expression of the piece better (on the CD recording). What will I do next time? Something completely different? Time will tell.


SCORE 7 (in sidebar): "Ash Wednesday"

AUDIO 4 (in sidebar):In this brief transit where the dreams cross – Ash Wednesday

  • From the concert in the University Aula, Bergen, 11.03.2019.

  • Performed by Signe Bakke (piano).

A lot of improvisation in the middle part (second round from 2:42)


AUDIO 5 (in sidebar): “Soccorsi” excerpt

  • From the CD «Soccorsi», LAWO Classics, LWC1213

  • Performed by Signe Bakke (piano)

The middle part of the piece (second round). I choose moderate improvisations.  





Expressiveness can be considered to be a variation of communicative signs, intended to add content or context to words, music or physical gestures. In the project “Sonotical interpretations of 70 songs by Geirr Tveitt”, the search for various means of expression was considered to be an ongoing, never ending process, based on the expressiveness tested during the rehearsals as well as tuning in to interesting expressions during performance that might be appreciated as meaningful. To be able to challenge habitual ways of dealing with expression, the focus was systematic during the initial phases of the project, experimenting with different:


  • tempos,

  • places of musical gravitation,

  • phrasing and trajectories,

  • rhythmical patterns and displacements,

  • timbres, colouring and balancing of chords,

  • dynamics,

  • modal tonics, and

  • musical flow or restraint between phrases.


One method that was particularly useful, was to imagine alternative tonics, because it unsettled all of the points mentioned above.


An exaggerated sense of settledness or fidelity towards the score, composer or tradition, does not only restrict the performers’ musicality during performance; it also restrains their physical autonomy and technical capacities, leading to distressing tensions, or even anxieties. Towards the end of the sonotical project the focus was directed towards different ways of listening whilst singing and playing, attempting to emancipate ourselves from premeditated intentionality, and tuning in to the expressiveness that occurred in the spur of the moment. The communication between singer and pianist was developed through a shared appreciation of aesthetics, based on nearly two decades of performing together, including the research period. We did not change anything in Tveitt’s notated score, but articulation, rubato, gravitation points, dynamical flow and colouring were all improvisational elements. This kind of intuitive, “unsettled” expressiveness was perceived as acceptable because of all the preparations, experiments and rehearsals, as well as how we as musicians perceived the performative situation. Like any other form of improvisation, it can be both risky and fruitful. Sensing, trusting and reacting to each other’s expressions in real time was an essential part of the performative situation.


SCORE 8 (in sidebar): "Dagvise"

VIDEO 3 (in sidebar): "Dagvise"

  • Final concert in the University Aula, Bergen, February 23rd, 2020
  • Music by Geirr Tveitt
  • Lyrics: first stanza of «Dagvise» from Øverland’s poem collection «Hustavler» (1929)
  • Basic narrative: “A calm, philosophical reflection about how to approach the upcoming day”.
  • Performed by Njål Sparbo (voice) and Einar Røttingen (piano).


SCORE 9 (in sidebar) "Eg henta ei glede"

VIDEO 4 (in sidebar) "Eg henta ei glede"

  • Final concert in the University Aula, Bergen, February 23rd, 2020
  • Music by Geirr Tveitt
  • Lyrics: from Lygre’s poem collection «Fest i september» (1960)
  • Basic narrative:“A joyful but fragile nostalgic sentiment about lost love”.
  • Performed by Njål Sparbo (voice) and Einar Røttingen (piano).


SCORE 10 (in sidebar) "Stig ei båre"

VIDEO 5 (in sidebar) "Stig ei båre"

  • Final concert in the University Aula, Bergen, February 23rd, 2020
  • Music by Geirr Tveitt
  • Lyrics: from Bruheim’s poem collection «Ved kjelda» (1972)
  • Basic narrative: “A desperate desire to reach the unreachable”.
  • Performed by Njål Sparbo (voice) and Einar Røttingen (piano).



"Den Siste Bånlåt"


“Hjuringen'pi Eismodal“

“Kristi Blodsdråper“

“Kvelding-Sull og Lokk“

“Li-Tone“ Op. 14, No. 5

“På Kingelvevstrenger“


“Rondo Amoroso“

“Sonatina“  No .2

“Sonatina“ No. 3

“Tones Vuggevise“  No. 4

“Sonatina" No. 4