There is always the question of how a performer builds on former traditions or understandings. What makes up a tradition? A tradition is not a habitual way of performing the works of a composer, but a conscious and thoroughly considered approval by many musicians over an extensive time span. All the same, every tradition needs to be challenged, updated, and resettled.


Elements of tradition were researched in different ways:

  • by examining earlier written and oral sources relevant to the given works/scores,

  • by challenging/renewing earlier understandings of aesthetical and instrumental means of expression, and

  • by contributing to initiating and/or renewing established traditions of works of the selected composers (edition, recordings).


Several main categories of sources have been important in the inquiries into traditions:

  • Scores (printed scores, autograph manuscripts)

  • Oral transmission (personal contact with composer and others)

  • Historical texts, recordings, and earlier references/understandings

  • Academic texts, concerning research about historical and contemporary music and aesthetics


Investigations into available scores formed the starting point for several of the individual projects. The individual projects on Sæverud’s piano music and the songs of Valen and Irgens-Jensen, used established, printed scores as a basis. The Sæverud piano music project specifically examined the composer’s scores in relation to later oral comments by the composer. The composer-performer project created their own scores in different formats.


The remaining individual projects on Sæverud’s quartets, songs by Tveitt and piano pieces by Pedersen used copies of autograph manuscripts as their score material. The lack of available score material is one of the main reasons why this music is not much performed, and thus formed a vital motivation to include these works in the project. A central issue was therefore to do research on autograph manuscripts and contribute to making new printed editions. This entailed gathering relevant knowledge and information to interpret the composers’ handwriting, discuss questions of notation and make personal commentaries on performance issues. The performers had the double role of being both scrutinizing editors trying to distinguish and find clarity in what the composer had notated, as well as being an advocate for future performers. Examples of such issues have been:

  • How does one understand and interpret the score of Tveitt’s “Bruheim Songs”, which only contains pitches and their duration, lacking all other traditional indications of tempo, dynamics, and articulation?

  • How does one adjust the scores in those of Tveitt’s songs which only have one version of musical notation (first stanza), while including many other stanzas where the lyrics cannot be be aligned with the notation in the manuscript?

  • What did Sæverud intend in certain passages in the string quartets: did he forget to include certain indications, or did he deliberately leave them out?

  • How can one resolve the lack of clarity pertaining to questions of performative freedom in Pedersen’s Eliot Impressions?

  • How can one resolve bowings and pedalling and other technical issues which are not written in the score?

  • How can one create a score, and yet keep it open for improvisation?

  • How can a performer and a composer benefit from each other in the process of collaborating on creating a score?


Tveitt frequently altered scores after performances, attempting to improve musical qualities. When performing his own works as a pianist, Tveitt often improvised, implementing new ideas. This raised more general questions about which version to validate - and at which point in a compositional process a work can be regarded as complete. There is also the question of how the chosen scores relate to a European tradition of notation and style. The two Sæverud projects have sought to answer:


  • How do the Sæverud quartets relate in notation and style to quartets by composers such as Shostakovich, Britten, Bartók and Janáček?

  • How can Sæverud’s notation be compared to Beethoven’s way of notating articulation and dynamics, since he studied Beethoven’s scores extensively?


Several of the performers had had personal and professional experiences with their chosen composers. Such meetings and discussions are significant and provide an inspiring source of knowledge that can influence interpretation in various ways:

  • Oral instructions by the composer, informing and adding to the notation in the score.

  • Personal philosophy, associations, inspirations, ideas, and attitudes of the composer that can influence interpretation.


At the same time, two of the individual projects – on Sæverud’s and Pedersen’s piano music - have questioned and challenged the personal influence of the composer in relation to the score:

  • What is the relationship between the notation and what the composer said?

  • Did the composer find the best way to notate a given musical idea to the performer, or are added oral transmissions from a composer necessary as an aid to performers?

  • How does a composer’s presence influence performers?

  • What constitutes a performer’s fidelity to the composer, in relation to one’s own interpretation of the score?

  • What constitutes a performer’s fidelity to the composer, in relation to one’s own creativity and artistic freedom during the research process? (See RESEARCH QUESTION NO. 2)


In addition to the use of scores and oral transmission, historical texts were important sources of investigation in several projects.


Geirr Tveitt's musical treatise, “Tonalitätstheorie des parallelen Leittonsystems” (1937), provided a basis for taking the composer’s methodical use of modal scales seriously, leading the researcher to experiment with mixed modes and shifting tonalities. Many of Tveitt's references are related to his aesthetic-political disposition towards returning to what he considered to be the original ancient Norse feeling of language, tonality, and rhythmical structures.


Jan Henrik Kayser’s book “Rondo Amoroso” (1997) contains important recollections from his over forty-year collaboration with Sæverud. Here we find several contradictory statements relating to interpretational issues and understandings of the scores. Why did Sæverud instruct Kayser and other pianists to use continuous pedalling, while his scores are full of differentiated articulation marks, nuanced and detailed pedal indications? Why did he say that he did not like a dry piano sound and yet emphasize non-legato as the most important piano touch? Why did Sæverud say that his music should be played in a strictly classical way, when Kayser recollects the composer’s own use of rubato while demonstrating at the piano?


Historical recordings provided the basis for the project investigating Tveitt’s “Øverland songs”. First performances of selected Tveitt songs, including comments by the composer, were found in the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK) archives. This material reveals a very different tradition or practice which became the basis for the researcher’s imitation and experimentation with different tempos and expression. This facilitated a new understanding of the lyrics and the music in dialogue with earlier performance practices.


The project on songs by Valen presented the challenge for the interpreter of seeing Valen’s a-tonal language as either an extension of late-romantic style and aesthetic, or as an example of modernism. Either standpoint would offer widely different approaches to vocal challenges; firstly, does one use a rich, wide sound with a liberal use of vibrato and emotionality, or does one focus on a certain coolness of expression, correct pitches, metric accuracy and objective score-rendering? The project challenged these understandings by exploring a position between these extremes. Possibilities were investigated of obtaining a warmer sound with less vibrato, creating a greater sense of flow and freedom of phrasing, than the rigid appearance of the score would seem to indicate.


In the composer-performer project, the traditional roles of composer and performer were challenged, in that the creative division of labour in producing musical material was replaced by an equality of participation and dialogue. The performer needed to be active in producing sounds and shaping structure, while the composer needed to play an instrument: first in an improvisational setting, then in the performance of the music which had evolved into a score. Each contributed freely from their individual backgrounds as performer, composer, and improviser within different genres: classical, free improvisation, jazz, and other experimental, contemporary styles. How did this collaboration change traditional thinking about the roles of composer and performer?

S C R O L L   D O W N



How do the different performers in the research group relate to the context of relevant sources, references, traditions and understandings as part of the artistic processes and intentions?

Further reading