“Rethinking Expression in the Piano Music of Harald Sæverud”
In this sub-project I want to investigate musical expression in relation to my use of expressive means in selected piano works by Harald Sæverud (1897-1992). The project will focus on the composer’s highly articulated, speech-like musical language and how it can be transmitted through the piano medium with special emphasis on articulation (including pedal), dynamics and tempo (including tempo modifications, rubato and metronome indications). The aim is to find essential elements and attitudes that seem important in order to understand and convey the artistic intentions in the score through experimentation with expressive means and my own artistic freedom.
Sæverud often revised his scores throughout his life or changed the way he communicated information to the performer. His scores can be seen as a meeting place between the composer’s artistic visions and on-going attempts at conveying them to the performer - and the performer’s search for meaningfulness in the use of expressive means. The score is the common ground and starting point for dialogue and reflections. The indications in the scores will be examined as well as investigating the elements which are not notated – but seem important for the expression - and in what way I as a performer involve and add my personal artistry. What does this music demand of me as a performer and what do I give back to the “intentions” of the composer/score?
Methodological approaches will involve re-collections of my earlier personal experiences with the music (concerts, recordings) and former meetings with the composer, the study of historical sources (literature, interviews, recordings), re-investigating the expressive indications in the score (articulation, dynamics etc.), looking at instrumental issues (piano sound, touch, voicing, body motion) and other elements that influence form and a sense of coherence (meter, rhythm, phrasing, rubato, etc.). In addition, both the composer’s and my own use of metaphors and language will be discussed as a means of understanding and characterizing the music.
The selected pieces are from Sæverud’s main piano collections: Slåtter og Stev fra Siljustøl (Tunes and Dances from Siljustøl) op.21, 22, 23 and 25, Lette Stykker (Easy Pieces) op.14 and Seks Sonatiner (Six Sonatinas) op.30. The investigations will include video/sound recordings of individual pieces, using different artistic approaches in order to see what happens to the expression when employing different expressive means and approaches. Documentation will also consist of texts and video-demonstrations of selected pieces, recordings/videos of concerts, a CD recording and a final text (with score/sound examples) on the research process.
John Ehde (cello/electronics) and Knut Vaage (piano/electronics/composition)
In our sub-project, we develop new scores and expressions through a close dialogue between performer and composer. We investigate instrumental means through improvisation and composition with openness towards our skills and experiences, consolidating them through our dialogue-based work methods. By means of hybrid acoustic/electronic sounds and free improvisation we aim to reach a new level of expressivity.
Our artistic research method is based on making improvised etudes focusing strictly on one musical element at a time and to see how restrictions can lead us to greater sound-articulation while improvising. We then develop the etudes into spontaneous compositions and keep track of our findings by building a database of hybrid sounds.
Highlights from our process so far: «Etudes» for solo cello, and for duo piano/cello. «Svev» for piano trio, premiered at the Borealis Festival in March 2018 and performed in radio and concerts in Denmark July 2018. Together with the sound artist John Hegre, we have established the impro-group «JJ&K» which premiered two new pieces at Koncertkirken in Copenhagen, October 2018.
Finally, we will sum up our project by inviting the BIT20 Ensemble into a multi-media concert for sinfonietta and cello solo with sound- and video-artists. The blend of acoustic sounds, electronics, lighting, laser and video will create a “Hybrid Spectacle”.
The electronic parts are based on two different hybrid techniques:
1) Instrumental sounds sent through transducers into a resonant instrument (harp, piano or percussion) functioning as loudspeakers. With the help of John Hegre’s expertise, the transducers (small vibration speakers) can transform almost any material into a sound object.
2) Real-time computer manipulations of acoustic instrumental sounds are programmed by sound artist Thorolf Thuestad. Instrumental sounds that normally are barely audible will be greatly electronically amplified and manipulated.
Video artist Birk Nygård will design the concert visually. Small cameras close to the instruments will show the connection between what we see and what we hear. The visual effects include references to futurism and transhumanism. The use of video, small led panels/laser light and sound resources aim to create a creative loop between the visual effects and the sound material.
Njål Sparbo (vocal) and Einar Røttingen (piano)
“A Sonotical Interpretation of Tveitt's songs”
We are researching and reflecting about meaning and ambiguity in music and lyrics - an investigation of prosodic means drawing on concepts from musicology, sonology, rethorics, linguistics and semantics in search for an adequate terminology about expressive phraseology.
The Norwegian composer Geirr Tveitt's songs will be our main subject: studying, analyzing, performing and formulating basic problems/questions about meaning, modality and musical expression. Our research choices will be informed by Geirr Tveitt's musical theory: "Tonalitatstheorie des parallellen Leittonsystems" and Lasse Thoresen's: "Emergent musical forms". The theoretical mode of conceiving music - "music-as-analyzed" (visual) - will be contrasted with a phenomenological investigation - "music-as-experienced" (auditive) - based on our intuition and experience as performers. The pure analytical outcome is not the main theme for the research, but in what ways it can be realized whilst performing the music – as performers. A sonotoical investigation/interpretation means experiencing and reflecting through music in real time (musicing) and reflecting on the aesthetic process we share over time.
Our investigation should raise interesting questions about how to resolve the tensions that we may find between lyrics and music, between the illustrative and the abstract, between the score and our intuition, and how to embody these tensions in actual performance. We will test a variety of musical expressions and attempt to make sense of the simultaneous layers (musical and textual agogics: various combinations and variations of tempo, dynamics, timbre, articulation etc.) and their possible meanings.
Liv Elise Nordskog og Signe Bakke
“Discovering Songs by Geirr Tveitt”
We will investigate the songs by Tveitt and select songs suitable for a classically trained singer (soprano) and piano. Which issues arise in our first meeting with unfamiliar repertoire? What is a pianist looking for and what is a singer/orchestra musician looking for, selecting songs to
In our work studying the selected songs we will investigate different historical sources (literature, recordings, manuscripts, ) but also try to come closer to Tveitt’s musical identity by listening to the folk music and visiting his natural surroundings in Hardanger. Is there a connection between his origines, natural surroundings and his musical language? How do our investigations of his identity influence our working progress?
What is special about the songs by Tveitt and what challenges do we meet as performers? The scores open up for different choices of interpretation, and we will try out different tempi, characters, dynamics, phrasing and sound qualities that we find artistically relevant in our meeting with the scores. We will also open up for visual images, metaphors and associations as ways of feeling
the compositions expressivity. How do we talk about musical expression? Our aim is to become more aware of our own language and find a comprehensive verbal language in communication with our musical partner.
We will record and compare different choices of interpretations and performances, discuss the artistic results and the performers role, the limits and the freedom in the score. How do we meet the composer’s intentions and how do we combine them with our artistry?
We will keep a study log during the process. The workshops and discussions with the research group will be an important part. One question will be whether reflections and discussions will interfere or assist us in our intuitive perception of the music?
The research results will be presented in lectures, concerts in different venues and a cd-recording.
In addition to traditional concerts we will search for crossover cooperation with visual/sound artists.
“TAKING A NEW LOOK AT HARALD SÆVERUD’S SECOND AND THIRD STRING QUARTETS”
Together with the Hansa Quartet I learned, often performed and eventually recorded Harald Sæverud’s three stunning string quartets in the 1990s. Since I left the group in 2000 I have had the opportunity to relearn and perform the third quartet with a group of students from the Grieg Academy in 2011. The following year I also made a tutorial video of this work that can be watched on
While the first quartet (Serenades of the Two Rivals) was published shortly after its composition, numbers 2 and 3 have remained in manuscript for over forty years.
The inception of our research group (Un-)sttling Sites and Styles, provided me with a platform to take a fresh look at these two neglected masterpieces, with the ultimate aim of producing an authoritative critical edition of both.
Although I worked closely with Sæverud between 1987 and 1991, I never had the opportunity of playing the quartets for him and only briefly discussed no. 1 with him on one occasion. It seems that he heard nos. 2 and 3 in performance no more than twice.
There are a number of uncertainties and questions posed by the extant scores. In order to reach satisfactory (or at least plausible) answers to these questions I am fortunate to have the following at my disposal:
- The original scores at the Bergen Public Library
- The musical expertise and insight of the research group
- The valuable imput from the musicians with whom I am relearning the works
- The direct knowledge of performers who were involved in the premieres of both works
- My intuition, based on four years of close cooperation with the composer at the end of his life
Once the editions are available (by August 2019) it is my intention to engage the interest of a number of internationally renowned string quartets who may take up the cause for these unjustly neglected works and perform them around the world.
Hilde H. Sveen
“Information, intuition, sensitivity and choice” - Concerning the processes involved in learning and performing a selection of songs by Fartein Valen og Ludvig Irgens-Jensen.
Sound of Expresson.
In this sub- project I wish to take a closer look at and to focus on which information influences my choices, interpretation and expression. What happens in the moment I read a text, read a melody, in short – the moment I meet a new song or am confronted with a score? What information do I search for outside of the text and the score? What senses do I choose to use, and what are the consequences of this in the expression I adopt? I want to turn my focus away from the actual performance and instead devote time and attention to the processes that take place during the period of preparation. The performance will take place in different rooms/sites and be a result of the experiences I collect during the process of study. As a singer I have, by and large, based my work on rules that are not of my creation, this in order to satisfy certain technical and interpretational mores within the singing tradition. In this context I am referring to vocal techniques and, not the least, performance practices from the different historical periods. I perform a production after classical expectations, but is this Performing Expression - Expressive Performing – ‘’musical expression’’?
I am the song.
Through experience I have increasingly dared to trust my intuition and sensitivity. I am here thinking about some a-typical choices I have made both where it regards musical style and vocal technique. The voice is in a large range an invisible instrument. I want to investigate methods to change this. How will the audience react to a film from my inside while I sing, what will it do to me, my expression and commutation with my audience?
These are the processes I wish to research, discuss and define.
Arnulf Christian Mattes
“Expressive Sites and Intimate Relationships: The Social Practice of Chamber Music in Norway 1920-1960”
Topic and research questions
Chamber music is ”the epitome of a music created through communion in live performance” (Born 2010, 237). Until the mid-twentieth century, chamber music has been performed mostly at small, intimate sites, where friends came together to perform for each other. In Norway, the most private form of concert sites have been the homes of composers, and their friends, both amateur and professional musicians, instrumentalists and singers. One of the most famous sites is Edvard Grieg’s home in Bergen, Troldhaugen. Lesser known are the activities at other composer’s homes and their friends’s, such as Fartein Valen’s, Geirr Tveitt’s, and Harald Sæverud’s. On which occasions did they meet, and who was attending these intimate events? What kind of instruments did they use, and how did the accoustics of their private homes influence the sound of the chamber works composed? To which extend contributes the local atmosphere, the climate, topography, and scenery to the expressiveness of the music composed and performed at these and for these sites? Who commissioned the chamber works, and what are the stories behind the dedicatees of new compositions?
Aims and materials
The aim of this sub-project is to reconstruct the social sites of chamber music concerts at composers’ homes in Vest-Norway, and to examine, how these intimate concert-situations influenced the social aspects of musical inwardness (Ronyak 2010), aspects which neither an edited score nor a recording can convey at all.
Historical evidence of chamber music practice is provided by sources such as letters, photographs, dedications, and not least, private recordings. Some of them are accessible in public collections, others are still kept in private archives. An important part of this project will therefore be oral documentation and the conducting of interviews with the rapidly decreasing group of active participants and audiences of these private recitals.
The methodology used to analyse the social aspects will draw on recent sociological, anthropological, ethno-musicological, and historical methodologies, providing a new, critical framework for the study of historical musical practices.
Relevance for other sub-projects
The results of this sub-project will provide valuable new insights in the chamber music examined by the other sub-projects, complementing practical and aesthetic-stylistic accounts of musical expression with a social and relational dimension of musical meaning.