7.3.2 Second session – findings and artistic developments


The amount of research material derived from the second round was more extensive, and this material was analysed more systematically. In presentations of the project we have found it useful to illustrate some of the findings with quotations taken from the collected material.[1] The quotations are taken from interviews with members of the audience after they experienced the performance, translated from Norwegian. I will now look at some of these findings and discuss, along the way, how they have had an impact on my artistic development, and how the research led to further reflections about the project as such.


Identification with the “story” and the importance of the text:


– About 45% of the audience, both “blind” and “seeing”, identified with parts of the narrative in the performance:

“I was in a car – I was driving it [laughter], with three kids in the back seat. It was raining [waving her hand to imitate the windshield wiper], and then I, like, arrived at the grandmother’s, who was my grandmother, and”


“I almost had a film rolling on the inside of my eyes, it was, like, always something that reminded me of my own childhood.”

(Students, DMMH)



–       The importance of the narrative for the experience as a whole, varied from medium to very important, for 83% of the audience (see the figure below):

Figure 7.1,from the presentation held at “Lydhørt”, Music Technology Days in Trondheim, October 2011



“The narrative was very important for me, since it was the most tangible I could get a hold on. It was the narrative that caught me those times when I was falling out and was starting to think of something else.”

“To me, language made it all appear a bit more coherent, because there was something that linked up, since she went on approximately where she left off after the sounds/sung memories.”

 (Students DMMH)


After analysing the material from the second round, I realised that my research question about identification was not a very precise one and that it was difficult to answer. What did I actually intend to find out? About half of the audience could identify with the narrative, the “story”, but the majority found it important, or at least an integrated part of the whole performance.  So what does it mean to identify with a story? How do I separate this from the experience of identifying with the person telling the story? Maybe that is what I was thinking about, trying to understand my different experiences of nearness; when somebody is telling you something, you can easily identify with the act of telling something or being told something. In order to examine this closer, I realise that I should have had another performance to compare it with, where I did not adopt the role of the storyteller. And maybe even a third performance, deliberately choosing a story that would be very unfamiliar to the audience. In any case, this is a difficult and complex research area, which needs further investigation.

Another problem with my research question is, as I have mentioned earlier (Section 7.2): there is never a neutral audience. My question in some ways implies that there is, and that there could be a general experience, transferrable to “all kinds of audiences”. The research material also confirmed the weakness inherent in this implied generalisation, by revealing great differences in how the performance was experienced. With this project I have been performing for very different groups; “the expert team” in the test round, the students in round two, the theatre-interested audience at the symposium – and subsequently at the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival and at the “Lydhørt” Music Technology Days in Trondheim. Thinking about how different these audiences are, I realise that my question about “opening up for the musical expression as a whole, through an identifying process between the performer and the audience”, is rather vague and problematic. This is especially true when not directed towards a specific audience. If the question is modified to asking whether “the use of storytelling (not the identifying process as such) can open up for the musical expression as a whole”, it seems to be partly answered through the findings in the student group. Most of the students were unfamiliar with this type of music, and most of them found the story important (Fig. 7,1) for the experience as a whole.

So, after discovering the weaknesses in my research question, should I consider this a failure in my project as research? Maybe I should, if this research did not lead to any new and relevant knowledge for me. However, it certainly did. Before I go further into this, I would like to present some of the other findings, those which lead to adjustments to or to questions about parts of my work.


Audience anticipating disaster:

Several audience members anticipated that something terrible would happen after the introduction:


I thought it was quite scary at the beginning, and I was just thinking that something terrible was going to happen […] They’re sitting in the car, they are going to crash – I was so certain about that.

“Because the images I created, they…they […] were very, like, nice or cosy, or precious, a bit like childhood memories. That’s what I felt then. But still I felt that there was this dark undertone to everything.”

 (Students, DMMH)


An experience of “spookiness” right from the start, registered by several audience members in the second test round, was a bit surprising to me. There could be many reasons for this, but these comments made me reconsider the start one more time. With the adjustments made after the first round, I had wanted to bring sound into focus instead of starting with the text, but I now realised that I also wanted to introduce the audience to a sense of movement, more than the experience of wondering. So this led to a change before the third version; I used a more melodic approach and more repetitive patterns as an ongoing accompaniment. This gave the piece a better start: it felt like a monotone flow with small variations, corresponding with the first section of the text where I am driving a car at night. I wanted the audience to feel secure, and at the same time create a feeling of going somewhere.


Audience experiencing anxiety:

Many of the audience members, especially the “blind”, were frightened by one particular section of the performance:


“Then it got very uncomfortable. I was scared and insecure when the lady said ‘death’ several times and spooky sounds emerged.”

“I felt that [the voices] came closer and closer to me, and at one point; I think it was when the voices said ‘NEVER, DEATH, NO MORE WAFFLES IN ALL MY LIFE’, I noticed that I was breathing faster and I almost started crying.”

(Students, DMMH)


I was first surprised by some of the very strong experiences of fear in some parts of the performance. In retrospect, listening to the recording of the performance again, it was easier to understand, especially regarding the blindfolded listeners. This section was also often mentioned by the students in this round as an example of alienation, as a contrast to the naturalness in the storytelling. This experience has first of all increased my respect and sensibility towards the power of the sounds and the expression I work with. I have become especially aware of how I enter, and as a consequence of this, how I sometimes need to prepare these dramatic sequences for the audience. Also, in this particular performance, the way I use the very loaded word death is important, but adds to the negative experiences, and I have worked further with how this works together with the music: I try to prepare the “dramatic turn” by introducing the more noisy sounds while I am still talking about life, and I try to speak the death word, which is repeated three times, in a “neutral” manner rather than dramatically loaded one. The audience’s responses have also given me the impetus to search for distinctions in more powerful and noisy expressions, such as the choice of low pitches I use on the DJFX-looper effect, how much of the low frequency area I use while filtering, and how many sharp consonants and different pitches I feed into the loop in the G/F patch. A sound can be powerful even if the sound level is low, while equally another sound does not necessarily create the power I want it to simply by virtue of being loud. This is an interesting area to explore, both in this performance and in my further artistic development.


Spooky laughter episode

Several audience members found my laughter in one section of the performance creepy and/or fake:           


“Just that thing with the laughter, I didn’t think her facial expression fitted […] with the sounds, in a way, and with her, because she looked happy, and the sounds…yeah [mimics uncomfortableness], I didn’t think they fitted at all – I thought it was very unnatural.”

“And she laughed […] it was strange, it was strange to listen to it. It sounded fake in a way. It was like when people laugh when they have evil intentions, just like the bad guys in movies when they laugh like that, that’s the worst thing I know, and The Joker, when he laughs [laughter], it disgusts me.”

(Students, DMMH)


The audience’s experience of creepy laughter where this was really not intended was also a surprise. For me, this was one of the lighter and happier parts of the performance! This was also my intended expression and feeling, so the mix of my visual and auditive expression seemed ambiguous to some of the audience. In response to the question about naturalness, this incident was also commented on as being unnatural. These comments have made me work further on balancing the expression in this part, especially by adjusting the sound and character of the pre-recorded, processed sound samples.


Naturalness and alienation

Not surprisingly, the storytelling and the acoustic voice were experienced as being natural, while the most dramatic and electronic sequence was experienced as being alienating, by many members of the audience. However, we also received comments concerning the use of the voice as source material, as a “naturalising” aspect (“no pianos or things like that, recorded, just the voice…”) and further, comments on the importance of “not distorting or changing the pitch of her (my) voice”. The first comment seemingly accepts the processed sound as voice sound, while the second (more experienced with technology) might reflect things I could have done with my voice that would make it less natural. The interesting thing here is that in that case it would probably sound less natural because you could recognise the voice and hear the processing at the same time. In that way the processing technique as such would probably acquire a focus in relation to the natural voice. Several of the audience members also referred to the use of looping and delay as being more distanced than the voice alone – even when the voice sound as such is not highly processed. (“…with the echo it wasn’t her …[…] … I experienced a physical distance (telephone call sequence)…”). Furthermore, the act of singing was also commented on by some as being more distanced than speaking (“ …when she sung, she was the sound, not herself…”).What seems clear is that the narrative and the natural voice are a very important perceptual reference for the listener in relation to the processing and the abstraction of voice sound. I also experience (as mentioned in relation to the use of this particular story), that I am exploring the premises for how I can use the processed sounds and techniques and the music created by this, without breaking the relationship with the story. I see the challenging of this relationship as being an important way for making the expression richer, more nuanced and more open for emotional duality and individual interpretation. This is therefore where the most important tensions, artistic possibilities and challenges are found in this project.

There were other important findings in the research, especially those relating to the division between the “seeing” and “blind”. These findings did not directly influence the artistic development, but I find them worth mentioning: the material showed clear tendencies towards differences in emotional and physical reactions between the two groups, the “blind” group expressing stronger emotional and physical reactions, and also more anxiety. As many as 58% of the members of the blindfolded group did not understand the nature of the performance (“Was it live, not recorded?” “ The sound engineer must have had one hell of a job!”).

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[1] The project has been presented at three different conferences since the spring of 2011; see ”List of activities”, Appendix 1.

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