I have used a model for this critical reflection that has been presented in Aslaug Nyrnes’
essay “Lighting from the Side, Rhetoric and Artistic Research” (Nyrnes, 2006). This model suggests that the artistic research should be seen, and developed, in the light of inherent “theories” in the artistic field. In this respect, there are some important “theories “ that have served to guide and enlighten my work:
Important aesthetic principles and developments in my field:
– The collective approach to improvisation
– The freedom in melodic variation and rhythmic phrasing
– The focus on sound and timbre as musical parameters
– The development of a personal vocabulary
– The openness towards and borderlines with other expressions and genres
– The mediation between sound-based and intervallic improvisation
– The Afrological and Eurological in modern improvisation
The act and nature of improvisation in my genre:
– The need for intuitive control over instruments
– The need for predictability and “inner ear” experience of sound
The voice as an instrument:
– The special position of the acoustic voice as an instrument
– The perception of the natural and processed voice sound in music
– The connection between voice and meaning
– The use of voice and language in sound poetry and spoken word traditions
– The traditional role of the singer in the improvised interplay in my genre
The role of music technology in music:
– The question whether musical premises are defined by technology or genre
– The choices regarding complexity or simplicity related to the act of improvisation
– The choices of sound related to genre and personal vocabulary
The performance as an interaction with the audience:
– Investigating and developing a performance in the light of audience feedback
These “theories” are often intertwined in the process of developing and reflecting on the artistic work, but through this critical reflection I have tried to point them out where they bring in perspectives that I find relevant to my work.
In Chapter 1 I have described my artistic field by pointing towards my most important influences, both in the genre of modern European jazz and in related musical fields. This description points out important developments and principles that I recognise in my musical expression and contributes towards identifying my genre as such.
In Chapter 2 I have described my live electronic tools and technical setup. I have explained how my choice of tools reflects a need for usability and predictability in my situation as an improvising musician, and, moreover, that it reflects my personal choices of sound. Furthermore, I have stated, in relation to various ongoing discourses in the field of music technology, that control often takes precedence over complexity in my field, and that highly processed digital sound often seems to conflict with the acoustic-electronic interplay.
In Chapter 3 I have demonstrated how live electronics may present new musical parameters for the acoustic voice. I have discussed the challenges and possibilities related to the special position of the voice as a musical instrument, and reflected on the relations between voice, meaning, emotion and language. I have done this in the light of own experience, the theories and research of Andreas Bergsland, and the artistic fields of sound poetry and spoken word. I have also presented Andreas Bergsland’s suggested Maximal-Minimal model for experiencing voice and processed voice sounds in music. Bergsland’s model suggests a perceived continuum between a central zone and a peripheral zone, defined by seven experiential premises for experiencing voice sound. I have demonstrated how I experience, in relation to this model, a “play with zones” in my music through the use of live electronics and degrees of meaning or/and real world in voice sound. This play with zones is also – to some degree – a possible parameter for the acoustic voice, but the use of electronics widens the range of the zones dramatically. Furthermore, in focusing on sound as a musical parameter as such, I have stated that the need for grouping, or categorising different sound effects, is related to the need for “inner ear” experience in improvisation. I present a rough model, based on experiential categories (not technical), which are exemplified through music:
– (a) Broadening: adding something to the voice
– (b) Narrowing: filtering certain frequencies of the voice
– (c) Placing: putting the voice in different rooms/spaces and at different distances from the listener
– (d) Reconstructing: changing the voice sound more substantially
Furthermore, I discuss the use of loop machines and samplers, and point out some new possibilities created for the vocalist through sustained sound, multiple layers and the use of pre-recorded samples. I also discuss some challenges in sampling and looping. The play with zones, the different ways of processing and the techniques of sampling, are examples of what I think of as new possibilities for the singer through the implementation of live electronics within my genre.
In Chapter 4 I have discussed challenges related to the singers’ traditional roles in music, rooted in conventions and expectations that are present in the experience of a performance. I have also pointed out that this situation is fundamentally genre-related. I suggest an experiential categorising of the different possible roles for the vocalist, as I experience them in my work:
– The singer
– The speaker
– The soundmaker
– The soundsinger
The two latter roles are what I see as being new roles for vocalist in my genre, made available through the use of live electronics. I have demonstrated how I take on these different roles in the interplay with different musical projects: BOL, BOL with Snah & Westerhus, the Åse/Strønen duo and the Åse/Duch duo. I have also briefly pointed out a fifth role for the vocalist working with live electronics: The “live producer role”, bringing in traditional postproduction techniques (such as reverb, compressing and effects) in the live situation, both at concerts and in the recording studio. I have demonstrated how these roles are inflected by the musical structures in the interplay, and also how different roles can be adopted at the same time. Moreover, I have reflected on how this situation in the interplay has changed my musical thinking and acting, towards a focus on layers and functions, foreground and background, and the wholeness in the music.
In Chapter 5 I described a project which I undertook with my vocal ensemble Trondheim Voices, presented at the NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) conference in 2011, Oslo. During this project we experienced how live electronics can be a musical tool and lead to new strategies for an a cappella ensemble. We used the system Stagetracker FX, a performer-tracking and audio- localisation system developed for the theatre by the company TTA in Stjørdal, Norway . By using this system, each singer could choose to manipulate the sound of the voice by moving between different effect-zones on stage.
What we found, was that this use of live electronics could:
– Expand the sound possibilities of the vocal ensemble
– Place the ensemble and each singer in a new position regarding the sound design
– Enhance a listening focus
– Connect movement and sound, thereby visualising musical choices
– Create an improvised “choreography”
I pointed out that this tool can be very valuable for improvisation, but also for musical design and compositions.
In Chapter 6 I have discussed some challenges and experienced strategies in the mediation between different aesthetics and musical paradigms in modern improvised music. This is recognised as a mediation between sound-based and intervallic improvisation, and also as mediation between Eurological and Afrological paradigms in music.
In Chapter 7 I have described my work with the project ‟Eugenie – short story of sound”. In this project I wanted to implement the experienced nearness of the storyteller role in a musical performance. I also wanted to investigate if the use of narrative could open up for the musical expression as a whole. The project was carried out as part of a research collaboration with Andreas Bergsland, named “Voice Meeting”, where audience feedback was collected and, among other things, used to feed the artistic process. The questions asked in audience interviews were related to:
– The role of the text/story as part of the whole experience
– The process of identification between performer and audience
– The experiences of ‟naturalness” and of ‟alienation”
The material collected was multi-faceted, but some tendencies in the groups of audiences were identified:
– The story and the music were experienced as a whole, and the narrative as an important part of it.
– Often the storytelling was experienced as being natural, while the most processed sounds were experienced as being most alienating.
We also received comments on how the singing and the more moderately processed sounds were experienced as being more distanced than the narrative.
I have described how the response from the audience resulted in different adjustments and changes being made to my performance. I also discussed the risk of loosing artistic integrity when making audience feedback part of the development process. Furthermore, I demonstrated how the process revealed several problems regarding my original research questions. These problems clarified the following:
– The question about identification (between audience and performer) was more complex than I had realised, and called for further investigation.
– My thinking about “the audience” had been too general, and became more specific through the process.
This research led to valuable knowledge and sensibility towards the performance situation.
Moreover, I have stated that the work with the continuum between natural narrative and abstract, processed voice sound, made me aware of a very strong commitment to the text, and that an artistic potential in this performance form is to challenge the relationship between sound and story – without breaking it. This is something I would like to investigate further in my future artistic development.