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  • 1.
    Gorton, David
    et al.
    Royal Academy of Music, London, UK.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    Choose Your Own Adventure Music: On the Emergence of Voice in Musical Collaboration2016In: Contemporary Music Review, ISSN 0749-4467, E-ISSN 1477-2256, Vol. 35, no 6, p. 579-598Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The practices of collaborating composers and performers have been receiving increasing attention within academic discourse. Such collaborations are often presented from two complementary perspectives: pre-compositional joint invention and post-compositional negotiations in the realisation of a score and its notation. This article attempts to bridge the gap between the two perspectives through a discussion on the emergence of ‘voice’ that pervades the artistic practice, and binds the pre- and post-compositional phases together. Two compositions by David Gorton, written in collaboration with guitar player Stefan Östersjö, will be examined:Forlorn Hopefor 11-string alto guitar and optional live electronics andAusterity Measures Ifor 10-string guitar. Both pieces are the result of an extended pre-composition experimental phase, and both pieces attempt to recreate something of those experiments in the contexts of their performance, establishing the conditions for the emergence of a ‘discursive voice’ of both composer and performer

  • 2.
    Hogg, Bennett
    et al.
    University of Newcastle.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    Patterns of Ecological and Aesthetic Co-evolution: Tree-guitars, River-violins and the Ecology of Listening2015In: Contemporary Music Review, ISSN 0749-4467, E-ISSN 1477-2256, Vol. 34, no 44, p. 335-349Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The move ‘outside’ of the concert hall has repercussions for listening and creative practice beyond simply resituating ‘music’. The building of an environmentally specific instrumentarium draws onin situexploration and cultivation of affordances, but also on the embodied pre-existent knowledge of the artists concerned. A sense of space/place and strategies of listening work together both to situate emergent creative practices within a landscape and to take the affordances of that landscape, the instruments constructed there, and embodied musical experience forward into completed artistic and musical works.

  • 3. Östersjö, Stefan
    Go To Hell: towards a gesture-based compositional practice2016In: Contemporary Music Review, ISSN 0749-4467, E-ISSN 1477-2256, Vol. 35, no 4-5, p. 475-499Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper discusses musical gesture from an understanding of musical perception as embodied and enactive, also drawing specifically on Denis Smalley’s [(2007). Space-form and the acousmatic image.Organised Sound,12(1), 35–58] analysis of performed space. I will provide examples of how choreographies (performed by musicians, with and without their instruments), new music (for Vietnamese and Western instruments), installations, and video art have all been drawn from analysis of gesture in Östersjö’s performance of the guitar compositionToccata Orpheusby Rolf Riehm [1990.Toccata Orpheus. Munich: Ricordi]. In Riehm’s piece, the bodily action of the performer is treated as an intentional compositional parameter and the notated structure thus generates a specific choreography in performance. InGo To Hell, this approach is taken further towards the development of a gesture-based compositional practice, where composition is understood, not as the organisation of sound objects, but as the structuring of gestural-sonic objects. 

  • 4. Östersjö, Stefan
    Musical and Musicianly Listening in Intercultural Practice2018In: Circuits: Musiques Contemporaines, ISSN 1183-1693, Vol. 28, no 1, p. 35-44Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper discusses the function of listening in intercultural musical collaboration, with reference to a number of examples taken from the author’s practice, within the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones. Through the lens of Pierre Schaeffer’s concepts of musical and musicianly listening, the paper suggests that inter-cultural exchange takes place in a liminal field between traditions. This demands a particular openness which can be developed by operating musicianly listening, a form of listening which actively seeks to “innovate in the facture of sound objects

  • 5.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Thinking-through-Music: On Knowledge Production, Materiality, Embodiment, and Subjectivity in Artistic Research2017In: Artistic Research In Music: Discipline and Resistance / [ed] Jonathan Impett, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2017, p. 88-107Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Artistic research in music is now at a generational stage of development. How should it deal with its own maturing? From a kaleidoscope of individual pursuits, ethos and methodologies have emerged to encompass more distributed approaches. This transformation has taken place in parallel with changes in the dynamics and structures of culture, its institutions and constituencies. Artistic research maintains a productive dialectic between its potential status as discipline or as practice. It has developed topoi, tropes and its own canon of cases, texts and figures. How does it negotiate relationships with institutions, disciplines and bodies of theory while retaining the critical perspective of the artist?

  • 6.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Brooks, William
    University of York.
    Wells, Jeremy
    University of York.
    Footnotes2019In: Voices, Bodies, Practices: Performing Musical Subjectivities / [ed] Catherine Laws, William Brooks, David Gorton, Thanh Thủy Nguyễn, Stefan Östersjö, and Jeremy J. Wells., Leuven: Leuven University Press , 2019Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter discusses the agencies of composer, performer and sound engineer respectively, and further of non-human agents such as score, instruments (widely defined), the concept of authenticity in the making of the premiere recording of William Brooks composition entitled Footnotes, composed  between 1983 and 1985, but never performed in its entirety before this recording by Stefan Östersjö. With the collaboration of Jez Wells, sound engineer, and William Brooks, a 45-minute LP was produced which aim to reconstruct the historical sound of certain musicians and recording technologies. The entire working process was documented on video and analysed using qualitative research methods. Early in their work it became evident to the three collaborators that the overall project required the construction of a set of different identities for six types of participant: guitar, guitarist; score, composer; hardware, engineer. This chapter—itself an intertangled multilogue of mutable voices—traces the construction of, distinction between, and eventual representation of, those identities in the final recordings, but most of all, through an analysis of the extended collaborative process.  

  • 7.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Clarke, Eric
    University of Oxford.
    Doffman, Mark
    University of Oxford.
    Gorton, David
    Royal Academy of Music.
    Fluid practices, solid roles?: The Evolution of Forlorn Hope2017In: Distributed Creativity: Collaboration and Improvisation in Contemporary Music / [ed] Eric Clarke and Mark Doffman, rd: Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 116-135Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter investigates the relationship between the fluid practices that frequently characterize the work of contemporary musicians, and the more solid roles of performer and composer that continue to hold sway in contemporary music. Focusing on a case study of the collaborative creation of Forlorn Hope for eleven-string alto guitar and electronics, by Gorton and Östersjö, the chapter analyses the processes that lead from research and experimentation with particular guitar tunings and playing techniques, through a more conventionally compositional phase, to the first public performance of the piece. The chapter demonstrates how the affordances of both the instrument in the hands of Östersjö and the particular tuning specified by Gorton combined with improvised discoveries, and the ‘filtering’ force of a piece by Dowland, result in a piece whose creative ecology is distributed across a variety of timescales and practices.

  • 8.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Crispin, Darla
    The Norwegian Academy of Music.
    Musical Expression from Conception to Reception2017In: Musicians in the Making: Pathways to Creative Performance / [ed] John Rink, Helena Gaunt and Aaron Williamon, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 288-305Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The word ‘expression’, when applied to music, has a comfortably familiar ring to it. However, on careful scrutiny it turns out to be more elusive than one might think. Intrinsic to musical expression is the idea that within music there is something to be expressed, and that this might be reinforced (or undermined) by the performance strategies adopted. The issue becomes more complicated when one asks whether the ‘something’ in question equates to inchoate feeling, to apprehensible meaning or to both in variable proportions. This chapter reviews historical approaches to musical expression and argues that the concept of Werktreue still shapes much of our thinking and teaching in this area. This leads to a consideration of the respective roles of composer, performer and audience, generating a diagrammatic matrix which is progressively modified throughout the chapter. In its final, most dynamic version, the matrix proposes a ‘field of musical expression’ in which the roles of composer, performer and listener interact. The authors suggest that the time is ripe for more interdisciplinary research on musical expression, where a fusion of approaches—from music psychology and computing to performance studies and artistic research—may be the key to a deeper understanding.

  • 9.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Dahlqvist, Jörgen
    Teaterhögskolan i Malmö.
    Lindwall, Christer
    Topography of the (One): Reflections on Musical Time in Composition and Performance2019In: Aberrant Nuptials: Deleuze and Artistic Research / [ed] Paulo de Assis and Paolo Giudici, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2019, 1Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter discusses a composition for eleven-stringed alto guitar by the Swedish composer Christer Lindwall. Titled Topography of the (One), this piece may be understood as a meta-composition that reflects on the pre-conditions—both material and philosophical—for its stages of becoming. It thereby holds a special place in the compositional output of Lindwall, whose work has, since the late 1980s, been associated with the practices of New Complexity—composers such as Brian Ferneyhough and Richard Barrett. The conceptual nature of this composition, and its direct quotations from a series of contemporary French philosophers launched an interpretative process that led to a staging that would—as Steven Schick wrote in his discussion of the process of learning Ferneyhough’s Bone Alphabet—“shape and make inevitable an interpretive context which steers the piece in performance” (Schick 1994, 133). The first performance was to take place in a production titled “Words and Music” during the Transistor Festival in Malmö, Sweden, curated by the Swedish playwright and director Jörgen Dahlqvist. A dialogue was launched between Östersjö and Dahlqvist that resulted in a staging that focused entirely on the creation of a sonic framework for the performance. The dramaturgical means were the addition of electronic sound, first by the creation of an introductory tape part, and, second, by doubling up the recited fragments with sampled voice of the same performer, also creating a sonic questioning of the unity of the “one.”[1]The compositional strategies, launched by the composer’s philosophical reflections, in turn become the source for a series of observations regarding musical time, which we address by returning to Deleuze’s writing in Difference and Repetition(1994). 

  • 10.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Gorton, David
    Royal Academy of Music, London.
    Austerity Measures I: performing the discursive voice2019In: Voices, Bodies, Practices: Performing Musical Subjectivities / [ed] Catherine Laws, William Brooks, David Gorton, Thanh Thủy Nguyễn, Stefan Östersjö, and Jeremy J. Wells., Leuven: Leuven University Press , 2019, p. 29-82Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter approaches the question of subjectivity in the musical practice of composer and performer through a discussion of the emergence of ‘voice’. Part 1 describes a theoretical model by which the subjectivities of performer and composer can be understood in terms of this emergence, arguing that a musician’s ‘voice’ is continually defined through interaction with cultural and psychological tools, such as scores, compositional systems, and musical instruments. These ‘voices’ are explored through the ways they combine within a collaboration to form a ‘discursive voice’. Part 2 presents an analysis of four video recordings made of Austerity Measures I for ten-string guitar by David Gorton, performed by Stefan Östersjö at the ORCiM Research Festival in 2014. This composition requires the solo guitar player to cut materials away across a series of repetitions, replacing them with silence. The analysis draws on quantitative measures of timing and performer movements, and qualitative measures of perceived phrasing structures and performance gestures. While each of these analytical methods alone provides some insight into the performance strategies in the recordings, in the shaping of phrases as materials are cut away, and the structural significance of bodily movement, a much richer understanding is sought through their combination. In doing so the analysis aims to shed light on the interrelations between the embodied knowledge of the performer and the musical structures in the score, and further, between the subjectivities of composer and performer unfolded through the composition and performance of Austerity Measures I. Ultimately this chapter aims to provide analytical evidence for the ‘discursive voice’ within the artistic practice of the authors.

  • 11.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Nguyen, Thanh Thuy
    Malmö Academy of Music.
    Arrival Cities: Hanoi2019In: Voices, Bodies, Practices: Performing Musical Subjectivities / [ed] Catherine Laws, William Brooks, David Gorton, Thanh Thủy Nguyễn, Stefan Östersjö, and Jeremy J. Wells., Leuven: Leuven University Press , 2019, p. 235-294Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter outlines the role of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in the creation of Arrival Cities: Hanoi, a piece of experimental music theatre with documentary film. The piece seeks a new format for politically informed theatre which is responsive to the challenges of a globalized society. A central concept for the dramaturgy was to make the individual memories of the performers a cornerstone for each situation. Hence, similarly to how the script in verbatim theatre is drawn from interviews with people’s experience of a real-life situation (Forsyth & Megson, 2009), the dramaturgy emerged, as it were, from the creation of situations that would evoke the lived experience of the performers. The stage is set up so that the three performers either play their instruments or tell stories in a position at the front of the stage, where three microphones on stands are placed. The storytelling was developed from memories of encounters with people in migration zones in Hanoi, but would even more draw on personal memories from the city.

    Arrival Cities: Hanoi aims to create a space where the boundary between fiction and documentary is dissolved.  While it has been essential to remain in what the performers perceive as the authentic experience in the storytelling, the audience cannot really know whether the stories told by the performers are authentic experiences or scripted dialogues. In  the piece, the documentary material forms part of a multi-layered narrative, without laying out the footage as a documentation. The storytelling places the performers on stage as individuals rather than as actors, an approach which is essential to the political aims with the production. This presence in the moment of performance accompanies the images of the street vendors and other people in the documentary.

    Empathy and the sharing of individual life stories became the central nodes in the making of Arrival Cities: Hanoi. It is a piece of music theatre without a script, but with a musical and dramaturgical structure. The role of the documentary is manifold. It is a means for a political engagement but also creates memories and images that can be shared and transformed in the performance. Intercultural music and theatre operate in a liminal space between traditions. Aesthetic choices are therefore difficult to negotiate. Without trust and empathy, these negotiations cannot reach beyond the surface. Intercultural collaboration always demands from each individual to give up a piece of the self. In ArrivalCities: Hanoi, composer, director, and performers were all engaged in such learning processes.

  • 12.
    Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance. Malmö Academy of Music.
    Nguyen, Thanh Thuy
    Malmö Academy of Music and Vietnam National Academy of Music.
    The politics of listening in intercultural artistic practice2017In: Studies in Musical Theatre, ISSN 1750-3167, Vol. 11, no 2, p. 131-145Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article offers an analysis of the function of listening in the musical practice of the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones, based on video documentation recorded between 2006 and 2011. A discussion of the function of openness, draw- ing on Gadamer, and the distinction between ‘musical’ and ‘musicianly’ listen- ing suggested by Pierre Schaeffer provides the ground for an understanding of mutual learning in cross-cultural artistic practice. Östersjö and Nguyễn identify the same principles in the making of two music theatre works, Idioms (2010–11) and Arrival Cities: Hanoi (2014–15) together with the Swedish playwright and director Jörgen Dahlqvist. The authors, who are both performers in the group, argue that true listening must build on trust that also allows the participating artists to accept the opacity of the other. The ethics implied by the notion of the ‘right to opacity’ also become the ground for a discussion of a politics of listening. Here, the authors claim, following Attali, that the political dimensions of intercul- tural musical practice can be traced in the hybridity that characterizes the artistic output.

  • 13. Östersjö, Stefan
    et al.
    Nguyen, Thanh Thuy
    Malmö Academy of Music.
    The sounds of Hanoi and the after-image of the homeland2016In: Journal of Sonic Studies, ISSN 2212-6252, E-ISSN 2212-6252, Vol. 12Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper discusses the soundscape of Hanoi and of the countryside north of Hanoi in the Bac Ninh province with the experience of the two authors as artists in two collaborative projects, Arrival Cities: Hanoi and Que/Homelands. The content is structured in three layers, a conversation between the two authors on their individual experience of the projects, a jointly written text which takes a more distant perspective to the topic and a series of video and audio files taken from the two artistic projects. While the two projects were completely independent, this paper identifies ways in which they complement each other and, taken together, the sound art collected within the projects may have a further political meaning. The authors suggest that the shifting soundscapes of Vietnam are a direct reflection of social and political change in the country.

  • 14.
    Östersjö, Stefan (Musician)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    David Gorton: Variations on John Dowland2017Artistic output (Unrefereed)
    Abstract [en]

    John Dowland’s pavan Lachrimae was one of the hits of the early 1600s: musicians all over Europe made their own versions of it. The English composer David Gorton (b. 1978) proves that Dowland’s fascination endures, with this album of music that has its points of departure in Dowland, linking his time and ours over a span of 400 years – with a dig at some contemporary politicians along the way.

  • 15.
    Östersjö, Stefan (Composer)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music, media and Theatre.
    Hogg, Bennett (Composer)
    University of Newcastle.
    Snell, Merrie (Videographer)
    University of Newcastle.
    Devil's Water: audio and video installation2019Artistic output (Unrefereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Devil’s Water is a piece of ecological sound art recorded by Bennett Hogg and Stefan Östersjö at Devil's Water, Northumbria, 21-22 Maj 2013. On site, Hogg and Östersjö built a sculpture of a guitar placed in a tree, strung with fishing line to trees down by the shore. The recordings feature Hogg playing violins, bowed by sinking the body into the current, and Östersjö performing on the guitar-violin-tree sculpture. Mixed and edited at The Music Studiosand at Culture Lab, University of Newcastle.  The video was created by Merrie Snell, using documentary footage from 2013 as well as additional shootings made with Hogg and Östersjö at Devil's water in August 2016. A first film version was premiered at Panora cinema, during the Transistor Festival in Malmö in May 2017. This audio and video installation, using the same material, was premiered at Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens, and screened in the Chapel on June 29-30 2019.

    The production of the soundscape recording in 2013 was carried out by Hogg and Östersjö within a two year artistic research project with The Landscape Quartet, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, headed by University of Newcastle. A DVD with the film version of the piece will be released in the Orpheus Institute series, Leuven Univertsity Press in 2020. 

  • 16.
    Östersjö, Stefan (Musician)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Brooks, William (Composer)
    University of York.
    Wells, Jeremy J. (Recording engineer)
    University of York.
    Footnotes2019Artistic output (Unrefereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Footnotes is a composition by the American composer Bill Brooks from 1983-86. This recording also constitutes the first complete performance of this highly unique and demanding solo work for the instrument. The process of creating this version of the piece is discussed in a recent book chapter by Brooks, Östersjö and the sound engineer Jez Wells. The artistic process has been documented and analyzed as part of a research cluster exploring musical subjectivity at the Orpheus Institute in Gent. 

  • 17.
    Östersjö, Stefan (Composer)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music, media and Theatre.
    Hultqvist, Anders (Composer)
    Högskolan fölr scen och musik, Göteborgs universitet.
    Berg, Jan (Sound designer)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Media, audio technology and theater.
    Invisible Sounds: Piteå Port2019Artistic output (Refereed)
  • 18.
    Östersjö, Stefan (Instrumentalist)
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Arts, Communication and Education, Music and dance.
    Karpen, Richard (Composer)
    University of Washington.
    Nam Mai/Strandlines2019Artistic output (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The two pieces that form the content of this CD are cornerstones in the later work of the American composer Richard Karpen. They share a radical approach to musical composition, which has brought Karpen into in-depth collaborations with a number of musicians from very different traditions over the past fifteen years. With a wish to explore forms of musical creation emerging from the very fabric of the sounding material, rather than from the abstraction of the written score, this music is largely conceived through joint exploration, and through the concrete listening characteristic of electronic music composition.

    Strandlines, a large-scale piece for 6-string guitar and computer, was formational in this development. The piece was created in 2006 and 2007 through an extensive collaborative process, involving Richard Karpen and the guitarist Stefan Östersjö. There is no musical score for StrandlinesInstead, the composition is defined through its performed materials and a shared understanding for how these are developed in interaction with the live processing, programmed in Supercollider. Two previous works, Anterior View of an Interior with Reclining Trombonist(2002) for trombone and live electronics with Stuart Dempster and Aperture(2006) for viola and live electronics with Melia Watras explored these modes of creation. But in Strandlinesthe collaborative processes were furthered considerably and with more mindful intention. This is how Karpen describes the working  process:

    While this kind of experientially developed music has existed in many cultures, I am equally interested in developing the role of the composer/author. I’m drawn to the kinds of techniques that film director Mike Leigh uses for character and plot development in his films. Leigh works with his actors to create their characters through an organic and rigorous series of directed improvisation and reiteration until the actors fully embody their characters, their utterances, and the relationships between all of the interacting characters and situations within the environment of the work. Through this process the film becomes its own screenplay. In the case of my own explorations in this mode of composing, the music is itself the score.

    Strandlinesalso explores the extension of instrument and performer through live computer enhancement and processing. It is a work not so much for guitar as for guitarist, the merging of person and instrument. In the case of Strandlines, Stefan Östersjö’s integral role in the development of guitar material seems more about who he is as a performing artist than about the guitar.

    But what kind of work is Strandlines? The greater form is firmly fixed, but the individual details vary according to the different characteristics that define each section of the piece. This is a type of work that bears similarities to music in many extra-European traditions. Turning to Roland Barthes one may say that it is “a music that is not abstract or inward, but that is endowed, if one may put it like that, with a tangible intelligibility, with the intelligible as tangible”. However, while the identity of Strandlines may be similar to other complex, non-notated forms of music, such as an Indian raga, its stringent form and the overall sound of the work is coherent with the earlier compositions in Karpen’s output, thereby combining a performative identity with the structural complexity of contemporary western traditions.

    The working methods developed by Karpen and Östersjö in the making of Strandlineshave proved to be particularly fruitful in intercultural collaboration, and the second piece on the CD - Nam Maí, for three soloists, nineteen string instruments and film, composed for the The Six Tones and string players of the Seattle Symphony - is the outcome of extensive work in this domain.

    Nam Maíis the third and most ambitious work with the Six Tones employing these methods of collaboration with a larger group of performers. The first of these, based on the work on Strandlinesof Karpen and Östersjö led to the making of a piece of music theatre titled Idioms(2010-11). Here, The Six Tones, a trio consisting of Östersjö and two Vietnamese master performers - Ngô Trà My and Nguyễn Thanh Thủy - were joined by actors from Sweden, Vietnam and the USA.  The collaboration also involved the Swedish playwright and director Jörgen Dahlqvist who developed devising methods inspired by the making of Strandlines. Idioms was eventually followed by the making of Seven Stories, a feature-length dance film inspired by traditional Vietnamese Tuồng theatre subjects, which added choreographer Marie Fahlin to the artistic group.

    In the process of creating Seven Stories, a piece of traditional Vietnamese music became the central material in one scene, but at the same time, also gave rise to ideas for a new composition, for three soloists and orchestra. This traditional piece is often called Nam Máiand is commonly found in Tuồngtheatre, a Vietnamese form of theatre which shares common traits with Beijing opera. It is in the Aimode, which affords a grave and serious expression. Since Tuồngis dramatic theatre, normally also bent towards tragedy, this mode is rather common here. Nam Mái made its way into the collaboration between The Six Tones and Richard Karpen, in the morning of the second working day on the film Seven Stories. We had set out on a project which was to follow dogma-like rules: each scene should relate to a story from a specific play from Tuồng Theatre. Its choreography should be developed from gesture in this scene and the music should be created on the same day as the film was shot. The film was also to be a documentary of its own creation. The play for the second day was Đào Tam Xuân, the story of a female general whose husband was executed due to the ill doings of the queen, and subsequently, her son was killed when attempting to prevent the execution. We started the session by presenting music from Tuồng theatre to the artists involved. As the first piece, Nguyễn Thanh Thủy played Nam Mái, and we decided on the spot to use it for this scene. This is how Richard Karpen describes his encounter with the piece:

     

    I was immediately drawn in to Nam Mái. It was not a matter of simply “liking” the melody or being attracted to the musical qualities. In the case of Nam Mái, hearing it created an instant response in my thoughts and in my body. I heard it as if I had heard it before and it opened up a range of abstract memories and feelings. There is certain music that acts like a “carrier signal”, in fact I now think that this is exactly what Music mostly is in general. As our brains “process” musical “signals”, deep memory connections are triggered, as if we were searching for meaning, perhaps scanning memory in order to assemble an "image" in order to decode the carrier. It seems that emotional memory is where the brain finds the most effective set of pathways for decoding music and so our response is emotional. One could make the point that all sensory stimulation acts as a carrier that triggers memory. But we’re talking about music and my experience and analyses over many years is that music is an especially complex carrier signal that the brain processes by searching deep and wide across ”universal” and individual experience, not of music but of everything.

    A couple of weeks before the premiere, all artists got together in Seattle to create the solo parts and finalize the role of video and choreography. Some months before, Karpen had finished the score to the piece, which is through composed in the orchestral part, but leaving the staffs for the soloists blank, and also with a number of fermatas indicating the placement of cadenzas for one or more of the three soloists. The orchestral score is entirely drawn from the musical structures in Nam Mái and is organized in a manner which gives a certain set of freedom and constraints for the soloists.

    One could think of the orchestration in Nam Máia bit like a set design, providing a series of distinct scenes for the three solo instruments, or, as Richard Karpen put it in conversation with the conductor Stilian Kirov before the recording session with the Seattle Symphony: “think of the orchestral part as the music in a film and that the solo parts are the film”. Indeed, the score also obtained this function of a set in the working sessions in Seattle. With Karpen’s analogy then, we met to start making the film together, a bit like the filmmaker Mike Leigh would draw his actors together to start creating the script and the film through a collaborative process.

    In a recent book chapter on the function of trust in musical performance, Anthony Gritten reminds us of how “interaction without trust has no pragmatic means to get itself beyond microscopic, atomistic, local interactions and begin developing its own self-sustaining ecology”. The ecology created in the world of the work titled Nam Maí involves the agreements between Karpen and each musician on the specific shape of musical materials, of how they develop and relate to larger structures. Further, the musical form is drawn directly from the interaction between the three performers.

    This kind of trust is inherent to any of the compositional projects carried out by Karpen and various performers, especially over the past fifteen years. Certainly, a composition like Strandlineswould not have happened without the ecology of musical collaboration. But Nam Maíseems to make this dependence on trust even more underlined, perhaps because it involves more people and a collaboration across cultures. Trust is written into the score, not just through the absence of written instructions in the solo parts but also in the ways in which the orchestral score constitutes a fabric, clearly intended for the voice of three specific performers to join in, to align with, to resist, to develop its musical content. Ngo Trà My describes her experience of the collaboration with Karpen as a negotiation of individual license and a search for a space in which a common ground can be created:

    The way that Richard set the piece up, I can float freely in the material from Nam Mái, operating the playing techniques and the sonority of the đàn bầu. I know that I cannot fully understand the intentions that Richard had with the piece but I can still draw out my own story from my subjective experience of the music, so that my sound is brought together with the sonority of the entire piece, as if we were telling the same story. 

    Richard Karpen’s compositional output since the early 2000s points beyond old paradigms in Experimental western music, discovering new modes of musical creativity drawn from approaches to complexity more ancient than the invention of musical notation. The two compositions on this CD are the result of extensive collaborative exploration, where the voice of each participating artist is essential to the identity of the final work. 

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