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COUNTERPLAY, COMPLEXITY AND COLLECTIVE IMPROVISATION
Music in Disorder is an artistic research project funded by The Swedish Research Council and Stockholm University of the Arts. It is taking place during 2016-2018, is established at The Royal College of Music in Stockholm, and involves a series of concerts, artistic productions, publications, research labs and seminars. The research team is led by pianist/composer Klas Nevrin and includes Anna Lindal (violinist), Katt Hernandez (violinist/composer) and Ricard Österstam (percussionist). We collaborate regularly with guests and other musicians in various ways, especially the octet of improvisers in Revoid Ensemble. On this site we will present events taking place in the project, whereas more in-depth presentations will be published in other forums, for example our RESEARCH CATALOGUE PAGE, where some of our research output will be documented.
Art work by Jenny Soep
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND AIMS
One of the central ambitions of the project is to design musical experiments as a method for creating “productive disorder”, in order to explore the resulting forms of self-organization and complexity. From a musician’s point of view, disordering is a useful description of how we might experience what we are often doing in collective improvisation: playfully tweaking, shifting, fragmenting, displacing, clashing, inserting, dissolving, scattering, making irregular or asymmetric, etc. These actions somehow disrupt or transform the orderliness of the musical materials at hand, so that something happens where we have less control, which in turn yields more possibilities for reciprocal interaction. Importantly, disordering is not seen as the destruction of order (cf. Grosz 2008) but rather produces a complex combination of orders. When several non-coordinated patterns are working in tension against each other, this may be rewarding precisely due to the interpretational depth thus offered; musicians (and listeners) must then be active in choosing how and when to relate things to each other. Disorder(ing) is thus an important concept, precisely for the purpose of counteracting the idea of a pre-conceived form of order, or set of laws, that music has to adhere to in order to “make sense”.
We experiment with various ways in which reciprocal interaction can take place not only between musicians, machines and electronics, but also with structural interrelations between musical materials. Using a modular approach we explore how musical/noisy materials can be (re-)combined in various ways. This has close affinities with African and African American musics, “in which the structural content of music is located in the free play of smaller constituent units. […] Thus, large-scale musical form emerges from an improvisatory treatment of these short-range musical ingredients” (Iyer 2004). In our work we develop a process-oriented approach and distinguish between different kinds of modules (“seeds”, “bundles” and “blocks”) while exploring how they can be connected and transformed. This involves processes such as permeability” (Ligeti 1965) and “morphability”; superimposition and amalgamation; role-taking and transitions (Nunn 1998). The modules consistently undergo variations (within and between performances) and serve as virtual diagrams for “rhizomatic connectivity” (Deleuze & Guattari 1993). In this work we draw upon studies on spectromorphology and interstructural relations of sound-configurations (Tenney 1961, Smalley 1997, Thoresen 2007), as well as using machines that introduce randomization, audio synthesis and algorithmic generation.
In light of the above, our focus is on exploring when and how improvisation becomes markedly collective, not simply in the sense of “improvising together” but more specifically when something emerges in a way that goes beyond the individual’s ability to fully predict or grasp the influence of his or her contributions in relation to the whole, as well as how other’s contributions affect his or her own playing. This involves relationships between power and domination (Bell 2014): How can we powerfully affect each other without dominating? And what methods, techniques, compositions, materials or circumstances enhance the mutual reinforcement of power in collective improvisation?
Another important ambition is to strive for a cross-fertilization between theory and practice. On the one hand, this involves exploring how artistic experiences of disorder and non-control might influence how we understand and value those parameters in a wider variety of situations. In this way, the project aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of collective and playful creative processes. On the other hand, by drawing from inspirational resources such as complexity theory and Deleuzian philosophy, we wish to create new methods for collective improvisation, and also to problematize terms and concepts in common use around improvisation that can often be controversial, such as “idiom”, “freedom” and “innovation” (especially in the light of nomadic ethics [Braidotti 2012]). We focus first and foremost on music and the artistic practice at hand, but illuminate discussion and reflection as an important resource for musical creativity and collaboration. This is also valuable for making the ethos that is involved in our work visible, and possibly for producing a transformed ethos.
Finally, an important aspect is to document our working process for others, thus illuminating it for those outside our work. We wish to draw upon the broad and divergent spectrum of interests, backgrounds and approaches amongst both the four primary researchers in the group and the extended community of musicians with whom we collaborate, in order to enhance a polyphony of orders drawn from the disorder of different ways of playing, listening and conceiving of improvised music.
Bell, David, 2014. “Improvisation as anarchist organization” in ephemera, Vol 14(4), pp. 1009-1030.
Braidotti, Rosi 2012. “Nomadic ethics” in Daniel W. Smith & Henry Somers-Hall (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Deleuze. Cambridge University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari 1993. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Transl. Brian Massumi.
Grosz, Elizabeth 2008. chaos, territory, art: deleuze and the framing of the earth. Columbia University Press.
Iyer, Vijay 2004. “Improvisation, Temporality and Embodied Experience”, in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol 11 (3–4), pp. 159–73.
Ligeti, György 1965. “Metamorphoses of Musical Form”, in Die Reihe 7 ('Form–Space'), trans. Cornelius Cardew, pp. 5-19.
Nunn, Tom 1998. Wisdom of the Impulse: On the Nature of Musical Free Improvisation.
Smalley, Denis 1997. “Spectromorphology: Explaining sound-shapes”, in Organised Sound, Vol. 2, no. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 107-126.
Tenney, James 1961. META+HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form, and META Meta+Hodos. Edited by Larry Polansky. Oakland, Calif.: Frog Peak Music.
Thoresen, Lasse 2007. “Form-building transformations: An Approach to the Aural Analysis of Emergent Musical Forms” in The Journal of Music and Meaning, Vol 4, Winter 2007, section 3.
January: Rehearsals and premiere concert with Revoid Ensemble.
February to March: Reflective and conceptual work, in relation to the concert as well as other matters.
April: Preparations for a seminar that will present what’s happening in the project. This is also an opportunity for us to get valuable feedback on our work.
May to July: Work with musical experiments, based on the conceptual and methodological developments in our project as well as on ideas and methods used in other artistic (research) projects on improvisation.
August: Extended Lab Day with Johan Petri as guest.
September: Lab Days with research team plus Vilhelm Bromander. Work with Ricard's rhythm material and recorded improvisations. Round tour of the EMS studio and Katt's presentation of her own and others' electro-acoustic compositions.
October: Rehearsals and research work with The Revoid Ensemble. Tour in Sweden and Denmark.
25.10 19.00 Official release of our CD "The Revoid Ensemble" at Kungl. Musikhögskolan in Stockholm, including a presentation of the research project. Artist Jenny Soep joins us and will "live draw" during rehearsals and performance.
November: Follow-up on concerts in October.
14.11 Meeting/impro session with guitar player Ivar Grydeland.
15-16.11 Participating in "Unfolding the Process 2016" symposium in Oslo.
18.1 Session at the research days, Stockholm University of the Arts.
29.1 Presentation at the inauguration of the new campus, Royal College of Music, Stockholm
13-15.2 Lab days with special guest Helen Papaioannou - “finding new ways to develop ensemble interaction, to have improvisation and composition work side by side, and interest in explorative rhythm”
10.5 Seminar at KMH about the project, and a concert featuring Lotte Anker (DK) och Le Quan
(b. 1972) Initiator and head of the project. Klas is inspired by all kinds of genres…
(b. 1954) Anna performs regularly as chamber musician and soloist, in experimental groups for performance and…
(b. 1971) A versatile drummer with a dynamically rich sound. Ricard has toured Swedish prisons, used…
(b. 1974) Katt’s violin playing is focused primarily on freely improvised music, and her approach to…
(b. 1976) Audrey is a Chinese-American musician now based in Berlin. She uses the cello, voice…
(b. 1983) Eivind is one of the most prominent and active young musicians on the Norwegian…
(b. 1969) Per is one of the legends in Swedish jazz, not least because of the…
(b. 1988) An eclectic bassplayer, composer and improviser. Vilhelm plays upright bass in improvised music,…