In the January and February sessions, we continued developing set ups and techniques used in a course in improvisation where we had worked together during the autumn. The combination of a structural perspective on creating musical form, as provided by composer Jonatan Sersam, and the interactional techniques from opera improvisation that Tiina Markkanen and I had worked with, proved to be very valuable in the process. We listed parameters and qualities regarding aspects of music as sound, our sounding interactions, the paintings and relations to the audience and the physical space. The musical qualities of sound regarded dynamics, phrasing, musical form, and degree of stability, set in contrast to noice. Our sounding interactions focused the musical role in the instrument in improvisational strategies on individual and group levels.
We worked with turn taking, solos, imitation, or shadowing (an accompanying instrument relates to a solo instrument by making similar musical movements, reflecting rather than imitating them) and setting of instruments in the improvisations. As suggested by Fritiof Palm, we explored colours as point of departure, using websites where colours were described in terms of qualities and properties that have been related to them throughout Western history. This opened new possibilities for musical expression in our work. We outlined possibilities of relating to the qualities of the paintings in terms of colors, shapes and forms, what we associated with these visual artistic expressions and how we could ‘translate’ this into musical shape in terms of form, sound and interaction.
Improvisation as performance – musical bodies in space
Some discussions were related to our movements in the space during the performance. Even though it was decided that we shouldn’t use text, the communicative aspect of how to approach the audience needed to be regarded. Since the goal of the performance was to focus the artworks, we decided to direct our visual attention to the painting at hand during each improvisation. Preferably, we should move closely to the painting that we were addressing. However, since the grand piano was situated in the lower end of the hall and we wanted to be close to each other in order to hear the other’s musical offers, we instead found another solution together with the visual artist. We decided to relate the performance to three directions in the room: thereby addressing three spots: two big and a series of smaller paintings. The position of those three, on the three walls of the art hall, gave our visual directions and positions the geometrical figure of a wedge during the performance. This was a way of relating to the physical joint space of the art hall, by directing our visual focus directly to the paintings we were playing, thereby also hopefully directing the listeners’ focus in the same direction. We discussed the possibility of having the audience moving around in the space while we were performing, but it was decided that they would be seated in the middle of the hall.
We decided for a design of the performance in terms of varying the instrumentation of the pieces, in order to get a variation of sound and dynamics.