Toxværd & Bergstrøm Nielsen Interview (UK)

When the composer lets go of the complete control of the music, the musician instead can take creative ownership of the piece. That is the main idea behind the open musical forms.

The open musical forms are in focus at a concert presented in collaboration between KLANG Festival and the Open Form Festival May 28 in Copenhagen.

On the programme are the world premiere performances of Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen's Colours and Contexts from 2007 and the new piece Interrupter by Laura Toxværd. Both composers are represented with several improvisational pieces in the Edition·S catalogue. We asked them a few questions about the works and the ideas behind the open forms and graphically notated scores.

What is the idea behind the piece premiered at the upcoming concert?

Laura Toxværd: With Interrupter I am interested in exploring the musicians' way of relating to each other's play while at the same time entering a dialogue with the instructions of the piece. I also had an idea that the musicians should be able to rehearse it on their own, with the written instructions supplementing the score. Also, all sorts of different ensembles should be able to perform the piece. The duration of Interrupter is decided by the musicians while performing – there are no indications of time in the score. 

Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen: The idea behind Colours & Contexts is to explore the fact that graphical images used as a music score can also be shown to the audience and in that way make it more evident how images can be translated into music.

How does the graphic score take shape in your work process?

Laura Toxværd In the case of Interrupter, I woke up one night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. My initial ideas for the piece were spinning around in my head and my body and bit by bit I visualized the basic elements of the graphic score. In the following few days, I finished the development of the score and wrote it down. Since it is all about sound, 'Interrupter' is written without traditional notes.

Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen: In this case, I have been exploring the process of building up and tearing down.

Which possibilities and limitations do the open form and the graphic score give you as a composer? 

LT: If I imagined that I should have control of the piece and the performing musicians, the open form and graphic notation would be a limitation. The possibility that the open form and the graphic notation gives me as a composer is that the performance and the piece become one. 

CBN: It brings on the possibility that the piece might hold even more than what I imagined. It doesn’t have to sound like it does when I play it myself, or as I imagine it. I can be pleasantly surprised also by the difference in the performances. Ideas can be more clearly pictured in a graphic score compared to the "encryption" of regular notes. The piece also very easily enters a dialogue between different cultures; the performers, the audience, and other genres and art forms. The limitation for a composer of this kind of music might be the fact that some organizations and musicians feel most comfortable with the traditional form and it requires a special occasion or a bit of a push for them to take on something new.  

Which possibilities and limitations do the open form and the graphic score give the musicians?

LT: Open form and graphic notation open up the possibility that the musicians’ performance is the piece. The consequence is, however, that the piece at the same time limits the musicians. 

CBN: It allows them to be more independent and creative. Composers are perceived as critical and innovative cultural personalities – what about musicians? Here is an opportunity to act on your own desire and instrumental practice, your own visions and the specific concert situation – take ownership. Parallel to the composer’s situation, it is a challenge that the practice of rehearsing is different. Traditionally you can tell from the score, what the outcome is supposed to be and you can start rehearsing without further ado. In this case, you need to bring the piece to the workshop explore what it might contain and then convert it to practice.

What do you hope, the audience’s experience will be like?

LT: Like a sound that suddenly reaches us – children yelling, birds chirping, church bells – that is how I hope, my piece will find its place with the audience. 

CBN: I am hoping that they will be drawn in by what they hear and discover something fine in the musical process.

Find more information about the concert here >>