Music in Movement
new artistic strategies for merging musical composition and choreography
1 January 2012 - 31 December 2015

Music in Movement has been carried out as a series of collaborative artistic projects, starting out in January 2012 and to be brought to a close in December 2015. The project set out to explore musical gesture as a perspective on musical composition. The primary aim was to “develop artistic strategies that allow musical composition and choreography to amalgamate and give rise to novel modes of expression”. This aim has been explored from a number of perspectives in a series of artistic productions. The following is a list of all major projects carried out to date:

– Kim Ngoc Tran Thi/Marie Fahlin/The Six Tones: Chuyên Dich/ Move, premiered in the Kim Ngan Temple, Hanoi in May 2012.

– Fahlin/Wright/The Six Tones: Inside/Outside premiered in Hanoi at the Kim Ma Cheo Theatre, Hanoi in November 2012 (

– Karpen, Dahlqvist, Fahlin, The Six Tones: Seven Stories, film, shot in Seattle in March 2013

– Riehm, Frisk, Fahlin, Karpen, Eckel, Elberling, The Six Tones: Go To Hell, a multi-media production for the R1 reactor, first performance in October 2013, also performed at the Orpheus Research Festival i Ghent, oct 2013 and at the Hanoi New Music Festival in Dec 2013.

– Karpen Dahlqvist, Fahlin, The Six Tones: Nam Mai for three soloists, film and orchestra, first performance with the Seattle Symphony in March 2014.

– Arrival Cities: Hanoi for documentary film, three performers and electronics, a first version of this work in progress was presented at Tacit or Loud, nov 2014 (

– Jodlowski: Post Human Computation for video, electric guitar and electronics was premiered as part of the Inside/Outside installation during Tacit or Loud in December 2014

These productions address the main research questions in different ways. In Go To Hell, the gestural content of a guitar composition by Rolf Riehm has been the source for new video works, choreographies performed by musicians with and without their instruments , a light and sound installation by Gerhard Eckel and a transcription for trio of the guitar piece made by The Six Tones. Motion capture of Östersjö’s performance of Toccata Orpheus was the source for Eckel’s installation. The project also urged questions concerning musica notation and will result in the making of a new dance notation of Toccata Orpheus carried out in collaboration between Stefan Östersjö and the Benesh notator Eliane Mirzabekiantz. The final score will be presented also as part of an installation on transcription and notation of movement at the Orpheus Research Festival in October 2015. This notation project was an unexpected result which now points to further possibilities which we wish to explore further in “The Musical Body”.

Inside/Outside and Arrival Cities: Hanoi brought up the political implications of composing, not for “musicians” but for actual individuals. Here, the performance take on further political meaning than a concert performance normally does. In Inside/Outside, the movements of the three performers form a critique of gendered gesture in traditional music performance in TV-shows in Vietnam. Arrival Cities: Hanoi weaves stories of migration together in a dense web of documentary footage and the persona stories told by the three performers as part of a music theatre piece with video projections and electronic sound.

Pierre Jodlowski created a second narrative in the Inside/Outside installation where a film is projected on one of the glassboxes. The two Vietnamese women are gone and they now appear as actors in the film. In the third glassbox the audience finds a male electric guitarist instead of the performer in Vietnamese queen costume from the first half. Jodlowski’s piece creates new perspectives on identity and gender in a globalized society. The play with gesture and music we find both in relation between the film and the music played as well as between the body language of the performer and the film.

Seven Stories draws on gesture in traditional Vietnamese Tuong theatre as a source for new choreographies by Marie Fahlin. The initial inspiration for the film was the close connection between music and choreography in this form of theatre. The piece has new music composed by Richard Karpen and The Six Tones, all choreographies were performed by the three musicians.

Music in Movement resulted in artistic production that posed many questions concerning the nature of embodied artistic knowledge. This lay the conceptual ground for the festival and conference, Tacit or Loud, which took place at the Inter Arts Center in November and December 2014 ( Here, many of the works produced within Music in Music were performed and discussed during the event from a wide theoretical and artistic perspective. One of the keynote presenters was the dance researcher Bertha Bermudez, who has done ground breaking work on the notation and documentation of contemporary dance. In a study day at the Orpheus Institute in Feb 2015, we continued to explore the possibilities that the work on Go To Hell may have for the development of new forms of notation and documentation of music within a gesture-based paradigm for composition. It is of great importance for “The Musical Body” that Bertha Bermudez would join the working group and allow us to take immediate benefit from the findings in her previous work.

The aim of Music in Movement was to test the model for the artistic practice and as such, the project may be said to have been successful. A series of works have been created in close collaboration between composers, performers and choreographers where the outcome is musical works that are conceived and presented as multimedia works performed by musicians. A core finding is that in this working process and in the resulting works, the extra-musical research phases, such as the motion capture of “Toccata Orpheus” and the gender analysis of videos from Vietnamese TV-shows, point to the possibility for artistic research to be designed as multi-disciplinary research projects that address topics ranging from human cognition and perception to cultural perspectives through post-colonial and critical theory. What seems to be at stake here is the possibility for artistic research to define a field in which artistic practice can inform and be informed by propositional knowledge created in other disciplines and this is how we find that Music in Movement points towards the expanded perspectives drawn out in the current proposal titled “The Musical Body”.

I. Introduction
1. Artistic quest

The point of departure for the present artistic research project is an expanded notion of musical gesture. The initial creative spark is the concept of merging the practices of choreographer and composer in the production of musical works that are concieved not merely as sonic entities but as compound units of sound and visual gesture. What we imagine is a music that is not reducable to its sound and performances that intentionally explore bodily gesture as an integrated expressive means.
2. Survey of the research field

Building on a multimodal conception of human perception (Berthoz, 2000; Hatten, 2006) recent research on musical gesture finds gestural images to be integral to the perception of music (R. I. Godøy, 2004, 2008; R. I. M. Godøy, Lehman, 2010; Gritten, 2009). The sensorimotor system makes the motor action of producing gesture and the perceptual interpretation of it into interchangeable entities (Hatten, 2006, p. 2). The main objective is to develop an artistic method that allows for the creation of musical works that take this embodied and multimodal understanding of our perception of musical performance into account.

Musical gesture, understood not only as an acoustic phenomenon but also as bodily movement, has emerged as an important subject of study in music psychology, musicology and semiotics in the past decades. Much study has been devoted to the way an audience experiences musical performance, pointing to the multimodal nature of human perception: rather than focussing on the pure audio signal, the senses interact and amalgamate the visual and sonic information. Jane Davidson (1993) claims that the visual aspect of a performance carries information about expressive intention most accurately and with even greater resolution than the auditory component. This seems however only to be half the story. As discussed by the pianist Alfred Brendel in his book Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts (Brendel, 1976), the opposite might also be the case:

When I saw myself on television for the first time, I became aware that I’d developed all kinds of gestures and grimaces which completely contradicted what I did, and what, musically, I wanted to do. I then had a mirror made, a big standing mirror, which I put beside the piano, not really making me visible all the time, but always there; unconsciously, one noticed things. It helped me to co-ordinate what I wanted to suggest with my movements with what really came out. There are many examples of pieces where this is necessary. (Brendel, 1976, pp. 146-147)

Traditionally, a classical performer has no professional training in how to intentionally project visual expression in movement. Taking Alfred Brendel’s example a bit further, a performer in the tradition of Western art music may need the guidance of for instance a choreographer in order to be able to intentionally project the intended expression to an audience (Östersjö, 2008). However, it is at the moment when the bodily movements of the performer are not only discussed and shaped intentionally but also, when they are understood as integral to our perception of music that our interest is sparked.

Following Rolf-Inge and Alexander Refsum Jensenius, we find that musical gesture can be analyzed into four categories:

– Sound-producing gesture

– Sound-accompanying gesture

– Communicative gesture

– Sound-facilitating gesture

In musical performance, these visual gesture-types and the sounding result of the actions create compound units that Godøy calls gestural-sonorous objects (R. I. Godøy, 2006). With reference to the typology and morphology of sound-objects by Pierre Schaeffer (Schaeffer, 1966) Godøy suggests a paradoxical parallel between this seminal work of the analysis of sound objects and the nature of these multi-dimensional perceptual entities. However, the theory and terminology for these new approaches to musical gesture is still in progress. More practice-based research into the field is needed in order to work out the theoretical framework in further detail.
II Project Description
1. Purpose and Aims

In a study on the German composer Rolf Riehm’s Toccata Orpheus (Riehm, 1990), Stefan Östersjö identifies an original approach to musical composition. The bodily action of the performer is treated as an intentional compositional parameter in a way that makes an unusual kind of theatricality of the performance emerge as a result of the composed structure. In his analysis, Östersjö argues that the expressive units in the piece cannot be analysed merely as sonic events but that they are better understood as gestural-sonorous objects. With regard to the artistic quest of further exploring this expanded notion of musical composition and the intention to provide new knowledge that will contribute also to the research into musical gesture, two key objectives can be found:

1) The first objective is to develop artistic strategies that allow musical composition and choreography to amalgamate and give rise to novel modes of expression.

2) The second objective is to contribute to the development of terminology and theory in the study of musical gesture.

The exploration of the gesture component in performance is further expanded into man-machine interaction by the use of live electronic sound, controlled by the movements of the performers by means of gesture-control sensors. While much research has been carried out in this field, the focus has mainly been on technological development, whereas in the present project the focus will instead be on the artistic result. A documentation of the various stages in the development of the work will provide important material for further reflection on the future development of motion capture devices, providing important input for the work carried out by researchers from the Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik?at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz, DXARTS at University of Washington, Malmö Academy of Music and the musicological department at Oslo University. An important connection in this work is the ongoing project “Sensing Music-related Actions” (R. I. Godøy, 2008), launched in autumn 2008. The intention is to set up a series of residencies connect to “Music in Movement” in the labs in the facilities in Oslo. Furthermore, the project also draws on the material from several related approaches to musical gesture and choreography, in projects involving professor Gerhard Eckel at the ?Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik?at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz as well as professor William Brooks and the pianist Catherine Laws, both at the University of York. The projects are bound together also by the common connection between the above researchers and Dr Stefan Östersjö since they are all resarch fellows at the Orpheus Institute in Gent, Belgium. A further dialogue about the development of the projects will accordingly take place there.

3) Without ambition to contribute directly to the technical development, the third objective is to expand the applied artistic knowledge of working with gesture-control sensors. The creative process as well as the end results may provide input to the further work at research centres, such as those participating in the project (in Oslo, Graz and Seattle).

4) The multicultural society is a major challenge to the artistic practices in Western culture. How can we move beyond the conventional definitions of ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’? How can the imperative modalities characteristic of the practice of the Western composer be transformed into listening and collaborative modes?

The fourth objective of the project is to promote situations of mutual learning in which the participating artists can all contribute to the artistic process in a context in which traditional hierarchies are explicitly questioned.
2. Method
2.1 Hybrid approaches to method

The analytical approach is characterised by hybrid methods and collaborative studies in different formations of researchers. This is motivated by the multi-dimensional nature of the artistic work. One aspect of this hybridity is the use of qualitative research applied to a field of technical development. And further, the project will also work from quantitative data from motion capture and sensors. For instance, several of the sub projects will be studied and analyzed by researchers from the “Sensing Music-related Actions”-project at the Musicological Department, Oslo University. Similarly, researchers from the Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik?at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz will undertake joint studies with the participating artists. In these studies also the interaction between bodily movement and electronic sound is specifically discussed. The qualitative analysis will also be carried in a collaborative way, bringing researchers and artists together in different constellations. It is essential for the method of the project that the analytical work will also be expected to feed back into the artistic processes. For this reason (and due to other methodological considerations as well) it is essential that the coding and analysis will start already inthe early phases of each production.

Further, it is an integral part of the overall artistic method that the work undertaken in each step of the project is allowed to interact with the other sub-projects. Hence, in the creation of new knowledge, there is also a strong element of sharing and joint development of this understanding. For this reason, the project starts and ends with joint workshops at the research centers in Oslo and in Graz.

The research is built on a multiple approach to experiment: each sub project will consist of carefully designed artistic experiments, exploring the four objectives outlined above. Simultaneously, the workshops in the research and development-centers will contain technological experiments and tests.

All artistic working sessions are to be documented on video. This material will be coded and analyzed using methods from qualitative research. There are several different topics that will be addressed in this analysis and further critical reflection in writing: 1) the development of a more refined theory of gestural-sonorous objects 2) the experimental practice of collaborative work in the artistic production 3) the development of strategies for merging choreography and musical composition in the joint work of the musicians and a choreographer.
Artistic Method-development

In order to create a space for mutual learning for artists from different cultures and to allow these encounters to affect the way in which the new compositions are conceived, the method for composer/performer interaction in a flat structure based on listening is essential. Referred to as the concept of the composer as ‘artistic director’, this method was developed by Karpen and Östersjö in their work on the guitar piece Strandlines (2007-08) and discussed in Östersjö’s thesis Shut Up ‘n’ Play! (2008)[1]. This involves developing alternative modes of interaction between composer and performer(s) in which musical material in the piece may be derived by the performer, and that the composer may communicate in other modes than by means of musical notation. The composer takes part of the process as a listener, negotiating the development of the piece with the other parties in the process.

Since the production of Strandlines, extensive work has been done in collaboration between Richard Karpen, the musicians in The Six Tones and the playwrite Jörgen Dahlqvist in a further exploration of this collaborative musical practice in the development of the experimental music theatre IDIOMS.[2]

In the present project, the generative work on the pieces will be carried out in modes related to this model. Musical notation may very well be part of the compositional process as well, but it is essential to develop ways in which the entire research group can contribute to the developing work. This is an asset in the project for two main reasons:

– The radical way in which the creative process is open to input from all participators opens up also for the musical traditions of traditional Vietnamese art music and Western art music to amalgamate in the new works. The artistic process will lie in the open and be documented in its entirety in the video documentation from the sessions in a way similar to the sessions with Karpen and Östersjö in the making of Strand Lines.

– The composer and choreographer will in this way be able to interact with the music, in ‘concrete listening’ (Vaggione, 2001) but also to develop the choreography of the work in real time operations. Again, this will allow for a detailed study and analysis of the artistic processes.

The concept of the composer as artistic director involves a re-thinking of the function of improvisation in Western art music. In this way, the project will explore further possibilities in the field between pre-composed, analytical structures and improvised movement and musical gesture.
3. A multicultural space

The project creates a space in which practices of composers and a choreographer merge into new artistic methodologies. In order to address the quest of the fourth objective, the research takes place in a multi-cultural context involving musicians from Vietnam, Sweden and the USA. There are two composers from Vietnam taking part, Kim Ngoc Tran Thi and Vu Nhat Tan. The musicians in the project are two Vietnamese master performers, Nguyen Thanh Thuy (who plays the Dan Tranh, a Vietnamese cither) and Ngo Tra My (playing the Dan Bau, a traditional monochord instrument) who have been collaborating with the Swedish guitarist Stefan Östersjö in various touring productions since 2006.

An intention with the present research is to create situations of mutual learning in which different traditions can enrich and influence one another.

More than ever before it takes time to familiarize oneself with the language of an individual composer. Shared national or ethnic backgrounds become less and less guarantors for understanding an individual composer’s music. In the process of composing, rehearsing, and presenting, both players and composers gain new views of themselves through redefining their known musical behaviors. (Hakenberg, 2000)

The multicultural society is a major challenge to Western art music in the 21st century. The emerging structures in society motivate an artistic paradigmatic shift and puts great demands on composer’s and performer’s sensitivity and creativity. In order to operate on ethically and artistically credible grounds, new music has to establish new points of contact towards other musical forms of expression.

On a more serious level of reflection, with our Western societies being more and more multi-cultural there are new problems facing composers. These problems represent the societies in which we live. The problems of multi-cultural living are plentiful and serious. Playing together, like living together, is always a negotiation between facts of diversity. Composers can take part in these negotiations by facing the ensembles and the inherent aesthetic, technical, and social problems, with a note by note sensitivity that creates positive points of reference in their work, or not. (Hakenberg, 2000)

When the traditional role of the composer has been exchanged with the concept of the composer as ‘artistic director’, the possibilities for true meetings and mutual learning increases, inviting both the musicians and the choreographer into a multicultural space in which the meaning of musical gesture is negotiated.
Time plan
1. Overview of the artistic research process.
1.1 The artistic production

By setting up collaborative research groups including a choreographer, a composer and three performers, the intention with the present project is to specifically map a hitherto unexplored field. Four touring productions will be developed jointly by the Swedish choreographers Efva Lilja and Marie Fahlin, the three musicians in the Swedish/Vietnamese group The Six Tones (Dr Stefan Östersjö, guitars, Nguyen Thanh Thuy, dan tranh and Ngo Tra My, dan bau) and composers from USA, Sweden, France and Vietnam. Six composers will take part in the project; Richard Karpen (USA), William Brooks (USA), Pierre Jodlowski (France), Kent Olofsson (Sweden) Vu Nhat Tan (Vietnam) and Kim Ngoc Tran Thi (Vietnam). One piece will also be developed in collaboration between the musicians in The Six Tones, the pianist and composer Lisa Ullén and the choreographer Marie Fahlin.[3] All works will approach the possibilities in composing explicitly with the visual component in musical gesture. The artistic end result will be two multimedia events: choreographed concert performances for Vietnamese and Western instruments and electronics as well as several other music theatre performances.

A pilot project that will also feed into the research is undertaken by William Brooks and the British pianist Catherine Laws. This project is organized within the frame of the Orpheus Institute in Gent and also involves researchers at IEM in Graz. (see appendix a9)
1.2 Workshops and lab-sessions with research centers and other researchers.

A series of seminars and working sessions will be held in collaboration with the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS) at Lund University with Professor Göran Sonesson (semiotics) and Associate Professor Jordan Zlatev (linguistics) as coordinators. These sessions will be explicitly devoted to a discussion of the theory and terminology that emerges from the analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data from the artistic work. The input from the research team at CCS will be instrumental in the theoretical development in the project.
1.3 Preliminary Results

The artistic strategies that form the basis for the project have been under development over a period of several years. In Stefan Östersjö’s work on the development of an interactive installation in which Rolf Riehm’s guitar piece Toccata Orpheus can be transmitted to the audience as the theatrical piece of art it in essence is, several versions have already been produced. In the process of developing this installation, the choreographer Claudine Ulrich worked with Östersjö with the ambition to clarify and further explore the expressive range of the gestural-sonorous objects in the piece. Further, the piece was situated in a context of interactive visuals and sound in collaboration with the British video artist Joanna Walker, the computer programmer Steffen Blümm and the composer Henrik Frisk. This work forms a very specific background to the present project and could indeed be understood as a pilot study. The main conclusions drawn were:

a) when a sound producing gesture is detached from the sounding result, the possibility to develop specifically theatrical (and choreographic) meaning comes to the fore.

b) In order to explore the potential in the production of musical compositions with gestural-sonorous objects, collaborative work between musicians and dancers/choreographers is essential.

Further, in order to approach a collaborative compositional process of this nature, an approach that takes the actual bodily movement and the concrete sonorities rather than working primarily from the abstraction of notation appears to be a reasonable point of departure. In the collaboration between the American composer Richard Karpen, the computer programmer Josh Parmenter and The Six Tones, an artistic method for working with composed works with electronics that do not require notation has been tried out over the past few years. The first artistic outcome was Karpen’s Strandlines for guitar and electronics (to be released on CD on dB Productions, Sweden in autumn 2011). In autumn 2011, IDIOMS, a large scale piece of experimental music theatre will be premiered by The Six Tones and actors from the US, Vietnam and Sweden, composed and written using the same method. The present project will build on and attempt to further develop these collaborative strategies.

III. Significance of the Project

– The artistic strategies that are developed within the project take the practice of the composer in Western art music into new directions. There are two main concepts: 1) composing with gestural sonorous objects in collaborative work between a choreographer and musicians. 2) Working in a collaborative mode in a further development of the concept of the composer as ‘artistic director’. This involves rethinking the function of improvisation in contemporary art music. New knowledge is also brought into the field of choreography in the detailed studies of movement in musical performance.

– The project will contribute substantially to the development of a theoretical framework in which musical gesture can be analyzed and also to the further development of new technology for gesture control sensors.

– Following from this, the project will provide significant input to scientific scholars in the field of musicology, music psychology and music technology. The main results will however be in the artistic field, with significance both within the field of contemporary music and dance. The multimedia productions will be produced for a broad international arena and are likely to have a profound impact on the international scene.
V. International and national collaboration

As already mentioned above, the project draws on the specific knowledge and skills of artists and researchers from several countries and disciplines: Two research centers will play an important role in the quantitative studies using motion tracking; Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik?at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz and the project “Sensing Music-related Actions” at Oslo University. Also, the collaboration with DXARTS (Centre for Digital Arts) at University of Washington will be instrumental in the development of live-electronic music for the production. Since the formation of the group in 2006, The Six Tones has remained a project in close collaboration with the Academy of Music in Hanoi. A substantial part of the analytical work will take place at the Orpheus Institute in Gent, where four of the participators in the project are at present research fellows: Stefan Östersjö, prof. William Brooks, prof Gerhard Eckel and Catherine Laws. The project will also benefit highly from the collaboration with the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS) at Lund University.

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Brendel, A. (1976). Musical thoughts & afterthoughts. Princeton, N.J.,.

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Godøy, R. I. (2006). Gestural-Sonorous Objects: embodied extensions of Schaeffer’s conceptual apparatus. Organised sound, 11(2), 149-157.

Godøy, R. I. (2008, 15 September 2008). Sensing Music Related Actions. Retrieved 25 January 2009, 2009, from

Godøy, R. I. M., Lehman (Ed.). (2010). Musical Gestures: sound, movement and meaning. New York: Routledge.

Gritten, A. K., Elaine (Ed.). (2009). Music and Gesture. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Hakenberg, S. (2000). Considering a Players’ Cultural Background. Paper presented at the Second International Symposium on Cultural Comparison of East and West. Retrieved Jan 25 2009, from

Hatten, R. (2006). A Theory of Musical Gesture and its Application to Beethoven and Schubert. In A. K. Gritten, Elaine (Ed.), Music and Gesture. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Riehm, R. (1990). Toccata Orpheus. Munich: Ricordi.

Schaeffer, P. (1966). Traité des Objets Musicaux : essai interdisciplines. Paris: Seuil.

Vaggione, H. (2001). Some Ontological Remarks about Music Composition Processes. Computer Music Journal,Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 25(no.1), 54-61.

Östersjö, S. (2008). SHUT UP ‘N’ PLAY! Negotiating the Musical Work. Lund University, Malmö.

[1] This concept is now being further developed in a experimental music-theatre production titled IDIOMS.

[2] See further also Appendix a8 and also for audio and video from this emerging production to go on tour in autumn 2010.

[3] It might be worth a note that the distribution between men and women in the project is absolutely even.

Research Field
musical gesture, composition, improvisation, choreography

Håkan Lundström

Håkan Lundström, Kent Olofsson, Jörgen Dahlqvist, Stefan Östersjö, Kim Ngoc Tran Thi/, Marie Fahlin, mfl