I was invited to contribute to a project with the Trondheim Sinfonietta, mainly with a composition workshop for schoolchildren at Rissa Skole in Sør-Trøndelag, Norway, to which I prepared a piece that was performed both as a part of the workshop and later at a concert at Trondheim Kunsthall.
I based this composition on some of the musical ideas developed as a result of my research into speech and improvised music, but one issue that presented itself was how to combine the improvised nature of my work with the need for composing a piece and writing fixed parts for the musicians. One option was to transcribe a piece in detail based on my current material and methods, arranged for that particular group of musicians. But then the reactive and interactive nature of the improvised interplay would most likely become less present. Also, when not working with a fixed tempo, notating rhythms that also look intuitively readable is really hard. Standard western music notation is after all based on a fixed tempo (and meter), and some attempts at transcribing the fluid rhythmical phrasing of speech did not look very good as a score, even when following the average speech rate as tempo. This could probably have been solved given enough editing and rehersal time, but as improvisation and the expanded moment of the unknown response is really central for the ideas in this music, I decided to write a score with general directions for improvisation rather than detailed notation.
This is also how I usually conceptualize musical ideas when working with improvised music, and also draws on the tradition of indeterminate notation developed by composers like John Cage, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, Pauline Olivieros a.o.
As an interesting side note, I noted that unarticulated conceptual and associative themes started to appear in the process of notating these ideas. Often relating to the way musical ideas could be approached building upon associations to the genres of the speech material. This is certainly something that would be interesting to explore further in the future.
The suggestive way of notating turned out to work quite well for some passages where interplay and responsiveness was important, while others became unfocused and not quite how I imagined, probably due to the wide range of interpretation that this kind of suggestive notation allows and the high responsibility it places on individual musicians to make the music interesting.
Perhaps one solution could be to have inderminate notation for some parts combined with exact notation for other passages where the attentiveness and communicativity of the improvised interacted moment is less in focus.
The piece has five parts each about 3 minutes long, and notated on one page for each part: