Symposium: On the Edge. Improvisers on music and methods

Oslo, Norway, 30 November – 2 December 2016

Dear colleagues,

The Norwegian Academy of Music, the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART) and Victoria – Nasjonal jazzscene proudly presents the symposium On the Edge, in Oslo, Norway, 30 November – 2 December 2016.

A fine selection of improvisers meets at this mini-festival with concerts, interviews, presentations and discussions. This year’s theme is Improvisation in Studio. At On the Edge practitioners meet to perform on stage, give presentations, interviews and to discuss these matters. Confirmed artists are:

  • Sidsel Endresen & Jan Bang — Helge Sten & Ståle Storløkken of Supersilent
  • Stian Westerhus — Tone Åse/Thomas Strønen : VOXPHERIA — Monkeyplot
  • Skrap — Kjell Bjørgeengen / Keith Rowe duo — Maja Ratkje — Bugge Wesseltoft

David Sylvian has curated an ensemble for On the Edge: Keith Rowe, David Toop, Rhodri Davies, Rie Nakajima and Phil Durrant.

Improvisation in Studio

Improvised music is ephemeral. It emerges from dialogue between musicians and their surroundings. It happens in the moment, and then it disappears. The sound disappears, it enters our memories.

For many of the people involved in it, one of the enduring attractions of improvisation is its momentary existence: the absence of a residual document (Derek Bailey).[1]

What happens when we record improvised music, when we try to capture the ephemeral? What is getting lost? What new doors are opened?

In his book Records Ruin the Landscape, John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording writer and musician David Grubbs draws lines between the experimentalists and avant-garde composers and early generation practitioners of free improvisation and free jazz in their reluctance to record their music: ”Audio recordings are at best curiously incomplete representations of their efforts”.[2]

Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (1970) “pioneered the application of the studio as a musical instrument, featuring stacks of edits and studio effects that were an integral part of the music. Even though it sounded like an old-style studio registration of a bunch of guys playing some amazing stuff, large sections of it relied heavily on studio technology to create a fantasy that never was. Miles and his producer, the legendary Teo Macero, used the recording studio in radical new ways (…) Through intensive tape editing, Macero concocted many totally new musical structures that were later imitated by the band in live concerts”, according to Paul Tingen.[3]

Technology has developed vastly since the seventies. Today, many musicians own their own recording devices, their own recording studios. How does this development change how practitioners work with improvisation today?

How are practitioners of improvised music affected by the certainty that the music they record can be played over and over again? How does this affect the work process? How do they facilitate intuitive interplay in the studio? Where do we draw the line between documenting something improvised and composing?

Ultimately, can one document without also composing? How is the studio work affecting later improvisations on stage?

For more information about the symposium:  / Ivar Grydeland at

[1] Derek Bailey, Improvisation: its nature and practice in music. Ashbourne, England 1992 (1980). Moorland Pub. in association with Incus Records, p35.

[2] David Grubbs, Records Ruin the Landscape, John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording. London 2014. Duke University Press, iv



Dr. Darla Crispin
Director of the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART)
Norwegian Academy of Music
+47 90 62 97 78

Otto Christian Pay, Senior Adviser
Administrative Director of the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART)
Norwegian Academy of Music
T. +47 23 36 70 26