Author Archive for Victoria Johnson


Ilios festival, Harstad February 4-6

Somebody got ill, and Peter and I jumped on an airplane in a week’s notice, going up to the nice Ilios festival in Harstad.

Surrounded by  beautiful art in the gallery Paletten, we were offering an hour of several shorter improvisations,  Thomas Dahl’s No Reason Aftermath, and Three bagatelles by Sven Lyder Kahrs. The Kahrs piece we later re-mixed into a polyphonic electronic version.

From the concert at Ilios


recordings 2010-2011

In December and January I recorded all the commissioned works from my research project on a CD, and a separate CD with improvisations, together with Peter Tornquist. Mats Claesson, from the Academy of Music is the sound engineer on these productions, and also does most of the mixing. We work together to find the best cuts, and then he does the final mixing.

January 27 Diemo Schwarz came to the Academy and did a 3-hours recording session, improvising along his beautiful electronics. It was really cool to do this recording with him, and to make a suitable setup for CataRT, sending out the lines from the electronics separately. I used all my guitar gear, especially playing around with my Angel Dust-pedal (distortion and noise), which I borrowed from John Hegre.

Mats Claesson is editing and mixing/remixing the favourite parts of the recording this week.

Mats Claesson and Diemo Schwarz at the session

Concert, Sound of Mu, January 25

The stage was set for an exciting encounter between two live electronic musicians of international standing at Sound of Mu on Tuesday January 25.

Diemo Schwarz from IRCAM held a workshop in advanced synthesis and signal processing at NOTAM in the end of January.

Diemo Schwarz is one of the leading figures within the live electronics field, and he has developed a number of signal processing tools, including Max/MSP patches such as FTM and CataRT. It was a pleasure for me to be able to play a concert with him again.

Schwarz-Johnson at Sound of Mu

The concert was organized by me in collaboration with NOTAM, and Cato Langnes was the sound engineer. In addition to improvisations by Diemo and me we

From the concert at Sound of Mu in Oslo

both played a solo piece each. I played Thomas Dahl’s piece No Reason Aftermath. It was a great atmosphere at the venue.

Diemo is using the iPad as a control function for CataRT, as well as a pressure-sensitive MIDI-controller which controls the dynamics. It works so well with the iPad. He can play it like a separate instrument, away from the computer, using the accelerometer.

Diemo’s setup

highlights from autumn 2010

Playing TBA with guitar pedals

The collaboration with my colleague Terje Moe Hansen was really interesting. He has been researching how Paganini’s violin technique gave extended technical possibilities on the violin in his time. Terje  has also made a set of own violin techniques, and he uses his own and Paganini’s techniques together in a virtuoso way. Especially “the other way round hand position”, which means that the whole hand is placed of the left side of the finger-board, and you get access to the thumb as a fifth finger.

Terje has no problem making the violin sound like a seagull, and he used all his brilliant techniques in our improvisation. Based on Paganini’s caprice no. 24, we worked with hip-hop loops, free impro over a time-stretched Rachmaninov’s Variations over a theme of Paganini, and fiddling around with the theme itself.

Terje also played his own pieces in the concert, and a piece by Ivar Frounberg, joined by the fantastic trombone player Niels-Ole Bo Johansen. He just impressed me with his Sequenza by Berio.

November 8 I made an introduction about noise, which I held at the Levin hall at NMH. I also performed Jon Hegre’s piece TBA. The piece is improvised over certain instructions by the composer, and one of them is to make a wall of noise. Using two fuzz pedals and crush tones, I had expected the piece to be really loud, but I don’t think it was loud enough. Nobody even reacted to the piece after the concert.


Concert September 3, 2010

At the concert, Alexander Refsum Jensenius and I performed our piece Transformation, exploring improvisation in time and space during this concert that also featured pieces by Henrik Hellstenius, Thomas Dahl and an improvisation by Victoria Johnson and Peter Tornquist.

Alexander and I have been collaborating for several years on exploration of various types of technologies for musical expression. The piece currently presented is based on video analysis using modules from the Musical Gestures Toolbox in Jamoma and CataRT.

By moving inside a seemingly empty space, I have slowly explored a sonic landscape of thousands of short fragments of various violin sounds. The space thus becomes a musical entity in itself, a space that the violinist both controls and interacts with at the same time. What seemed to be an empty space at first, is left as a sonic space in our memory when the piece ends.

For Victoria Counting IV we used the new visual ideas from the workshop (see previous posts), and added a new direction, made mainly by Henrik Hellstenius. The new direction made me very busy on stage, at first sitting on a low stool, after a while started to run when playing, and looking for my lost photos when at the same time looking at all the photos from my life.

From the dress rehearsal, kneeling on the little stool.


Workshop August 3-4. Motion capture

I’ve not been able to update this blog since March, due to troubles with my arm. I’m now back in business, planning a solo concert on September 3.

Due to the arm problems I’ve had to postpone my final performance, but I will still have a “work in progress” performance on Sep 3. For the first time in 3 years I had the possibility to practice over a long period in the concert hall in the Academy of Music. I had access to the hall for 5 whole working days, and did not have to rig down every evening. I have realized, during this project, that rigging and solving technical problems take – worst case – up to 80-90% of my time. Usually there is too little time for working musically with the right set-up in the right room. The fact that I seldom have access to a big space for more than one day, means that I always feel that I haven’ practised and experimented enough musically.

Alexander Jensenius stabilizes the camera before climbing to the ceiling

Alexander Jensenius stabilizes the camera before climbing to the ceiling

This was also the case the first day of the workshop; Alexander Refsum Jensenius and I used 5 hours to rig up the 8 speakers and the motion capture system (with video analysis) in the hall. On the first day we had only one hour of musical activities, and our brain capacity was rather poor (after removing two Steinways, repairing the door to get the pianos out, fighting with our mixer, placing the video camera 15 m up in the ceiling.) 😀  We decided to let the 4 inner speakers define the soundspace, forming a square. The size of the square was decided by the video camera that was mounted in the ceiling.  We tested some new pre-sets in CataRT and found that the pre-set silent segmentation made the sound stay for a long time and made it difficult to interact with the electronics, which is the goal for the whole project. We also experimented with an amount of reverb, because the concert hall in itself has a lot of it. To level equally the sound of the violin and the electronics was also an issue we worked on that day.

On August 4, with fresh brains, we started to work musically with our set-up. We used Alexander’s video analysis transition, so that video analysis could be used as a controller for CataRT. In earlier workshops we have gone through all the pre-sets in CataRT, testing various loudspeaker set-ups, and now we could concentrate on deciding what kind of violin sounds we wanted to use.

Strangely enough, some sounds that worked in an non-acoustical room, did not work in the concert hall. The most brutal sounds, like crush tones and strong pizzicati, sounded much too brutal in the hall. After an hour or two Sidsel Endresen (my superviser in improvisation) turned up to listen to our music. Her feedback was that I should think of the electronics as a musician, a person you play with and against. And to let this interaction guide my movements, and not vice versa. And the music which happens when I don’t play, only move, (ghost playing) is not a goal in itself, but rather a result of a musical process. And the curiosity and eagerness to explore the soundscape which emerges must be what drives you.

I’m so glad that we could go more into the musical issues!! Thanks to Sidsel for coming.



Busy writing at my artistic reflection, reading a lot, practising, thinking and making important decisions for my end performance, there is not much time to blog and document these days. Since December last year I have been writing on  my critical reflection as well as doing a lot of practising on some new pieces. In March I am playing a new piece by Ivar Frounberg and Peter Tornquist with the NMH sinfonietta , a jazz group , Kjell Tore Innervik and my 4 el violin students at  NMH.

In between the practising I reflect on the performers role and  my use of methods and what impact that has had on my project. I have been reading “Performance practice by Schechner:

“The assertion is that performance, that is, how people behave and display their behavior, is a fundamental category of human life,” Schechner said. ” and further: “The domination of theory for its own sake is coming to an end in academia,”  Theory is secondary to something one does based on experience, on data, on fieldwork and on experiment. Performance studies as an academic discipline is extremely open to new theoretical constructs that try to bridge and narrow or eliminate the gap between theory and practice.”

Another intersting book is Eivind Røssaak: “Selviakttakelse” In this book Røssaak discusses the arts tendency to be interested and observe the self. He also discusses craftsmanship versus new tendencies like uncleanness and hybrid art. Very relevant book for reflection on the process with Victoria Counts and for people who are interested in the Knausgård debate.


telematic workshop in june


Victoria Johnson and Karianne Bjerkestrand inspired by sound and movement at the  concert

Workshop on Telematic issues June 3 – 6 with online rehearsals 10 – and Concert 11, 2009 Indianapolis – NMH, Oslo Scott Deal Deal currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana where he is a Professor of Music and Director of the Donald Tavel Arts Technology Research Centre at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. He started with a presentation about telematic art on June 3rd organised by and the NIME project of the Norwegian Academy of Music. The workshop consisted of, Kjell Tore Innervik, Ivar Froundberg, Alexander R Jensenius , Kari Anne Bjerkestrand and myself and Knut Vik with help from Charlotte Piene on video. We used the conference xp software for interactive learning. During the workshop we got experience performing on line. We performed two improvisations all together, “Shot and abandoned” all together, “Ester parade” in Indiana with Ivar Frounberg in Oslo, and three pieces in Oslo with Victoria Johnson, Kari Anne Bjerkestrand and Alexander Jensenius. It was very interesting to see how we could use video in motioncapture. Alexander Jensenius have some very stabile patches and we recorded some of my violinsound so when Kari Anne danced she dances my sound and I interacted. There are of course many issues which have to be solved technically and artisticly. Latency is a big issue and how we work with it and not against it. How to understand which sound is coming from whom is another challenge. Alexander Jensenius suggested that each person have their own sound source. At least the musical landscape will be more understandable for the audience. Conference xp have frames around the windows that is quit disturbing when you try to make an art piece.

Later the same week on June 6th I visited fourMs studio at University of Oslo to work some more with Alexander and see the new motioncapture studio.

From the concert, Victoria Johnson in action with Scott Deal in Indianapolis



concert, finally

February 26 we premièred Victoria Counting II together with pieces by Frounberg and Kruglevicius. The whole performance called counting, memory and interrogation was full in the first performance. I think it worked well with the performance as a whole and that the diversity of the pieces gave variation for the audience. I have got lots of positive feedback, but also new thoughts about future work for the piece. I really like to be in a “closed” room surrounded by audience, 8 speakers and the videoscreens. We separated my sound so the 4 genelec,s in the inner circle had the non processed violin sound, and the four big speakers in the corners of the room had the processed sound. A good idea from Ivar Frounberg.


On photo: Mattias Arvastsson and Victoria Johnson playing at Vinterlyd

The fact that Henrik Hellstenius and I have worked with the human, musical, staging and visual questions for many years, has changed my way of looking at musical pieces. I see them as a long lasting projects with potential of great development rather than a piece. I used a whole day reading texts by Gurdjieff trying to understand the end of the piece. What does happen after you have been counting from 1-50 and back 7 times observing yourself and your thoughts? Is it possible to be more present in the daily life with all your roles and doings? How do you cope as an artist with all your stress and obligations? The piece creates an arena for me to invstigate this issues in an artistic way and hopefully will tha audience also feel some familiarity in these issues.



OKO: Oslo Chamber orchestra
I have started a workshop with Oslo Chamber Orchestra on use of live-electronics, improvisation, instruction-pieces and extended playing techniques. In the concert on April 30th at NMH we will also perform pieces by Porter and Barber.  In this project Edvin Østvik and Alwynne Pritchard will join me.

October 2020