In my artistic research, “Kurbits-ReBoot, Swedish traditional singing in new artistic contexts” (Rosenberg, 2013), I experimented with developing artistic methods and concepts relating to variation and improvisation from the perspective of the folk singer as a creative performer (performer-composer) and the song as an imaginary entity that only exists in the interpretation of a singer. This implies that a song is viewed as a container for ideas, a framework, a starting point for creating something – the song – every time you sing – a musical work being created by the singer, rather than a musical work in the sense of a composition that is interpreted by a singer.
My inspiration to this idea came from my own experiences as being part of an oral tradition in folk singing and learning by ear from singers “in the moment”, but also from testimony from collectors and performers about the art of folk singing, such as about the English ballad singer Mrs Brown: “What was it she had carried in her memory? Not a text, but a ballad: a entity soluble in the mind, to be concretely realized at will in words and music.”(Bronson, 1969). This concept, that the song only takes a concrete form through the act of singing, is realized in its interpreted form only, could be just as relevant for today’s traditional singers as it was for Mrs Brown, since it points to the possibility of empowering the performative momentum and performative power of the folk singer as an interpreter of ‘here and now’, creating presence. But this concept also gives rise to the interesting question on how to use this idea of “the song” as a ‘framework’ for a musical performance in a our present time where everything can be recorded, logged, saved and listened to again and again, where increasingly less and less things really happens “now”.
In my work I have experimented with using parameter from the concept of “Flow” (Csikszentmihaly, 1990) and the ideas of using the dynamic between orality and literacy (Ong, 1982) in order to address this complex issue. In Folk Song Lab I’ve experimented with using the language of Folk Song by deconstructing and with an artistic investigation with the perspective of Folk Song as a framework for musical expression in the moment.
Bronson, B. H. (1969). Mrs Brown and the Ballad. In The Ballad as Song. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optima Experience: HarperCollins.
Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word: Methuen.
Rosenberg, S. (2013). Kurbits-ReBoot, svensk folksång i ny scenisk gestaltning. (Doctor of Music), KMH and Sibeliusacademy, Stockholm.