Ivar Grydeland spiller

Ensemble & Ensemble of Me - What I think about when I think about improvisation

Project leader:
Ivar Grydeland

Project period:
2011 – 2016

Research centre:

Artistic research


Fellowship project
Ph.D. in Artistic Research

In this project Ivar Grydeland produces solo improvisations derived from the music of two improvising ensembles, to which he belongs: Dans les arbres and Huntsville. 

The music is produced both live and in studio. The project also includes performances and recordings with the ensembles.


From 2004/2005 till now, Ivar Grydeland's main activity as an improvising musician has been carried out in the two bands Dans les arbres and Huntsville. Grydeland is interested in all the recurring elements in these two bands, how similar (yet radically different) two concerts given by the same band may be.

The members of the bands have not talked much about the music; nor have they formulated in detail their methods within the bands. There is no carefully laid out master plan. Nevertheless, as Grydeland sees it, both bands appear to have developed their own sets of frameworks and guidelines. These are tacit, but judging by the recordings made during both bands’ existence, there are inter-subjective understandings of what these frames are, and effectively, what constitutes the sonic identities of the two bands.   

The bands are improvising. In Grydeland's view, it is also as if they are performing new variations of previous improvisations, previous pieces. In effect, these are pre-meditated, yet fluctuating, like Alexander Calder’s Hanging Mobiles translated into music. The elements may be known, but their mutual relationships are in constant flux. Each observation of the piece is a reminiscent of another. As Grydeland puts it: "It is balancing between the known and the unknown, between playing ‘what I know and what I do not know’, looking at the same objects over and over again, from new angles, in new constellations."

Key Questions

  • What are Grydeland's concepts when improvising with the ensembles and when improvising alone? 
  • How do the ensemble improvisations inform the solo improvisations?
  • What does he think about when he thinks about the bands' and his own improvisations?


  • These matters will be investigated through practice. Examples of such practice are live performances, rehearsals and recording sessions both solo, with the main ensembles, and with other relevant bands and constellations.
  • Together with research fellow Morten Qvenild, Grydeland organizes a series of test concerts at Norwegian Academy of Music called Jök & Seasick. This series is an important arena for systematic testing of both artistic material and technical tools (and their affordance), followed by discussions with the audience. 
  • Grydeland organizes collective evaluations and discussions for Dans les arbre. 

The above activity will constitute the foundation of Grydeland's own reflections.

Artistic outcome and documentation

As a natural consequence of the practice-based orientation, the project produce artistic outcome via Dans les arbres and Huntsville’s parallel artistic activity throughout the project period. Concerts with these ensembles are part of the project's artistic outcome. He also performs solo.

The final artistic presentation

The final artistic presentation of the project is two-fold, concerts and album releases:

  • Concerts at NMH 21 and 22 April 2015 (watch the concerts here)
  • Album release with Huntsville («POND», Hubro/Grappa 2015)
  • Solo album release («Stop Freeze Wait Eat», Hubro/Grappa, september 2015)

Critical reflection

Grydeland's own reflections from performing situations, recording sessions, discussions, seminars and such, feed back into the project, and thus inform the project's development. His reflections is presented and documented on a separate web site comprising text, video and sound.

Project leader


Ivar Grydeland

Associate Professor


More about Grydelands project

Ivar Grydeland spiller
Tenacious, but taciturn

Guitarist Ivar Grydeland opposes most labels one wishes to place on him. Perhaps this is the driving force behind his unique research project?

Last updated: 3. February 2015