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Kåre Solmund Nystabakk: Singing with the Lute

The artistic research project of the lute player Kåre Solmund Nystabakk is an attempt at bringing new perspectives and work methods to the performance of lute songs.

Field of study: Artistic Research


In terms of repertoire, the main focus of the project is on English and Italian songs with lute accompaniment in tablature from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Nystabakk's work also comprises translations of songs into other languages than those mentioned above, as well as other repertoires that he finds relevant to the project, notably solo lute music and vocal music not notated in tablature.

Historically Informed Performance

Nystabakk's point of departure is "Historically Informed Performance", also known as HIP. His claim is that the performance of lute songs is lagging behind the general development in HIP. Moreover, Nystabakk feels that there are aspects of the performance of music that HIP in general has been reluctant to consider.

He wants to update the approach to the lute song repertoire, in order to produce a result that is more varied, nuanced and communicative than what he sees as the current state of lute song performance.

Main goals

The main goals for the project are

  • a new and better understanding of the lute song repertoire among musicians and audiences alike,
  • to widen the perspective of "Historically Informed Performance" to actively embrace more areas of music-making, and
  • to contribute to the discourse about what HIP is, and challenge the current norm of (partly) commercially motivated practices.

In order to reach these goals, Nystabakk aims to

  • explore and show how the re-interpretation and application of existing research through practical experiments can yield new insights and experiences,
  • develop work methods to strengthen skills that he sees as important to performers of early music in general and lute songs in particular,
  • search for ways in which to communicate specialised interpretations of mostly unknown music to non-specialised audiences, considering aspects like performance setting and geographical context.


  • Improvising on written lute parts: Nystabakk strives to gain greater freedom in the performance of lute songs by improvising variations on the written lute part of songs, using aspects like voice range (soprano/tenor), affect, and word painting to inform and inspire his choices.
  • Preludes: Nystabakk works on improvising preludes to songs and other composed pieces, borrowing models and techniques from existing music. This serves both as a practice method and as a means to create transitions between pieces in performances.
  • Composing through improvisation: Nystbakk explores improvisation as a way to compose new music to an existing text by using the model of Italian frottole, which probably originated as an improvised and orally transmitted genre.

Dissemination and documentation

Many of the work methods described above involve public performance, and regular encounters with audiences are vital to Nystabakk's research. During the project period, he has presented a number of concerts as part of his research, documenting performances in video and audio format.

The artistic results of the project are submitted in the form of recorded material and one or more final concert(s).

The reflections of the project are published together with some of the performance documentation as an exposition in the Research Catalogue.

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Published: Jul 24, 2019 — Last updated: Mar 9, 2023