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by Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen

Jørgen Lekfeldt was born 1948 in Denmark. 1974 he co-founded the Group for Intuitive Music in Copenhagen. He holds a cand. mag. degree in musicology and a Ph.D. in theology, and he is the author of the book (in Danish) Sölle og Stockhausen, Viborg (Schønberg), 1991. Comparable to the way of Earle Brown, in some works he likes to integrate many kinds of notation in a composition, traditional, plus-minus, improvisatory elements based on given elements, and free graphics. Other works, such as most of those performed by the Group for Intuitive Music, are for ensemble ad libitum and use open forms of notation. This article aims at describing the ways he uses innovative notations.


This piece shows an interesting combination of several inspirations from Stockhausen. Stockhausen's textnotated compositions influenced the theme of the composition: the aesthetic aim is a meditative one, and players' interaction together is an important structural element. However, the systematic construction could also have been inspired by the systematic treatment of parameters in Stockhausen's works in plus-minus notation (see about that later). Just like a plus-minus notation expanding from one voice to more and more polyphonically, thus there is a cumulative expansion of the number of parameters here. The result is a piece that challenge players into more and more differentiation of the sound, yet within a simple framework and a sound which will probably feel static.

This piece is available on paper in a Danish version at www.edition-s.dk (part of the collection "Musik for 3 eller flere").


The illustration shows the complete graphic score, and there are no additional instructions. However, there are several layers: not only the nervously-looking black lines, but also the calmer red and blue ones. The first thing coming to musicians' minds when sitting down to play it could easily be to alternate between extremely fast moving melody lines and something calmer and softer. The composer has, however, stated that one may, by analysis, apply the movements of the two kinds of lines to other parameters - dynamics, for instance, for just one example. Also, the stave lines can be considered.

Two very different interpretations of this piece by different groups have been released on the CD Danish Intuitive Music, IRCD 005. Fred Guntermann is the author of an article in German dealing with interpretation options and possible uses in music education.


Plus-minus notation employs plus and minus signs. Plus stands for a change with positive value inside a parameter - for instance, higher pitch, larger intervals, more tones, faster, louder, accentuated or unusual playing techniques. (This list of parameters was quoted from the instructions for Sporet for cello solo (2004)). Minus means decrease, and equality sign means remaining the same. Kurzwellen by Stockhausen and a number of other works employs this notation, but Lekfeldt's version suggests use of more parameters than Stockhausen does. However, like is also the case with Stockhausen, the performer chooses freely which parameter to apply the changes to.

Plus-minus notation always relates to relatively short passages which can be repeated in a varied way. In this example from Forår (1977), there is a simple melodic motif.

In the following excerpt from Ins Allgemeine (1984), 3 different forms of notation appear at the same time: spatial notation (some Danes call it "optical notation") in the part of a vocalist, graphics that are ambigous regarding how to play them, and traditional notation.

Square parentesis can be found with or without arrows in Ins Allgemeine and a number of previous works. With arrows, tones must be used only in the sequence in which they are written. The sequence, or row, may be repeated. Without arrows, tones may be used in any order.

In the last example from Ins Allgemeine, the vocalist is reciting a text, and the next two instruments improvise, interpreting freely the poetic statements in the square parentesis.

In Sporet (The Track) for solo cello (2004), some new aspects in the use of square parenthesis occur. Their content is not limited to notes with unspecified duration. And a line connecting one pair of parenthesis to another demands that contents of the first one is to be transformed gradually into that of the following one. The two staves in the first example are part of a system giving several options to choose from in each section. - In the instructions, Lekfeldt compares contents within square parenthesis with arrows to a theme, which is to be repeated in varied forms. Without the arrows, both sections and individual tones or sounds may for instance be freely permutated or inversed.

PIECES BASED ON INTERACTION BETWEEN PLAYERS (that which has also been called game pieces)

ARUA (1977) is for 3 melody instruments. Much of the time, long tones are sounding, and one cm equals roughly 10 seconds. There is no score, the piece is played from parts, of which an excerpt is shown below.

One way in which the static tones may be interrupted is by use of the fifth motif that can be seen on the upper stave shortly after the initial long tone on a g. This motif functions as an invitation to other players, and such an invitation may be played ad libitum. To send out an invitation, the player plays the motif a number of times. Others may then accept the invitation by also stating the motif a number of times. When this has happened, they suspend other activity and play the material stated on the second stave between square parenthesis - the way to do it was already explained earlier in this article, but in this piece, there is only one playing through of the tone material. Those involved in such activity wait for the others to finish before they resume "normal" activity. If a musician is not involved in such a playing event taking place, he/she just plays on. - The second stave, then, is used exclusively for notating such "alternative" material.

One more feature is connected to interaction: material within square parenthesis with arrows pointing both up and down, like in the example to the extreme right where the letter "B" is stated. These arrows signify that one should seek as much contact as possible with other players. - By contrast, if there is a box around the musical incident, as is the case with the 15 seconds one to the left with an "A", then it should be played in a markedly individualistic way, not listening to the others.

It remains just to be explained that "A" means that sounds other than the instruments' normal one must be played, "B" that any kind of sounds can be used, however not from the musicians' main instrument. A tone within a square parenthesis, like the d to the right, is to be used as a central tone along with any other material.

The piece has a peculiar fusion between the static, long tones and different kinds of activity, both with and without interaction. It was conceived of as a musical portrait of a son of the composer at an infant stage. The mixture of intense contact and being within one's own universe is characteristic for this stage of life. However, there may be still other associations arising in those who play it or listen to it. - The piece was published with Danish text at edition-s, and a recording with the Group for Intuitive Music was released on cassette tape "Group for Intuitive Music", 1980.

MIRROR LABYRINTH (1997). The illustration shows just a part of the "playing field" which comprises a total of 12 elements. The piece is for 4 musicians, playing in two pairs, group A and B. Group B starts reading in upper left corner where "Start B" is indicated. Group A starts at the opposite side - with the paper turned upside down. Thus, melodic movements of the same elements, played by the different groups, will be inverted. Even though musicians are in two pairs, they procede quite individually ad libitum through interpreting the elements, each in their own time.

The special interaction aspect lies in the limitations given as to where one can go after having played an element. The score states "plus" and "minus" directions - for instance, to the right of the element in upper left corner it says "B+", and left below it it says "B-". "Plus" directions must be chosen in case both of the other musicians are playing. "Minus" in case at least one of the others is making a pause. Thus, players have to closely observe each other when they move from an element to another.

This work is available at edition-s with Danish and English text. It was released on IRCD 003, and you may find additional notes here.


Lekfeldt's ways of notating range from free graphics to traditional metric notation, and several kinds of notation appear often integrated. Overall forms often rely on fixed sequences, but there are exceptions. The use of given pitches occur frequently, with or without a fixed sequence. The interactional aspect has been given attention to, both on the level of certain details and in one case on the level of overall form.


Joergen Lekfeldt at IIMA.

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