FYLKINGEN - New Music & Intermedia Art
Sixty Years of Radical & Experimental Art, 1933 - 1993
English summary by Paul Pignon.
Fylkingen calls itself today a "Society for New Music and Intermedia Art". This book was published in connection with Fylkingen´s 60th anniversary (1933-1993). It was unfortunately economically impossible to bring out a translated version in some more widely spoken language than Swedish, so I was asked by the Editorial Committee to provide some kind of English résumé of its contents. What I have tried to do here is to provide the non-Swedish reader with some inkling of what the different articles in the book are about, glued together with some of my own reflections, interpretations and comments. I have been an active member of Fylkingen since 1986, sometime a member of the Board and of the Production Committee, and was producer 1988-1992. The reader expecting a straight "abstract" of the book´s contents may find my approach too personal, calling too much for ´speculation on the part of the witness´ as it might be called in a court of law. In defense of such an approach I would say that personal and speculatory attributes are much in evidence elsewhere in the book too, and are very typical of Fylkingen in general, an organisation of artists by artists for artists, which has never, fortunately, become a respectable (impersonal) institution
The book, then, can be seen as some form of answer to the questions implied by the title I have given this résumé: Fylkingen - what is it ?, 60 years old - how come? The former can to a considerable extent be answered by an objective factual presentation, and the book does contain a good proportion of such, though this in itself falls far short of a complete answer. The latter question can hardly be answered in any way which is not speculatory and personal. The book provides plenty of material for a reader to interpret and speculate upon, but I am sure that even those who have been deeply involved in the society for many years would formulate widely differing answers.
*Folke Hähnel´s article is in fact a reprint from the first Fylkingen Bulletin (1966), originally intended to mark the society´s 30th anniversary in 1963. It provides a wealth of information on Fylkingen´s inception as a chamber music society and its subsequent transformation under the 50´s and early 60´s. Hähnel was himself a member, though not apparently an active artist, and the society´s secretary during the chairmanship of Knut Wiggen . He was also a music critic for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, and often wrote about concerts at Fylkingen.
1933 was a year marked by economic depression, political ferment and the gathering clouds of Nazism in Europe, and the Swedish government (then social democrat) was attempting to counter the severe unemployment in Sweden with various state-financed schemes (why does this all sound familiar?). Hähnel wonders whether, looking back, the foundation of a chamber music society might not seem a futile gesture in the social and political context of the times, remarking thereafter that the same might be said of much which we (interpret as required) devote energy and interest to today. Such remarks touch upon, of course, crucial issues just as much today as they did then. The question of what is futile and what significant bears in itself the question of each individual´s major concerns in life. One thing which is certain is that those who devote time and energy to their involvement in Fylkingen´s activities do so neither as a pastime nor as a way of earning a living (the material rewards, if any have always been ridiculously small in relation to the amount of work required). They do what they do because such activities of the mind are of primary importance for them, and, they hope, for at least some small part of the rest of the human race. Indeed, I believe I speak for many of these people if I maintain that for us such activities are among the least futile of our available options.
As already indicated, Fylkingen was originally founded as a chamber music society, on the initiative of composer Ingemar Liljefors, who held the chairmanship until 1946. Initially it was devoted exclusively to putting on concerts, nor was there any intention on the part of the founders to make Fylkingen a forum for the radical or avantgarde tendencies long since rife in the rest of Europe. Hähnel notes that bourgeois Sweden viewed such tendencies with scepticism or indifference, and the young composers and musicians who founded Fylkingen had no iconoclastic urge. It was merely a case of trying to fill a gap in Stockholm´s otherwise flourishing musical life, where chamber music was sadly neglected, to the benefit of both the composers and the audiences. Although a good deal of new music, especially by Swedish composers, was played, the programs also included classical works by, above all, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart .
After the 2nd World War Fylkingen was also for a time a forum for authentic performance of early music, spurred by the interest of young enthusiasts from Uppsala University. Hähnel notes that many of them were equally interested in the radical new music, and their affiliation to the society also influenced Fylkingen in this direction.
Gradually, during the early fifties, both classical and pre-classical music disappeared from the programs, as Fylkingen became more radical and other organisations began to culitvate those kinds of music.
Even during these early years, three aspects of Fylkingen´s physionomy were evident which have retained their significance to the present day. One was a dedication to "doing what we think needs doing but was not being done by anyone else". The second was that it was quite in the spirit of the society´s statutes that those actively involved in the running of the society (the Board, the Programme Committee, etc.) got their works, and works of those they felt affinity with, performed. The former aspect is still one of the factors underlying Fylkingen´s policy, even though the distinctions between what is and isn´t being done by someone else have become much more diffuse. The latter is a facet of what I would call the personal involvement typical of Fylkingen´s modus vivendi, and though often a source of internal disputes, is one of the reasons, as I see it, why even after 60 years Fylkingen has not calcified into a formal cultural institution. Its physionomy is so much dependent on the currently active members, a body which is in a continuous state of flux. Up until the 60´s it was even specified in the statutes that nobody could remain a member longer than a certain period (5-10 years). This statutory condition was abolished some time in the 60´s, to be replaced by the rule that any member who had not made an active contribution to the society´s activities for more than two years could be voted out (a rule which was practically never applied), and more recently this statute was modified to make exclusion automatic if a member does not pay the annual membership dues. However, regardless of the stuatues, a natural continuous renewal of the profile-defining active core of members is still characteristic of the society.
The third such aspect concerns the way new members come in to Fylkingen - it has always been through election by the existing members. Previously one also had to be proposed by one or more existing members. After a recent revision of the statutes, a would-be member makes his/her own application to the Board, but the final decision is still by ballot at a general meeting of the society.
Hähnel illuminates Fylkingen´s evolution from the mid-40´s to the mid-60´s both in the direction of radicalism and experimentation and in breadth of scope.
In the mid-40´s a circle of young composers and musicians, and representatives of other art forms started meeting at Karl-Birger Blomdahl´s on Monday evenings to discuss matters of art and culture - they became known as the "Monday Group". Some of these young radicals gradually took over the active role in Fylkingen, and in 1950 Blomdahl became chairman. It might be said that it was here that the seeds were sown whose subsequent growth would transform Fylkingen in the direction of integration of different artistic media, generally but not exclusively including music as one component. Hähnel notes that during the 50´s Fylkingen´s concerts attracted more and more of the young radicals interested in contemporary poetry and art. Concerts of radical new music no longer frightened away audiences but became more and more popular, and Blomdahl was able to remark that it actually paid to have a radical programme policy. It was, however, not until the 60´s that the encroachment of other artistic media became apparent in Fylkingen´s programme and policy.
It can certainly be said that as regards music Fylkingen´s radicalisation was full-blown by the end of the 50´s, though this transformation was not without its vacillations and conflicts. However, as Hähnel relates, with the installation of Knut Wiggen (later head of EMS) as chairman after Gunnar Bucht, and Karl-Erik Welin as secretary the avantgarde ideology had won a decisive victory.
Apart from dedicating more and more of the concert programmes to the music of the avantgarde, it increasingly became Fylkingen´s concern to be a source of information and education, and provide a platform for debate about the new music. This concern was manifested in the form of so-called "tribunal concerts" focussed on a particular work, composition technique or composer, and including discussions. Also, foreign composers (Hindemith, Britten, Messiaen, Stockhausen) were invited to present concerts of their own works. This trend continued in the 60´s with composers like Cage, Xenakis, Koenig,Pousseur and others being invited, some holding lectures and workshops at Fylkingen, and has been revived again during the last few years.
The 50´s saw of course the emergence of electronic music, and it was naturally, and for a long time exclusively through Fylkingen that this music, at first only from abroad, later also "made in Sweden", reached Swedish audiences and composers. The first ever presentation of electronic music in Sweden was organized by Fylkingen in 1952. During the early 60´s, electronic music and "loudspeaker concerts" became one of the society´s primary concerns.
In general, it can be seen from Hähnel´s account that the end of the 50´s and the early sixties were a period of powerful mobilization for Fylkingen, following the general committment to a "spearhead ideology" and spurred especially by an increasing preoccupation with the artistic application of emerging new technologies, and radical trends in music and the other arts abroad. One manifestation of this was the establishment of various specialized working groups for different areas, apart from the Board and the Production Committee. These included, at this early stage, groups for experimental music theory, computer music (yes, even though computers were in their infancy), acoustics, gramophone record production, and a long-term policy group. Soon afterwards (not covered by Hähnel´s account) came the Language Group too, whose activity was to make Fylkingen the hub of sound-text composition world-wide. A number of other groups, mostly short-lived, were also formed for other special areas.
These groups often included non-members whose expertise was considered valuable. As Hähnel relates, the flourishing spearhead ideology of that time was permeated by a conviction that progress in the arts must avail itself of scientific and technical advances. Considerable attention was also devoted, particularly by the long-term policy group, to the sociological and socio-economic aspects of avantgarde art (though at that time Fylkingen was still concerned exclusively with music). This included drawing up proposals and guidelines for the reformation of governmental support for the arts, with a view to diverting more funds to exploratory contemporary art and associated research, instead of giving most support to the perpetuation of "museum art". Much of the concern with scientific and technical research was related to Fylkingen´s growing role as a protagonist of electronic music and its proper presentation, but quite generally there seems to have been a foresighted awareness already in the early 60´s that modern society was moving towards a dominance of electronic communicaton, which avantgarde artistic endeavour must take into account, and influence as far as possible.
It emerges clearly from Hähnel´s survey that the first half of the 60´s was a period of many-sided activity and expansion for Fylkingen. A direct quotation from his article is enlightening in this respect:
"The ever more intensive concern with electronic music and the dissemination of music in the electronic era, the work of the Theory Group and the emergence of the new interpretation (instrumental theatre) and new musical-visual-literary intermedia forms has broadened the circle of those interested in and participating in Fylkingen´s activity to many new categories, such as writers, engineers, scientists, sociologists, philosophers, economists, etc. The intention is that their approaches and knowledge should be useful within the different working groups, not just as good names to have in the membership list..."
Hähnel chronicles the activities from this period in some detail (he was himself a member of the long-term planning group). I will mention here only some of the salient points and fruits of this activity.
Fylkingen´s consuming interest in the new electronic music has already been mentioned, and one of the working groups was the Electronic Music Group, which can be credited with sowing the seeds whose subsequent growth was to make Swedish electronic music world-renowned (as it still is today). Efforts were made to enable Swedish composers to learn about the new techniques, initially by inviting leading foreign protagonists in the field to give lectures and seminars. A course for composers "wishing to learn about the esthetics and compositional principles of the new music" was organized in collaboration with ABF (The Workers´ Educational Union), and participants in this course subsequently formed a working group which in 1961 was constituted as the Stockholm Electronic Music Studio Foundation. Within this group, Knut Wiggen and engineers Tage Westlund and Norman Gleiss drew up an outline design for what was intended to become perhaps the most advanced electronic music studio in the world. When the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation decided to build a (rather modest) electronic music studio, Fylkingen´s electronic music group and the Foundation were disbanded, but Wiggen and Westlund were engaged for the design of the studio. Later this was in fact to become EMS (properly called the Stockholm Electronic Music Studio Foundation!) and eventually Wiggen´s visionary plans were implemented in a studio which led the development of electronic music techniques world-wide.
Hähnel notes that the society´s whole-hearted dedication to the propagation of electronic and computer music did not meet with the unanimous approval of all members, but when the debate ripened to the point of a ballot, the "electronic" flank won a resounding victory.
The concern for the proper presentation of electronic and other recorded music in the Electroacoustics Group led to collaboration with engineer Stig Carlsson at the Royal Institute of Technology. The omnidirectional loudspeakers which he developed were used at Fylkingen´s concerts (Fylkingen couldn´t afford to buy them - they were borrowed from private persons for each concert) and received acclaim from all visiting composers and musicians.
The electroacoustic group was also concerned with the quality of home reproduction, from gramophone records or radio, via which it was hoped the new music (read "chiefly electronic music") could reach a wider audience. With the help of coopted member Hannes Eisler, lecturer at the Stockholm University Institute of Psychology, and with support from various national authorities, a method was worked out for evaluating home reproduction systems.
The Computer Music Group spent much time and effort, and a good deal of the society´s budget, on trying to make use of the early digital computers for music. This included trying to develop, and teach composers to use, an ALGOL-like language appropriate for composition. The investments of labour and funds seem to have yielded only meagre direct results, but the long-term effects in terms of new ground broken and ways of thinking were probably of crucial importance for Sweden´s subsequent emergence as a world-leader in computer music.
There was a noteworthy effort to try and establish a "homogeneous Nordic cultural area" through a series of touring concerts organized through the Nordic national sections of the ISCM (Fylkingen had become the official concert-giving organ of the Swedish national section in 1951). Despite its initial success, and Fylkingen´s continued commitment to the idea, the other Nordic sections opted not to prolong this collaboration.
The Theoretical Group concerned itself with the then current discussions of the new music, in which the German periodical Die Reihe played a prominant role. The group, which included experts from the natural sciences, the humanities and music, was critical of Die Reihe´s abstruseness. Their critical analysis led to the development of a modern music theory intended for teaching at conservatories and universities.
The Record Company Group drew up plans for the foundation of a Fylkingen label to publish LP´s with recordings from Fylkingen concerts and other music. Under this period (up till 1965) two records came out, (now much sought after) recordings of Cages´s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano played by Yuji Takahashi, who spent some time in Stockholm on a grant from Fylkingen. This group, together with the Long-Term Planning Group, was also instrumental in the introduction of a national grant scheme for supporting the production of records of Swedish music, which is still helping to bring out non-commercial Swedish music today.
Fylkingen continued to put out records, and still does (now on CD), despite a barren period during the 80´s.
The Concert Group, responsible for all public performances, was also hard at work during this period, presenting the new tendencies of the sixties. These included instrumental theatre, happenings and other kinds of performance with intermedia attributes, with a dominance of the Americans and with Cage as the leading figure, along with electronic music presented in a variety of unconventional situations. Hähnel describes the "American Week" (at the Museum of Modern Art), presenting the "New York School", as Fylkingen´s biggest box-office success of all time.
It has to be noted here that Fylkingen still did not have its own venue. Ever since the beginning it had been obliged to hire or borrow venues for all its performances. During this dynamic period in the 60´s a fruitful collaboration was established with the Museum of Modern Art, where the concerts were held, but the concert group had to contend with enormous difficulties as regards assembling the necessary instruments and equipment. This remained the situation until 1972, when Fylkingen finally aquired its own premises, with performance space, office and small studio, in what had been a cinema at Östgötagatan 33.
All this activity was managed on a shoe-string budget, without, as noted, even proper premises, so it is not surprising that considerable effort was also put into seeking better funding for the society. Hähnel notes that the cultural climate had become milder at the time, and despite opposition from certain quarters, some improvement was forthcoming.
The Long-Term Planning Group found itself faced with the difficult task of trying to embrace the social-democratic ideal of making the greatest cultural experience available to the greatest possible number of people. It was soon realized that publishing records was not a satisfactory solution, chiefly because the reproduction quality available in most homes just did not measure up to the demands of the new music. The discussion was therefore shelved, it being hoped that the enormous and rapid expansion of modern technology would be sufficient motivation in itself for the justification of new forms of artistic creativity.
In this faith, Fylkingen´s "Visions of the Present" festival at the Stockholm Science Museum in 1966 was accompanied by a manifesto signed by fourteen prominent Swedish scientists, the gist of which is that as huge investments in scientific and technological progress are radically altering our view of reality, proportionally large investments should be made in those art forms which contribute to heightening our awareness of this new reality. This referred primarily, of course, to electronic and computer music and loudspeaker reproduction, though one may interpret it, in the light of later developments, as a general expression of a faith in the glorious unification of art and science which from the perspective of the 90´s may seem somewhat naive, but should perhaps be seen as a historical necessity of the times. This faith was so great that there were serious proposals for Fylkingen to entirely abandon any form of music involving conventional instruments, and to do away with concerts altogether. Instead, members would work on projects, in collaboration with scientist and engineers, whose results would be demonstrated at annual festivals. However, as may be seen from other articles in this book, these proposals never won sufficient support.
The rest of the articles in the book have been written especially for the occasion of Fylkingen´s 60th anniversary, covering various aspects of the society´s current artistic activity, insofar as it can be resolved into separate compartments - one must bear in mind that Fylkingen´s multimedia/intermedia committment means that in practice different media are often inextricably intermingled. All these articles consist of some kind of mixture of factual account and poetic reflection, in varying proportions.
*Knut Wiggen´s significant role in the radical changes which Fylkingen underwent during the late 50's and early 60's and the subsequent emergence of Sweden as a worldleader in the application of new technology in music through the establishment of EMS is apparent from Hähnel's and other articles in the book.
In 1966, as described elsewhere in the book, Fylkingen organised a festival extending over several days entitled "VISIONS OF THE PRESENT", which was the final outcome of a project originally planned as a collaboration between Fylkingen and American artists (Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham, and others) on the theme "Art and Technology". The Americans never took part in the end, due, as Wiggen explains, to their primarily being concerned with marketing the ideas involved to commercial companies.
The festival was inaugurated with an appeal, published on the front page of a leading national daily, signed by fourteen of Sweden's leading scientists (reproduced in Hähnel´s article). The key points of this appeal were that modern society ran the risk of losing control over the radical alterations of our environment brought about by the explosive growth of technology, that we needed new awareness of what these alterations entailed, that artistic creativity using the new technology could make an important contribution to increasing this awareness, and that it therefore behoved modern society to allocate "huge" resources to technologically oriented artistic endeavour - huge in comparison with current practice but still modest compared with investments in scientific and technological research.
The Publication Committee considered it highly relevant for Fylkingen today to invite Wiggen to contribute an article taking stock of what has happened in the intervening thirty-odd years.
Wiggen first concludes that the technological expansion has been just as fast and uncontrolled as the fourteen envisaged, while little has been done to acheive the changed awareness the new reality demands. On the contrary, he remarks that the danger of classical one-sided exploitation is today being replaced by the creation (through media technology) of a global amusement park designed to hide the realities.
Wiggen's approach is on the plane of the underlying psychology rather than the formal manifestation of technology. He sees the fundamental driving force behind the continuing breakneck pace of technological development even after out basic needs have been satisfied as rooted in anxiety rather than any of the conventionally cited factors. He also observes that the increasing complexity of our cultural environment, to a large extent attributable to advances in technology, leads to an increasing uneasiness, which he considers as due to this complexity more and more hindering our satisfaction of primary urges, a conflict first described by Freud.
He does, however, see some hope that we can change our approach to science and technology so that we can be at ease with our own inventions. Two concepts which play a key role in his discussion are the realm of explanation and the realm of understanding. The former comes into play in our interaction with science and technology - it is the way in which, for example, robots must communicate with each other, and to which we must have recourse to communicate with our robots. The later is where communication between human beings takes place. It is highly dependent on the structuring of our minds, our inner mode of being.
What we must strive for, and it is here that Wiggen sees the crucial role which artists have to play in trying to achieve the goals already formulated in 1966, is basically the charting of our own realm of understanding, which we should project outwards on to the technology-based environment we create, rather than submitting willy-nilly to mere explanation, which never gives us any understanding, and is the source of our uneasiness in the face of the technological explosion. He notes, however, that this has not been happening in the technology-based arts so far, citing as an example the far-gone technocratization of experimental music today.
*CHAMBER MUSIC AT FYLKINGEN - AN ART FORM IN DISSOLUTION? is a brief reflection by Magnus Andersson on where chamber music has been going since the beginning of the 80's, and what its future may be, both at Fylkingen and in musical life at large. Andersson, guitarist, is himself one of the world's foremost performers of new music, chamber music naturally, and has both occupied positions of responsibility at Fylkingen and performed there many times.
As suggested by the title, he sees the state of chamber music today in general as critical, having lost ground during the 80's, becoming stiff and perhaps losing its vital capacity for a dialogue with audiences, while at the same time lacking the massive institutional backing which symphonic music still enjoys. He indicates the deleterious lack of critical reappraisal of tradition in instrumental teaching and, not surprisingly, among many performers.
At Fylkingen, after practically three decades of the society being exclusively dedicated to chamber music, this form already began to lose its central importance with the far-reaching changes of the 60's (already referred to in some detail elsewhere in this book). At that time there was even talk of completely excluding it from the repertoire, in favour of what was then seen as the technologically based art of the future. This never happened, but chamber music became just one of Fylkingen's many facets.
Too many facets perhaps, wonders Andersson. While he generally approves of Fylkingen's ability to maintain a dynamic flexibility (whose price is instability - ongoing crisis) and lack of a repressive hierarchy, he feels that too much diversity is in danger of disabling ideological focus in any field, not only in chamber music.
This is not to say that he considers that Fylkingen has neglected chamber music, pointing out that an examination of the programmes over the last decade proves the contrary, bearing witness to an impressive range of chamber music presentations and a continuing internationalism which he considers most creditable in view of an encroaching provincialism in Swedish cultural life as a whole, but also still doing much for the presentation of Swedish composers in this genre. He notes that there has also been a valuable committment to the combination of chamber music and electronics in various forms, and remarks that one must consider improvised music, now firmly established at Fylkingen, as a new outgrowth of chamber music.
But, to avoid Fylkingen sliding irrevocably into the role of a "Jack-of-all-trades, master of none", he calls for strategies which will give more definite ideological concentration of the creative energies present within the society. The future of chamber music raises many questions, which he considers Fylkingen could, through such a focussing and concentration, be the place where answers can be sought.
*Efva Lilja´s text about dance at Fylkingen, whose title could be freely translated as A ROOM OF CALM, is one of the more poetically written contributions. She is one of a number of dancers and choreographers who have contributed much to modern Swedish dance, and were able to do so thanks to Fylkingen´s experimental and open climate, and not the least to the constant availability of a rehearsal and performance space, but who later moved on to other venues and forms of activity. As Lilja points out, over recent years a new number of new venues and organizations offer experimental dancers possibilities which for a long time they only found at Fylkingen.
A good part of Efva´s narration is about how she experienced the premises and performance space at Östgötagatan 33 which housed Fylkingen from 1972 until the move to the current premises in the one-time Munich Brewery. The place was underground, had dark mauve walls, and because of the demands of the electronic music composers the walls were decked with movable absorbing panels and the floor, for dancers wonderful wooden floor, entirely covered with moss-green mats. The dancers had to take down the panels for every performance and role up the mats for every rehearsal - typical of the physical personal involvement which is still familiar to active Fylkingen members.
After the move to new premises there was again much to do to make the performance space better for dancing (not the least, the floor was impossible for dancers and had to be rebuilt, due to a mistake by the contractors). The atmosphere of the space was different, and had to be gradually adapted and imbued with the character of Fylkingen. But also Efva felt that this character was changing - not surprisingly it was changing its personality with the gradual flux of the active membership, something which I have already indicated as typical of, and perhaps vital for the survival of Fylkingen.
Talking about those days at Östgötatan in the late 70´s and early 80´s, Efva relates:
"There were always a lot of people. The society was us who worked there. ... Fylkingen at Östgötagatan became for me like a heart - pulsing strong, dark and intense. There every instant was charged with potential and every memory a possible source for those who would see. People talked to each other about dance, music, visual arts, literature, performance art, politics, ... food and other important topics. They were respectful, or sometimes incredibly disrespectful conversations, and very disorderly. Everybody´s thoughts and ideas were welcome in this at times contentious forum. Sometimes you had to shout really loud to make yourself heard. Sometimes the mess got me down. It was always messy at Fylkingen. But there were always those who would say - let´s do it!"
Efva also writes:
"For dance art Fylkingen means the chance to experiment, to develop cooperation with artists in other areas, and to give performances for which box-office figures and reviews are not decisive factors. .... Fylkingen has had the same importance for Swedish contemporary dance as the Judson Church and Judson Dance Theatre had for post-modern dance in the USA".
And in closing, Efva says: "Some maintain that chaos and crisis are essential to creativity. These have always been components of Fylkingen (like the rest of life?). To test, to expose oneself - to see what happens..... Therefore I see the artist as a researcher and the audience as his or her interpreter. Those who come to Fylkingen to see dance, performance or listen to music must always have room for anticipation."
Lilja´s account, as already noted, refers only to the period after Fylkingen obtained its own premises in 1972, so it is perhaps relevant, for those interested in some degree of historical completeness, that already during the 60´s, with the Museum of Modern Art as a venue, Fylkingen had made a strong committment to modern dance, providing (large) Swedish audiences with opportunities to see, for example, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Viola Farber, Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, etc.
*THE CIRCLE ALMOST CLOSING is the title of Erik Mikael Karlsson´s account of Fylkingen´s involvement with electronic, or as it now more often called, electroacoustic music or EAM. As might be expected from references in my summary of and comments on Hähnel´s text, it reads very much like a history of Swedish EAM: to use a sylvan metaphore, Fylkingen was the root and trunk of Swedish electronic music from the early 50´s till the late 60´s and the establishment of EMS as a national EAM production resource. In later years many smaller branches grew out, but in some way always emanating from the now twin trunks of Fylkingen and EMS. As Karlsson relates, EMS grew from Fylkingen, through the initiative of two one-time chairmen, Karl-Birger Blomdahl and Knut Wiggen, and despite being a formally separate and mutually independent organizations, they are inextricably linked both as a production-presentation symbiosis and on the personal level by the fact that ever since Wiggen´s day those most active at EMS have also been members of Fylkingen and belonged very often to what I have termed the society´s active core. And where electronic music has taken new roots elsewhere in Sweden one can usually find a leading figure with a connection to Fylkingen or EMS or both.
As must be expected, Karlsson´s account of the early years, up to the mid-60´s, covers much the same ground as Hähnel´s, while providing some more information on some of the key developments. He notes that the first studio in Sweden was established at ABF, under whose auspices Fylkingen first began to offer courses for composers in electronic music with guest lectureres like Gottfried Michael Koenig, Henri Pousseur and György Ligeti, and this was the first time it became possible to produce such music in Sweden. Among the young composers who thereby came into Fylkingen were Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Arne Mellnäs, Karl-Erik Welin, Leo Nilsson, Bengt Emil Johnson and others who were subsequently to become leading figures not only in Fylkingen and EAM but also in other aspects of Swedish musical and cultural life.
In 1964 Blomdahl became head of the Music Department of the Swedish National Broadcasting Company, and soon instigated the Company´s committment to developing an electronic music studio. He saw to it that Wiggen, who had already begun to formulate his far-reaching plans for a revolutionary studio within Fylkingen, got the responsibility for its development. A modest provisional studio was opened in 1965, while Wiggen´s visionary plans for a computerized studio finally became reality in 1970.
With the move into the old Facklan cinema at Östgötagatan in 1972, Fylkingen was also able to set up its own small studio. Although naturally always overshadowed by EMS, it provided many members with an alternative production resource, especially some of the text-sound artists.
Wiggen had plans for a much larger integral facility embodying both production and presentation capabilities, with studios, a specially designed concert hall for electroacoustic music, archives, library, etc., which would have unified EMS and Fylkingen into something as grandiose as IRCAM at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but many years earlier. Nothing came of this unfortunately, but when both EMS and Fylkingen moved to premises in the one-time Munich Brewery building, the symbiosis was further nourished by physical proximity. Then there was no longer felt to be any need for Fylkingen to maintain its own studio.
Fylkingen´s committment to the presentation of both Swedish and foreign EAM has never flagged since those early years, and this has expanded since the mid-60´s to embrace "live-electronics" performances. Sweden has become, as Karlsson reiterates, a leading nation in the world of electroacoustic music, and almost without exception those who have given it this status made their debut at Fylkingen. One has only to refer to the names of prize-winners at the renowned international competition of Bourges to note the disproportionate presence of Swedish composers (of which Karlsson is, by the way, a notable example) - practically without exception all members of Fylkingen.
Fylkingen is also one of the driving forces behind the annual Stockholm Electronic Music Festival (from which many works have appeared on the Fylkingen Records label), and continues the practice of inviting leading foreign composers to present their music and hold lectures and seminars.
Karlsson closes with a brief speculation about the future: now, when the technology seems to have reached yet another breakpoint, he wonders whether Fylkingen´s earlier impassioned, but now somewhat subdued committment to a spearhead role in the integration of new technology and art might not be revived.
*In his contribution ON FYLKINGEN, TECHNOLOGY AND DIFFERENT APPROACHES Åke Parmerud discusses in general terms the role of technology. He holds that the majority of art which can today claim to be contemporary does in one way another involve advanced technology. However, apart from the early experiments with video, it has been above all in music that the impact of scientific and technological developments has been felt (cf. Måns Wrange´s article about video art).
There were already during the early decades of the century tendencies in Western art music which made it natural to take advantage of technological advances (like audio oscillators and the tape recorder) when they became available. This kind of approach, where technical means enable the realization of ideas which are conceived without reference to the nature of the means, Parmerud refers to as "visionary", though clearly giving this word a special interpretation here and emphasizing that it does not necessarily imply "original".
As the available devices became more numerous and sophisticated, another approach emerged, which Parmerud denotes as "experimental", where the artist´s point of departure is "what the apparatus can do", and which also involves experimenting with the apparatus and "seeing what happens".
Both approaches have their pitfalls, to which many works bear witness. The risk with the visionary approach is that lack of awareness of the final product´s physical nature may lead to extreme degradation or destruction of the original idea, while the danger of the experimental approach is that one easily gets ensnared in gimmickry and a meaningless obsession with using the latest "thing".
Parmerud sees computer music as tending to favour the visionary approach, while analogue techniques (and, I would note, more recent "analogue-like" digital devices or software) tend to favour the experimental approach. He also maintains that much of the enormous development in software tools for computer music seems to have unfortunately widened rather than closed this cleft.
Fylkingen´s relatively early (and for Sweden pioneering) committment to the propagation of the new "hi-tech" art which started to emerge elsewhere in Europe during the 50´s has already been documented elsewhere in this resumé. Parmerud considers it fortunate that Fylkingen never committed itself too much to becoming a production resource (rather due to economic constraints than design), since this might well have embodied a committment to a particular approach. He writes:
"By never really becoming an established studio or specializing in terms of technical equipment and thereby getting locked into a particular aesthetic, Fylkingen has been able to function as neutral territory where different artistic and technical approaches can be presented side by side. Fylkingen´s aesthetic profile has of course altered over the years depending on which members have had most influence at any given time, but this has not affected the basic diversity of the productions which has been typical ever since the society began to embrace dance and multimedia. Fylkingen has thus fulfilled a double function (at least as regards music) by both presenting the art in itself and by bringing to light aesthetic and ideological conflicts so as initiate debate and possibly contribute to a revision of established ways of thinking."
Elsewhere he expresses the hope that the kind of encounters between the different approaches to art and technology which Fylkingen provides can lead to fruitful interaction.
Parmerud takes up the question of whether electronic music as a genre (more or less exclusively represented by pure "loudspeaker music") has any validity today, noting the increasing tendency (fuelled by Boulez´ contention that loudspeaker music is an impossibility) to avoid specifically electronic works in favour of various synthetic works including acoustic instruments. He refers to the 70´s and 80´s as a "golden age" of loudspeaker music at Fylkingen, but deplores the trend towards an abandonment of that which is most specific to electronic music.
He therefore sees it as essential that Fylkingen should have access to a loudspeaker orchestra of the highest quality, and absurd that the society is (still) forced to hire speakers out of its already overstretched production budget. Likewise he considers it essential that Fylkingen should have equipment of equally high quality for stage lighting, bildspiel and video. Finally, he sees a possible future Fylkingen where all media (slide projectors, video, sound, lighting, etc.) can all be controlled from and (in the case of sound and video) processed in real time by a powerful central computer (whereby, I would remark, the society could win back its spearhead role in the integration of art and technology).
*The term "text-sound composition" is alleged to have seen the light of day April 1967 in connection with a live-broadcast concert by Fylkingen´s Language Group at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art, jointly organized by Fylkingen and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation´s (SBC´s) Literature and Art Department. It was to become widely accepted as a canopy name for a manifold of phenomena which could not be described as poetry or music but which embodied elements of both, and which have been given many other names - "sound poetry" (otherwise commonest in English), "phonic poetry", "audio-poems", "poesie sonore", "sound texts", "verbosonie", "acoustic literature", etc. More important, this concert can be seen as the initiation of a long and fruitful collaboration between Fylkingen and the SBC which led to the establishment of Fylkingen´s annual Text-Sound Festival. Over the 10 years which this festival was a regular event (chiefly) in Stockholm (1968-1977), Fylkingen became a world focus for this new art form, and Swedish exponents of it (almost all members of Fylkingen) acheived international renown as important pioneers.
It is this aspect of Fylkingen´s activity which Teddy Hultberg surveys in his contribution "FROM HÄTILA RAGULPR PÅ FÅTSKLIABE TO HEJ TATTA GôREM ! A CHRONOLOGY OF 40 YEARS OF TEXT-SOUND ART". The two cryptic phrases in the title are not, as the uniniated reader might assume, untranslated Swedish, but in fact quotations from two forerunners of the text-sound movement, the former from Öyvind Fahlström´s Manifesto for Concrete Poetry from a 1953 number of Odyssé (Sweden), the latter from Hugo Ball´s Karawane (poetry without words) from 1917.
It is a forbidding task to try and render a condensed version of Hultberg´s already concentrated and tightly-knit account. I can only attempt to indicate a few of the major landmarks and interwining threads which he takes up.
Hultberg makes a bold attempt to review the historical background and the many tendencies in Western literature and music which subsequently coalesced to give rise to this art form, and to describe how it began to influence the Swedish avantgarde in the 50´s, creating a somewhat fragmented movement which was finally to find its focus in Fylkingen´s Language Group in 1966. He maintains, perhaps debatably, that text-sound composition is the only area of experimental art in which Swedish artists have acheived international recognition as pioneers.
Many of those in and around this movement see the reinstatement of oral communication as a homecoming for poetry, a return to its primaeval traditions before it fell into the bondage of the printed page. But the decomposition of language, the rejection of syntactic rules and the introduction of non-linguistic speech sounds as material for the artist (poet?, composer?) to work with, started by the Italian Futurists in the 1910´s, initiated developments which went far beyond a return to the oral tradition.
Though the credit for this revitalization of the oral tradition must go primarily to the Futurists, Hultberg notes that literary experimentation had already been going on since the late 19th century with such as MallarmŽ, Rimbaud, Barzun, Caroll, Morgenstern and Scheerbert. And oral traditions had survived in many forms in the folk cultures of most nations - and were in fact drawn upon by, especially, the futurist Russian Zaum poets.
Other important forerunners were of course the Dadaists, the French lettristes, and later on Fluxus. Though the Fluxus movement does not seem to have had any great following in Sweden, three Fluxus Evenings organized by writer and folklorist Bengt af Klintberg in 1963 presenting Klintberg, Staffan Olzon, Svante Bodin, Carl Frederik Reuterswärd and, from the USA Dick Higgins (inventer of the term intermedia) and Alison Knowles, had a decisive influenc on several of the text-sound artists-to-be who attended (among them Sten Hanson and Åke Hodell).
Other important influences within Sweden inlcuded the experimental poetry of such as Ilmar Laaban, Öyvind Fahlström and Åke Hodell. Fahlström´s Manifesto for Concrete Poetry received little attention when it appeared in 1953, but was subsequently to be quoted and referred to extensively. Perhaps even more influential was his long radiophonic piece THE BIRDS OF SWEDEN from 1963, which Lars-Gunnar Bodin has described as a model and source of inspiration for many subsequent Swedish works in this genre.
Even before Fylkingen´s reorganization into working groups (including the Language Group) and committment to intermedia and multimedia art froms, it had contributed to the emergence of the Swedish text-sound movement by presenting works like Stockhausen´s "GESANG DER JÜNGLIE", Berio´s "THEMA", Eimert´s "EPITAPH FÜR AIKICHI KUBOYAMA", works where the composers were using speech as raw material. These works were also broadcast by the SBC.
It is important to note here the valuable collaboration of the SBC with Fylkingen in propogating the new art forms, at least up until 1975 when new leadeship at the SBC decided that the Text-Sound Festivals were costing too much money. Hultberg sees this as one of the important factors making the text-sound movement so vital in Sweden, but the same also applies to the propagation of the new music during the 60´s and 70´s. It is still true today to some extent, but both the overall economic situation and the SBC´s policy have become less favourable for Fylkingen.
Many of those involved or later to be involved in text-sound art, as in other art forms, were strongly influenced by the many concerts and subsequent long-term visits of John Cage in Stockholm which Fylkingen organized (1958, 1960, 1963, 1964).
But, Hultberg emphasizes, the most important single factor for the emergence of this new art form, world-wide, was the development of the tape recorder soon after World-War II (the microphone, amplifier and loudspeaker required to complete the chain had already existed for many years). The emergence of musique concrŽte with its maxim that all sounds could be removed from their context and used as building material for a work was to have more impact than any number of manifestos. The microphone could be turned like a microscope on speech sounds, the smallest elements could be magnified and captured on tape, manipulated and layered to acheive results which were unthinkable in live performance. The magnetic tape became the new "oral literature´s" parchment.
In this respect Fylkingen´s text-sound artists were particularly fortunate. Because of the society´s close association with the development of electronic music in Sweden, as soon as electronic music facilities were established they were able to gain access to them, whereas in other countries such studios were primarily reserved for "proper" composers. This is certainly one of the factors contributing to the rapid emergence of Sweden (through Fylkingen) as a leading nation in text-sound composition. In connection with the Text-Sound Festivals, foreign text-sound artists were often invited to realize pieces in the SBC´s Sound Workshop, later EMS, for presentation at the Festival.
After 1977, Fylkingen´s activity in this area abated somewhat (once again an example of Fylkingen´s constantly shifting profile in keeping wiht the primary interests of the active membership). Festivals were held elsewhere, and it was not until 1984 that Fylkingen organized another.
In May 1992, mainly thanks to the initiative and efforts of Hultberg himself, Fylkingen organized another festival, fittingly entitled Hej tatta Gôrem, to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Text-Sound Festival, which brought together both many of the artists who had participated in the early festivals, and others whose contributions Fylkingen audiences had not had the opportunity to hear. In connection with the Festival Hultberg brought out the booklet LITERALLY SPEAKING (in English), to which the reader is referred for a more comprehensive presentation of Hultberg´s research. Contact Fylkingen to obtain a copy.
Though it can be said that Fylkingen´s "text-sound period" now belongs to the past, one should note that the techniques and awareness of the poetic potential of speech sound manipulation have become the common property of all those who work within the electronic medium. There is hardly a composer of electroacoustic music today who has not in some way also made use of text-sound composition methods. They have become part of the standard vocabulary. It seems though that those who would primarily call themselves poets have retreated to the printed page, which is a pity, especially given the facility with which voice sounds can be manipulated with today´s digital techniques.
*The title of Kent Tankred´s contribution is PERFORMANCE ART IS DEAD - LONG LIVE PERFORMANCE ART. Tankred is Fylkingen´s current chairman, and has the kind of multidisciplinary profile which reflects the society itself, having a background in the visual arts, the construction of sound-producing mechanical artefacts, performance art of various forms, bildspiel and more recently composing music for other performance and dance productions.
He describes his first encounters with live productions at Fylkingen, which he had previously thought of as an exclusively musical society, at the beginning of the 80´s, when in fact Fylkingen had long since branched out into other media besides music, and was in a period when performance artists were particularly active within the society.
He describes several of the performances he witnessed over the next few years, and how he gradually came to appreciate the intrinsic properties which made them what he defines as "pure performance", between dance, music and theater, but not any of these. He stresses the experience of witnessing a fascinating but incomprehensible ritual.
He also underlines the importance of time as a dimension in many performance works. One of the works he describes as an illustration of both this and the ritualistic aspect of the "pure" performance is Leif Elggren´s 10 DAYS - AN EXPEDITION. I present a translation of his description as indicative of his conception of the genre.
".... extended over a period of ten days, and might have been considered a purely personal matter had it not been for the small peepholes into the quarters where he spent that time, in fast, silence, vigil, denial, isolation, calm, aloofness, endurance, purification, concentration, development, artistic consistency, all according to his own commentary. I quote from the catalogue: "...... On the wall hang ten strips of paper. Under each strip a small inkwell and a black lipstick. The inkwells, numbered 1-10, are intended to receive the corresponding strips and lipsticks after the exepedition. Assignment ("Performance VXII"): every morning, after a night of vigil, at sunrise, paint my lips black and kiss one of the paper strips (top downwards until the lips leave no impression).´ "
Tankred explains that he has described this and some other performance pieces he witnessed as being "powerful manifestations of performance art". He notes that there had even before this period been many events at Fylkingen which had much in common with performance art, but he considers that they lacked the inner gathering of strength which is characteristic of pure performance.
He and Elggren have worked together under the name TheThe Sons of God for a number of years now, appearing often at Fylkingen but also elsewhere in Sweden and abroad, and what they do bears many characteristics of performance art. (It is unfortunate for English speakers that the name of the genre is ambiguous, so that one is constantly trying to avoid constructions like "a performance performance".) He considers however that their performances belong to the "impure" form of the genre, with more definite committment to the genres of certain component elements (e.g. music, image), and that this is also true of most of the other "performance-type" events which have over the last few years again become an important feature of Fylkingens programme. He mentions for example two "video performances" by Dinka Pignon, the dance/performance events of the group Tiger, the guest appearance of the Australian "electronic-body-performance" artist Stelarc, and the singular schaman-like American performance artist/pianist/composer Jerry Hunt (_ 1993). Tankred notes also the increasing frequency (again, one might note, after some early experiments in the 60´s and 70´s) of video installations. But his designation of such works as "impure performance" is not intended to be in any way disparaging - it marks a shift of focus, a different angle of approach by those who are active today. Hence the title of his article.
*Before going on the Josef Doukkali´s chapter THE RADIANT PROJECTION it seems appropriate to explain the term bildspiel which has already cropped up a number of times. I use the German word, although considering the status of and contribution made by Sweden (read Fylkingen) to this art form, the Swedish word bildspel would perhaps be better justified. In English one would have to replace it by "programme-controlled multiple slide projection synchronized with music on tape"!
As already intimated, bildspiel is another area where Fylkingen has had (and still has) a leading role world-wide. Doukkali begins his article with the exclamation "Fylkingen is bildspiel", not literally true, but often heard since the end of the 70´s as a slogan indicating the importance of Fylkingen as a protagonist of this genre. It would perhaps gain a good deal of literal truth in the converse form "Bildspiel is Fylkingen".
Though there were some examples of the combination of slide projections and music already during the 60´s and 70´s at Fylkingen, Doukkali notes that Fylkingen´s committment to bildspiel as an art form specially cultivated by the society can be associated with the aquisition 1978-1979 of an Audio Visual Laboratories Multiscreen programmable controller and a number of controllable projectors. A quotation from the Board´s annual report for 1978-1979 illustrates the general intention of this investment:
"Fylkingen´s artists see bildspiel as a means to work with images which is comparable with the means of expression using sound made available by electronic music studios. Like the sound material in music, the images can be projected in several layers, creating new constellations and relations depending on the character, intensity and dominance of the component images."
The first bildspiel to be shown at Fylkingen was composer Rolf Enström´s Myr (mire, bog), which he had realized in 1978 on equipment similar to that thereafter aquired by Fylkingen. Then followed Take the Cage Train, a collaboration between photographer Nino Monastra and composer/sound-poet (then producer at Fylkingen) Sten Hanson, depicting Cage´s three-day musical train tour in northern Italy June 1978.
Collaborations between composers and visual artists have, as one might expect, been a typical feature of Fylkingen´s bildspiel production over the years. It is interesting to note, though, that in those few cases where one person has created an entire bildspiel (e.g. Rolf Enström, Åke Parmerud), they have been composers.
The combination of sound and image in bildspiel puts in focus, perhaps more than any other interdisciplinary genre supported by Fylkingen, the subject of how media are or can be used simultaneously. Doukkali takes up this subject in a brief discussion of the terms "mulitmedia", "mixed media" and "intermedia" as defined by Cope (in the book NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC, 1971), noting that, properly used, they should indicate, in increasing order, the degree to which interaction and coherence between the events in the two media is crucial to the overall gestallt of the work.
Doukkali describes a number of the bildspiel works produced at Fylkingen, noting their different characters in relation to Cope´s definitions. He also dwells on the different ways the work in the two media can proceed, for example whether the music is completely defined first, the images and their "visual composition" following, or the images first, or parallel development of both components, with or without some previously determined underlying structural plan. A number of the examples are from his own works in collaboration with composers Anders Blomqvist and William Brunson.
Fylkingen has recently aquired new projection control equipment, with greatly enhanced capabilities compared with the old AVL machine and projectors (which were literally on their last legs), allowing to an even greater extent the artist to work with images in a way analogous to the manipulation of sound in an electroacoustic studio. Doukkali remarks that it is hard to predict where bildspiel is going, but notes that many artists involved in this field have developed powerful personal modes of expression in the genre, and that it will continue to be one of Fylkingen´s strongest assets, both per se and as a component in composite productions.
*Måns Wrange´s short contribution VIDEO - THE MEDIUM THAT CAME IN FROM THE COLD is primarily an overview of video art´s not altogether happy fate in Sweden up to the present day. He is himself a video artist and has been committed to attempting to nurture this art form in what must be described as having been an inclement climate in Sweden. He notes that he also written articles before, taking different lines of attack, deploring this situation.
He states that video art has not succeeded in attracting audiences in Sweden, often because the works presented, and/or the presentation itself, have been of too poor quality and too amateurish. This is an art form in which Sweden has lagged lamentably far behind many other countries in the world. Wrange sees a number of causes for this state of affairs.
He sees the mass media attitude as an important factor here, and draws an interesting comparison between Sweden´s leading role in electroacoustic music which to a large extent can be attributed to the radio medium´s committment from the beginning (as noted elsewhere, after leaving the chairmanship of Fylkingen, Karl Birger Blomdahl took charge of the music department of the Swedish Boradcasting Corporation, and saw to it that an electronic music studio was established). But equally important was the ready acceptance, indeed hunger for the challenges of the new technology which composers have exhibited from the very first. On the other hand, Wrange notes, Swedish television has shown little interest in the potential of its medium for artistic experiment, while visual artists have for some reason shown themselves more conservative in their attitude to new media. (I must note here that there is absolutely nothing for video art production in Sweden corresponding to the national electroacoustic music facility which EMS has been for 30 years, nowadays supplemented by several other more or less open studios elsewhere in the country. While Swedish electronic music composers have been a leading force even in the development of the technology, and always have had access to state-of-the-art equipment, video artists can only look on in chagrin as the commercial world outstrips them by light years).
Another major drawback has been the total lack of academic teaching in the video medium. Until quite recently, Sweden was one of the few countries in Europe which lacked this form of teaching within higher art education. Two art schools have now recently established such courses and set up studios. Wrange also notes that there seems to be some improvement under way in the presentation of video art too.
Finally, Wrange notes that over the last decade or so Fylkingen has presented video art rather regularly and that the older members who (in fact ever since the 60´s) have off and on worked with the medium have been joined by a new generation of artists who often make use of it in various contexts, and that collaboration between video artists and, for example, composers and dancers has begun to appear (again, one might say). He considers that in this context Fylkingen can be the natural forum for video which, for example, The Kitchen (a society with many similarities to Fylkingen) constitutes for New York, and could thereby be as important for the development of this art form as it has been for new music and dance.
(As I write this resumeacute, of Wrange´s account, work is under way with the installation of a modest but professional-quality video editing studio in Fylkingen´s already overcrowded premises. This is a trial collaboration with a small commercial firm, whereby Fylkingen´s members can, finally, get a certain amount of free access to high-quality equipment, something which was financially beyond their reach in most cases).
*Jan W.Morthenson´s contribution entitled SHADOWS OF LIGHT consists of both a general lament over the way Fylkingen has gone since the radical changes of the early 60´s, and a sharp critique of all attempts to make artistic use of technical means which are today the stock-in-trade of the mass-consumption media.
It should perhaps be explained that Morthenson was himself one of the active core of members involved in the tumultuous radicalization of Fylkingen during the 60´s, towards which, he notes, he gradually became more and more sceptical, and was, during the period 1968 to 1973, more taken up with experiemental TV-projects (which, at that time, major TV-companies were still willing to finance) than with music.
Morthenson also makes use of the terms multimedia and intermedia, but not with the same meaning as, for example, Doukkali (inconsistencies in the use of these terms are legion in discussions of contemporary art forms). In this resumŽ of Morthenson´s article I will use multimedia just to indicate any artistic product using identifiably distinct media in some combination.
The general criticism of the society´s physionomy can perhaps be crudely summarized as "Fylkingen has bitten off more than it can chew". Expansion to a wide front is not consistent with a spearhead role. Involvement in too many different areas at the same time must lead to dilution, especially given the meagre financial resources which Fylkingen must manage on. Morthenson points out the many pitfalls on this road, into which he considers Fylkingen has well and truely fallen. I will attempt to capture the general tenor of his argument with some quotations.
Referring to developments after the revision of the statutes in 1962 and the subsequent committment to mulitmedia, he remarks that "From having been ´adult´ and academic the society suddenly became ´youthful´ and americanized. Many new members with no connection to contemporary music or even to culture at all were elected.....", and " ... musical expertise was relegated to a corner..... The kitsch factor and amateurishness of the productions increased disturbingly."
" ... in hindsight one can say that by its Ôdilution´ Fylkingen can no longer take a distinct initiative but tends to melt into the current general tendencies."
"Whereas Fylkingen previously had as its central concern the focussing of attention on problems of art music and its presentation, now one is forced into a fragmetary registration of practically everything, not the least as a consequence of the committment to multimedia."
" ... Fylkingen gave priority to the provincial, the undemanding, the work of novices. ..."
He also attributes Fylkingen´s declining audience under the 70´s to this policy.
Morthenson considers that one of the major factors favouring this deplorable tendency was the society´s aquisition of its own performance space. During the first 25 years concerts had to be given at a chamber music hall in the Stockholm Concert Hall building. During the 60´s the Museum of Modern Art provided the venue, which allowed more than conventional instrumental concerts to be presented (especially dance and performance art), but audiovisual productions were still very difficult. When Fylkingen finally got its own premises in 1972 the kettle of fish was very different, and so, after a time, were the fish.
As regards mulitmedia art which makes use of advanced technology (in this context we are talking about film, video, bildspiel, and less common in serious art, things like laser projections and light shows) Morthenson takes a pessimistic view of all attempts to use those media forms whose reception is already heavily conditioned by massive exposure to "the media". In fact, for Fylkingen today, his criticism must be primarily seen as referring to the video medium and computer-generated images, and the conditioning influence of mass-consumption television (and of course of those films which today use effects available only via video technology), since film presentations at Fylkingen are nowadays few and far between and (celluloid) film productions by members are very unsual. He notes that "avantgarde film" is a self-contradictory term, that "video" has long since lost its innovative aura, and that "computer images" cannot help being associated with trivial games and TV-logos. He excepts bildspiel from the category of hopelessly "media-sullied" forms in that it has not been so exploited for popular consumption and is therefore in a better position to keep banality and crass substantialization at bay. Otherwise, he considers that few multimedia works acheive a transcendental and conceptual dimension, and in referring to an exception in this respect, works by Lars-Gunnar Bodin, he states "The existentially significant is ungraspable: non-communicative media fragments can intimate a truth beyond sensory consumption."
As regards the future, Morthenson says he would not be surprised if what he calls "pure art music", at least purely instrumental such, should disappear entirely from Fylkingen´s programme over the next ten years, as the society is "taken over by a generation with rock culture as its principle background", to give way to titillating, esoteric, audience-courting productions based on multimedia and improvisation. But, he speculates, Fylkingen may have to take on a new role with the proliferation of public electronic communications, where there may be "avantgarde channels" available via satellite, and the communication of new artistic information will be transferred from "slow" institutions to fast, specialized media.
*My own contribution, IMPROVISED MUSIC AT FYLKINGEN, is an account of Fylkingen´s involvement in improvised music, to which I am myself heavily committed, apart from, or, I would rather say, as part of being a composer. I have tried to assemble a good deal of factual and chronological information, interleaved with some personal opinions and reflections.
It behoved me first to briefly define what I mean by "improvised music" and "improviser" in this context. The former can be briefly identified as "free improvisation not restricted by any traditionally or stylistically defined idiom", the latter as "not an instrumentalist who improvises, but a composer who creates music without using notation".
I have tried to depict Fylkingen´s role as a forum for improvised music as one of three parallel, more or less chronological threads, the other two being improvisation in the world at large, and improvisation in Sweden as a whole. I also make reference to the widely accepted distinction of two main sources for today´s free improvisational practice - the Afro-American source (read jazz, free-jazz), and the western art music source, noting how they have interacted and, finally with the extreme radicalization of the former and the catholicity of the latter, fused into what free improvised music is today in many different countries.
An underlying premise of my presentation derives from my personal experience as a listener, namely that as concerns "pure musical experiences", to borrow a term from Jan W.Morthenson´s article, improvised music, in many cases at Fylkingen, has a very high standing. However, as I note in my article, both within Fylkingen and world-wide this attitude is not shared by all protagonists of new music, and the growth of improvised within Fylkingen has not proceeded without opposition. It is certainly not shared, for example, by Morthenson, and Cage´s early derogatory attitude to improvisation (as distinct from indeterminacy) is well known.
Despite radical tendencies in the Afro-American stream, and experiments with improvisation from composers and musicians within the western art music world during the 50´s, Fylkingen´s programme shows no trace of these influences before the 60´s. However, many composers were making use of new forms of notation, such as graphic scores and open form, and such works were being performed at Fylkingen.
The first serious sign that improvisation had a foot in the door at Fylkingen was a performance by the Sonic Arts Group (later called the Sonic Arts Union) in 1969, improvising with live electronics, which caused an outcry from certain members as constituting an altogether inacceptably sloppy and uncontrolled means of creating electronic music.
That year also saw the foundation of the instrumental ensemble Harpans Kraft, dedicated to the performance of new music, which meant in many cases the new types of score already mentioned where the musicians have much greater freedom (and responsibility). This group was enthusiastic about improvisation, and in 1973, according to pianist Mats Persson, gave their first public free improvisation (though the audience probably did not realize it) during a performance of Earle Brown´s FOUR SYSTEMS - they somehow all realized at a certain point that they no longer needed the score, and proceeded to create their own totally free improvisation. Harpans Kraft also played a key role in Fylkingen´s improvisation history through the fact that some of its members were teachers at the "New Music" courses organized a Fylkingen in collaboration with Birkagårdens folkhögskola. Improvisation was one of the subjects, and those attending the course included many who were already or were to become seriously involved in improvisation as an autonomous method of music-making.
During the 70´s there were several more examples of foreign guest ensembles presenting improvisation, again often with live-electronics, but still no appearance by the already forming body of Swedish improvisers. It was not until the 80´s that what I have termed the "Swedish improvisation community", in analogy to similarly identifiable communities in, for example, Great Britain, Germany and Holland, began to make its presence felt within Fylkingen. Much of the credit for this must go to composer/improviser Dror Feiler, who is still very much active in the field.
Since that time, "Fylkingen-based" improvisers have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in new music, even on the international scene. Leading foreign improvisers of various schools have also become a regular feature of Fylkingen´s programme.
Fylkingen´s role as a centre for this kind of artistic effort, in which Sweden was earlier sadly retarded in comparison to many other countries with a more dynamic musical life, can be seen as an example of the motto already mentioned in Hähnel´s article concerning the early years of the society - "doing what we think needs doing but was not being done by anyone else". After a certain flourishing of the genre in the 80´s, the number of venues where such music was presented shrank drastically, so Fylkingen, with its many improviser members and its own premises for rehearsal and performance, has been a key factor in putting Swedish improvised music on the map.
Fylkingen? It started out as chamber music society, spreading out to a society for the promotion of many of the "experimental" forms of art. Since the late 50´s one can see it as one of Sweden´s few focal points for artists with a restless and enquiring approach to their media, perhaps still the most important such, despite the dangers, indicated by some, of its "drowning in its own diversity".
But 60? ... and still not a respectably established (and complacent) institution? Most groupings of artists for artists fail to hold together more than a few years, due to internal schisms and/or lack of funds or dedication from members, all of which have threatened Fylkingen continuously. Can it be said, perhaps, that precisely because Fylkingen has been in a constant state of flux, at least for the past 35 years or so, as the core of active members shifts all the time, it has been able to stay vital? Perhaps one can also see a reason in that Swedish society must get a pretty high rating generally for ability to cooperate for a common goal despite strife over individual issues. And the fact that Fylkingen remains one of the few focal points, even, as Efva Lilja has put it, a haven for artists who cannot or will not submit themselves to the demands and goals of the mainstream of society, but who cannot or will not work in isolation.
A large part of the book is taken up by a more or less complete listing of all the works ever performed at Fylkingen since its inauguration in 1933, over 1600 productions and something like 7000 different works. This is accompanied by a selection of reviews from various newspapers, and other material of historical interest.
The credit for this book ever appearing, an enormous undertaking given Fylkingen´s already overstrained resources, must largely go to the specially formed Editorial Committee: Teddy Hultberg (editor-in-chief), Josef Doukkali, Christian Bock, Tore Nilson in which everybody did something of everything. Especially, I think, the society should thank Teddy Hultberg for a truely dedicated effort, with, as ever at Fylkingen over the whole 60 years, the most meagre financial remuneration.