Toxværd blog 2: SONICS, part 1 (of 3)

Composer Laura Toxværd shares reflections on a video recording of a performance featuring some of her graphic notated compositions and the compositional processes behind the pieces 'Q', 'QUA', 'S', 'SHY', 'U' and 'URN'.
7. Oct 2015

At the moment I am reflecting on video recordings of rehearsals and concerts where some of my graphic notated compositions were performed. In this blog post I will tell about the compositional processes of Q, QUA, S, SHY, U and URN. In the next two blog posts I continue with T, TIC, R, RAW, V, VOW and end with all of the compositions considered as a whole. The focus of these three blog posts that have SONICS as headings will be on the compositions’ sonic transformation. I explain how I integrate the improvisors’ co-creation while a sonic recognizability is maintained.

The development of the compositions Q and QUA

I composed Q with an intention that the co-creation by bass and drums would be an improvised “almost groove/nearly time” while sax and piano would play sonic recognizable fragments in the form of a rubato melody with chords (see 0:48): 


My prior thoughts on the composition were to split the ensemble in two separated spaces of sound. I wanted the sax and the piano to interact with each other in one group. And in the other group bass and drums should interact. But I wanted no interactions between the two groups. When Q was played at the rehearsal and at the following concert the “almost groove/nearly time” was never there. Instead drums and bass played an abstract texture where the small metronomically pulsating islands that I had imagined did not show up. After the rehearsal and the concert I realized that bass and drums had replaced the “almost groove/nearly time” with a different rhythmic layer. Because it worked well in relation to separating the music into two spaces of sound I integrated the improvisors’ idea of this different rhythmic layer in the composition QUA. It was not crucial to my intention whether bass and drums played an “almost groove/nearly time” or a more abstract texture – as long as we kept the kept the rubato melody with chords as sonic recognizable fragments.

The development of the compositions S and SHY

When I composed S I intended to have some sonic recognizable elements in forms of a metronomic groove played by bass and drums and a sax riff connecting to that pulse. And I wanted the piano to be slowly flowing with harmonies in a non-metronomic relation to the other instruments. At the rehearsal and the concert the metronomic pulse of the groove and the sax riff became fluctuating (see 5:58 in the video). To my surprise the music precisely reflected my idea of “almost groove/nearly time” – the intention I had for Q. My main intention with S was to have a feeling of a metronomic pulse and an abstract flow at the same time. And that was the reason why I had given bass, drums and sax the role of keeping the metronomic pulse while the role of the piano was to flow free from this. But at the rehearsal and the concert the roles changed; all the improvisors now played alternately with and without a metronomic pulse underlying their play. Because this co-creation worked so well and matched my intention I integrated it in the composition of SHY. The sax riff and the bass line were still recognizable but open for mutations.

The development of the compositions U and URN

My intention when I composed U was to create an atmosphere of a lullaby. Zones of improvisations would now and then be replaced by a sonic recognizable melody played in the low register of the clarinet accompanied by piano, bass and drums (see 25:22). The improvisors had to co-create which instruments that were going to play in the different zones of improvisation. At the rehearsal it was decided that two improvisors played in every zone – but no one would know in advance who were going to play; it was decided by the improvisors in the moment when every zone of improvisation started (see 27:08). Because the improvisors’ co-creation supported my intention of a lullaby I trusted that the right choice about who would play in the duos was made when the improvisors’ played. In the composition of URN I integrated the improvisors’ idea of the duo improvisations with unknown participants and kept the recognizable melody with accompaniment.

About Laura Toxværd

Altsaxophonist, composer and teaching assistant professor at RMC.


Has released three albums under her own name. Co-founder and former chairwoman of the artist collective and record label ILK. 


In 2009 awarded with the Danish Art Council's three-year working grant by the Rythmical and Classical Committees in unison. 


Educated from RMC (2004) and holder of a Master's degree with Music Education as area of specialization from Aarhus University (2013).


Click here for Laura Toxværd's profile at


By the Danish Ministry of Culture's definition, artistic research is an integrated part of any artistic process ammounting to an outcome available to the public, and accompanied by a reflection upon the process itself as well as the presentation of the result.