Stefan Östersjö

Stefan Östersjö

Timlärare, associate professor

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Personal profile



Research projects

2009-2011 (re)thinking improvisation: Funded by the Swedish Research Council. (re)thinking improvisation was characterized by multiple methodologies and international perspectives in the production of (artistic) research on improvisation in different cultures. Participating researchers were Stefan Östersjö, Henrik Frisk, Nguyen Thanh Thuy and Ngo Tra My with Göran Folkestad, Marcel Cobussen and Karin Johansson. Central to the project was the artistic research of performers in Vietnam and Sweden but the perspective stretches to music from three continents. Here, methods for intercultural collaboration were developed and tested, in collaboration between the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones, the American composer prof Richard Karpen and the Swedish director Jörgen Dahlqvist. By questioning traditional hierarchies such as those between notated and improvised musics in the context of the liturgy and in Western art music of the present day, (re)thinking improvisation has provided results that point to different conceptions of interactions with audiences and between musicians. Stefan Östersjö and Henrik Frisk edited the book, CD- and DVD publication which was the final outcome of the project. 


2009- ongoing: (PI) a series of projects related to musicians listening and the development of contemporary performance practice at the Orpheus Institute, Belgium. Several book chapters are forthcoming in a new publication. The CD titled Strandlines (dB Productions 2010) was a direct artistic output from the first project on musician’s listening at the institute. Forthcoming is also a monography on musicians’ listening on Leuven Univ Press consisting of a book and a DVD.


2012-2015 Music in Movement, supported by the Swedish Research Council, brought choreographers, composers and musicians together in an exploration of a multimodal understanding of musical composition in a series of multi-media works for choreograhed musicans. Music in Movement was concieved of as a multi-disciplinary exploration of musical gesture. However, the core concepts that the project is concerned with are artistic and it seeks to develop an artistic method that merges choreography and musical composition. 


- Kim Ngoc Tran Thi/Marie Fahlin/The Six Tones: Chuyên Dich/ Move, premiered in the Kim Ngan Temple, Hanoi in May 2012.
- Fahlin/Wright/The Six Tones:
Inside/Outside premiered in Hanoi at the Kim Ma Cheo Theatre, Hanoi in November 2012 (

- Karpen, Dahlqvist, Fahlin, The Six Tones: Seven Stories, film, shot in Seattle in March 2013
- Riehm, Frisk, Fahlin, Karpen, Eckel, Elberling, The Six Tones: Go To Hell, a multi-media production for the R1 reactor, first performance in October 2013, also performed at the Orpheus Research Festival i Ghent, oct 2013 and at the Hanoi New Music Festival in Dec 2013.
- Karpen Dahlqvist, Fahlin, The Six Tones:
Nam Mai for three soloists, film and orchestra, first performance with the Seattle Symphony in March 2014.
- Arrival Cities: Hanoi for documentary film, three performers and electronics, a first version of this work in progress was presented at Tacit or Loud, nov 2014
(, a second version was premiered in Vienna in Dec 2015, now with three soloists and a chamber ensemble of nine musicians. 

- Jodlowski: Post Human Computation for video, electric guitar and electronics was premiered as part of the Inside/Outside installation during Tacit or Loud in December 2014

These productions address the main research questions in different ways. In Go To Hell, the gestural content of a guitar composition by Rolf Riehm has been the source for new video works, choreographies performed by musicians with and without their instruments , a light and sound installation by Gerhard Eckel and a transcription for trio of the guitar piece made by The Six Tones. Motion capture of Östersjö’s performance of Toccata Orpheus was the source for Eckel’s installation. The project also urged questions concerning musica notation and will result in the making of a new dance notation of Toccata Orpheus carried out in collaboration between Stefan Östersjö and the Benesh notator Eliane Mirzabekiantz. The final score will be presented also as part of an installation on transcription and notation of movement at the Orpheus Research Festival in October 2015. This notation project was an unexpected result which now points to further possibilities which we wish to explore further in ”The Musical Body”.

Inside/Outside and Arrival Cities: Hanoi brought the political implications of composing, not for ”musicians” but for actual individuals. Here, the performance take on further political meaning than a concert performance normally does. In Inside/Outside, the movements of the three performers form a critique of gendered gesture in traditional music performance in TV- shows in Vietnam. Arrival Cities: Hanoi weaves stories of migration together in a dense web of documentary footage and the persona stories told by the three performers as part of a music theatre piece with video projections and electronic sound.

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Pierre Jodlowski created a second narrative in the Inside/Outside installation where a film is projected on one of the glassboxes. The two Vietnamese women are gone and they now appear as actors in the film. In the third glassbox the audience finds a male electric guitarist instead of the performer in Vietnamese queen costume from the first half. Jodlowski’s piece creates new perspectives on identity and gender in a globalized society. The play with gesture and music we find both in relation between the film and the music played as well as between the body language of the performer and the film.

Seven Stories draws on gesture in traditional Vietnamese Tuong theatre as a source for new choreographies by Marie Fahlin. The initial inspiration for the film was the close connection between music and choreography in this form of theatre. The piece has new music composed by Richard Karpen and The Six Tones, all choreographies were performed by the three musicians.

Music in Movement resulted in artistic production that posed many questions concerning the nature of embodied artistic knowledge. This lay the conceptual ground for the festival and conference, Tacit or Loud, which took place at the Inter Arts Center in November and December 2014 ( Here, many of the works produced within Music in Music were performed and discussed during the event from a wide theoretical and artistic perspective. 


2013-14 Landscape Quartet: funded by AHRC. This artistic research project brings together four musicians from the UK, Berlin and Sweden in an exploration of ecological sound art. The project is headed by Newcastle University in collaboration with Univ of Surrey and the Malmö Academy of Music. The artistic practice in the project was organized as a series of residencies in Northumbria and in Sweden. One of the written outputs is a thematic issue on music and landscape in Contemporary Music Review (2016). A collaborative composition with Bennett Hogg and Merrie Snell will be released on DVD on Leuven University Press in 2017.


2010- ongoing Creative strategies in composer/performer collaboration: a collaborative artistic research project together with the British composer David Gorton. The first part of the project was carried out within the frame of CMPCP, a major research cluster within Music psychology and musicology in the UK. Collaborator: prof Eric Clarke, Univ. of Oxford. The first written output of this work is a joint book chapter with Clarke & Gorton (in press). This project is the one that emerges most directly from the research into collaborative practices which was a core element in my thesis. The second study was initiated as a piece of research on subjectivity in musical performance within a new cluster at the Orpheus Institute. The research focusses on how the movements of a performer canprovide data for such an enquiry and involves two researchers from the institute for systematic musicology in Ghent (IPEM), a collaboration which has allowed us to carry out a study with a multi-layered analysis of both quantitative data from motion capture and qualitative data from video analysis building on stimulated recall. In addition to CD-recordings (the first of them due to appear on a forthcoming solo CD with British works for 10-string guitar), and several journal articles, Gorton and Östersjö will summarize the study in a forthcoming edited book at the Orpheus Institute. A joint paper by Gorton and Östersjö for Contemporary Music Review is currently in press.


Musical Transformations: interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the renewal of music

“Musical Transformations”, funded by a research grant from Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg and headed by Stefan Östersjö, brings researchers in ethnomusicology and artistic research in music together in order to develop new knowledge and deepened understanding of processes of renewal of musical practices in intercultural and transnational contexts. The artistic research and ethnological fieldwork takes shape in two sub-projects in Sweden and Vietnam: First, ‘Vọng Cổ’, exploring past and present transformation of music in the south of Vietnam from the Mekong Delta to the theatre stage in Saigon. Second, a pilot study in Sweden for “The Ear of Migration”, which lays the ground for an extensive piece of research on musical change in contemporary globalized society. “Transformations” will create new interdisciplinary methods for research into creative processes in music. This method development aims at generating more in-depth understanding of the processes engaged in the renewal of music but also to create decolonized methods for ethnomusicological enquiry. Hereby, “Transformations” promises to lay the ground for further interdisciplinary research in music. Further, the project will create an extensive digital archive, providing digital access to complete data from recording sessions, audio and video from rehearsals, conversations between takes as well as complete recording data the concept of a database provides the fundamental working ground for the project. This data will also constitute the basis for the final publication. 








Artistic work

Dr. Stefan Östersjö is a leading classical guitarist specialized in the performance of contemporary music. Since his debut CD (Swedish Grammy in 1997) he has recorded extensively and toured Europe, the US and Asia. His special fields of interest are interaction with electronics, experiments with stringed instruments other than the classical guitar and collaborative artistic practices. He has been part of numerous collaborations with composers, but also in the creation of works involving choreography, film, video and performance art and music theatre. Since 2006 he has been developing inter-cultural artistic methods, primarily with the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones as a platform. Within these contexts he has developed performance practice and playing techniques for experimental and extra european instruments including the 11-stringed alto guitar, the 10-string guitar, fretless guitars, Vietnamese lutes and the charango. As a soloist he has cooperated with conductors such as Lothar Zagrosek, Peter Eötvös, Pierre André Valade, Mario Venzago, Franck Ollu and Andrew Manze. In 2009 he became a research fellow at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent. He is currently associate professor of artistic research in music at the Malmö Academy of Music and head of the program for artistic research in music. Östersjö has been invited as keynote presenter, residencies and held master class across the world and published numerous papers and book chapters as well as editing two books on artistic research in music.


1992-ongoing Guitarist, freelance performer, active internationally as soloist in festivals, with orchestras and in chamber ensembles. Since his debut CD (Swedish Grammy in 1997) Östersjö has recorded extensively and toured Europe, the US and Asia. Two special fields of interest are the interaction with electronics, and experimental work with different kinds of stringed instruments other than the classical guitar. His great interest in chamber music has resulted in the founding of flute, viola and guitar-trio HOT 3 and in collaborations with most chamber ensembles and important soloists in Scandinavia such as Jonny Axelsson, Geir Draugsvoll, KammarensembleN and Ensemble Gageego. Östersjö is frequently invited to give lectures and master classes at universities, festivals and academic conferences. He has a long-standing collaborative practice with leading composers around the world and has recorded the solo guitar music of Elliott Carter, Tristan Murail, James Dillon a.o. and often developing into longitudinal projects with recurring new commissions throughout the years, for instance with Per Nørgård (DK), Richard Karpen (US), Kent Olofsson (SWE), Christer Lindwall (SWE). Since 2005 he has also been engaged in a series of projects with the objective of merging western art music with extra-European traditions, most notably in the Swedish-Vietnamese group The Six Tones, with master musicians Ngo Tra My and Nguyen Thanh Thuy. As a soloist he has cooperated with conductors such as Lothar Zagrosek, Peter Eötvös, Pierre André Valade, Mario Venzago, Franck Ollu, Andrew Manze and Tuomas Ollila. He has recorded extensively for the Swedish National Radio and for radio and TV-stations around the world.


1995-2014 artistic director of Ensemble Ars Nova, a leading Swedish ensemble for contemporary art music and a platform for many cross-disciplinary projects with choreographers, music theatre and film, e.g. the longstanding collaboration between Ensemble Ars Nova and teatr Weimar in the SONAT (Sonic Arts Theatre) project series initiated by Östersjö in 2008. As a director of the ensemble, Östersjö also initiated two exchange projects that led to the creation of Dom Dom a center for new music in Hanoi headed by the Vietnamese composer Kim Ngoc Tran Thi with support from SIDA (Swedish Internation Developmen Cooperation Agency) and brought the ensemble into a large scale collaborative project with ensembles, research centers and studios around Europe with support from Culture 2000 and Culture 2007 titled Integra


Performances (selection) - soloist at Stockholm New Music Festival 1999, 2001, 2003 - Soloist with the symphony orchestra of the Bayerische Rundfunk/Lothar Zagrosek, 2004 - soloist in the Sonorities festival, Belfast (2006) - Soloist at the MusicAcoustica Festival Beijing (2006) - soloist with the Lithuanian State Orchestra/Peter Eötvös at the World New Music Days in Vilnius 2008 - soloist with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (many times, 2005 with Mario Venzago, in 2012 with Andrew Manze) - soloist with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra/Franck Ollu, 2008 - soloist at Warsaw Autumn festival (1998, 2001, 2009, 2010) - featured soloist at the Viitasaari festival (five productions in 2009) - Soloist at the NYYD Festival, Estonia 2009 - invited as sound artist creating music to Isaac Julien’s film Better Life at the Gothenburg Arts Biennial 2011 - Soloist (four productions) at the Hanoi New Music Festival 2013 - In March 2014 Östersjö premiered Nam Mai, a new work for three soloists, film and orchestra with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and his group The Six Tones, due for release on DVD in 2019 on Leuven University Press.



2014 Arrival Cities: Hanoi. a collaborative music theatre and documentary film project with

Jörgen Dahlqvist, Kent Olofsson and The Six Tones. Premiere at Tacit or Loud, Nov 2014.

2014 Drain Drones & Whistling Wind, for electric guitar and spatialised electronic sound.

Premiered in Newcastle, Feb 2014.

2014 Paths and Traces, collaborative ecological sound art, with Bennett Hogg, Sabine Vogel

and Matthew Sansom. Premiered at the PUSH Festival Gävle March 2014.

2013 Go To Hell, collaborative installation with The Six Tones, Marie Fahlin, Henrik Frisk,

Gerhard Eckel. Premiere at the R1 Reactor, Oct 2013.

2013 Seven Stories, a collaborative dance film project with Jörgen Dahlqvist, Marie Fahlin,

Richard Karpen and The Six Tones.

2013 Devil’s Water, ecologic sound art, with Bennett Hogg. 6-channel audio installation.

2012 Inside/Outside. Performance/Installation in collaboration with choreographer Marie

Fahlin, Matt Wright and The Six Tones.

2011 Music for Better Life (med Henrik Frisk), music for a film by Isaac Julien,

commissioned by the Gothenburg Arts Biennial.

2010-2011 Idioms. An experimental music theatre piece, in collaboration with composer

Richard Karpen, playwright Jörgen Dahlqvist, actors from Vietnam, USA and Sweden, and

The Six Tones.

2004-2011 Spår av glömska (with Ole Lützow-Holm), collaborative composition for alto

guitar and electronic sound.



2014 Inside/Outside, with Nguyen Thanh Thuy, Ngo Tra My, Matt Wright, Marie Fahlin,

Maria Norrman, video installation, Världskulturmuseet, Göteborg

2013 Que/Homelands, with Matthew Sansom and Nguyen Thanh Thuy, ecological sound art

and video installation, Manzi Art Space, Hanoi, also exhibited at the Embassy Tea Gallery,

Sea Arts Festival, London 2014


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