Esa Onttonen

Composer and guitarist from Helsinki, Finland.

Doctoral Project

Developing and utilizing real-time notation in music with improvisation

Since September 2020 I’ve been working on and off towards a doctorate at the MuTri Doctoral School at Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, with the aim of completing the project in 2025.

My doctoral project investigates the domain between improvisation and composition from different perspectives. The aim of the research—currently titled Developing and utilizing real-time notation in music with improvisation—is to use artistic activity to explore and extend the use of compositional elements in improvised music and the use of improvisation in compositions. In both cases, this goal is being reached with a custom web application that I have been developing and will continue to develop throughout the entire project.

In addition to the web application and a written thesis—both work-in-progress—the project includes three artistic productions:

1. Labra, a concert on September 28, 2022 at Musiikkitalo Black Box

In this concert, a group of five musicians—myself on electric guitar and bass, Jarmo Saari on guitar, Antti Kujanpää on organ, Mikael Myrskog on keyboards, and Joonas Riippa on drums—were creating music through a process which I have described as collaborative live composition. In collaborative live composition, musical information can be created and communicated in real-time by all members of the group. This is achieved with a web application I have developed and programmed for this purpose. Through the application, a single musician can be in control of musical elements to be played by the group for any period of time until someone else takes the control.

2. An album (to be released in 2024)

An album utilizing the live composition method with the application has been recorded in September 2023 and will be released in 2024. More details will follow later.

3. A concert (in 2025)

More details will follow later.

Onttonen, Esa. 2023. Collaborative Live Composition with Frankie. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation - TENOR BOSTON 2023. [PDF at Taju, with the best quality images; alternatives with low quality images: PDF at Zenodo, PDF at TENOR website.]