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Avslutade projekt

Karin Johansson

Completed projects

(Re)thinking organ improvisation. Revisiting musical practice

Musical learning in one-to-one singing tuition: obstacles and options in the dynamic field of higher music education

Inside views on contemporary Swedish choral practice

(Re)thinking organ improvisation. Revisiting musical practice

(Re)thinking organ improvisation was an artistic research project which aimed at exploring how individuals’ musical language(s) and creative strategies in improvisation relate to socio-historical and musical structures in differing performance contexts. The project was carried out 2010-2012 as a series of workshops and concerts of improvisation in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Helsinborg, Oslo and Copenhagen. In a meeting of theory and musical practice, a group of organists investigated and developed their playing against the background of results from previous studies (Johansson, 2008; 2012). Methodologically, a combination of practice-based, reflective and collaborative methods is used. The project formed part of the larger project (Re)thinking improvisation in and through music, funded by The Swedish Research Council. It was documented and published through seven concerts, session proceedings (Johansson, 2013a), international conference presentations and further articles (Johansson, in press; Johansson, 2013b). More information:


Johansson, K. (in press). Collaborative music making and artistic agency. In T. Hansson (Ed.). Contemporary approaches to activity theory. Interdisciplinary perspectives on human behavior. USA: IGI Global.

Johansson, K. (2013a). (Re)thinking organ improvisation: Revisiting musical practice. In H. Frisk & S. Östersjö (Eds.), (re)thinking improvisation: artistic explorations and conceptual writing. Malmö: Malmö Academy of Music.

Johansson, K. (2013b). Musical creativity and learning across the individual and the collective. In A.-L. Sannino & V. Ellis (Eds.), Learning and collective creativity: Activity-theoretical and sociocultural studies. London: Routledge.

Johansson, K. (2012). Organ improvisation: Edition, extemporization, expansion, and instant composition. In D. J. Hargreaves, D. E. Miell & R. A. R. MacDonald (Eds.), Musical imaginations. Multidisciplinary perspectives on creativity, performance, and perception (pp. 220-232). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johansson, K. (2008). Organ improvisation – activity, action and rhetorical practice. Malmö: Malmö Academy of Music.


Musical learning in one-to-one singing tuition: obstacles and options in the dynamic field of higher music education

In the framework of the project Students’ Ownership of Learning (SOL) based at the Royal Academy in Stockholm (Hultberg, 2010), this collaborative, longitudinal case study with a teacher and two postgraduate vocal students was carried out at Malmö Academy of Music 2008-2009. With a focus on the teaching situation and the relations between education and professional life on individual and collective levels, the aim was to study (i) the students’ development as musicians and singers, (ii) the interaction between the teacher’s intentions and the students’ expectations, and (iii) the development and change of the teaching situation.

The data consisted of video recordings of lessons, qualitative interviews, written reflections, and stimulated-recall discussions. Singing tuition was seen as a discursive practice and the analysis focused on relationships between goals, expectations and the educational situation.

Results were presented at international conferences and in peer-reviewed journals (Johansson, 2013) and point at contradictions in the practice, as, for example, between a traditional focus on a solo singer identity and students’ ambitions to develop their voices as ensemble instruments. The study suggested that obstacles in the teaching situation may be overcome by using professional practice as a developmental transfer and that collaborative studies may function as tools for enhancing students’ independent musical knowledge development.


Hultberg, C. (2010). Vem äger lärandet? [Students ownership of learning]. Stockholm: Myndigheten för nätverk och samarbete inom högre utbildning.

Johansson, K. (2013). Undergraduate students' ownership of musical learning: obstacles and options in one-to-one teaching. British Journal of Music Education, 30(2), 277-295.


Inside views on contemporary Swedish choral practice


Contemporary choir singing in Sweden is a rich and multi-faceted phenomenon where many directions for development can be seen, such as, for example, the traditional/professional four-part choirs, all male/all female choirs, children/youth/senior choirs, business choirs, health choirs, scenic choirs and political choirs (Geisler & Johansson, 2010; 2011a). In choir singing and choral work, musical knowledge development and production can be investigated from multiple perspectives and in situations where aspects of performance and education overlap. The complexity of choral work points to interesting possibilities for theoretical and methodological development, and for fruitful interaction between research and practice. However, even though a wealth of research exists in the field (Geisler, 2010), few studies seem to be of relevance or use for practitioners (Johansson, 2011b).

With the aims of (i) mapping out research areas and questions with artistic and pedagogical relevance for the field of musical practice, and (ii) exploring prominent performers’ inside perspectives on central and important topics related to choir, I conducted an explorative interview study with 26 established, high-ranking Swedish choir leaders in 2008-2009.

The study illustrates successful choral leaders’ learning trajectories and points to how they relate to questions of musical quality and artistic value. In the analysis, contemporary Swedish discourses on choral practice are related to the musical practice, which points to structures on a collective level. Future directions for Swedish choral practice in education and performance are discussed. Results have been presented at conferences with the international research network Choir in Focus (lead by Karin Johansson and dr. phil. Ursula Geisler) and in the network anthology 2011 (Johansson, 2011b). A popular scientific publication of this study is under way.

More information:


Geisler, U., & Johansson, K. (Eds.). (2010). Choir in Focus 2010. Gothenburg, Sweden: Bo Ejeby Förlag.

Geisler, U., & Johansson, K. (Eds.). (2011a). Choir in Focus 2011. Gothenburg, Sweden: Bo Ejeby Förlag.

Johansson, K. (2011b). Inside views on contemporary Swedish choral practice. In U. Geisler & K. Johansson (Eds.), Choir in Focus 2011 (pp. 15-32). Gothenburg: Bo Ejeby Förlag.