Music Marathon

Another idea of mine where the long aesthetics can provide useful tools and understanding is playing for a really long time without break. This is still only an idea I have: I want to make a dance/music marathon where the music just goes on and on and on, without a break. Like a folk music rave, but with live music. Where the same dance just goes on and on and on. And then gradually melts into another dance. So far, I haven’t attempted to carry this out, but it really is something I want to do at some point. And trying to understand the concept of long aesthetics has somehow put this idea in a new light. Now I begin to realize what it actually means to play the same tune for 10 minutes. Or 30, or 60. What possibilities it creates and what difficulties and challenges comes with it. It makes it possible to use really slow musical development, since the long time will make it possible to still create a great line through the music. But it also means that the conventional ‘drama’ of a tune is dissolved: it simply moves to fast. And it certainly provides both physical and mental challenges – to keep the energy in the playing and to keep the focus for such a long time really takes some practicing.

All this is consequences I didn’t really think about, before I started trying to understand archaic music and long aesthetics.

I väntan på Krilon

The story behind the tune.

Some time before I started my studies at NoFo I read a trilogy of novels by the Swedish author Eyvind Johnsson, called ‘the Krilon trilogy’. The were written and published 1941-1943 and in short, they form an allegory about the small (good) man’s fight against the evil in the world. Krilon is fighting a sort of war on his own, against evil powers who turn his friends against him. And he never loses his faith in man, and he never stops believing in the power of words and the power of being human towards each other. I got really inspired by the books, and the main character, Krilon, became some sort of hero for me.

 The composing

After a while I thought I wanted to compose a tune in honour of Krilon, and I gradually worked out an idea for what kind of tune it should be. I had the image of Krilon being a quite short and sturdy, with a good heart and a gentle mind, though a bit stubborn. In the end I thought I would capture that in the shape of a schottis in g minor.

This idea was growing ans slowly developing in my head for quite some time, and then one day in Helsinki I sat down to compose it. Since I had this quite strong idea about what I was aiming for, I thought it would be quite easy, and to begin with it was. To reflect the stubbornness of Krilon I wanted an ostinato to go underneath the tune and that came to my mind quite fast.

Krilon ostinato

I recorded the ostinato on my Zoom H2, created a loop of it and started to play on top of it.Out came a tune, but not at all the tune I was aiming for.

When I realised what had happened, the tune got its name quite naturally: Waiting for Krilon (Swe: I väntan på Krilon).*

More story

After composing the tune, I tried to describe what is in it:

“Krilon represents the good in mankind. Not because he is without faults or in any way perfect, but because he is always striving and believing. He believes in the good in humans; he helps them being good just by believing in them. He is the one that forgives us when we do wrong and who guides us to road we really want to walk. And it’s not about religion, about any god or salvation. It is plain damn human compassion. Krilon is the friend who is there when we need him.

And so we are waiting for him. It is a waiting full of hope, but also a waiting filled with reflection, thoughts about our faults and failures, but filled with hope, trust and belief in ourselves.

Krilon is the honesty, openness and trust we need in our lives. The tenderness, sensitivity and firmness.”

This has developed over time, as we have been playing it live and I have been telling parts of the story to the audience. I am still searching for the best way to describe the story behind the tune, the story of Krilon, and why he is such an inspiration, but for each concert I think I’m getting a bit closer.

Playing the tune

The tune is interesting, since I think it’s the first time that I’ve composed a tune that is so obviously a tune for listening. And it provided a good challenge for me, since I really had to work with other aspects of music than I was used to. First of all, I got to play lead throughout the whole first half of the arrangement, and most of the time being the only one playing the melody. This in itself was quite new to me, since I tend to play a lot of harmonies, second voices and accompaniment otherwise. Gradually, I also began to understand that this type of tune, which doesn’t build on a dance groove, but rather on long melodic phrases, demands a completely different approach to playing it. Had it been a year earlier, I think I wouldn’t have dared to play the tune, thinking my playing wasn’t good enough for this kind of tunes, but now I thought it to be a good challenge.

Still, having played it now for about half a year, I still feel I am very much in the beginning of understanding how to do it justice and I still feel there are a lot of things I need to develop and work with. Tone is probably the main thing, since I am not too happy with my tone on the fiddle, especially not in the higher registers. Intonation is another aspect which I also need to work a lot with.

However, this kind of tunes does not only provide demands and challenges, but also possibilities. Having the constant, steady, ostinato going underneath, the beat of Time as we like to think of it, there is a lot of freedom to really shape and stretch the phrases, dynamically as well with the timing. When it works, I get the feeling of floating, being carried by the others in the band.

Video from a performance during the Nordtrad Conference in Vilnius, april 2013

*Those familiar with 20th C literature will easily understand where I got the inspiration for the title.


Krokodiltårar (Crocodile Tears) is a tune composed by Mats Edén, featured on the Groupa CD Månskratt.
This is one of the first tunes we arranged with the group. We learned the tune from fiddler Mats Edén in one of our ensemble lessons in Stockholm, during the first semester of NoFo. The bass-riff which is being played by the bass clarinet and the accordeon is featured on the original recording with Groupa too. Somehow I got the idea to contrast it with something a bit messy and annoying in the treble register so I invented the pentatonic loops that are featured in the ‘epilogue’. Originally it was only intended to be some sort of interlude, but in the end it became more or less a part of its own.

To create the ostinato I used pentatonic material, which is an easy way to make sure that there will be no clashes, whichever notes get played at the same time. I also used the idea of overlaying different rhythms to create an effect of multitude and a bit of chaos. Both these methods I actually learned from Mats while I was studying at the Music Academy in Malmö.

Krokodiltårar Ostinato

As soon as we started playing it to an audience, and made a recording available on the Internet, people started making references to Steve Reich (and esp. his Music for 18 Musicians) which is a bit funny since none of us in the band had listened to any of his music. For me, the inspiration came from the English group Spiro and their tune The White Heart, which I had heard on a compilation of contemporary English folk music. However this constant comments about Steve Reich made me check out his music, and I did find it quite inspiring.

The Solo

Here are two versions of the solo, one recorded spring 2012, while we were studying in Odense, and one recorded in february 2013, after the semester in Helsinki. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a version of the later solo without the effects, but in a way that doesn’t matter: the effects only enhance the overall idea of the solo.
I would say that the difference between the two solos is quite big. The Odense version is very concerned about playing notes that fit,trying to play in tune and not really taking any risks. The CD version is a lot more powerful, risk taking and concentrated. There are a lot of the same ideas and patterns present in both the versions, but they are performed in quite different ways.
For me, this is a clear result of the development that happened during the semester in Helsinki and more concretely, an effect of the playing.

Bonus: the Stories

This is probably one of the tunes we have played the most live and there has developed two quite different stories about it. One is the ‘real’ story of how and why the tune was composed: Mats Edén used to have a fiddle called Krokodilen (the Crocodile) (since it had so many ‘teeth’ i.e. tuning pegs. Mats was a pioneer in Sweden using fiddles with sympathetic strings) and it got run over by a train. Luckily Mats also plays the melodeon so he could compose this tune as a lament for the lost fiddle.

The other story began developing when we were doing a set of concerts for children and needed some funny stories to tell them. The original joke goes:
– Why should you not be in the jungle between 2 and 3 in the afternoon?
– ?
– Because then the elephants are practicing parachuting.

– So, do you know why the crocodiles are so flat?
– ?
– Because they were in the jungle between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.

The kids thought it quite funny (even if they always protested against the idea of parachuting elephants) and somehow we began to tell the story in our other concerts as well, and gradually it has evolved into a real fable where Benjamin tells about how the crocodiles used to be in the shape of a pig (there are even fossils found in Denmark) but then unfortunately they began hanging out in the Danish jungle in the afternoons…