What to do with the Freedom

If I wouldn’t have used the Freedom, I wouldn’t have felt it. It was through doing things, I realised I had increased my freedom.

One of the things that happened to me was that I started playing.

Another effect was that I started to trust my ability to play music that was purely for listening. Previously that was something I didn’t really dare to do, and also something that didn’t really interest me. But with the new view on my own playing that affected both my confidence and my interests. This led to the composition I väntan på Krilon (Waiting for Krilon), a tune type I wouldn’t have dared to perform earlier. It also led to some experiments in my fiddle lessons with Finnish herding tunes.

I also allowed my solo in the Tranotra tune Krokodiltårar (by Mats Edén) to take new directions. I became less concerned with playing ‘the right notes’ and thought more aout dynamics, over all musical lines and began to appreciate, and search for, rougher sound qualities.

 The freedom also made me change focus for my musical research. Where I previously had had my main focus on groove I now began interesting myself for other aspects of fiddle playing too, like tone and dynamics but more importantly a completely different aesthetics and idea of what a ‘tune’ and what to do with it. One of the main ideas that started to grow during the semester in Finland is how to combine the ideals of the archaic, or long aesthetics with pellimanni repertoire. One of the key ideas I’m using to try to do this is the thought that there are no tunes, but I’ve also become really inspired by what I learned about Norwegian hardingfele music and how the hardingfele tunes are built up, while studying in Voss. Another suggestion for how to combine the two different musical worlds was provided during a trip to a Polish folk music event in the autumn 2012. There I experienced a way of playing tunes that differed quite a lof from how I’m used to it, and that definitely showed some clear aspects of archaic aesthetics. The musicians often played for 15-30 minutes without a break, using only a small number of tunes (one tune could easily be used for at least 10 minutes) and the tunes were often very short but got repeated over and over again, always with variations, both in the melody and in the number of repetitions of parts and phrases.

This idea, to search for the intersection between archaic aesthetics and pellimanni repertoire, to find out where they cross and how they interact, is definitely one of the strongest ideas I’m bringin with me into my future work and research as a musician, when I leave the NoFo. I am still very much only in the beginning of figuring out how to put the ideas togethere, and how to make it become music.

The biggest difference still is probably to be found on the inside. I think differently about music, and about my own musicianship, but I haven’t really had time to implement it all into musical practice. The last semester of the NoFo has meant a lot of moving and touring (during January-early April I ‘lived’ in six differen places, in 3 countries, rest of April I toured 6 countries in 17 days) and that has taken a lot of energy from the fiddle playing and practicing.

I have found ways of thinking where I use myself and my own ideas as a starting point, rather than the opinions of my community. I try to listen more inwards, listen to myself and my own wishes, ideas and ideals, rather than what I believe the people around me think is good. In the end it is a matter of confidence but also a feeling of need. I need to be true to myself, and I need to explore what that means.

Freedom means responsibility and in this case I think the main responsibilty is towards myself, but by being true to myself I am also taking my responsibility towards the rest of the world.

Somehow, being true to yourself, making the most out of your abilities and posibilities, for me becomes a question of moral. When you play together (or in other ways interact) with other people you have to be the best version of yourself available at that moment. If the world can’t trust that you’re doing as best as you can, how can they trust you at all? How should they know where you actually are, where your limits are? When I play in ensemble, I should give it all; to do otherwise is somehow almost rude. When I am on stage, there is no reason not to give the audience everything I am able to give and the same goes in the practicing room: why should I not go all the way there, how am I supposed to know my abilities and limitations otherwise? If I was religious I would probably say it is a way of praising god or the creation; now I just say it is a matter of morals, and a question of how we want the world to be, true or untrue?

Still: It all sounds good and clear, but of course it is difficult. I believe there is a lot in the world around us that limits us, and prevents us from doing our best in every situation. And there is a lot within ourselves that prevents us from doing our best in different situations, and our task is to get rid of that and free ourselves.

Method for my artistic research (method for development)

The overall work I’ve been doing during my Master studies can be described as Artistic Research. In this work, I have used several different methods. Some very conciously chosen to aid development, some chosen just out of curiousity, and some not even considered a method until I look back at them in retrospect. Some of the methods are described in this thesis, like how I’ve been using playing and the body to move outside my comfort zone. Or how the contrast between text and music (concrete and abstract) provokes me, forces me to think and in the end also develops me. There is also a section on how I have been using ideas and concepts like origin, tradition, archaic music and the thought that there are no tunes as a source of inspiration.

During my studies I have also had great help from discussing with teachers, friends and colleagues, who have provided new perspectives and asked useful questions. I have also received a lot of inspiration from reading books and listening to music. Writing lots of notes has also helped me in processing information, reflecting and taking care of ideas. This has been helpful both in my artistic research and when processing my development.

Duo with Benjamin

In our term concert in Helsinki, me and Benjamin were doing a duo. Early on when we started practicing for it, we decided that we wanted to somehow show that we both had been exploring the idea of archaic music. We started doing collective improvisations, sometimes setting up simple rules and sometimes without rules. In the end, we decided to play with the one rule that there should emerge some sort of theme sooner or later. This is the result:

Body as method

When asked about how the movement from function towards art had been done I realised that bodily experiments had been an important part in the process. In general there has been a synergy between several different processes that has worked paralell, all involved with breaking my learned patterns and expanding my action space within music, expanding my personal stage. A lot of this took part during the semester in Helsinki, even if it had been started during the preceding semesters in Stockholm and Odense.

I started to play [include hyperlink to text about playing] with the instrument, experimenting with what sounds I could get out of it but I also started to play with my body and with my voice. And I think it was very important as an opener for me, that I got bodified experiences of my increased personal stage to aid me in using that also when I was playing the fiddle.

A lot of it started in Kunkkula and the Kandiakatemia week we had there, quite early in the semester.

The week provided musical-physical inspiration in many ways

  • Starting every day with yoga-like excercises, creating a physical state of being that very obviously improved my ability to work, create and develop.

  • Doing contact improvisation – which is also something I had been doing a bit of before, but not in a context that created such an obvious connection with musical activities.

  • Doing various forms of physical/body/dance-improvisation, that always showed very clear paralells to different aspects of music.

  • Doing voice/body-sound improvisation.

  • Just being surrounded by other people who did ‘weird’ stuff with their bodies and voices also served as an inspiration.

Among other things, that week resulted in the physical experiment described shortly here.

I also got further input (lessons) the that gave a lot of physical experience, especially within the masteriakatemia course. We had quite a few hours with a dancer (Giorgio Convertito) who provided the idea that dancing/movement and music/sound is different aspects of the same thing. Where musicians are concerned about organizing and making impact on time, dancers are concerned with space, but in the end it is the same thing. Phrases in space and phrases in time are different expressions of the same thing, and time and space is the same thing. These lessons provided a very interesting perspective on how the body can be used to develop various aspects of music (e.g. phrases) without using the instrument.

After the week in Kunkkula, and spurred further by the Masteriakatemia lessons, I continued using my body as a tool for development on my own. I gave time to starting the days with various forms of body warm up and I used body/movement-improvisation as a way of opening up body and mind. All this ended up with the idea that by challenging my body’s habits, I can move outside my normal boundaries, my comfort zone, and this gives experience that I can use in my playing as well. For me this became a method of approaching the Art. This is also something I intend to explore more, and definitely something I will make use of more in my future musicianship.

Phrases in Space and Phrases in Time

Excercises done under the supervision of Giorgio Convertito in the Masteriakatemia course @ Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, autumn 2013

Warm up:

Lay down on the floor, breath normally, close your eyes and just let the body relax. Feel the floor against your body. Where is contact, where is space? Go through all parts of the body in your mind, and feel them, feel how they are. If there is some parts of the body that doesn’t feel so good, places where there is pain , tension or ache, try to project the breathing there, like a beam of light and heat.

Slowly, beginning with the toes, start moving your body. Make believe that you’re floating in water, that the body is being carried by the water rather than by your own muscles. Go on with feet. Knees and lower legs. Thighs and hips. Your body is floating in water, the air is carrying it so you and providing just a tiny bit of resistance, just like water.

Then start with fingers, hands, arms, shoulders in the same way.

Open your eyes if you like.

Start moving your whole body. You’re still floating, like in water. Rocking, wabbling, stretching. Laying down, sitting up, standing up. Walking.

To end: stand. Feel the balance in your feet. Where is your wheight? Loosen up the ancle joint, knees, hips. Feel that your wheight is always shifting a little. You’re balancing, not fixed. You breathe and you move, even if you’re just standing.

Phrases (group exercise), very rough description:

Let each part of the exercise take time. A lot of time. The whole process can be divided into several sessions.

Create phrases in space. Phrases can mean small or big movements, positions, or changes in positions.

Explore them. What happens if you move them to a different place in the room? What happens if you change the level of them, if they are high or low, big or small?

Explore.

Pick up someone else’s phrase.

Explore the memory of the room. If a phrase has existed in one part of the room, it leaves a trace there, a memory. How can you explore the memory of someone else’s phrase. Or the memory of your own phrase?

When a phrase moves through the space it leaves a trace along the trajectory. Explore the trajectory. Your own. Someone else’s.

Always: Follow the phrases. The end point is present already in your starting position. The end is present in the beginning. When you throw something you can always tell where it is going to land.

Comment: This whole thing might sound very weird, strange and far fetched. Especially the idea of the memory of the space and the traces of phrases. However, my experience (and I have a background with a very square science-based approach to understanding the world) is that if you just accept these premises and ideas, they make great sense and the whole exercise becomes very useful for developing a sense of phrase and understanding various aspects of phrase, development, division of space (or time). Furthermore it becomes a great example of the benefits of inter-disciplinary collaboration within the arts.

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.

Playing

Perhaps the most obvious method for artistic development is practicing. There is a lot that could be said about different methods for practicing, how to get the most out of the hours you spend in the practice room, how the practice sessions should be laid out etc. but this is not the main topic of this essay so I will just conclude that I have been practicing a lot, both with very focused attention to technical development, and with the aim to learn a certain stylistic features and tunes.

Moreover, I have been playing a lot, both in the sense of playing my instrument (swe: spela fiol) and in the sense of playing games (swe: leka). Sometimes I have felt bad about it, that it was just a waste of time in the practice room to let the bow, fiddle and fingers play around without any certain goal, but in the end I think it has been a very good thing to do. It has lead me to find new sounds and to get a more relaxed physical relationship with my instrument. It has helped me move away from the all-too-comfortable melodic/harmonic areas I used to be playing around with(in) and served as an opening to (for me) new fields of melodic and harmonic structures and movements.

It also lead me to finding completely new sounds on the fiddle and trying to make use of the ‘ugly’ as a contrast in my music. An example of this is my solo from the term concert in Helsinki:

It is worth to notice that this idea and method of play and playing emerged more or less simultaneously with my change of perspective, towards folk music as Art.