Punkt Festival 2008: Day 3-3
With such terrific source material and an innate ability to hear and create larger form in real time, trumpeter Arve Henriksen turned the Splashgirl remix into one of the best of Punkt 08. Also featuring sampler/sound sculptist/Punkt Artistic Co-Director Erik Honoré and electronic experimentalist Rafael Toral, who opened Day Two of the festival, it was a remix that combined the noise improv of Henriksen's work in Supersilent with the trumpeter's devotion to strong, often simple but always compelling melodies that are a key component of his own records including the remarkable Chiaroscuro (Rune Grammofon, 2004).
Rafael was wired up with a variety of electronic gadgets, some creating electronic sounds that responded to his body movement. While it appeared more textural at times, adding to the overall landscape of the remix, there were some serendipitous moments where he was so in tune with Henriksen that it felt like a single instrument. Henriksen, an artist with no small sense of humor, began mimicking Rafael's movements at one point during the set, adding a beautiful levity to music that could, at times, become dense and hard-edged.
Henriksen's trumpet tone may well have started with the innovations of Jon Hassell, but he's taken those concepts and developed them into a unique sound that resembles, at times, a Japanese shakuhachi. But while that shakuhachi-like tone has often been a defining quality in his approach, over the past several years it's become more a case of a strong color on his palette. Henriksen used an EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), in addition to his trumpet, to create dense loops that interacted with the remixed material being fed to him by Honoré, but beneath it all was a remarkable attention to tone and the importance of every note.
The interaction between Henriksen, Rafael and Honoré was strong but nearly telepathic in nature, but it was clearly the trumpeter's show. Demonstrating an uncanny ability to create form on-the-fly, this was a lengthy experiment with a clear arc. That this arc revealed itself as a surprise, not just to the audience, but to the group, made it all the more captivating.
A double bill featuring two of Norway's most remarkable solo performers proved that there are many, often diametrically opposed, ways to approach performing without accompaniment. Saxophonist Hakon Kornstad's brief but evocative and exhilarating performance was matched by the powerful quiet of fiddler Nils Okland;'s set.
Kornstadnow 31 years oldhas, in the space of a few short years, emerged as one of the most exciting young saxophonists, not just on the Norwegian scene, but on any scene. His work the more rock-centric but still improv-weighted Wibutee has been his own kind of laboratory, as has his work in acoustic environments on records including Swedish pianist Maria Kannegaard's Maryland (Moserobie, 2008). But it's his work with the collective Jazzland Community (Jazzland, 2007) and especially his solo record Single Engine (Jazzland, 2007) that's shown just how far he's come in his search for a nexus point where multiple extended acoustic techniques can be merged with looping and other processing to create a virtual saxophone orchestra, but one that possesses unshakable groove and vertical harmonic density.
Standing on a stage with cloth panels lit with dark earth tones and video screens showing him in real time and larger than life via videocam (while he remained largely in darkness), Kornstad layered his first tune with consonant multiphonics, percussive beats and Albert Ayler-like wailsall seamlessly built into a stream of looping that allowed him to improvise freely. Most exciting was his intimate knowledge of technology, changing the foundation in-the-moment and with the same natural comfort as he demonstrated on tenor saxophone, flute and flutonettea hybrid that places a clarinet mouthpiece on a flute.
Unlike most saxophonists who develop technique with multiphonics, Kornstad's interest clearly lies in finding new ways to expand the conceit to create consonant harmonies that at times possessed a raw edge and at other times sounded pure and pristine but almost always work with an underlying aesthetic devoted to melody. His set ranged from viscerally powerful and huge to economical and delicate. In every case he demonstrated a wonderful sense for knowing when to explore a single idea and when to move on. It made for a varied performance that is a clear evolution from the groundwork he was laying during his even briefer at Punkt 06. Closing out the Arrin/Punkt collaboration, fiddler Nils Okland's set, starting immediately after Kornstad on the opposite side of the stage, couldn't have been more different. With no electronics and no real set design, just three variations on the fiddlea conventional violin, a nine-stringed Hardanger fiddle (like a violin but with five sympathetic resonant strings underneath) and the Viola D'Amore (a deeper- bodied instrument with strings that are played with an additional seven sympathetic strings)Okland proved why he's one of the world's preeminent interpreters of traditional music and contemporary original music rooted in that tradition.
What makes Okland's approach so distinctive from players like Synnove S. Bjorset and Ase Teigland, who performed the previous day is his fine attention to dynamics. Much as drummer Jarle Vespestad appears to be almost whispering on his drums when playing with fellow Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen, Okland's touch was often so delicate, his playing so whisper quiet that the audience almost had to lean forward to hear him. That the audience was absolutely silent throughout his setexcept, of course, for the enthusiastic applause between songsis another reason why Punkt is such a remarkable festival. Everyone is there to have a good time, and there's plenty of socializing going on throughout, but when at a performance, attention is complete and undivided.
Unlike Bris (Rune Grammofon, 2005), which focused on original material in a group context, and his more experimental work with pianist Christian Wallumro;d's ensemble on A Year From Easter (ECM, 2005), Okland's set, while unannounced, certainly sounded as though, at the very least, its sources were from traditional Norwegian folk music. His interpretive skills were outstanding as he used the power of nuance to make the slightest dynamic shift dramatic and resonant on the most intimate of levels.