March 5th-7th, 2009
For those who have not attended, or perhaps not even heard of, the Perspectives International Festival for Creative Music, held in Våsteras, 90 minutes northwest of Stockholm, there are two comparable equivalents. In some ways, Perspectives is similar to the Vision Festivalthe names are almost synonyms!in its grassroots organizing and prominence given to "indigenous" musicians as well as visiting luminaries. But since the Vision is almost exclusively an acoustic free jazz festival, a better parallel might be the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville of Canada. Perspectives shares with the latter an expansive notion of creative music, including noise, electronica and minimalism as well as good old fashioned avant-garde improvising. If nothing else, the festival saves a line item in its budget by having no group require music stands.
Thursday-Saturday, Mar. 5th-7th was the third edition of the festival, after being held in 2004 and 2007. With his time given over entirely to logistical concerns, curator Mats Gustafsson played only for two minuteson sopranoin duo with drummer and Festival MC Raymond Strid to kick off the weekend. But attendees needed not despair. 29 sets of music were in effect like peering into Gustafsson's head and three performers actually illuminated his particular approach to music. Those three, Dror Feiler, Peter Brotzmann and Akira Sakata, all saxophonists, were integral to Gustafsson's development and having them appear on consecutive nights was like spending the weekend with someone's family.
Almost all the concerts took place in two rooms at CuLTUREN, a multi-use cultural center, one a large traditional performance space with chairs and bleacher seating (Box 1) while the other was more of a black box theater where listeners stood or sat on the floor (Box 2). The only offsite activity were Friday and Saturday afternoon concerts at the Våsteras Konstmuseet (Art Museum). The main programming began at 5 pm and shifted between the two rooms, a new set of music every hour, finishing up around 1 am. And given that this was extremely difficult music to absorb, the mettle of the substantial crowds was certainly tested.
Also worthy of mention was a series of panel discussions held in the mid afternoon in between the Konstmuseet shows and the main programming. These covered "Perspectives of Music Production," moderated by John Corbett and featuring owners of independent record labels like Johan Berthling (Häpna), Stephane Berland (Ayler) and Marek Winiarski (Not Two); "Listen Eat Drink," a discussion of music and food; and "Perspectives of Perspectives," an overview of the history of the Perspectives Festival and an introduction to its new organizers for 2011. Unfortunately for this correspondent, the latter two were in Swedish only and the first took place mere hours after touchdown when fatigue was overwhelming. And there were also art displays in the various rooms of CuLTUREN, including one curated by Gustafsson that demonstrated his love of rare LPs. Called 12 by 12, participants were asked to do a 3 by 4 LP grid based on some underlying theme, whether it was monochromaticism, children's artwork or Sun Ra, with accompanying sound installation by Carl Michael von Hausswolff.
Setting the electronic tone early was the opening duo performance of Martin Herterich and Tobias Åström in Box 2. Box 1's events began with the Erik Oscarsson Quintet, with Virginia Genta (saxophones and winds), Mats Äleklint (trombone), Oscarsson (piano), Johan Berthling (bass) and Raymond Strid (drums). The vibe was late '60s Euro-free, with Oscarsson a festive keyboard basher and Genta shrieking away happily, either on her saxophone or just vocally. As with most examples of this music, some of the most interesting moments came during textural changes, whether it be through smaller groupings like piano and trombone or when Genta switched to instruments like wooden flute, recorder, percussion or thumb piano. A mashing of several approaches to free improvising, the effect was one of maximum effort, if somewhat fitful at times.
The trio of Jakob Riis, Anders Lindsjö and Liudas Mockūnas followed in Box 2, playing laptop, acoustic guitar and sax respectively. The methodology was minimalist and certainly the twang of an acoustic guitar is somewhat uncommon in this kind of music. Mostly the players indulged their percussive sides, benefiting greatly from the denser moments and echoing of each other's lines. Also of note were Lindsjö's guitar preparations.