Punkt 2011: Kristiansand, Norway, September 1-3, 2011
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Punkt and the Punkt Family, is its introduction of artists to audiences beyond their normal purview. He may have a strong reputation as a contemporary artist of note in the classical world, but there's little doubt that Japanese composer Dai Fujikura's career has received something of a career-boost from Sylvianfirst for his participation on "Five Lines," the opening and previously unheard track from the Samadhisound compilation, Sleepwalkers (2010), but more importantly as a more active contributor to the singer/songwriter's latest, Died in the Wool: Manafon Variations (Samadhisound, 2011), where he composed, arranged, conducted and/or performed on seven of its twelve tracks.
From left: Cecilia Zilliacus, Johanna Persson, Kati Raitinen, Karin Dornbusch
Here at Punkt 2011, a series of Fujikura compositions opened the festival, performed by various permutations and combinations of members of the string trio ZilliacusPerssonRaitinenviolinist Cecilia Zilliacus, violist Johanna Persson and cellist Kati Raitinenalong with clarinetist Karin Dornbusch. It was an inspired choice, with all four players, virtuosos in their own right, capable of navigating some of Fujikura's most challenging charts with deceptive ease and seemingly effortless aplomb.
Fujikura's music was not without its intrinsic beauty, but it did set the tone for an evening largely occupying a left-of-center stance, with oblique angles and corrugated surfaces. Extended techniques abounded, with Dornbusch delivering the strongest solo performance of the set by a narrow margin. Fujikura's "SAKANA" demanded much of the clarinetist, who combined circular breathing with unorthodox tonguing and embouchures in a piece that, like the three other solo features for members of ZilliacusPerssonRaitinen, was bookended by the opening World Premiere, "Scion Stems"a special commission for Punkt, dedicated to Sylvian and written for string trioand "Halcyon," which brought Dornbusch together with the string trio for a finale of unexpected drama and equally surprising moments of calm tranquility.
In his 2010 All About Jazz interview, Jan Bang spoke of the criteria used to select main stage performers: ..."made from a decision as to whether or not there is enough material by the artist to allow it to work in a remix session; that's our first concern." Certainly, with a combination of unique tonalities, periods of discrete lyricism, and enough space to give remixers room to move, Fujikura's opening set was a strong way to both open Sylvian's curation and develop the live remix possibilities of Punkt 2011.
She needn't have worried. For the first live remix of Punkt 2011, Endresen was joined by festival Artistic Directors Jan Bang and Erik Honoré for what turned out to be one of the festival's best remixes...ever. Endresen's voice has always been characterized by its remarkable malleability, but to hear her open the remix alone, with a frighteningly accurate interpretation of a bow being slowly scratched across a violin's strings, was one more affirmation of a singer who is changing the landscape of her instrument, with an approach that combines an undeniably mellifluous voice with a seemingly endless array of extended techniques that allow her, at one moment, to sound like a stuttering conversation in reverse, and the next, to deliver haunting melodies with a rich, deep lyricism rooted in many musical spaces; but, ultimately, occupying just one: her own.
From left: Jan Bang, Sidsel Endresen, Erik Honoré
Those unfamiliar with the innovations that have taken place following her two outstanding albums for ECMSo I Write (1990) and Exile (1994)and the stark electronic landscapes of Undertow (Jazzland, 2000), need only look at her solo recording, One (Sofa, 2007) and Live Remixes Vol. 1 (Jazzland, 2008), to hear the early stages of her cell-based approach to improvisation, where small vocal techniques that often seem impossible for a single, unprocessed human voice to accomplish are honed to the point of effortlessness, and ultimatley combined in endless variations.
Bang and Honoré have been working together so long that they rarely needed to look at each other. While their instruments may be unconventionalsamplers, mixing boards and processors amongst themthere's little doubt that it's music they were making, as Bang not only processed sounds that Honoré was feeding him from the Fujikura performance, but Endresen's voice as well. Bang first innovated the concept of live sampling by taking musical fragments from players around him, processing them, looping them or applying other electronic modifications, then feeding then back to the stage in real time, and encouraging those same players to work off his sounds, in the mid-1990s when he was working with keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft and, subsequently, Nils Petter Molvær. Here, after 15 years of experience, it's a marvel to hear what he hearsand what Honoré hearsin a source performance, and where both can take it, with the addition of their own musical aesthetics.
As angular as much of the Fujikura show was, Bang, Endresen and Honoré managed to find compelling melodies hidden in the nooks and crannies of ZilliacusPerssonRaitinen and Dornbusch's performances, as well as more expansive aural washes and unexpected pulses. Watching the four musicians' reactions as they sat in the midst of the Alfa Room audience, it was clear that Bang, Endresen and Honoré were taking their music to places none of them could ever have imagined, and that's precisely the value of Live Remix: to take extant performances and use them to create something new, something that's as personal to the remixers as it is those who made the original music.