Published since 2004
With the realization that there will always be more music coming at him than he can keep up with, John wonders why anyone would think that jazz is dead or dying.
Despite its relatively small size, Punkt is a festival that always thinks big. The best sound and lighting people in the country are enlistedresulting in always superb sound and set/lighting designs that, rather than being created for the venue and remaining constant, change, often significantly, from performance to performance. Every year there's something new, like the Punkt Magasin, which is more than just a program: it's a large-sized publication that, in addition to outstanding photos from Punkt 06, has articles by and/or about many of the artists performing at the festival. And, of course, there's the multimedia Punkt Kunst, at the Sørlandet Art Museum, as well as a greater number of seminars/lectures on a wealth of topics, ranging from intellectual property to audio/visual readings and the discussion of juxtaposition of disparate styles in performance. All organized and run with incredible efficiency by the festival staff.
Other festivals could do well to learn more about Punkt's purposeful artistic vision and ability to execute it almost flawlessly.
But all good things must come to an end, and the final day of Punkt 07 had more than just a series of fine performances and live remixes: it actually managed to tie its own artistic precedents with current younger artists who have evolved from and expanded upon them.
One of Punkt 06's most ambitious performances, in terms of scope, was WARP (WAgner Reloaded Project), which brought together a string orchestra, four samplers, a turntablist, guitarist, bassist, drummer and pianist/keyboardist for a forward- thinking look at the epic-scale, "multimedia" music of late nineteenth-century classical composer Richard Wagner. Punkt 07 took the concept a step further with Crossing Images, a composition by new music composer Peter Tornquist that creates an innovative interaction between a chamber symphony orchestra and two improvising musiciansArve Henriksen and Punkt co-founder Jan Bang. Using real quotes from Henriksen's music, Tornquist has created a score that's fluid, in its own way responsive to and interacting with Henriksen's trumpet and Bang's live sampling and electronics.
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra with Arve Henriksen (far left), Jan Bang (far right)
It was a remarkable performance, during composed structures, very much in the most abstract contemporary classical sphere, cued and were cued by Henriksen and Bang. There were periods when the small orchestra, conducted by Ingar Bergby, stood alone, as there were points at which the orchestra held back and left the stage to Henriksen and Bang, who have worked together for so long now that they communicate at the deepest of levels. Neither Bang nor Henriksen was using notated scores, suggesting the contribution of each to the performance was entirely improvisational, with Henriksen's wealth of textures ranging from his well- known shakuhachi-like tone to a rarer, more recognizable and brassy sound.
While Bang contributed his share of unusual electronic textures, it was his ever-present ability to play his equipment with the same kind of intuitive and symbiotic knowledge that one hears from artists who play more "conventional" instrumentscreating subtle pulses, loops and sonic washes that was yet another demonstration of the ability to integrate music organically with technology, regardless of context.
At times, if listeners closed their eyes, it was impossible to know what was live and what was sampled. At one point Bang sampled the entire orchestra, processed it and fed it back with a rhythmic pulse. Henriksen, playing themes that those familiar with his work would recognize from his recordings for Rune Grammofon, including Chiaroscuro (2004) and Strjon (2007), continues to redefine what is possible with his instrument. Together with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, Henriksen and Bang revised the potential for the nexus of detailed form and the greatest of freedom: real- time improvisation where the orchestral music may have been scored but was nevertheless an equal extemporaneous partner, as its movement through the score and pace were spontaneous events consonant with the freedom enjoyed by Henriksen and Bang.
As imaginative as Crossing Images was, Norwegian keyboardist/soundscapist Bugge Wesseltoft and Japanese koto player Michiyo Yagi (who gave an outstanding solo performance on the first day of programming) delivered a live remix that, rather than using the source material in a more literal sense, took it as inspiration for one of the more emotionally intense and cathartic remixes of Punkt 07.
Wesseltoft began on an upright piano, creating spare but angular lines that were quickly taken up by Yagi, on the 21-string koto. While her solo performance was largely informed by tradition, it was in her duet with Wesseltoft that both her and the pianist's remarkable improvisational skills and keen intuition were at their most accomplished, communicative levels. Yagi plucked, strummed, bowed and struck the descendent of the Chinese zither. She used a drumstick both to hit the strings and as a slide that created ascension and descension while she at the same time vigorously strummed the strings.
l:r Michiyo Yagi, Bugge Wesseltoft
As Yagi began to develop strong rhythms, Wesseltoft introduced electronics to the mix, with dense and, at times, disruptive textures. But it was the way that the two synchronously evolved rhythmic patterns and responded to dynamic shifts that made this challenging yet undeniably captivating remix so successful. When Yagi moved to the remarkable bass koto half-way through, it only added to the density of the sometimes near-anarchistic performance, and took the tension to an even greater level. For a first meeting, Wesseltoft and Yagi proved that, with open ears and minds, anything is truly possible in the world of sound.
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