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Anders Jormin: Touching the Heart and Spirit

John Kelman By

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"The commissioner actually had one suggestion," Jormin continues. "They happened to know and really like [pianist] Marilyn Crispell, and they suggested to me that she should play the church organ. So that was the only suggestion, but it turned out that Marilyn had never done it and she is always very concerned with doing a great job, so I came up with the idea of letting Marilyn play the piano, and I decided to use Karin Nelson, an experienced and highly appreciated organist. I found it quite inspiring to mix piano and organ; it's not done very much. So Lena was an early choice, and then for percussion I found Raymond Strid inside my head quite quickly. To me it's quite a logical combination, because somehow I could hear the sound of this music inside of me.

"It's a cycle with a certain order," concludes Jormin, "and there are improvised spots, but they are also quite structured, meaning I have written who is playing and in what style—I wrote, for example, a small fugue for the organist to improvise over. So it is quite a composed cycle, meaning that even though the improvisations are different, they are at the same time quite similar. The record gives a good picture of a live performance, but you lack, of course, the presence of seeing and hearing Lena sing, which is a fantastic experience actually."

Some of the most defining moments on the album come from Willemark's vocals. With Jormin's compositions, and lyrics that expound on the larger concept of spirituality in the firmament, Willemark proves herself to be an incredibly profound vocalist, sometimes caressing the lyrics, other times screaming them in almost existential pain.

"Those sounds and coughs," Jormin explains, "they are a part of her improvising technique, so I didn't have to give her direction, but those high things that she's screaming, extremely loudly, they're something that I both wrote and asked her to do. It's a traditional Swedish singing-in-the-forests technique; when you want the cows to come back, you do this. It's also used to send messages from one valley to another one, it's called kulning, and Lena is of a true folk music family, an upbringing from a remote part of Sweden, so when she does this it's for real. And it is so strong and penetrating that the microphones almost have to be turned off, or they get broken. You can't measure the decibel of that sound; we had to redo those parts of the composition a couple of times, having Lena walk yet another ten meters away from the microphone and yet another ten, in order to be able to record it; it's extremely loud and it's definitely not a concert singing technique, but it's part of her natural music and of course I wanted to use that."

While Eicher was originally meant to be there for the recording session, a broken leg prevented his traveling to Sweden and so, once again, Jormin was left with full artistic license. The album was originally meant to come from a live performance of the cycle but, unfortunately, events conspired against that happening. "The idea," Jormin says, "was to release, if not the very first performance, then the second performance. It was recorded, but church organs are very sensitive to humidity and temperature, and on that day the organ's tuning was very high, A was at 447, so the piano had to be tuned extremely high, which meant that on the last third of the concert the piano was out of tune. The recording of the cycle was a very good one, but we couldn't use it because the piano was so out of tune, so we had to rerecord it almost a year later."

Touring and Longevity

Jormin has done some shows in support of the release of In winds, in light , and hopes that the album will reach a broad audience. "I'm hoping for some recognition and, of course, good reviews," says Jormin, "and then we'll see what can be done in terms of touring. Of course we need special rooms; finding a room that has or can provide both a good piano and a good organ, that's a challenge. Another problem is that churches in Europe, in general, are a little too conservative to have concerts played, using the organ in this semi-secular kind of way, meaning that in many interesting rooms they do not want to have that kind of concert, while it is more liberal in Scandinavia; we can use churches as concert halls."

With the more project-oriented releases that Jormin has done, does he ever wish he had a more long-term, ongoing band? "I think the truth is," Jormin explains, "that my weak side is the organizing, gig-fixing side of things, meaning that many of my projects are the result of a commission. We do the commission concert, maybe one or two tours more, and then I simply don't have the time, energy and patience to sit down and organize myself. In Scandinavia, the system of concert agents doesn't really work. It's probably because it's so small, meaning there's not a lot of money for a concert agent unless we go down into Germany and south of that. No agents down in Europe have been that interested in selling my projects, because it's a little too difficult music or uses too many unknown Scandinavians, or whatever the reasons that they have had, and I haven't had the energy to go on myself. So after a project has been quite successful, a year passes and I go onto a new project and then that falls apart. I would really like to have a band, but being a composer, touring bassist and part time teacher, there is no time for me to hang on the telephone and do the business side."


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