September, 4-6, 2014
Kristiansand, home of the Annual Punkt Festival for the past decade, is a municipality situated on the southernmost point of Norway at the Skagerrag strait. It has a population of 86,000 (the greater urban area, 155,000) and is the county capital of Vest- Agder.
Crystallization of new concepts and development often take place and are given a push from the periphery, with Punkt a good and prominent example. Organized by Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, who have known each other very well from their adolescent days in Kristiansand, started The festival in 2005, carrying through and reaching the festival's 10th edition this year. To mark the anniversary, the festival invited one of music's most important artistic pioneers: American musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson. Punkt Elements
The festival concept is centered around the concept of Live Remix. Immediately following Punkt performances, they are remixed live for the audience. The remixes work on the basis of the recorded original performance, which is reused and transformed in manifold ways. The remix can be solely electronic, but more often than not it is a combination of musicians acting in both modes, electronically and acoustically. As a small-scale festival, Punkt is artistically focused, interdisciplinary, horizontal, local and communicative.
Over the years Punkt's key element, the live remix, has had a lot of consequences. It has brought about lots of challenges, involvement in a range of interdisciplinary processes, and changes in the perception of music and its innovative effects. At certain points this has resulted in recordings like this year's Heliographs
(from Erik Honorė) or, from the previous two years, Honoré and Bang's Uncommon Deities
, guitarist Eivind Aarset's Dream Logic
, Trumpeter Arve Henriksen's Places Of Worship
and Bang's Narrative from the Subtropics
. These albums are inseparable from the whole process and context of Punkt. To really get an idea of the reality of the remix and the performance and production processes it really must be experienced first hand at the yearly festival In Kristiansand -or at the smaller offshoots that have taken place at festivals in Europe and further abroad. This experience quality is a core thing, crucial in a digital era with unlimited access to oceans of recorded and stored music).
Over the years, Punkt also has served a "looking glass" function for musical developments in Norway and elsewhere. Punkt has developed its own routine(s) and grown into adulthood, but is still opening up to and focusing on new things. As such, it is still both ardent and necessary.
Punkt has always been built on a web of interdisciplinary activities spread over an easily walkable area in the town. This year's events, with its 17 concerts, took place at five neighboring places: Kristiansand Kunsthall; Musikkens Hus; Hotel Norge,; Kick Scene; and the big Fønix Kino Hall.
All told, Punkt 2014 consisted of five concerts (sPace moNkey, Honoré's Heliographs
release concert, Christian Fennesz, Zapp 4 and Dodebum/Friis/Osgood) immediately followed by live remix performances; five other concerts (Beckett, Streifenjunko+Sheriffs of Nothingness, Håkon Stene, Mural, and a performance of Christian Wolff's piece, "Edges" that we're not remixed; three listening sessions (Winderen/Harding, Paulsen/Solbakken, Nils Christian Moe-Repstad); six seminars (Anderson, Bolte, Engelbrecht, Qvenild, Winderen/Harding, Zapp); a book presentation (Luca Vitali's Il suono del nord
); and a visual art installation by Kjell Bjørgeengen/Keith Rowe at Kristiansand Kunsthall where Jan Bang
, Erik Honore
, Eivind Aarset
, Arve Henriksen
and Ingar Zach
were involved most frequently of all, but which also featured guitarists Christian Fennesz
and Keith Rowe
, pianist Morten Qvenild
, the string players of Zapp4, trumpeter Eivind Lønning
, saxophonist Espen Reinertsen
and violinist Ole-Henrik Moe
, who all performed more than once.
As usual also this year's Punkt was a combination of known and new faces and multinational voices from Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, The United States and Australia. Among the new faces there were musicians who had worked with Punkt artists or at Punkt events in other places, such as drummers Hamid Drake
and Samuel Rohrer, the string quartet Zapp 4 (Jeffrey Bruinsma, Jasper le Clercq, Oene Van Geel
, Emile Visser) and saxophonist Rafaele Casarano. The notable young Norwegian label, Hubro, was represented prominently this year (Håkon Stene, sPace moNkey, Erik Honoré) alongside Norwegian labels Sofa and Gigafon, British label Touch, Danish label ILK and German Arjuna label, amongst others.
In the past, pioneers of the field Punkt has been derived from were invited and participated in various roles in the festival. Laurie Anderson
's groundbreaking work and her multimedia-mediated storytelling has been highly influential for what ultimately emerged as Punkt ten years ago. Consequently, the two artistic directors of Punkt were utterly happy to finally announce Anderson's participation at this year's festival. For these pioneers big names now and artists with strong musical identitiesit is a real challenge to enter this festival's special field of forces, to engage and interact in it. So the festival directors were even happier when Anderson decided to invite one of Punkt's key musicians, Arve Henriksen, to join her for her Kristiansand performance on the last night of the festival. First Day
A festival lives by the quality of its contrasts, oppositionseven confrontations or collisionsits tension curve and, of course, its highlights. There were more than enough contrasts. Last year's edition started with the pop band Mariam The Believer, featuring Swedish vocalist Mariam Wallentin, one-half of Swedish rock duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums. This year however, started with a musical realization of Samuel Beckett's 1984 text Worstward Ho, performed by pianist John Tilbury and guitarist Keith Rowe, two of the founding members of the famous pioneering improvisational group AMM, plus Aleks Kolkowski's voice on tape, reciting Beckett's text and Kjell Bjørgeengenone of Norway's most significant video artistssupplying his visuals.
All the music on the first day balanced on the edge of the barely audible and quietude. The opening piece, with its even dynamics and masterful timing, created a special kind of untouchable remotenessan almost extraterrestrial feeling.
"On. Say on. Be said on. Somehow on. 'Til no-how on. Said no-how on. Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in. Move in. Out of. Back into. No. No out. No back. Only in. Stay in. On in. Still. All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better ..."
A manifestation of the principle of failing but also emptying right at the start. When it was over, it was over, floor free for the next turn. Unfortunately the pauses between the performances of the first day/night were quite longtoo long.
Next was the bundling of two remarkable younger generation duos: Streifenjunko and Sheriffs of Nothingness. Streifenjunko is trumpeter Eivind Lønning and saxophonist Espen Reinertsen, both part of Christian Wallumrod's ensemble and also working together in the improvising quintet Koboku Senju with tubaist Martin Taxt, guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and no-input electronic musician Toshimaru Nakamura, The as well as collaborating with Sidsel Endresen, Keith Rowe/Kjell Bjørgeengen and Evan Parker in the past. Lønning, as part of the Norwegian trumpet legacy, is expanding the instrument's voice, especially into the areas of sub-perception, while Reinertsen is, perhaps, the most quiet-sounding tenorist around at the moment. The Sheriffs of Nothingness is the improvisational duo of violinist Kari Rønnekleiv, and Violist Ole-Henrik Moe. Working together since 2004, its focus is on timbral transitions and sound mass expansions, with an eye on creating new instruments within the instruments. Both duos are closely connected to Norway's Sofa label.
When progressively unfolding its sound figments close and deep listening is required by the musicians to arrive at fits, expansions, condensations and transformations of sound. For the listener, the sounds heard recalled the sound of a flock of birds in a wide cold wintry landscape at one moment and of geese and walrus voices at another. The musicians achieved a higher degree of natural order in their sound making. As a listener, there were permanent sensations such as: "Oh, this sound particle, did it really came from the tenor saxophone?" Or "Oh, did I just hear the other violin?" At a certain point, the merging of horns and strings gave the impression of music coming from far beyond the horizon. These young musicians extended the lines drawn by the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble and Dans Les Arbres. They rediscovered and exploited things intensively explored in the past by Luigi Nono and Helmut Lachenmann by putting them in a new context of playing.
The excursions of the bundled duos were followed by an ensemble gathered together by praised young vibraphonist/guitarist Håkon Stene, including the renowned cellist Tanya Orning and two equally well-known special keyboardists, Sigbjorn Apeland and Ellen Ugelvik; all three musicians profiled crossbreeds. Orning was a longtime member of the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, while Apeland is a keyboardist (mostly organ and harmonium) who opens up new dimensions for old keyboard instruments in various contexts of contemporary music. Ugelvik has been a soloist with The Oslo Filharmonien Orchestra, Oslo Sinfonietta, Bodø Sinfonietta and The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Lachenman's Piano Concerto, "Ausklang." Her Crumb recording won the Norwegian Grammy Award in 2008. Ugelvik also performs with groups Jagerflygel and Polygon and is currently part of the artistic research program at the Norwegian Music Academy (as is Stene).
Stene's ensemblewith the leader alternately on vibraphone and electric guitarperformed through-composed, minimalistic pieces by Gavin Bryars ("Hi Tremolo"), Laurence Crane and Stene himself, pieces recently released on Stene's Hubro album Lush Laments For Lazy Mammal. It was music of slowly swelling, rising, scintillating and ebbing away sound waves requiring close coordination and fine-tuning. It was, however, a quite different merging of sounds, dynamics and effects than the preceding extemporaneous music. Lush Laments ... is an apt title for this music, music to drive or take a bath to. The space of the performance place plays a major role in balancing the flowing sounds. The musicians did their best but it was a bit hard to achieve the full effect in the space of Musikkens Hus. In the end it was still quite an overwhelming experience.
Late evening brought the official opening of the installation created by Norwegian video artist Kjell Bjørgeengen in collaboration with British guitarist and visual artist Keith Roweconcurrently the start of a special event that would extend deep into the night, a four-hour concert by trio Mural with visuals by Bjørgeengen. Mural, consisting of Australian saxophonist Jim Denley, Madrilenian Ingar Zachkey Punkt percussionist of Norwegian originand Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr. Mural is fairly experienced in this kind of event. It delivered this kind of extended playing, for instance, at the Rothko chapel in Houston, Texas, documented on Live at the Rothko Chapel (Rothko Chapel, 2011).
Myhr's solo music explores the acoustic possibilities of the 12-string guitar. It might remind listeners of György Ligeti's early music or Morton Feldman, but also contains an energy and simplicity similar to American folk music. As a composer, Myhr wrote "Stems and Cages" for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra that in 2009 was performed by a large ensemble including, amongst others, singer Sidsel Endresen and pianist Christian Wallumrød, released as Stems and Cages (MNJ Records, 2010). It could perhaps be compared to the recent five-hour Morton Feldman concert at the Ruhr Triennale in Germany. It was fascinating to walk in at certain moments, listen, walk out again and return later to get an idea where and how it had proceededa special experience; maybe a bit too non-committal.
Anyway, it was a good occasion, too, to watch Bjørgeengen's video work. Bjørgeengen has put the emphasis on working live with musicians even more than before, notably with Keith Rowe, Evan Parker, MIMEO and Marc Ribot. The live work featured the production of flickering videos. The flicker was sound synced to video, thus becoming video and revealing the self-identity of the two. The flickering image might be the simplest and most fundamental image, oscillating between shades of light and darkness, given from the outside as a simple binary pairing of the visual experience. It was a device for refocusing art viewing. As Bjørgeengen himself stated: "The flicker works can be harsh to watch first, as they are perceived on a physical level. The black and white works are often perceived in colors. There is a threshold that needs to be overcome. A still image from the video reads like a minimal work; set in motion the work turns into its opposite. The art work, having all the traditional marks of the art-making process, turns into a phenomenon and touches the demarcation line between art and non-art."
Another video artist closely connected with Norwegian music and especially the Punkt festival and regular Punkt musicians is Tord Knudsen. His work, an essential part of the concerts, could be experienced intensively during the next two days.
The next two days went according to a clear pattern: start with seminars, then listening sessions and finally the remix concerts at Kick Scene and Fønix Kino.
Friday, the second day, had three seminars, one listening session (Jana Winderen/Mike Harding) and three remix concerts, namely sPace moNkey, Erik Honoré's album-release and Fennesz. A glance at the program not only revealed different sorts of contrasts but also various contexts/contextualizations of music the broadest/mightiest of which doubtless is nature (Jana Winderen) completed by media/recording plus storage plus distribution (Mike Harding), media/radio (Michael Engelbrecht), personal and artistic (hi)story (Laurie Anderson), animals, language (Laurie Anderson), other music (remix concerts).
The seminar program started with Michael Engelbrecht's "Storytelling for burning songs (Or: how to make radio magic)." Engelbrecht used the fabulating imagery of "Pacific Radio Fire," a short text from Richard Brautigan's 1971 book The Revenge Of The Lawn as stepping-stone: a running transistor radio is set on fire by one of the two young Weltschmerz-guys lingering on a lonely Monterey beach in mournful company of each other. The charged imagery of the burning songs served as an igniting metaphor for the evocation of magical effects: "As the radio gently burned away, the flames began to affect the songs that we were listening to."
In a staged radio-show Engelbrecht acted out his way of interconnecting and contouring heterogeneous types of music by his personal imaginative narrativesa demonstration of the art of talking every person of the audience into captivated or preferably even mesmerized listening to a well-weighed sequence of Ensemble Economique, Penguin Café Orchestra, Eric Honoré, Thomas Köner, Kim Kaskashian, Mirel Wagner, Brian Eno/Karl Hyde. Along a special associative narrative logic portions of fiction, colportage, polemics, musical background information, literary references, subjective projection of dreams and desires, predictions and prayers unfurledalluding, provoking, dissing, praisingover the top at times. At its core was the suggestive power of the speaking and projected realms anchored in the authority of the narrator. His imagination even carried him far into the future, to a decisive and detailed burning lineup of one of the Punkt Festival days in 2015.
The context of nature was represented by Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen. She miked animal sound worlds from difficult accessible underwater habitats, the (unheard) sound world of humpback whales, toad and parrot fish, very noisy (underwater) insects, and coral reefs; but she also uncovered sound worlds inaudible for the human ear like that of bats. She not only recorded these worlds with the latest technology. She also prepared and arranged them to bring them to our perception and experience in suitable, appropriate ways. Like a month ago, when she "installed" oceanic underwater soundscapes in New York City for an audience promenading the Park Avenue tunnel, or last year at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The ambisonic "sound installation" she fabricated there is a good place to start for an example of her work.
Winderen was educated in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in London, and has a background in mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology from the University in Oslo. She releases her audio-visual works on Mike Harding and John Wozencroft's Touch label, a label that, over the past decades, has built up a special expertise in presenting unusual sound works, collaborating with artists iike Philip Jeck, Chris Watson and Christian Fennesz.
It was fascinating to learn about her expeditions, her sound huntinga term introduced by Jan Bang in the seminar next dayand surprising and revealing in several respects, listening to her presentation of these sound worlds. It raised a couple of fundamental question about the biological significance, function and organization of sound compared to human musical perception and organization. An important reference here is the groundbreaking work of musician, instrument builder and biologist/biophonetician Bernie Krause.
The technical development that enables us to hear and record these sound worlds is at the same time responsible for a lot of disturbance and damage of the same biological habitats. It is two sides of the same coin. When listening to the edited recordings, it is maybe just more fascinating and exciting because we, as human beings, can hear (our) music in it. That applies very strongly to pieces composed by Winderen from field recordings made at Barents Sea, Greenland and Norway for her album Energy Field (Touch, 2010), especially halfway through the piece "Sense of Latent Power". Still more remarkable is that the until now unheard sounds resemble very much those produced and used in contemporary electronic musicPunkt-related musicians and groups included.
Not only is the recording of these sound worlds a special challenge; so, too, is presenting it to a broader, interested audience. The Touch label is, indeed, experienced in doing this kind of work and has been involved in a lot of special projects. The works published by the label are immediately recognizable due to the design and photography of Jon Wozencroft. Mike Harding described how changes over the past generation---the way audio is produced, perceived, marketed and consumedhave affected the working relationship with artists and the impact this has had on their work. Harding also curates Spire , a performance event which explores the acoustics of remarkable buildings, especially cathedrals and churches, such as York Minster, Lincoln, Geneva and Brussels Cathedrals.
A brief look at Laurie Anderson's bio at the Punkt website gives a good indication where the tangents are, and why she finally was present at Punkt. An intriguing interplay of de-stylized and hyper-stylized modes is one of the characteristics of Laurie Anderson's interdisciplinary work.
More, in general, her appearances are of a special kind of ambient centring. She starts talking, like a nice neighbor, about daily thingscommon as well as uncommonand then, all of a sudden, it turns into an amiable, highly poetic thing. Her gift is to bring a special elucidating significance, and to connect things along the way. She is able to direct the attention and inner dedication to a lovely detaila center, for awhile, in a chaotic world. She does this by switching: by a kind of fading in and out. It is a very ambient thing, no reified creations here. It functions as a soft counterpoint to our everlasting, inescapable activity of rigid classification and fixing categorizations. Anderson's watchfulness is a constant process of passage. Of course, it may differ in the degree that her "things" appeal, or create a trace to pursue. In layering, extending and remixing heterogeneous sounds in a certain way a similar thing is going on. It is not a question of making crazy, nice or odd combinations and fusions; it is that special kind of differential quality, striking and elevating, that counts.
The talk with Punkt MC Fiona Talkington led into an ambient conversation navigating through manifold waters. From Turning Confusion Into Clarity, Yongey Mingyur Ringpoche's guide to the foundation practices of Tibetan Buddhism, to animals in music. Heiner Goebbels brought 100 sheep onstage recently at Ruhrbiennale; Anderson, together with Lou Reed, Colin Stetson and others, gave a concert for dogs at Sidney opera house some time ago. There were thoughts on the sound of barking dog, her blind dog playing piano, her dog Lolabelle attacked from the air. Then from dogs to church windows and sound gardening. She told how she was captivated by the magic of the church windows at the Grossmünster in Zürich, created by renowned visual artist Sigmar Polke.
She went on to describe her own participation in "In the Garden of Sonic Delights," an exhibition of new sound sculptures at the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts in Katona, New York. Mentioning her new story-generating machine, a language of the future. The sequence of her discussing all these things occurred naturally and was always focused. She went on to discuss "Landfall," a piece she wrote for Kronos Quartet, the storage of pain (with your body it's harder to lie) and the expansion of one's hearing range through silent meditation (Paul Bradley), and the dynamic sense of space, as well as the ARTE TV movie essay she is currently working on.
ARTE asked her to make a film about her philosophy of life ... a mission clearly impossible, but nonetheless she has begun with some parts: about her dog, about surveillance and cameras ... and, finally, a concluding audience-initiated dialogue about the witches monument of the Steilneset memorial site at Vardø, created by Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois. Vardø is situated in the Varanger area of Finmark, the eastern-most part of Norway, a 2,750 km distance from Kristiansand (about the same distance as to Tirana, Albania). It is a monument to commemorate the suspected witches who were burned at the stake there between the years 1589 and 1692,when a total of 135 people were indicted. 91 were executed as witches, the vast majority of Sami ancestry. All these topics passed with the ease of her connecting narrative.
"Edges," for any number of players and free instrumentation (1969), by Christian Wolff (1934)performed by John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, Eivind Lønning, Espen Reinertsen, Kari Rønnekleiv, Ole-Henrik Moe and Ingar Zachwas an ideal transitional piece between first day's music and the remix concerts of the second day. The signs on the score of "Edges" do not refer primarily to what the player plays or the listener hears. The signs mark out spaces, indicate points, surfaces, routes or limitations. Each player should play to, in or around what is marked out. This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities, choices and interactions that make every performance new. The listener is given a similar task of "composing" when perceiving the space and the voices, the sounds coming out of it. The visibility of the musicians aided this process, although partial non-visibility might have made it still more intriguing.
Drummer Gard Nilssen and pianist Morten Qvenild are two key musicians of the younger generation of the Norwegian scene. Both aregiven the range and number of groups in which they participatenot only highly versatile but also investigative musicians. Nilssen has released a solo album (Drumming Music , Gigafon) recently; Qvenild is currently a research fellow in a new artistic (action-)research program at Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. Under the title "hyPer(sonal) piano," he investigates the possibilities/restrictions of extending the piano. As sPace moNkey, the duo has just released its debut album The Karman Line (Hubro, 2014), operating extemporaneously in contrast to the preceding Christian Wolff's preceding, configured "Edges," or the through- composed pieces Håkon Stene played with his ensemble the day before. These qualifications are clearly scalar entities. Qvenild/Nilssen might at certain moments in the performance make use of a few pre-structured elements. sPace moNkey's music unpredictably shuttled between high energy outburst and freak outs, and beautifully strange, quiet soundscaping.
Qvenild chose to start with a quite straight, gospel-like Ray Charles vibe that became increasingly dense and heated. After awhile, it mutated into firedamp lightnings and turmoil but kept its graspable complexity and burning energy. The music exploded, spreading and stretching out energetically. The duo held up the tension, firing and keeping it steady from underneath. And, for landing, it managed to return into the curve of the initial gospel feel. The only evil-doer was a too ample, sound-killing, dulling subwoofer. The duo's music was the sheer opposite of the music heard the day before.
sPace moNkey created a strong challenge for Jan Bang and guitarists Eivind Aarset, together with a different drummer, Punkt-novice Samuel Rohrer. Rohrer, a Swiss musician from Berlin, has earned quite a reputation through his participation in various configurations with German ECM and Swiss Intakt label collaborations with Norwegian musicians including Jan Bang and, more recently, diving deeper into electronics with his new trio with Max Loderbauer (on buchla 200e) and Claudio Puntin (clarinets), on their first album, ambiq, on the new Arjuna-label.
For the remix, the source material provides impulses and casts a shadow. The musicians have to find and project their way into the action. In the beginning, Bang faded a melody line in and out, with Nilssen's bass drum deeply buried. Along with Rohrer's dry short drum beats and Aarset's guitar sounding almost mandolin-like for a short stretch, it departed. Gradually getting more layered---through Aarset's and Rohrer's subtle electronics tooit morphed into differing shapes and temperatures. The drum beats began to splinter, Aarset's electric guitar went into heavy rock mode. A storm aroseswooshing sound waves, as if a raving church organ was ascending. And, even better: Major Tom returned to the ground perfectly timed, not a single nanosecond too longa crucial virtue. The potentials and possibilities of Bang's little Akai box again appeared to be amazing, but still more amazing was the rapidity of Bang's decision-making and his execution in and out of the musical flow. The initial remix: a marvellous match.
Punkt's co-artistic director Erik Honoré's new album, Heliographs, was officially released this day on Andreas Meland's profiling Hubro label. For the release concert, Honoré was joined onstage by trumpeter Arve Henriksen, guitarist Eivind Aarset, Dutch violinist Jeffrey Bruinsma and percussionist Ingar Zach. Alas, eminent vocalist and (irreplaceable) core Punkt musician Sidsel Endresen, who is on the recording, could not make it.
The album's title originates from Honoré's first novel Orakelveggen (Oracle Routes). The opening chapter of the book contains a fictional account of the development of photography nearly 200 years ago. Frenchman Joseph Niépce was the first, in 1822, to apply a procedure of light gravure, which he called heliographywriting with sunlight. The process used Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt, as a coating on glass or metal. It hardened in proportion to its exposure to light. When the plate was washed with oil of lavender, only the hardened areas remained. This concept is an illuminative cue to the album's nature, its bringing into relief from dark substratum which can also serve as a metaphor for the reverse characterstics of mediaand lifeand might trigger reflection (!) on the common properties of light and sound.
Stoically, the pulsing, humming, undulating dark-textured drone uncoiled with subliminal expectation of ebullitions, small and big bumps, de-railings or sudden outbursts. Bruisma's violin viscerally silhouetted against the background and shed tonal lightseven more intense as a new not yet fully adapted voice. Aarset's guitar eventually started soaring with a strong Oriental tinge; meanwhile, the dark soundscape was shifting from close-up to frontal view, and vice versa. Later still, Bruinsma's violin returned to the center with the beauty of a lost voice in the dark, as Henriksen and Aarset echoed each other in the vast sea of sound before the loud and cacophonous outburst of "Strife" took place. Honoré finished with "Sanctuary Revisited," crossfading into Morten Qvenild and Arve Henriksen's duo remix. Their remix turned into a softly vibrating curve with loopings of Bruisma's violin and Henriksen's own singing, joined by Qvenild's slowly emerging organ. But Qvenild is not a man to dwell; very soon he went against it, shattering and shaking. Finally, humor won out over severity through Qvenild's well-timed twist. The remix was a kind of extended coda that marked a new entrance.
Guitarist Christian Fennesz (pronounced /fenness/) returned to Punkt this year after playing, in 2013, with David Sylvian and Stephan Mathieu in The Kilowatt Hour. Fennesz's guitar is maybe one of the loudest beauty: no matter how loud he is playing, the beauty in it remains. It is, however, not a question of sheer volume, it is Fennesz's combination and fine-tuning of vibrations, and overdriven sounds on the edge of interference noise. No matter how loud and overdriven, a core quality remained clearly recognizable throughout. The thundering and roaring also set free lots of musical recollections, recognizable elements...even motifs, shining through the massive noise.
Fennesz is closely connected to the Viennese Polwechsel musicians, which is not self-evident at first sight/ear. Polwechsel bassist Werner Dafeldecker and Polwechsel drummer Martin Brandlmayr both participated in Fennesz's just-released Bécs (pronounced /baeetch/, the Hungarian name for Vienna). Polwechsel, in turn, is connected to and collaborates with John Tilbury and David Sylvian.
Fennesz played his solo set stoically, with only few adjusting actions on his laptop and switchboard on a tableno armada of pedals. Very loud swooshing and swishing, very simple motifs, all enlarged and extended, like a starting, departing and ascending airplane. Breaks were timed very well to redirect the attention. He even went into Albatross mode very briefly, and started a frenzied repetitive ascending guitar riff that led the heartbeat to a higher rate. And then, he went out of it just before it came to close to its own secondary cliché. It seems that he tried to let it go, emerging from the parameters set at the start to let it sing as much as possible.
To enter a remix of Fennesz by a string quartet could be called bold, and bold it was. It was also the quartet's very first appearance at the Punkt Festival, a double challenge and a test. Bang and Honoré hit the stage, immediately after Fennesz's performance, with Dutch string men Jeffrey Bruinsma (violin), Jasper le Clercq (violin), Oene van Geel (viola) and Emile Visser (cello): the tight quartet, Zapp.
A string quartet is an organism that has to get attuned, especially in a situation like this, when a fully extemporaneous reaction to Fennesz's guitar storm was afforded. The quartet started strumming collectivelysensing, like an alpine plant at sunrise in the morning. Small melodic buds appeared for short moments. Bang let it float for awhile before throwing in some impulsive obstacles, pushing it dynamically upward and forward. More and more layers appeared, more and more elements circled around, expanded, contracted, attracted, heated up and exploded. The strings, at one point, were a pizzicato looped and magnified, in another layer a sample played backwards and more deeply buried in Fennesz's work. Meanwhile, a complex dynamic interplay was underway. All the musicians were, by this time, synchronized to a great degree and taking initiativesespecially Visser, in the low register of his cello, increasing the music's richness and beauty. The group entered a climaxing, cathartic curve with a long turn down and landed with great precision, followed by a cheering response from the audience at Kick. A quite upbeat promise for their own concert the next day.
Saturday, the third and last day, had three seminars (Henning Bolte w/Jan Bang, Morten Qvenild and Zapp4), two listening session (Niels Christian Moe-Repstad/Erik Honoré and Terje Paulsen/Alf Solbakken) and three remix concerts, specifically Zapp4 with Jan Bang, Friis/Osgood/Dodebum and Laurie Anderson with Arve Henriksen. The contexts here were sampling, sound extension and transposition, in addition to other music. The Punkt Festival has a strict consecutive program with no parallel events. It is, however, quite densely timed which sometimes makes it difficult to attend all the programs. Alas, it was impossible to make it for the listening sessions with Nils Christian Moe-Repstad, Terje Paulsen and Alf Solbakken.
Three Punkt novices gave acte de présence on this day: the Zapp4 string quartet, saxophonist Raffaele Casarano, and, the most experienced of all, drummer Hamid Drake. Casarano is from the Puglian town of Lecce in the deep south of Italy. Since 2006, there saxophonist has maintained his own Locomotive festival, recruiting top Italian and Scandinavian musicians. He has collaborated with the likes of Paolo Fresu, Gianluigi Trovesi, and Manu Katche. Zapp4 is a unique, multiple award- winning ensemble of string players from the Netherlands that conceives itself as a band with the lineup of a string quartet which has been on the music scene and matured for more than 15 years. It combines groove, improvisation and fantasy with passionate solos. Out of that it has developed a hybrid way of playing. Chicagoan Drake is one of the most experienced and farthest-reaching improvisational musician of this time. He has collaborated with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Marilyn Crispell, Herbie Hancock, Joseph Jarman, George Lewis, William Parker, David Murray, Sabir Mateen and Joe McPhee amongst many others. Grown into music-making under the tutelage of legendary Chicago saxophonist Fred Anderson (1929-2010) and driven by the impact of his most significant drumming influences, Ed Blackwell and Adam Rudolph, Drake has collaborated intensely with trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry in the '80s and a large variety of other improvising musicians. He participated in the Mandingo Griot Society with Foday Musa Suso, Adam Rudolph and Hassan Hakmoun, but one of his most longstanding collaborations is in his trio with flautist Nicole Mitchell and bassist Harrison Bankhead.
Seminars and Book Presentation
The seminar program started with "Seducing the seducer: A conversational navaid to Bangsonics," featuring this writer in conversation with Jan Bang. Bang is a person in fluid motion who has a natural inclination to turn this motion into soundwhich is like catching clouds. He is a person who also knows, very well, that the other onethe other personis needed to get a good sound. And he knows how the other person has to be invited. He also needs the right flexible, not predetermined, patterned instrument. He found it in the Akai Remix 16 Sampler. It has allowed him to be in the moment and (re)act in a flash rapidly hunting for sounds, two urges coming forth from the initial impulse. Bang invited this writer, who invited him to "conversail" a passage along abysms and swirls, banks and cays, cliffs and reefs as well as panoramic views revealing characteristics of Bang's way of shaping sound in improvisational action, in order to to end up musing together with the audience around the ultimate: "why not just sit on a rock, bang with a piece of wood and sing along with the wind?"
Morten Qvenild gave an account of his artistic research program on "The HyPer(sonal) Piano," where he investigates the possibilities/restrictions of electronic extensions of the pianolike pitch dissolving, shadowing and expanding dynamicsin a practical performing perspective. The quite unique program (only Belgium has something comparable), with its autonomous action research, promises better possibilities for systematic, controlled reflective exchange, experimentation, evaluation and problem-solving. Qvenild especially addressed "going bananas" situations, how to take risks, cope with loss of control, interconnectivity, solve control problems, shape the devices and internalize action chains. Qvenild's appearances on the second Punkt day were good examples of the field phase of his project.
In its seminar, Zapp4 gave a cumulative concert demonstration of its strategies and techniques, culminating in demonstrating its very much appreciated approach of rhythmic cycles plus its transposition of Radiohead pieces into Zapp4 remixes on We Suck Young BloodThe Radiohead Songbook (Buzz, 2012).
According to Italian writer Luca Vitali, Norway played a crucial role in the emancipation of European jazz from its Afro-American roots. Fiona Talkington had a conversation with Vitali about his recently published book, The Sound of the North or, in its native Italiian, Il suono del nord. La Norvegia protagonista della scena europea (Auditorium, 2013). In his book, Vitali has sought to dismantle distorted views on jazz in Europe and the role of the Norwegian scene, recounting it from his point of view on his first-hand recollections of the participants on the scene and his own experience at the scene's clubs and festivals which brought him to its latest shoot: Punkt. As his enthusiasm grew and he learned more, he realized how much there was to discover besides the nucleus of musicians popular at festivals around Europe. Pursuing this interest, and following the scene more and more closely, brought him into contact with the musical world of Jan Bang and the Punkt Festival, founded with Erik Honorè and characterized by Live Remix.
It was not the first time that Jan Bang and Dutch string quartet Zapp4 had played together. Earlier, they collaborated successfully at last year's edition of November Music, a New Music festival in Den Bosch in the southeast of the Netherlands. Working not only with strings (which happened earlier) but directly with a non-classical, improvising string quartet, makes a lot of sense considering Jan Bang's history of recording and live performances. Their first performance together at November Music pushed the envelope in the sense that it was a 100% extemporaneous performance, creating a type of music that was clearly a piece of chamber music but which would be difficult to notate and then render live in the same quality.
The music departed into dark moods, deep abysses and inferno sceneries moving on to forcefully hammered pizzicatos reminiscent of cellist Tom Cora at times. Zapp and Bang maintained the gripping high tension over the whole, the complete stretch with lots of impressive shiftings and swelling overflows, a highly dynamic, increasingly intense piece of work that, in the end, triggered a standing ovation and made a real mark. It lifted the qualities of its earlier performance to a still higher level. So this format clearly proved to be "Punkt suitable" and open for further explorations.
The remix was reserved for Erik Honoré and saxophonist Raffaele Casarano. Raffaele produced long stretching cantilenas of a Jan Garbarek kind, above a sample of Visser's cello as the remix's pulse. Casarano's electronically enhanced saxophone became a bit too dominant in the long run, loosing its contrasting tension and release effect.
Next up was Danish trio Friis/Osgood/Dodebum, also new to Punkt. Maria Laurette Friis is a Danish composing and improvising sound artist who explores the space between primal, ceremonial sound, classical eastern influences, 20th century classical music, noise and folk song, currently using processed voice, Korg MS-10, cembalo, flutes and tamboura. She has collaborated with the likes of Pamelia Kurstin, Stian Westerhus, Eivind Lønning, Fred Frith and Mat Maneri. Kresten Osgood, a member of Kopenhagen's ILK collective, is one of the most colorful and busiest drummers on the Danish scene, covering a broad range of musical idioms. He has collaborated with likes of Sam Rivers, Tim Berne and Paul Bley, and has his own annual Musketeer Festival, where musicians from all styles of music meet and break down the walls of the music scene of Copenhagen. Dodebum is Henrik Sundh, electronic musician and producer from Copenhagen. His musical universe is mostly dark, spooky and almost empty, with some decrepit leftovers inhabited by sparse, lonesome flitting melodic fragments.
The trio's performance became an utterly darkened affair, with Osgood's razor- sharp muscular and sweeping drum cycles, Sundh's inward directed electronics and Friis' multiple sound extensions and layering. What started quite fascinating became more and more locked in a feelingwhat might have been intentionally or unintentionally accepted. It seemed the trio was caught in an endless electro-acoustical loop that reproduced itself with only minimal shifts that constantly reentered the cycle. A kind of dark doom trance which did not appeal to everybody.
Again, a remix crew with a strong signatureNils Petter Molvaer, Hamid Drake, Eivind Aarset and Jan Bangwas ready to take up the challenge and do their collective thing with it. The piece of departure and the remix should be considered as constituting a special kind of working unit. And then it becomes fascinating what the remix musicians hear in the source musicwhat they can get out of it and how they do it. There are so many possibilities to fail gorgeously or splendidly, or get stuck in one's own routines and patterns. In this case, however, something happenedfar from expectations or set frames. Provoked by a strong initial attack from Molvær, the crew turned it all radically over into a brilliantly shining light and banned the dark spirits...an ingenious prank! Once underway, the music started to vibrate, quaking like a pow-wow and conjuring up the spirit of Jim Pepper. A wonderful unexpected segue which, for the time being, brought into existence a new brotherhood of breath. And it was a remix that brought forth an encore. Many things were at work to bring all this about, one of them, apparently, the strong impulse given by the source material and, of course, the strong chemistry of the remix crew.
Another remix concert, a concluding apotheosis was still waiting to happen in the big hall of the Fønix cinema: the performance of Laurie Anderson and Arve Henriksen, remixed by Christian Fennesz, with visuals by the great master, Tord Knudsen. The stage setting was brilliant, the commitment high. So were expectations. Both Anderson and Henriksen wereas usualgood in focusing on intimate sounds, gestures and narratives. Both manifested themselves in full strength unfolding rich and flourishing sonic landscapes, but maybe it was just that which prevented moments of sudden bare wonder to arise, unforeseen transmutation to happen or cross-fertilizations to occur. Some elements did not find their place, getting lost. Nevertheless, moments of pure beauty, reminiscence and near- surrender occurred, strengthened by Fennesz's remix, which followed immediately. The shrieking sound streams of his guitar, full of subtleties, gradually burned away the sonic landscapes just experienced. It remains a miracle how he managed this appealing equilibrium of loudness, noise, texturing and sub-melodic traits.
2014, at the end of a cruel summer, was a less abundant and euphoric edition than some editions in the past but it was very much focused and structured with lots of striking contrasts and fits. There were clear highlights, some doubts and even dislikes.
The core crew of Punkt artists has succeeded in establishing the festival internationally, as a non-negligible quantity and, at the same time, retaining its original spirit as something upon which can be relied. Punkt has played a leading and guiding role and has, therefore, had quite an impact and abiding influence on various musical fields and musicians. The achievements have clear contours. The challenge is not only to expand and enter new territories and musical scents (like the string quartet, the sound artists or involving younger generation's attack like that of sPace moNkey), but also to sharpen the focus on the quality of contrasts (and counters) in the remixing chain. Is it endless open-ended variation or will it be more urgent to find out how to pave the path to germination and discover 'the best" striking fits?
Photo Credit: Henning Bolte
Thanks to John Kelman, long time, experienced Punkt-reviewer