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Simon Toldam: A New Perspective in Jazz

Jakob Baekgaard By

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"It is hard to imagine someone who would not like this music, because it is the DNA in our music, like psalms, it is something that we all can relate to. It is incredibly composed, simple and yet very complex. It is recognizable, the melodies are so clear and lucid that you can hear the first three tones, like, this is the Fugue in F minor, or something like that. When I have played some of these pieces for myself, when I have played them twenty times, it is like I get into a deeper layer and, at the same time, I understand that there are thousands of layers. And then, when I get into another layer, it is also a sense of discovery, but, still, there is the understanding that there are another thousands of layers, so to me, it is written in a very enigmatic way. The more you learn, the more you realize that there are so many layers that you will never get to the bottom of it all."

When asked whether the idea of multilayered music is also an ideal in his own music, Toldam answers:

"It is not something I have thought about, but I think that it is enormously exciting that things are ambiguous and not one-dimensional. You should be allowed to be left in a state of wonder and be surprised. It challenges you. So it is not an ideal as such, but it is definitely something that I think is important. Art should push us, it should make us see the world in a way that is a little different or inspire us to enter the world in a new way. Therefore, it is necessary that art pushes boundaries and, of course, boundaries are individual. It is enormously exciting to be able to reach as wide an audience as possible. It has some kind of strength. I am touched by art that reaches out widely. John Cage was not mainstream, but everyone can get something out of a work like "4'33" and some people think it is horrible and a fraud and some people think it is genius, but it makes people think and in that way, it moves all people in a little way."

"Without comparing directly with Cage, my wife (Quarin Wikström) played in a dance act during the fall. It was choreographed by a Swedish dance choreographer named Martin Forsberg and it was a fantastic show. I remember she said that they had received so many different reactions, ranging from someone saying that it was a deeply political criticism of society to someone saying that it was the most funny thing and someone saying it was shit, weird and without meaning. The reactions were so wide and everyone was affected."

"If you can provoke so different reactions, I think you are on to something. Art does not need to be mainstream to get a wide reaction. It can be very exclusive and still have a wide effect. I also think it is interesting when someone leaves when we play, as long as it is not everyone. They have made a decision, they have been touched in some way, perhaps thinking this is too forceful, too boring or too much. No matter what, the music has provoked an active decision. In that way, something has happened, and perhaps, it is even more influential than those people who just stay because they have paid for the concert. The other thing is more interesting."

Toldam believes that the dialog with the audience is important and the size of the audience has an effect, but it is not a matter of quality. There is just a difference between a large and small audience. In general, he tries to embrace the specific situation without trying to change it. As he points out, speaking of himself and the trio:

"We are improvising people who attempt to be in the moment as much as we can. This is true when we play, but also in general. If you have this mindset, this philosophy, it is something that affects your whole behavior and life in general. Now we are in this situation and, perhaps, the situation is not like we imagined it to be. For instance, one moment there is a beat-up bar piano and the next you have a pristine concert piano. That is just the way it is. You don't achieve something by being irritated. You just have to accept the circumstances. The philosophy is that no matter the circumstances, there are always new things to discover in the present moment."

Toldam has played many types of music with many people. The idea of embracing the situation also affects his aesthetic. Indeed, it would be wrong to speak of one musical aesthetic. Instead, it makes more sense to speak of relational aesthetics:

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