When we reach Arve by phone he has just returned from Japan and performances in Sapporo with Terje Isungset.
-We played on instruments made exclusively from ice, Terje on percussion, me on winds. It’s something Terje has been doing for a while, so to us it’s not novel, but it was great fun, the two of us improvising all along, and we created quite a stir in fact.
Japanese music and culture has influenced Arve for many years, and this is something that has been especially emphasised in the media.
-I’ve been equally interested in other forms of traditional music, says Arve, and I think the connections are strong, but it’s the Japanese vein that has caught the most attention.
His first solo album, Sakuteiki (2001) is an homage to and an exploration of the distinct sonority of Japanese instruments, chiefly the shakuhachi flute. The predominant trait of this kind of music and sound is tranquillity and balance, says Arve. What first attracted me to it was the concord between aesthetics and nature. This was probably more important to me than I realized at the time, and now I recognize how it bespeaks rootedness and the importance of localness and nearness in my life; I am from Stryn, more so than I’ve been aware of perhaps.
Are these aspects of Japanese culture and philosophy something you relate to also outside of music?
-Yes, but not as any kind of spiritual project. I simply find a lot of breathing space and serenity in this music, and I’ve learned to appreciate and use it as a tool; to find calm in times of stress, like the infancy of our three children. But like I said, lately I’ve discovered new sides of this balanced calm, in terms of my own “grounding” and how my music relates to that. Discovering this regarding oneself is discovering the exoticness and rareness of ones own background; that Stryn resonates deeper in me than do other impulses and influences. But it’s meaningless to compare influences, of course. I think one's musical voice it’s about finding a piece of land, so to speak, and developing that. And in my case, I’m discovering that my artistic place has a lot more to do with my childhood realm than I thought. In a way this means that the Japanese venture has been revealed –in a positive sense- as a tool to finding my Norwegian grounding.
So Strjon is a record that reflects this; an expression of roots and grounding?
-Yes, but these aspects are just as much results of the process, as they were a pre-determined aim. The making of this record has been a process of listening backwards in time, going through recordings of mine since the age of eighteen. The decision to make this material the basis of a new record, and then going through the tapes, has been a way a way of recognizing some defining traits, roots if you will, which have been there all along.
Do these old recordings feature as they are on the album or are they reworked and re-recorded?
-Eight of the tracks are the actual old recordings. They are not perfect, technically and sound wise, but that is part of the point. We uploaded six hours of music onto Helge’s hard disc, (Helge Sten aka Deathprod, who Arve plays with in Supersilent, is also his regular solo producer) and he chose what he liked and wanted to use, cutting down to forty seven minutes, including the new tracks.
The recordings that have ended up on the album, do they span your whole musical career, or are they mostly early stuff, from your Stryn days?
-No, they span more than twenty years, up until the present, which is evident in the different formats; from tape spools to lap-top, you know.
Your two previous solo albums are also incorporated in this retrospective project then?
-Yes, both the acoustic serenity of Sakuteiki and the more electronic melancholy of Chiaroscuro (2004) is present. But I don’t think it’s a retrospective project. It’s more about expressing something that has been in place all along, by going through twenty years of recordings and development, and making the catalogue that has been a tacit basis, into a more active tool. It’s a matter of becoming conscious; opening up an accessible “identity account.”
What about the evolution of your trumpet sound, and of your vocal technique, where does Strjon fit into this picture?
-Well, I liked my previous release and its distinct voice, but I think this one is truer, in terms of trumpet tone and my general musical voice. But again, this is something related to the span of the project. I have been looking for a truthful, narrative instrument-voice all along, and to a large extent that has meant reducing and reducing, making the notes fewer and thus more meaningful.
And regarding your real voice; does Strjon also feature vocals?
-No, there’s very little vocal. That was something exiting on Chiaroscuro, but now I’m more focused on the trumpet again. However this is not a very conscious matter, I’m fond of the notion that the vocals and the instrument take over for each other and that these shifts constitute a search for the most meaningful “voice” in the particular context. The trumpet and my own vocals interweave. One’s actual voice is always the closets thing of course, but the way it can be used also as a wordless instrument shows how the transitions of meaning unfold and how the trumpet can come in and clarify and simplify in a continuum from the human voice. In this respect Per Jørgensen is a guiding light for me, the way he manages those transitions of instruments and meaning, and so is Sidsel Endresen; what she does is fantastic.
Arve relates that there will be little or no release-related events surrounding Strjon. –I’m beyond the need for making a fuss around my projects. I feel that I have time and leeway to do things in my own tempo, and let the music work over time, rather than pushing things around releases.
And I have so many other projects going on, that it’s a simple necessity to portion things out a little. In 2007 I will be working with Christian Wallumrød Ensemble -one of my regular ensembles- David Sylvian, Imogen Heap, Supersilent (release of Supersilent 8-9 and concerts), Trygve Seim Ensemble -another regular outfit I’m in- Trio Medieval and Frode Haltli, just to mention some. I think I’ve reached the kind of position I want in terms of involvement in other peoples projects, because I’m not a session musician, I am myself; a distinct voice, and this means that I can work with lots of different people but still pursue and further what’s uniquely mine. In this I am very fortunate, and it takes away a lot of the downsides of being so widely engaged.
His unique musical voice has featured on more than eighty albums all in all, a telling measure of the rare value ascribed to the music of Arve Henriksen.
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