A Norwegian theme for the opening of London’s most anticipated new cultural centre? How did we ever manage to bribe our way to such recognition? We asked Jan Bang, one of the key figures of the Norwegian presence at Kings Place in November.
-It was all Fiona’s idea, says Bang, referring to Fiona Talkington, host of BBC 3’s “Late Junction”.
-When Kings Place asked her to be the curator for the opening she seized the opportunity to let her love for Norwegian contemporary music –parts of which enjoy a strong standing in the UK- materialize in a dedicated concept.
-I’ve spent two years with Fiona on this project. We have even been to inspect the construction site. Kings Place is a unique building and venue and I think that the program we have put together really matches the context.
Talkington’s concept for the opening of Kings Placed is entitled Scene Norway. As part of the city-wide London jazz festival it is a mini festival dedicated to Norwegian Jazz and contemporary music, also presenting a number of fresh Norwegian voices from literature, film and theatre. One of the key ingredients of Scene Norway will be the visiting edition of the Norwegian Punkt festival. Punkt was co-founded by Jan Bang in his native Kristiansand in 2004. In only four years it has become renowned for being one of the manifestly novel developments in the sphere of contemporary music and art, attracting a lot of forward-thinking people to participate and inspiring a lot more to come and enjoy.
- Even though the notion of bringing Punkt to London is very exciting, we try to keep our expectations down, says Bang.
- We will focus on quality and keep an open mind. Considering the context and venue almost anything can happen, but we are not thinking in terms of any kind of international breakthrough for Punkt.
Jan Bang is one of Norway’s most accomplished and influential producers and the epithet “electronics guru” has stayed with him for a long time and with good reason. Bang is the kind of musical innovator and bridge-builder who consistently manages to balance progressive thinking with popular appeal. He is always looking for ways of moving music and people forward, and by creating new meeting places and musical intersections he is the kind of person who makes events like «Scene Norway» possible. In addition to hosting Punkt, Bang will also contribute to the opening concert where he will perform with one of his many musical collaborators, the celebrated Norwegian trumpet player Arve Henriksen.
Can you shed some more light on the connection between Scene Norway and Punkt, and Fiona Talkington and yourself?
-I have known Fiona for a number of years and she is just a great fan of Norwegian music. Parts of the Norwegian jazz scene have had a strong position in the UK for a long time. This was something first established by people like Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal, and more recently it has been kept up by people such as Sidsel Endresen, Nils Petter Molvær, Arve Henriksen and Bugge Wesseltoft, i.e. some of the very same people who will contribute at Scene Norway.
-Based on her personal enthusiasm for this music and the Norwegian musicians she has met Fiona had the idea of creating a mini festival dedicated to Norwegian jazz and contemporary music and expanding the concept by drawing in literature, film and other fresh voices of Norwegian culture. Even though Scene Norway will be quite wide-ranging I think it is fair to say that Punkt is a key to the whole connection here.
So give us a brief introduction to Punkt? Why is it special?
-Punkt is a concept; it is an ongoing and expanding project in the form of a festival. The basic idea is to invite people to do live concerts and then have other musicians do live remixes of these sets immediately afterwards, in an adjacent hall. There are many aspects of this that make it interesting. First of all it is technically challenging: we have direct lines from the ongoing live concerts to the remix halls so that one can start reworking the live music as soon as it is actually played. But there is very little time of course, which is an artistically interesting challenge. We have had quite a few people really struggling under the pressure; people used to spending months in the studio and now they have to present something in the matter of minutes. But it is exactly the lack of delay that makes this concept what it is. And even the original live concerts are always a matter of improvisation and bringing in people who are not familiar with the material in advance. So there is a double sense of uncertainty and the whole thing rests on the musicians’ ability to make it work there and then. Most often it works really well and that’s when we get this great feeling of letting the music move forwards and develop without delay.
Who gets to be invited then? What are the criteria?
-We have used the festival as an occasion for inviting musical friends, acquaintances and heroes from all over the place. I guess we have had a pretty accurate feeling about who to bring together. It has to do with musical and artistic attitude I think; what we are doing requires a notion of spontaneity and improvisation and a desire to always be in motion. Now the whole concept has caught on and even internationally interest in Punkt has really exploded. It is a very good example of how music is the best passport one can have, and how music has its own way of working and making progress. Punkt is a musical idea of how to move music forwards, that is the basis. Our idea of inviting friends to take part in this idea has turned out to be a truly progressive concept that also strikes home with the audience.
Punkt has been called a musical laboratory and a vision of the musical future. At Kings Place the London audience may experience the concept themselves and chances are that witnessing music as it manifestly moves forward before ones eyes and ears; as one walks from one room to the next in a sublime building dedicated to music and creativity, will result in something like the breakthrough that Bang does not expect.
Jan Bang, Artistic Director