A glimmer of truth on the road to new music.
Cliff Furnald hears from Norwegian musician Andreas Aase.
I love a big band, full of percussion, strings and horns, with enough wild dynamics to make your head spin. And I am certainly not an ardent enemy of fusion, electronics and studio paraphernalia,
and welcome their all-too-rare intelligent and creative use in music. But there are times when a simple, stripped down, in-your-face acoustic sound is really the best. Norwegian musicians Sturla Eide Sundli (fiddle and hardanger fiddle) and Andreas Aase (guitar and bouzouki) offer a prime example of this approach to both old roots and new attitudes. How do musicians in a world of high tech and fusion come to such an obvious, simple conclusion? I asked guitar and bouzouki player Aase to explain their path to simplicity.
"Any musician who has played for a certain period starts making choices. There's about a million good musicians in the world (not to mention bad ones), and, let's face it, way too many CDs spewed onto the market every day. So the inevitable questions arise: What do I want to play? Why do I want to play it? What can I play to make the listener and myself feel that something different, and significant, is taking place? Sturla Eide Sundli and myself have found each other in the very simple fiddle/guitar duo format, drawing on Sturla's expertise on Norwegian folk music and my years as a guitar player in many different genres. What drew us together was the sense that there are back roads and working methods still unexplored in the realm of Scandinavian traditional music. Our common denominator turned out to be the desire to look inward in the music; to combine different tunes, keys and meters to clarify them more to the listener - and to ourselves - than the common practice dictates. Fiddle music from Norway is a pretty intense affair, with drones and ornaments providing a lifetime of challenge to any aspiring performer of the instrument. We chose the opposite direction, and started peeling away almost everything but the essential melodies and the rhythms and harmonies they suggest - hence the expression 'the core of the tune' on the cover of our album.
"This is a balancing act. Play with too much technique and power, and you'll rape whatever potential for flow the music contains. Subtract too much, rely on the reverb and sustain, and you'll wind up on the new-agey, meditation-tape side of things.
Their Glimmer (2L, Norway) offers pure and unadorned duets, traditional and trad-inspired, that will please both lovers of Nordic tradition and anyone with a love of good dance music from anywhere in the world. The opening set, three pieces from the legacy of Sven Nyhus collectively called "Blå," offers a brilliant seven minutes of pure, unadulterated energy, with the stomp of the foot, the scrape of the bow and a slap on the box carrying the melody on an unstoppable rhythmic wave. The entire recording carries on that "search for the core of the tune," a stripping down and rebuilding of classic ideas until they make them completely and uniquely their own. That is the essence of what they do, as they move through regal marches, elegant set dances, roaring dance pieces and along the way interject bits of non-Nordic finger-picking on the guitar and occasional Celtic flourishes on the fiddle. It is all recorded live in the lush aural space of a church in Oslo, adding to the magical sound these two musicians can create with two simple instruments.
Where can they go next? Aase says:
| "We're two years into the life of this little duo now, and we take great pride in noting the fact that people from all kinds of musical backgrounds have started to come to our gigs for a quiet listening experience. Sturla and I are probably the last two persons to know whether or not we've reached our initial goal - we'll probably spend the rest of our lives trying to get there - so the quest simply continues: play music as good and essential as possible, and leave it to others to judge the quality and relevance of what we do. At the every least, we ourselves take away great joy and tremendous fun from performing this stuff."
And they leave the distant listener, sitting in front of their 21st Century digital reproduction machinery, with a similar joy, and a lot of expectation. - CF
Sturla and Andreas' CD Glimmer is available from cdRoots
Audio is ©2003 2L, Norway and used by permission.
More information about the music and the artists is available on their web site: