n. 11 Apr 2010 Tereza Salgueiro
n. 7 Aug 2009 Marco Moro
n. 6 Jun 2009 Marco Martuzzi
n. 5 Apr 20089 Serenella Iovino
n. 4 Aug 2008 Seamus Egan
n. 3 Apr 2008 Giovanni Allevi
n. 2 Feb 2008 Marco Bicego
n. 1 Nov 2007 Jan Garbarek

Online bimonthly
Reg. at Vicenza Court No. 1165 on 18 December 2007
Editor and director Bianca Nardon
Redazione STEP Srl ContrĂ  Porti, 3 Vicenza

Year I no. 1 - November 2007

Interview with Jan Garbarek

You express a link with nature in your music. Can you tell us whether you feel more closely related to any one element of nature? Wind, water, sea, earth or something else?

The way I see it we are sort of linked to everything so we are more or less a part of everything, so there is no possible way we can be more attached to anything .

Are you pessimistic about the future of the planet or do you think mankind will re-establish a new balance that will allow our children to live in harmony with their environment? Do you think that music can play a role in all this? Does it can help us to find a new harmony?
I think we have to keep these two things apart. The planet is one thing, and humanity is another thing. I'm not worried about the planet. The planet will survive, either way. I'm more worried about the way the human life on the planet as we know it today. That might change, of course. I have a daughter and I'm also a grandfather. I do hope that the generations that I will be in touch with that I know will not be affected. I think in the further future there might be more difficult things for us. I think music is there for the humans than for their lives though as they are at present. It's a part of us, music. As long as people are present on earth there will be music. But if the planet manages to shake us off, then music will stop. But of course it's the music of the spheres and the stars and of everything. It will continue endlessly anyway whether or not there are people or not. The globe has seen many species come and go. Everything comes and goes; it seems to be a huge transformation. Music can make human kinds better.That's a possibility, sure. I think this is very true, as I said it's a big part of human life.

Your music is narrative. In some respects it is a music of legend, of landscapes. When you compose, which come first: the vision or creation of the notes? Or do they come to life together?
Well, the vision is not so concrete. It's more about a sense of space, really, and the combination of space and emotion. Just to make an example, it's never really wide open space. This can be very liberating and can be filled with a liberating movement, but it can also be filled with a paranoid emotion, too wide, wide open, you get agoraphobia from this. And if you have a very closed and confined space, a small space you can be terrified, claustrophobic about it. But it can also be like a womb, a very comforting space. The mixture of, let's say, the type of space and the type of emotion that is involved. It's a space that you have inside; inside your mind. It doesn't matter where you are, you know, in the traffic or it could be on the peak of a huge mountain, it will be inside of you, this space.

What about your philosophy of life? What do you think of the life of the spirit and what about soul?
I will never leave this planet. None of us will never leave this planet. We are just transformed. All our lives we work as transformers, in a way. We transform air and we transform the food we eat, that's all. After we are dead we are ourselves transformed into some other matter, but we stay here on the planet. Soul is in everything, soul is in the whole planet, the whole universe. We're just a part of it. It will survive even when there are no more people.

Which writers do you like to read?
It depends on the circumstances really. I like to read. When I'm touring I have a lot of opportunity to read, but in those circumstances, on an airplane, in a hotel room, I read more what you call crime stories. We have very good writers in that genre in Scandinavia.

Do you like Mankell?
Yes, Mankell is one of this. Than I'd like to read more poetry, Norwegian and Swedish poets.

Have you been particularly struck by any musician or group you have listened to recently?
I have to say that I haven't really been listening very much. I listen to classical music and I listen to my old jazz favourites, and some folk music, I can frequently be knocked out by that, but if you talk about Euro jazz albums and so on, I'm not informed. I don't listen very much actually.

How much of your day do you spend playing?
It depends. If I have a deadline I might work for 18 hours, maybe, with music, because I have to play my instrument and I have to think about the composing. But if I don't have any deadline at all, I can be very lazy. Then I play my saxophone for a couple of hours, and that's it.

Do you like to perform your music?
I enjoy it, very much. Because that's where the music has an interface, the link with the recipient. That's where the music grows for me, from day after day, from concert to concert, we add a little bit and some pieces.

Do you find difference between public of any country?
No, there's no difference. People are the same everywhere basically. But the circumstances might change, there might be different lighting and different weather, different parameters can change the feelings of the concert. But people are usually the same, I think.

Do you prefer to play in the open air?
Not really, because I think many instruments are created to be listened within a room.

What about your way of looking for your sound?
It's something that's kind of unavoidable, you know. That's the sound whether I like it or not. This is what comes out when I play, because that's the sound which is on. That's the way. I don't have any other sound really.If I want to express myself, that's my vehicle, that's my sound. Even if I wanted to have a different sound, I wouldn't be able to, because I've got this. It comes natural.

What about your different approach to improvising and composition?
Actually nothing. It's just a different time. When you're improvising you're composing in the moment, but if you're just composing, as it were, then you're sitting with a pencil and a piece of paper for instance you spend more time thinking about notes. It's more a time element; the process is the same.

Are you interested in playing with a big orchestra?
I have played with some orchestras and with string orchestras. It's not my main goal with the music. I think chamber music is more, I'm more interested in that. A huge orchestra seems to me a fairly recent invention in music. You have 130 people that play the same note. Wonderful music has been made with an orchestra hasn't it, absolutely fantastic, but it's not the only way. You could play alone or with one other person or with three or four other persons. That's enough for me, really.

What about the relationship between music and voice?
I think we are all aspiring to be voices; we all aspire to sing through our instruments. So for me there's no difference. It's just another instrument. But of course the voice is a very immediate thing, it belongs to your body and it's the ultimate human expression, you might say. Then they're combined with words and so on, but when I listen to music I hardly understand the words, I'm very much more occupied with music, with chords, with emotion of the music, not much with the words.

You decided to play at 14. How did it happen and have you never thought of doing something else in your life?
This is very correct. I started at 14. I wanted to play music, but I had no expectations that I would become a professional musician. I had other ideas. The thing is, I was always interested in language. When I went to high school I studied some Latin and some old Greek and I had a teacher who was very much into, I think you could call it, comparative linguistics; to see the links between languages and the history of languages, development. And I wanted very much to go in that direction, so I began at university. I wanted first to learn Polish, which is the language of my father, which I didn't know. My father spoke Norwegian. I didn't know his childhood language, which was Polish. I am born in Norway of course. But I wanted to know my family a little better and I wanted to learn Polish. This happened at the time I was called to do tours, as a musician. And I never came back to the university. I am still touring as a musician. But maybe when I retire, I'll try to pick up these studies again.

A musician will never retire...
It's very true. But some people point out to me that the way I've been playing music with people from various cultures or representing various eras in the history of music, I'm doing a little bit the same thing with music, as a linguist, with language.

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Online bimonthly
Reg. at Vicenza Court No. 1165 on 18 December 2007
Editor and director Bianca Nardon
Redazione STEP Srl Contrá Porti, 3 Vicenza