Improvisation - interacting with an instrument

This is where I define my identity as an organist: Improvisation. Because I'm that kind of musician: A creator of sound. When I meet a new organ, we start a dialogue.

I give simple impulses, I get something back, I react on what I hear from the instrument and the acoustics of the space.

As you might guess, I am not so much into improvising over a given musical theme or in a certain style. Rather, I see myself conceiving sonic landscapes or musical situations.

The music might be spontaneous or a little bit planned. The plan can be a sketch on paper with graphics and keywords, made at the actual organ the day before the concert.

The duration of an improvisation can span from a few minutes to the length of a whole concert. It can fill in as a bridge between other pieces, or stand alone as a symphonic form.

This Soundcloud page is a sort of diary of my concert improvisation practice.

I think that two main sources influence my improvisation style: 1) my background as a composer and 2) my collaborations with free improvising musicians.

It's the composer in me that likes to devise multilayered textures and longer spans of musical form. The album 19.March 2004, Oslo Cathedral is an example - one hour of continuous, carefully planned improvisation.

Working with improvising musicians has learnt me to value the physicality of the instrument's sound. I enjoy to explore its border zones, looking for transitory sonic events that would defy conventional musical notation. The album 16 Pieces for Organ (2002) consists of spontaneous miniatures resulting from putting myself into certain mental states (which I nicknamed "learn to swim", "learn to wait", "learn to forget" etc)

Definitely an organ has a world of sound "between the keys". It is where the attack, the air flow, the timbre, the mechanical sound and the unevenness of details can act together and get new meaning in a new context. Not to speak of the innumerable possibilities that occur from combining sounds, overlapping, covering and uncovering, interpolating.

For me it all started through collaborating with singers. I aimed for a flexible organ sound, I wanted to escape the massive character of traditional organ music and instead flow with the voice. Hear the first results on the albums Engleskyts, Kom Regn (Anne-Lise Berntsen) and later Vox Humana (Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer).

Further collaborations with instrumentalists can be heard on Grand Mutation (Lasse Marhaug), and Pipes and Bones (Paal Nilssen-Love). New collaborations happen regularly, especially within the frame of Organ Night in Stavanger konserthus.

Below, a few videos from concerts: