At a time when the music industry is being bombarded by noisy, deafening maximalism, Norway?s Nils Okland prefers the kind of sound that on a first reading might come across as bare, but which underneath the surface reveals a wealth of intensity and emotion.
A classically trained violinist with a penchant for his country?s traditional sounds as well as improvisation, 50-year-old Okland is expected in Athens for a single solo live performance at the Knot Gallery, on Friday, February 25.
It is hardly a coincidence that the artist is going to appear solo on stage. After all, ?Monograph,? Okland?s most recent album to date, released by ECM, is a solo recording featuring his compositions inspired by Norwegian folk music.
What attracts the artist to his country?s musical tradition, compelling him to put a contemporary twist on it in his signature discreet style?
?I feel that it?s important to keep the listeners in mind; they have their own place in music,? said Okland. ?Many music genres feature an element of pause between the notes. My own influences come from Knut Hamre and Hans W. Brimi, though I did learn a lot from musicians who improvise about how to keep my interpretation bare; about keeping the substance. I think this kind of pausing between the notes exists in various styles of contemporary music, as well as in dance and cinema; Andrei Tarkovsky?s films are a good example.?
Okland?s memories of growing up include traveling in the family car and singing.
?Sometimes I would play piano with my mother and we would let ourselves go into a kind of free-thinking process. I trained my ears and I still use this method to this day: first I ?listen? and then I write the score on paper. There was something else which influenced me to a great extent: my father?s stories, which triggered my imagination,? he said.
From small bars to large concert halls and churches, Okland enjoys playing solo. Besides being a classical violin virtuoso, he also plays viola and Hardanger fiddle — the latter is often used in traditional Norwegian music. As time goes by, he says, his rhythm has slowed down, becoming more esoteric, though he points out that he makes his living from film soundtracks and music for ballet.
Okland?s projects include a new album alongside pianist Sigbjorn Apeland for ECM. The album features improvised work based on music by Norwegian violinist Ole Bulle (1810-1880), an artist who has influenced multiple generations of Norwegian musicians.
Meanwhile, in Athens, Okland is planning to improvise on a number of his own works, coming up with a combination of past and present.
Knot Gallery, 206 Michalakopoulou, Ambelokipi, tel 694.080.8727, 694.553.2887. Starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost 15 euros.