June 14, 2024


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Interview with Nina de Heney: My intellectual knowledge won’t make it’s way through music: Video

Jazz interview with jazz contrabassist Nina de Heney. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Nina de Heney: – I spent my childhood and teens in a small village outside Geneva, growing up in family where music was part one one’s education. I remember playing around on a piano, making up my own tunes, somehow favouring dissonances. I really was not any kind of talented child, but rather sensitive to sounds, music and what it made me feel. I had the privilege of going to listen to jazz/free jazz at a festival close by. I got to hear cecil taylor live when I was 13, that blew my mind and somehow got me right into feeling what this energy could do.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

NdH: – To develop my sound took a lot of listening to other bass-players when I was young.Scott La Faro, Miroslav Vitous, Gary Peacock,Dave Holland….these all had a big impact and were a great inspiration. I practiced liken hell. Through time my sound became more experimental, I got into exploring extended techniques, including both the traditional approach to bass and extending percussive approaches with the bow and my hands. This development came naturally when I got to play for a long time with a dancer called Anna Westberg. We actually had a festival called Dance’nBass where we invited bass-players to collaborations with dancers. We still have the concept, but having a festival is a lot of work. So now, we have our duo  performance and propose it to festivals and venues.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

NdH: – I try to keep daily practice as creative as possible, close to if I were actually performing on stage, so keeping the flow has been a way of maintaining technique and ideas.Improving nowadays is more and more about being  focused and  being in a state of together-ness with my instrument. Rhythm is not something that has a regular pulse in my sense, rather a quality of timing, of knowing when to play and when it is best not to.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

NdH: – I don’t feel like a  musical sponge so I don’t prevent anything really. I am more interested in what is new to me and challenging my ideas. Of course, the longer you play, the more difficult it is to surprise yourself. Playing with different musicians is inspiring, but I have definitely left the jazz scene for a long time ago.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

NdH: – Well, playing live  for an audience definitely helps to keep up my spiritual and musical stamina for sure. In a way, my daily routines of practice helps me to keep up some spirit, but it has been challenging to nourish my stamina in other ways. I always have been one for hiking, so daily walks in the forest are really part of that too.It gives me the necessary contemplative time just to be by myself.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

NdH: – Balancing intellect and soul … well for me it is more a question of not being judgementa and critical while I am playingl.My intellectual knowledge won’t make  it’s way through music if my soul is not there to put life into it and make the music move forward. I have also spent a lot of time on body awareness, which is an intellectual and cognitive process by I deeply believe it enables a better contact with my soul, when I am relaxed and playing my instrument as if were an extended part of me.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

NdH: – It is impossible to know what an audience wants as a collective. Maybe someone has had bad day and needs a break from it all, someone else needs to be inspired, or just have a good time.But usually, an audience who comes to a concert wants to experience something together with other people and communicate with the performer by listening, so that two-way relationship is quite unique with performing live.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

NdH: – Playing half a century  old music needs passion and dedication if it is going to interest young people.I myself don’t play standards but the question is of course relevant to all sorts of music that are non-commercial. So all I do is try to be with it when I am playing and right in the music.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

NdH: – My personal understanding is that I need to give meaning to what I do and how I do it.So music is part of my life, a big part, but not everything. I need to be in balance with my family and my partner . I do experience times of lacking meaning, but isn’t that what the human condition is all about, to find it and loose it, and question it, and re-evalue it?It is not a constant for me.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

NdH: – I would hope for a musical world where men and woman would be treated worldwise with the same respect.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

NdH: – I have  lately been listening to a composer called Dennis Johnson, his piano works called “November IV/IV” performed by Jeroen van Veen.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

NdH: – I have no message except  that I try to be honest with myself and others though music and actions.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

NdH: – Time travel! Well, I am more into timelessness and finding the essence of music in the past and the future. So if I could beam myself , it would be both backwards and forwards. I am not one for nostalgia, and I don’t have a favorite period of music.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

NdH: – What makes you happy?

JBN: – Jazz!!!

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

NdH: – I hope my bass will have found loving musical hands by then too!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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