June 24, 2024


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Interview with Kjetil Jerve: Every one of us is a magician: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Kjetil Jerve. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Kjetil Jerve: – I grew up on the West Coast of Norway outside the old town of Ålesund. With two 6- and 9-year older brothers playing music in marching bands and at the municipal music school, it became natural for me to join in as soon as I could reach the piano keys at the age of two. I played clarinet in the marching band from age eight and began learning about chords and other ways of playing without traditional notation around age eleven. When our band conductor asked me to join a youth big band (Big Odd Band), I promptly had to deal with chords with much more information, like «Ab13b9» instead of just C or Fm. This jolted my self-teaching into harmonic structures, and listening to the horns during rehearsal gave me ample time to adhere to the sounds of these clusters and movements. During my mid-teenage years, I just knew that I wanted to try and go for a life of making music. And that’s how I’m still rolling. When I got out of high school (again, music department), I went straight to Sund Folk College in 2007 and spent all my time immersed in aspects of playing and music. My only goal was to get into the jazz department in Trondheim (NTNU), where I later got my bachelor’s degree in jazz and improvisation, with two additional years at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) in Oslo, where I also took a master’s degree finishing in 2014. Before every season, I’m unsure of what will be the extent of my coming work. Yet going in with both feet and strengthening my fearlessness, the seasons have always turned out to be growing and loving experiences.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

KJ: – Playing the piano has its particular possibilities and limitations. I have long cherished the ability to construct complex tonality and harmony, and the freedom of two hands can be infinitely expanded through disciplining dexterity. On the other side of the coin is the concrete division of tones and notes, the grid that artificially separates sound frequencies into the temperate system of twelve. I see it as an “auto-tune harp”, where whatever sounds I want to perform get siphoned into this matrix of 12-tone quantization. The balance between consonance and dissonance has thus become my primary tool, as well as adapting the sounds of other instruments to the piano.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

KJ: – To the extent that I manage a routine, it has more to do with my mindset, bodily state and cognitive vision than the concrete practice of the piano. I have learned that I am responsible for my own life experience, what I choose to integrate, and how I deal with the tableaus that arise. Zooming in or out, changing lenses between micro and macro, is for me also a dexterous skill that requires conscious development. Extending my imagination into musical projection and trusting my intuition facilitate the generative aspects of performing. I tend to choose short harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and/or textural ideas that have an inherent ambiguity to play with. This way, I can “paint” with these brushes and colors over time and seek depth in what started out as shallow.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

KJ: – I used to be frightened by the nervousness of playing, especially when it included more people than just myself. I can vividly remember the existential anxiety striking me: “Am I not supposed to enjoy this?” and “Why do I wager my time and effort into something that scares me so?”. In fact, these questions are still valid, but my human force has managed to harness this energy of awareness and empathy into the musically tenable. A nervously shaking finger can really bring out the power of just one note, and the tension of my legs brings my attention right to the bottleneck of imbalance. Transforming my negative/positive experience into art is not only imperative to my own existence, but I truly believe that this is the reason that humanity needs its artists – to show our fellow beings that it is possible. Every one of us is a magician.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

KJ: – It is an integral part of the act of Balancing itself. One does not come without the other, and there is no static place of 50/50 (or other proportion) where we can stay, at least not for more than the fraction of a second. Balancing is the turning of the key, the moving of energy and transmuting of life force. Intellect and soul will cultivate and refine each other when allowed and facilitated by us humans.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

KJ: – I don’t think that I can deliver anything that intrinsically arises inside the other being. When a listener is longing for a specific emotion, it is precisely what that listener will achieve once the listener allows it to appear. The two-way relationship is hence about each part fearlessly conjuring their individual experiences.

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

KJ: – To me, knowledge and wisdom cannot grow without interest. Interest is a strong term stemming from ‘inter’ (between) and ‘essence’. Our human essence crossing over into another essence, that might for example be a fellow being, a narrative, a paradigm or an immediate expression. This investment of the human essence, involving it with another, is how I think we comunicate on a deeper level and exchange our parts of truth. And once this is a conscious tool for an individual, there is no limit to what can be “interesting”. I think that the timelessness of the Universe is way deeper than the chronological dating of an art piece.

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

KJ: – I have several reality tunnels going simultaneously, meaning that I don’t think that the current leading narragidm (narrative-driven paradigm) of our world is enough for me to lead my own life. Our own conscious statements, like the Coltrane reference, are what I perceive as the main powers of a human being. Be it through prayer, scientific experiments, or artistic explorations, I find that our individual perceptions of borders and boundaries are much more defining than what information comes to us through government and media. Taking the role as my own pioneer, and bringing my totality into incognito, makes up the meaning of my life.

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

KJ: – We can stop trying to achieve consensus and its related fantasy of what’s called democracy. Once we rule ourselves, we’re not giving that power away to the forces that are trying to rule others.

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

KJ: – I’m very interested in simulation theory these days since it seems to be able to synthesize a more holistic model of reality. I listen to humans that are taking the reins of their life experiences and are unafraid to traverse narrow paths.

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

KJ: – I would like to observe many points in history with my own senses to get a deeper knowledge. I want to help to unveil some of the countless cover-ups that lie between the lines of our current narradigms. I think our books show a highly curated version of history, and that what really happened, and why, is yet to be announced by modern humanity.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/us-eu-jba/

Kjetil Jerve - Wikipedia

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