April 14, 2024

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Interview with Anders Hagberg: I don´t know what they are longing for … Video

Interview with jazz flutist, soprano saxophonist Anders Hagberg. 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? 

Anders Hagberg: – I grew up in Uppsala, a city known for its old university, 70 km north of Stockholm. I have always been into music since I was very small. I became more active during the High School years which I spent in a very creative environment. After that I decided to apply to the jazz program at School of Music/University of Gothenburg, and I was accepted to start, majoring in flute and saxophone after four years of studies.

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

AH: – My sound reflects my personality and all the experiences and influences I have received during a life with music. The beauty of playing an instrument is that you will never be ready, there´s always new things to learn and to develop. With age, I feel that my musical preferences also are changing, expressing a deeper layer of human experience.

As Oscar Wilde was putting it. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” A couple of aspects have been important during all my musical life: For me, the joy of improvising has been with me from the start, being with the instrument and connecting inwards to the flow and communicating this to fellow musicians and audiences. Another aspect is my affinity for collaborations between genres, cultures, and art forms. These experiences have been giving me a lot of knowledge and inspiration, not only about the other artists music, but also as a reflection of my own choices and preferences

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

AH: – To practice my instruments is an act attentive presence. Doing that, is itself a reward, the fact that I get better and learn more things is more of a side effect. The practice is the path. As a wind player I have a deep and conscious breathing and I focus on the sound, something outside my thoughts and ego. Thus, the practice becomes a meditation.

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

AH: – Daily practice and preparations of the music to play, meditation and affirmation. I also think about the overall values I want to communicate with the music. The challenge is to be so well prepared musically and technically so I can let go of those aspects and be present in the performative moment.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Anders Hagberg & Johannes Lundberg – Ma, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

AH: – In my artistic research as a professor of musical performance I have explored how to increase an awareness of inner and outer spaces. An inner space of mind and presence. An inner space of sound, letting your body be a resonance space for the fullness and projection of sound. An outer space of acoustics as well as colors, temperature, materials and so forth. And in between those spaces, the music as a communicative space of its own.
All music on MA was recorded during the Corona pandemic when touring wasn´t possible. Half of it, are solos (with some overdubs) on flutes of many sizes recorded as commissions and improvisations in different spaces. I am especially fond of capturing the suite Wanderlust which is a solo for sizes the huge Contrabass Flute where I explore the percussive and vocal techniques. The rest of the pieces are duos with my friend Johannes Lundberg, bass player and sound engineer in two halls with beautiful, and warm acoustics. Our sessions were very free and the music that finally ended up on the album were parts from three longer duo improvisations where we played with the room as a coplayer. The title track MA is one example, which is named after the Japanese notion “Ma” which means “an emptiness full of possibilities”.

Buy from here – New CD 2023

ma by Anders Hagberg & Johannes Lundberg on Apple Music

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

AH: – Johannes Lundberg and I have been collaborating closely for almost 15 years and he has been involved in many of my albums lately, as a musician and/or as a sound engineer. Worth noting is our album NORTH with a group of Nordic jazz musicians and MELODIC MELANGE with two artists from the Middle East.

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

AH: – Naturally I have changed and I keep changing in an ongoing process. A brief background story will show a couple of turning points.

As a kid I wanted to play drums or electric guitar, but those courses were full at the time, so I had to go for my third choice, flute. This fact might be the reason why I from start have explored other ways to play the flute to get the expression of percussion or guitar. (As a matter of fact, I was beatboxing before the notion even was formulated;) Later I picked up the tenor saxophone which opened for many new possibilities to play in blues and rock groups which gave me huge performing experience. However, after dedicating myself to the tenor during a decade, I started to feel that the strong legacy of the tenor sax in jazz, (such as my major influence at the time, Sonny Rollins) was not only inspiring but also an obstacle for me to develop my own sound. Because of this, and that I started to play in groups with Japanese and Indian artists made me focus on the soprano sax in addition to my flutes. It sounded better in a world-jazz context, and I felt much freer as a player.

Another turning point was during my first tour to India with the group Mynta, with the younger brother of Zakir Hussain. We performed at concert halls where the celebrities of Indian classical music were sitting on the front row. In addition, some of my role models such as Ghatam virtuoso Vikku Vinayakram from John McLaughlin’s Shakti performed with us on the stage. They appreciated my knowledge of Indian music, but what really made them enthusiastic was when I played a dance rhythm on a traditional Nordic folk flute or a melancholic lullaby from Sweden. What I learnt from this tour was the importance to be grounded in my own musical culture and heritage, so I started to explore Scandinavian folk traditions more.

A third game changer was when I (after many years of intense touring, recording, and teaching simultaneously as I became a father and later divorced) had a burn out depression which knocked me down. My recovery took two years and after this tough experience I came back to my professional life with a greater humility and gratitude. I needed to find a more sustainable way of living my life and still be able to follow my creative passion for music.

At this point meditation and mindfulness became essential to me. I also got the opportunity to work more with artistic research and development as part of my assignment as Professor at the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg. During the last fifteen years I have had creative and balanced life which has affected my playing in a positive way.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts, and studio sessions over the years?

AH: – Oh, there are so many … I just pick one… I´ll tell you about those solo performances I´ve been doing in a cave at the Faroe Islands in the middle of the North Atlantic on several occasions. The cave is at the bottom of a 300 meters high cliff, and you can only get in there with small rubber rafts. Audience and artists sail out with a ship from the capital Torshavn to the entrance of the cave, just above the Gulf current and then into it in a couple of rafts. Inside there´s an acoustic like a cathedral, accompanied by the waves hitting the cliffs and the sound of sea birds.

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

AH: – If I may reformulate it. To balance on the tightrope of playing, one need instrumental skills and theoretical knowledge (intellect) on one side. On the other is the intuition and creative imagination (soul) that makes the music come alive. Both are needed to be able to perform. However, the intellectual aspect itself doesn´t touch people, you will only reach their hearts through the soulfulness of the human-to-human communication.

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

AH: – Well, I don´t know what they are longing for… there are a gathering of individuals with different emotions, thoughts, and experiences. My goal is to perform music with an honesty and sincerity to what the music needs right now. If I find this grounded feeling of connection inwards, I believe that it can be felt and heard by the listeners. The Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf wrote in a poem the following words: “What is the bottom in me, is the bottom in other as well”.

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

AH: – That´s a very good question! For me, Jazz is more of an attitude and a way of approaching music, rather than only a stylistic genre. Jazz has its language with a certain grammar, which was born and developed in the US, today however, this language has so many dialects and is spread all over the world. Jazz is about improvisation and thus, constantly changing and evolving depending on who is playing, in what context and from where the musician comes from.

The standards are not the only way to approach this language, although it is an important aspect of understanding Western harmony and the history of Jazz. Gladly, I must tell you that there are many young people in Scandinavia who is devoting their university studies to learn and perform improvisation and jazz and they graduate as creative, competent and personal musicians.

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

AH: – I am not practicing any specific religion; however, I have a strong feeling of spiritual dimensions. When I can reach a state of flow, musically connecting both inwards and outwards, I feel that I am in touch with a source beyond my understanding, which is spiritual, perhaps a kind of God experience. This feeling of wonder can also happen during meditation or when being in nature. Experiencing this existential source of common humanity is in some way connected to humility and gratitude for life. The Swedish author PG Evander expressed the meaning of life very concise: “One day we all shall die, all the other days we shall live”.

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

AH: – Less business, more music!

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

AH: – Thanks to streaming, I am discovering a lot of new music, which is very inspiring. I am appreciating music, that has a certain mood and openness, accessible, yet full of details and nuances.

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

AH: – Since I have talked about the importance of being present, my first thought to this question is: I want to go to this moment…and this…and this…. ”Wherever you go, there you are” (Kabat-Zin). (With that attitude, it would be amazing to discuss Indian ragas with John Coltrane, and how those influenced his musical language round 1960!:-)

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, 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/useujba/

Anders Hagberg

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