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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 47
INTERVIEW with Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews
Zzaj: I was enchanted (& excited) by your interest(s) in music, of course, particularly since you "grokked" some of my more experimental & out there material. Do YOU have a "favorite" genre of music? If so, what is/was it, or does it (just) kind of evolve?
Loco: Genre? No, not really; I find favorite genres all the time… I’m always on the lookout! I mean to say that a piece within almost – no, delete the "almost" – any genre, which is done with artistic integrity, talent and a good measure of originality, will appeal to me. In fact, I’ve always (not in my teens, maybe…) been trying to get rid of the genre thinking (what the hell genre do you consider yourself part of anyway? Your own genrelessness is a striking fact that really made me happy!), and anyone who visits my humble quarters, and who isn’t a down home, secured aficionado of the audios, will feel bewildered, to say the least, on skimming the music collections! Everyone always finds something that will make them tick – even 90-year old ladies (my mother turns 90 this year!) – but everyone always wants to play the stuff they’re used to, and no one - no one! – will want to learn something new. That is a sad fact. I don’t even try anymore to introduce anybody around me to new – or old – exciting music; it’s a waste of time. All these fellows find it perfectly okay to go on and on about their fucking cars or broads or whatever – and especially sports, which I find tremendously stupid, almost fascistoid - but they could never accept one minute of my talking about, for example, Zzaj Productions or the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the meaning of life... I have two living friends (Sune Karlsson and Guido Zeccola in Stockholm) and one dead friend (Lars-Erik Kjellström) who share my curiosity – but that is it!
However, on genres, I recall vividly when I really – really – got my mind opened to electro acoustic music, through a couple of acousmatic concerts and broadcasts of longer works by Bernard Parmegiani and François Bayle. After that I spent years with electronic music and especially the poetic French kind of electro-acoustics, also involving people like Francis Dhomont, Jean Schwarz, Jacques Lejeune, Pierre Henry, Michel Chion, Denis Dufour etcetera.
The Swedish composer and radio producer Folke Rabe also gave me a push in a new (at that time) direction when he aired a series of programs on Swedish national radio called "From Hopefulness To What?", in which he played incredible stuff by improvisers like Malcolm Goldstein and Terry Riley, and experimentalists like Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Robert Erickson and so on – all personal friends of Folke Rabe. I suppose this could be branded some kind of American avant-garde at that time.
Folke also took me in and opened up possibilities for me to produce my own music programs on national Swedish radio.
I have to mention Nonsequitur Foundation and their series "The Aerial" too, as well s a CD called "The Cassette Mythos Audio Alchemy", all of which opened up my mind to a certain freedom of musical thought. I hade been recording the laundry machine in the basement and short-wave sounds off the radio long before that, and Sune Karlsson and Hans Åke Runell and I got together in our derelict building in Shitville to record all kinds of concrete stuff with mortars and spoons and stitching needles, mixed with birdsong from the front porch, but I hadn’t realized the artistic significance before. I hadn’t heard Stockhausen’s "Kurzwellen" at that stage, nor his "Spiral" or "Pole". Someone had tried to sell me a Deutsche Grammophon copy of "Gesang der Jünglinge" in 1967, but I didn’t grasp it at all then. I was into Beethoven’s "Ninth Symphony", Carl Orff’s "Carmina Burana" and "Catulli Carmina" at that time, studying poets like Heinrich von Kleist and Gottfried Keller, and philosophers like Giacomo Leopardi and Johann Gottlieb Fichte.
Other genres that I have to pay homage to would be classical Arabian music, filtered through the amazing singer Om Kalsoum (1904 – 1975). A friend brought a vinyl home from a kibbutz stay in Palestine – it was "Hajartak" – and before long he sported 48 vinyls of the lady, and our derelict building – which we hade made nice and decent – turned into the Arab block of the rural town of Nyköping! We sat out in the arbor in the corner of our backyard, zipping something cold in a warm August, taking in "We Marret El Ayam" from the speakers strategically placed on the front porch.
Dylan is a genre to himself in my mind, and I still listen to him. Anyone searching my site will find that I even went to great lengths to track down his uncle Paul in Hibbing and his old girlfriend Echo Helstrom. Anyway, I grew up with Dylan, and through his early years I was introduced to the folk bag, the Civil Rights songs and so on, back to Guthrie, Leadbelly, Houston etcetera, and everything opened up in all directions, which was the way it was in the 1960s! Somewhat later, Dylan wrote stuff that fitted my studies of Rimbaud perfectly, and at that stage I went into the classical field, where I stayed for many years without coming out, venturing through all the classical composers, and I still go back to Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and so forth pretty often. It’s like breathing. Just today I had an hour of Ingrid Haebler playing Joseph Haydn’s "Andante con variazioni in F minor" and Mozart’s "Piano Concerto No. 18". These last weeks I’ve been hearing a lot of Rosalyn Tureck, too; her Bach interpretations, like "das Wohltemperierte Klavier" and a couple of her versions of "The Goldberg Variations". But, to hell with genre thinking, as long as it limits people. Look into Karlheinz Stockhausen and his compositions. There is not one of them, which resembles another one fully. He always makes something new. It takes studying of his works to realize this, but his music belongs in no genre, absolutely no genre, as a whole. This is a wonderful achievement, and if "no-genre" is a genre, then Stockhausen is the guru and master of this genre! He is probably the greatest and most important composer since Beethoven, and the most important universal artist (writer, philosopher, pathfinder) since Goethe, and I consider him a modern day synthesis of those two, of Beethoven and Goethe. Very few people realize this, because they tire too soon, have no energy to really get inside things, just skimming the surface wherever they go, however they live. I believe Stockhausen’s anti-genre is the one most important event in the evolution of music in the 20th century, no doubt! Read Björk’s interview with Stockhausen. It’s on the friggin net! And it took a Björk to make a sensible interview with the legend! This is one of the most original interviews with Stockhausen that I have seen, and Björk did it! What does that tell you! I can tell you that I wouldn’t miss any one of Björk’s CDs, for sure. They’re pure adventure, and she can’t help being iconized and elevated to superstardom! She is original, fresh, genial – anyway! And she’s Icelandic! Have you read the Icelandic tales? Do! I read "Njal’s saga" ("The Tale of Njal") while hiking the northern mountains last summer. You know about Björk’s art after that, I tell you – about the original force of the Icelandic tales that propels her onward and inward!
Zzaj: Your pages (I've only really looked at the poetry & CD reviews sections) seem to reflect a great deal of interest in "language", as well as music. I'm wondering if you believe (as I do) that the two are not "exclusive" of each other. That spoken-word/music can (& should) "feed" off of each other (from an artistic standpoint, anyway).
Loco: I saved (from the former question) the genres "Sound Poetry", "Textsound Compositions", "Cinéma pour l’oreille", "Spoken Word" etcetera for this question!
Music and Spoken Word (however you want to define that) are interacting, of course. If we talk about genres again, Sound Poetry and Textsound Compositions are probably the disciplines that have affected me in the most violent way throughout late 20th century. It was a revelation to meet Jaap Blonk and see him perform (I’ve even bootlegged him once, at Fylkingen in Stockholm). Blonk’s version of Kurt Schwitters’ "Ursonate" is maybe the most brilliant peace of mouthing this side of creation! It should be mandatory in all schools, at all military bases, in all oval offices and at all cemeteries!
You may know that Sweden has been in the forefront of Spoken Word in its guises as Sound Poetry and Textsound, since the beginning of the 1960s. We’ve had sound poetry festivals, and recorded quite a bit of these disciplines over the years. In this context I must take the opportunity to recommend a book by Teddy Hultberg, Swedish enfant terrible of subcultures, called "Literally Speaking" (ISBN 91 88316 04 1), with texts by and about people like Henri Chopin, Carlfriedrich Claus, François Dufrene, Öyvind Fahlström, Bernard Heidsieck, Åke Hodell, Ilmar Laaban, Jerome Rothenburg, Gerhard Rühm, Arrigo Lora-Totino etcetera – all very important to the business!
I have to insert here that I appreciate immensely the way Zzaj productions in some of its releases incorporate speech in the sound web. That kicks the impression of the stuff sky-high!
Another guy that really impresses me these days is Erik Belgum over in Minnesota, who really works with language, sometimes in surprising ways even to me… If you listen to his "Bad Marriage Mantra" or "Retirement Fund", you’re bound to raise those eyebrows pretty high! I’ve reviewed them on my site, where you can read them at "Composers & Artists" on the reviewing part of the site. Amazing stuff, and it makes you believe that tit’s still possible to do new things in art, that hasn’t been done to its full potential – if Erik isn’t doing that right now in his spoken word workshop!
When talking about language, never forget Lenny Bruce. There are a few very good CDs out.
Others using language in innovative ways are of course Alvin Lucier and Robert Ashley, Brion Gysin, Ernst Jandl, Raoul Hausmann and many others, dead or alive. I believe that much of the subterranean stuff that came out of the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat Generation belongs here too. I mean, c’mon, listen to Ginsberg performing "HOWL", for example, or hear the beautiful "Assassination Raga" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti! There are tapes out with Gary Snyder! Tough stuff!
Of modern sound poets, using words as well as just sounds out of the oral cavities, I hold Swedish vocal artist and painter, poet etcetera Hebriana Alainentalo in the highest esteem. This is stuff that you would normally only hear – in a fragmentized way – in an insane asylum (I’ve worked at one!), but in the hands (mouth) of Hebriana Alainentalo the genre (ooops! the word!) gets structure, progression, direction; insanity in a controlled, artistic manner! I have material on digital media for about 25 CDs of Hebriana, and can arrange to make copies for interested parties!
Better-known names in the area would be Sancho Namchylak, Michiko Hirayama, Meredith Monk and Diamanda Galás, but they cannot replace or outshine Hebriana Alainentalo!
While we’re talking about vocal music I cannot refrain from mentioning the xöömej or khoomei singing of Tuva and Mongolia, the overtone singing, made popular in the West by Stockhausen’s "Stimmung" and the recordings of Michael Vetter. I have a recording from a khoomei symposium in Kyzyl, Tuva, which was held in the early 1990s, with astonishing vocal artistry! Wonderful!
Zzaj: Do you have/maintain a regular "day job"? If so, does it get in the way of your life (like mine often does)? What IS the day job?
Loco: Yeah, I have to go to work like most others… and boy does it get in the way! I work at the Police Authority of Södermanland – a district in Sweden south of Stockholm. Right now I conduct simpler criminal investigations. I am a civilian, not a cop, and civilians are allotted cases that aren’t exactly high priority, but it might be thefts from the residents at an old age home or credit card frauds. I am also responsible for the sexual crimes report – monthly – for our criminal intelligence, so I have to engage myself in all kinds of illicit sexual acts… I also maintain the archives, which can prove to be a nice and cozy retreat from time to time... I’ve been a radio operator at the police communications central for a number of years too, taking emergency calls, sending the cop cars, maintaining the communications with the cars and so on, "ten four", you know, that stuff. I never intended to work at the police station (shit, I’m an old hippie and a poet!) but when I came back from the States in 1980 I had to find a job, since I had gotten married in America. I had gone to the U.S.A. to bike on my racing bike across from New York City to San Francisco, but in Dallas, Texas I married a woman instead, in a basement not far from the place where they shot Kennedy, and got a job at the Texas Highway Department, as an engineer’s aide, or a highway inspector. When Judy and I moved to Sweden in 1980 I needed a job, applied for many, and got one at the police station… However, I’ve worked before that at a steel mill, and at a psychiatric clinic and even with X-ray documentation of welds in giant beer tanks! Nowadays I try to work as a freelancer at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation too, and I’ve produced and hosted a series on Egyptian singer Om Kalsoum, another series on electronic music that ran a whole summer, individual programs on Terry Riley, Gilius van Bergeijk and so forth, and the next show is (was) aired on 21st March on national Swedish Radio; a program on Petr Kotik’s "Many Many Women", with texts by Gertrude Stein – an amazing work just out last year on Dog W/A Bone. I’ve also engaged in odd jobs to get some extra money. I’m a single father with a sixteen-year-old boy, and it takes some funds to keep things running. However, most of my free time goes into reviewing CDs, and the Stockhausen project (reviewing all of his CDs) takes the most time. I just finished today the review on "Mantra", no. 16 in the Complete Edition. Of course, all this mental, intellectual and emotional work takes its toll, and I have to balance my life with hard exercise, which I do by biking. I make my rounds most days, even in winter. I’ve put some of my rounds on my site, with pictures, if you’re interested in getting an idea of the landscape here, in the summer.
The sad fact is, though, that each morning I have to get up as the alarm clock rings, and bike off to work at the station… It takes too much energy, too much time…
Zzaj: The use of drugs is often a topic for musicians (& here, I assume you've had at least some exposure to such). Since (I'm assuming, from the picture of you playing guitar (on the commode) at the Nyköping police station) you're a musician yourself - what's your take on that? Do/can drugs "enhance" a playing experience, or do they just make the musician BELIEVE it's enhanced?
Loco: First of all, I am not a musician. The picture you mention – found at the Sonoloco Records site on my reviewing site – was taken for a newspaper one morning at the police station. The subject of the article was the lost-and-found, and that bass guitar had been found by someone the preceding night, under a summerhouse on a tiny island in the Shitville river, winding through he town of Shitville. I do play a little recorder and a little piano (the recorder isn’t smaller than usual, nor is the piano – I mean that I do not play them much…) and I like to compose sounds via computer software (electronic music, text-sound compositions). About the drugs: I don’t know much about it. I tried cannabis once in 1966 at a cemetery in Malmö, Sweden, and got so sick that I never took it up again… I have an interview with Terry Riley that a friend of mine did back in 1965 in San Francisco, and at that point Riley openly advocated marijuana as a means to open up experiences of new sound worlds. In this unofficial interview (never released anywhere – but I have it on CD!) Riley even calls marijuana his teacher! Of course, this has to be seen in context; San Francisco 1965! I met Riley later, in 1994, and he seemed more of a serious craftsman than a spaced-out hippie, so, there you are! I don’t know. D4rugs have always been around, and it’s just sad that alcohol (alocohol, as I call it, he-he!) is the dominant drug of the Western world, since it is no more than a convenient tranquilizer. It’s no mind-opener. The Indians of America used drugs, like mescaline, for example, and maybe they got the communications to the Spirit in the sky working, I do not know. Drugs have often been used in religious, spiritual rites, and probably (obviously) they have their place in human societies – and you might consider the dancing dervishes of Turkey or the healing music of North Africa. Drugs might be good in certain aspects, but completely disastrous in others. My drugs are exercise, meditation, pondering the Tibetan Book of the Dead and intense listening to certain musics or the silence of the starry sky…
Zzaj: Will ALL the pages on your website eventually contain English language versions?
Loco: Well, my ambition is that all of it should be in English. This doesn’t mean that there will be two-language versions of everything. Instead I mean to have all of it in English. The Swedish parts are leftovers from when I started the site, at which time I had a lot of Swedish texts on hand. Then I translated some of them into English. I will not translate the ones written in English into Swedish. I wish I could get the time to translate my account of the 1960s in the little rural Swedish town of Nyköping (Skitköping = Shitville) into English, because it is a good text (Veri Similia), but it is very long (like a book) and written in a language that will be very hard to translate, the same way you cannot translate poetry, but interpret it. I will – I think – translate the interviews I did with my parents. I have those interviews on five CDs, and the texts are on my site in Swedish. My father was born in 1904 (died in 1992), and my mother, who still lives, was born in 1911. They have many tales of life in the Swedish countryside that would be interesting to anybody, really.
Zzaj: I've only visited Sweden twice (in the mid-'60's). At that time, it was (sort of) a place where sexual freedom was viewed as strong. If that was a true impression, how did (or has) it influenc(ed) your music (or tastes therein)?
There is no truth in that myth at all. I think that impression was spread by a couple of movies in the 1960s, but there’s nothing to it. Besides, if there had been anything like it, it would have changed drastically by now, with HIV and AIDS.
Zzaj: Who (poetically, musically, or both) are your strongest "influences"? Is it yourself, another or another's mother?
Loco: You could check out some of the answers to the questions about "genres" and "spoken word" above. I think you get most of the relevant answers there. However, if I start from the beginning, my mother always sang to me when I was a little boy, and surely when I was an infant too. That had a big influence on me. Then I had an older cousin – Ivan Björnberg – who played boogie-woogie for me when I was around three, four years old. I still remember that, how the floor felt under my naked feet, how the apartment smelled and how the rhythm went!
Then I recall the awfully beautiful "In a Cloister Garden" with imitated birdsong and all that, which made me cry when I was four. Kacka Israelsson came around when I was five, singing about a pony that had died, and Margareta Kjellberg sang old ballads about guys falling off mountains trying to pick flowers for their demanding girls. There were some comedians around too, in the Swedish fifties, called Martin Ljung and Arne Källerud, and their gigs on the radio and in the Swedish folk parks (open air summer stages) had a strong influence, the way they played around with words, and how they delivered the punch line. A real genius with the Swedish language was – and is – Povel Ramel, who began his fantastic career back in the forties, but had his heyday in the fifties, sixties and seventies. There is no way he could be translated, but he is so cleverly insane in his language that he is a revelation to one and all. He also is a blessed musician, and his texts always appear in songs and shows. Of course, when I was young – and today too – Evert Taube with his hundreds of songs about characters in the Swedish archipelago, in southern France and in Argentina – often in an epic style – has been a substantial influence. All Swedes knows many of his songs – quite long and complicated – by heart, and he is sort a national identity thing for many, and I’m one of them. Taube began recording in the early 1920s!
On an international scale Danny Kaye meant a lot. Have you listened to some of his crazed stuff? Magnificent. There is no way to leave out Spike Jones and His City Slickers either!
Okay, then revolution hit; Elvis Presley. When I was eight I got "Tutti Frutti" from my fifteen years older brother Rolf, and I was set in motion – a motion which progresses without halting till this day! I learned the words of "Trying To Get To You" and "That’s When Your Heartaches Begin" without understanding anything of the meaning. This was out on the farm in the Swedish countryside. It was late 1950s. I was hooked on the Beatles as soon as they came, then Dylan was the next really big revolution in the head, merging folk music, rock ‘n roll and poetry, and from then on everything was possible. I had no breaks on my intellectual and cultural ambitions – my cultural HUNGER! – and I went into classical music at around the age of 17, when Dylan released "Blonde on Blonde". Nothing has stopped since then. I’ve ventured into every last part of the musical world, I think. Oriental music has meant a lot to me, from Asia, South-east Asia, the Far East – and Arabian music as well, just as much as forgotten traditions from Brittany and the Faeroe Islands or the countries on the eastern seashore of the Baltic Sea. I’ve collected contemporary music through the decades, and people like Arvo Pärt have given me points of introspection, places of rest. Johann Sebastian Bach has been with me all the time, and still is. I have tens of versions of his Well-Tempered Clavier, his Two- and Three-part Inventions, his Goldberg Variations and so on, with geniuses like Glenn Gould, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Samuel Feinberg, Wanda Landowska etcetera. I collect historical issues as well, now being reissued on CD, like the complete recordings of Caruso, or early Pablo Casals! I think the height of Western music – which will NEVER be matched – is the Suites for Solo Cello by J. S. Bach. My favorite interpretations are the ones by Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron and Pablo Casals.
A couple of guys who’s always been around too are John Cage and Morton Feldman. Cage’s ideas have meant quite a bit for freedom of thought, and Feldman’s way of just placing one note after the other can be liberating.
Of course, through the reviewing at my site I have come to know and love much that would otherwise never reach my ears, like the wonders of Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Jeff Kaiser, Erik Belgum, Chris Forsyth, you yourself; Rotcod Zzaj, Stanislav Kreitchi, Matthew Ostrowski and innumerable others, to whom I am eternally indebted for providing such beauty, such excitement, such enlightenment!
Poetically I am much indebted to at least three Swedish poets; Vilhelm Ekelund (1880 – 1949), Gunnar Ekelöf (1907 - 1968) and Tomas Tranströmer (b1931). Then there are anonymous works that have meant much, like the Finnish Kalevala epic and some of the Icelandic tales. The San Francisco Renaissance was important to me, as were the Greek classics. There is no end to it, really! No end! No use to exemplify anymore! It’s all so rich!
Zzaj: Music distribution/production seems to be evermore evolving into a "digital" medium. I (personally) view this as having great potential for indie artists. What are your impressions/thoughts on this? Can/will there (ever) be "too much" music?
Loco: No, never too much! Who listens anyway? A few souls! You, me, Ernesto and some crazed existences dispersed across the sphere. The main thing is to express yourself artistically. That is an act of religiousness, or an act of spiritual respect, for life, for spirit, for God, if you will. The more complex, the more varied the artistic output, the richer the web of life, of spirit in these vast expanses of space. Music is a shamanistic rite! It’s a categorical imperative! Internet has made it possible to make marginal stuff known all over the globe, and sell it too, so that has made all the difference. You want it, you find it! You name it, we like it!
Zzaj: As you've realized (perhaps) from our conversations, the "underground" (in music, anyway) is alive & well. Does Sweden have such a community? Home-tapers/producers & folks who "do it for the art", rather than the money? If SO, where can we "rebel upstarts" over here in Amurrika FIND them?
Loco: I’m sure they’re around, but I don’t know where… I am 52 now, and maybe – hopefully – I’m loosing control, loosing my bearings, drifting off into some kind of exciting oblivion…
Zzaj: What words of wisdom do you have for home producers the world over? Any OTHER "parting shots" you wish to lay upon my readers?
Loco: Just one, but if you adhere to this exclamation, all will turn out for the best: Keep-on-keeping-on!
And remember: Only the worst is bad enough! (And it is never out of place, now and then, to glance a little in the Tibetan Book of the Dead!)
All places are here! All times are now!
Sonoloco Record Reviews http://home.swipnet.se/sonoloco2/Rec/reviewframes.html
Mountain trekking Abisko - Kebnekaise 2000: http://home.swipnet.se/sonoloco2/Kebnekaise2000/kebneframes2000.html
Ingvar Loco Nordin
611 57 Nykoping
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