Punktfest 06 - Kristiansand, Norway - Day One, August 24, 2006
It's a long trip from Ottawa, Canada to Kristiansand, Norway, the home of Punktfest 06over fifteen hours, including stopovers. But the trip is worth taking, even before getting into the unique flavor of Punktfest, now in its second year. Situated on the southernmost tip of Norway, Kristiansand is home to approximately 75,000 peoplea small place by North American standards. The city, which is scenically breathtaking as it winds its way around the coast, is an intriguing combination of old and new.
But what's immediately clear when driving from its small airport to the Clarion Hotel Ernst (which acts as "festival central" for the days leading up to and including Punkt's three-day run) is how culturally rich it is. And that is by no means an accident.
- Punkt and Beyond
- Fiona Talkington
- Lars Danielsson
- Anne Marie Almedal
- Bugge Wesseltoft
- Eivind Aarset's Electronique Noire
- Hakon Kornstad
- Sidsel Endresen
- Anja Garbarek
"There is a very special thing in my hometown called Cultiva," explains Jan Bang, who, along with Erik Honoré, came up with the idea of Punktfest. "There was a very smart guy who worked as advisor to the region, next to the mayor. He thought, 'What if we sell half of the electricity work, invest the money and take all the interest to support culture within the community?' So that's what they did. They sold it for billions of kronersa lot of moneyand the interest goes into an fund, for working with culture in the region. The relationship between Cultiva and Punkt is very close."
Bang and Honoré are well-known as producers, samplers and remixersnot just on the Norwegian scene, but increasingly on the world stage. Bang has been strongly associated with the improvising scene for some time, while Honoréa friend since both were in their teenshas worked more in the pop/rock scene and with singer/songwriters. Bang is a key member of trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer's grouppart of the Norwegian nu jazz scene that blends intrepid improvisation with ideas more commonly found in ambient music and electronica.
But both Bang and Honoré have worked with Molvaer in the studio, as well as artists abroad, like British singer/songwriter David Sylvian. Regardless of the musical context, Bang and Honoré have been not only instrumental in expanding the sonic palette of the artists with whom they've worked, but they have helped to redefine the very definition of a remix. And Punktfest is a very special festival, because it places their sonic innovations front and center.
This year the Punktfest lineup included notable Norwegians like Molvaer, guitarist Eivind Aarset, drummer Audun Kleive, turntablist DJ Strangefruit and his Mungolian Jetset project, singers Sidsel Endersen and Anja Garbarek. But it also brought in international artists like British drummer Bill Bruford, Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap and Austrian guitarist Fennez.
The Norwegian artists are obviously essential, but they're only a part of what makes Punktfest unique. "It's based on how I've been working the last ten years in a live situation," explains Bang, "with sampling of musicians, cutting things up and sending it back; using whatever instrument gets into my sampler. Sampling each instrument in a live situation with other musicians, it's sort of a system. Erik and I thought, 'Why not make a festival where we could sample concerts?'"
Punktfest takes place in two rooms at Kristiansand's Agder Teater. From 5 pm until midnight during the festival's three-day run (August 24-26), live performances lasting approximately fifty minutes apiece take place on alternating hours in the main theater, which seats around five hundred people. While these shows are going on, they are being recorded. After each show, live remixes and/or additional performances take place in an adjoining area called the Alpha Roomwhere live performers are also involved, interacting and improvising with the remixes shaped by Bang, Honoré and others.
"The Alpha Room accommodates approximately two hundred people," Bang says. "Very intimate. Last year it really worked because it created this intimate relationship between the audience and the performer." Most of what happens in the Alpha Room takes the form of remixes, but there will also be performances by the Ang/Norwegian collaboration Food, singer Anne Marie Almedal (from the 1990s group Velvet Belly), and a collaboration between Bang and free jazz saxophonist Frode Gjerstad. The live remixes last about twenty minutes, and concerts in the Alpha Room go about 45 minutes.
And soand with very specific intentit's possible to see everything at Punktfest, moving between the main theater and the Alpha Room. "We thought that it would be very important not to disturb the concerts with people leaving," Bang says. Equally, while improvisation is a significant element of the festival, it's very intentionally not called a jazz festival, because as broad-scoped as jazz is today, Punktfest's reach is even broader. This year's event includes the premiere of WARP (Wagner Reloaded Project), where a large group of artists remix, reinvent and reinterpret music by Wagner.
If the concept of a festival that revolves around the immediate interaction between live performance and remix is innovative, so too is the idea that Punktfest can be portable. The more conceptual nature of this interaction that means Punktfest could become a brand which could be taken on the road. Plans exist already, in fact, to do just that. "In 2011 there is a new concert house being built in Kristiansand," explains Bang, "and we'll move in and make Punktfest bigger. But Punkt could happen anywhere."
"Punkt means point in English. It's a point in the world, and it could happen anywhere, but it's happened here. But with the essence of the festival being about live remixes, it could happen anywhere. Punkt has been invited to participate in the opening of a new cultural center in London, on the site where King's Cross burned down a few years ago. We'll have Punktfest in Kristiansand in August, 2008 and then again in November in Londonbut, being a joint venture, with a different lineup.
"We've also been approached by people in Germany. My goal is to work in Europe and do collaborations with different festivals, but ultimately also in the US and Canada. It's very open structurally, because based on live remixes whatever you put in you get out; so it's very transparent."