Punkt Festival 2009: Day 2, Kristiansand, Norway, September 3, 2009
One of Punkt's many definers is its fearless avoidance of stylistic boundaries. Some festivals are expanding their stylistic purview out of necessity; Punkt has always been style-blind by definition. So it's not uncommon to find a program where some of today's greatest experimentalists not only share the same bill as a soulful, pop-ready singer/songwriter, but share the same audience as well. Because Punkt audiencesat least the many who, after experiencing the festival once, now make it an unmissable annual eventare as much a part of the festival as the people who work year-round to organize it, and the artists who participate at it.
It's about a sense of family, and returning to Kristiansand becomes more like pilgrimage and a family reunion revolving around four days of music, rather than simply attending a music festival. Barriers between fans, media, organizers/volunteers and artists are as much dissolved as musical ones, as they comingle in the very short breaks between performances and remixes, or at the festival hotel, where an included breakfast buffet provides the perfect opportunity to meet friends from past years and catch up.
Day Two of Punkt 2009 was its first for regular programming at the Agder Theatre. A 550-seat venue is used for the main performances, while the Alpha Room, at about half that capacity, is used for the live remixes. One features integrated set design and lighting/visuals, thanks to Tord Knutsen and Jan Martin Våganremarkable for their depth and complexity, especially considering how little time there is between shows (no more than an hour)while the other is as spare as can be because, after all, it's impossible to create a set design around music that's yet to be defined, let alone made.
- Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra
- Lab Field / Kim Myhr and Sébastien Roux
- Sidsel Endresen / Maja Ratkje
- Live Remix: Sidsel Endresen, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré
- Jarle Bernhoft
- Live Remix: Mungolian Jet Set Featuring BJ Cole, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré
It's remarkable enough that a town the size of Kristiansand (approximately 75,000) has the kind of culture it does; it's even more remarkable that it has a music conservatory that attracts students from around the country. It's most remarkable, then, that for Punkt 2009's opening performance, American percussionist/composer Adam Rudolph was able to recruit nearly 30 students to perform his unorthodox music for what he calls the Go: Organic Orchestra. Rudolph's hour-long show was all culled from only a few pages of written music; a composition that is far from conventional western notation and where, as conductor for the orchestra, Rudolph is truly shaping music that may have markers from performance to performance, but equally never sounds even close to the same way twice.
Adam Rudolph conducting the Go: Organic Orchestra
This was challenging music for which the title Go: Organic couldn't have been more thoughtfully chosen. Improvisation was a large part of the music, which drew on a multitude of cultural and stylistic forms. There were unmistakable traces of western classicism mixed in with Indian polyrhythms and microtonality, and irregularly metered but visceral grooves with South American rhythmic references commingling with melodic ideas that sounded, at times, more like snippets of conversation than traditional melody. And yet, a seemingly endless number of global references came together in a natural and, well, organic fashion.
Convention was also tossed out when it came to instrumentation. Yes, there were saxophones, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, piano, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and strings. But there was also a three-part vocal section; a collection of Indian instrumentalists on the floor, front stage right, playing tabla, sitar and singing; and, of course, the electronics and live sampling that are so much a part of this festival that it's almost a part of the furniture. Together, the group, which also featured some specially invited guests, navigated Rudolph's multi-movement suite, which often reached into a kind of controlled chaos to ultimately emerge with a strong pulse. There were brief features for some of the orchestra's members that transcended typical solo spots to become more like collective free play, where brief moments in the spotlight were carefully orchestrated by Rudolph.
There were dynamic ebbs and flows, as well as beautifully layered combinations of sweeping strings, individual, wordless vocal explorations, and only the occasional reference to the jazz vernacular. To call this music jazz would be to unfairly limit its reach; there were unmistakable moments where the tradition emerged out of Rudolph's cross-cultural, cross-stylistic mélange. Rudolph has been honing this personal approach to music for some time now, but the fact that he was able to whip a largely student ensemble into world class shape with but a single day's rehearsal is testament to the strength of his concept and his abilities as a master communicator and leader. Watching him conduct the orchestra, it was clear he was an equal participantnot just compositionally, but as an ongoing shaper of how the music came together and how it developed.