This year’s Punkt Festival took place in Kristiansand Norway from 3rd to 5th September. It was a somewhat reduced festival this year, but still managed to have quite a large audience – not sure why we can’t do that in UK yet.
The groups playing were all Norwegian and many of the well established contemporary Norwegian players known to the British scene were there: Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset, Audun Kleive, Mats Eilertsen and Nils Petter Molvaer, who was featured in two sessions to mark his 60th birthday. There were also a number of younger players, less well known, at least here. Pianist Anja Lauvdal was Artist in Residence composing the festival’s commissioned work, and performing in three sets, the first with her trio Moskus with bass player Fredik Luhr Deitrichson and drummer Hans Hulbaekmo, the second the commission with a large ensemble consisting of a piano trio, a string trio and an oboe, and finally with the group Finity which she co-leads with tuba player Heida K. Johannesdottir and which has Hanna Paulsberg on tenor saxophone. The festival was directed and curated by the two sound manipulators and founders of the festival: Jan Bang and Erik Honore
Having been away for ten days, I have caught up with the festival online. It has struck me as having been, despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, a very strong edition.
As many readers of this will know, the principle of the Punkt Festival is that each set is followed by a remix set. The remix follows on immediately from the first set and those doing the remix are on stage during the first set downloading and preparing their material. This was exemplified in the first session where Moskus’ richly varied set was followed by the remix done by two young performers: Kristine Hoff and Kristien Isachsen. They began by picking up and repeating a short phrase from Lauvdal’s piano which they gradually manipulated and transformed it into electronic sounds. They then followed a similar procedure with various sounds from the drums and cymbals before launching into more abstract sounds. In the final section Hoff added a short vocal passage underpinned by a faint sound of the piano. All in all, it was a very original and impressive piece of music.
This is the basic pattern, a set from an acoustic group, albeit augmented by electronics, followed by the remix on laptop and electronics. But there are other patterns. The festival commission The School of Lost Borders – a very enjoyable piece that integrated the piano trio with the string trio and oboe very successfully – was followed by a remix by Jan Bang and Erik Honore on laptops accompanied by Nils Petter Molvaer on the trumpet. This went way beyond the original commission to create a really dramatic and original piece.
This combining of the laptop remix with live instruments was also the pattern with the programme on the Saturday. The first set featured a solo performance entirely on cymbals by percussionist Audun Kleive; this was followed by a second set with accordionist Frode Halti and violinist Erlend Apneseth. The remix set featured Erik Honore and a string duo Vilde & Inga, and again this took the music way beyond the original two sets.
There is another pattern: a duo performance between a live instrument and laptop, but not in a remix situation. Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang performed Snow Catches on her Eyelashes, in which they explored different ways of interacting, picking up and playing with ideas and throwing them back to each other. Similarly, trumpeter Arve Hensriksen and guitarist Eivind Aarset joined Jan Bang in the stunning piece The Height of The Reeds.
This short analysis raises the question of how far the remixes should go beyond the original. Some pick up fragments of the original and transform them while others seem to create an original piece of music that reflects something of the spirit of the original rather than quoting from it. Both strike me as valid approaches. What is undeniable is that both approaches produce truly fascinating and original pieces of music.