Sidsel Endresen - the dark moods in music ...
Sidsel Endresen is a singer - one of those who would not be limited to one genre. Her way of singing seems to be a result of thought - it presents itself logical - a mind construct, and thus not purely dependent on feelings. She tries out many diverse ways of constructing music, but is most known for her duo-projects with Bugge Wesseltoft, which are toying with aspects of modern music and jazzy moods. Her latest solo-album "Undertow" comes along as a mixture of Velvet Underground and Endresen´s jazz-approach to music - a clear, dark voice interacting with "real" instruments and electronics. Sidsel Endresen is fond of the dark moods in music ...
Before her concert in Berlin at the Quasimodo - the end of her tour - Carina Prange talked to the norwegian singer.
Carina: Your latest CD "Undertow" - would define the music on this record as "jazz" - or in what other way? It has got some kind of a misterious atmosphere - the vocals have a touch comparable to Nico from Velvet Underground ...
Sidsel: In a way, it is difficult to describe. All through the years I have been drawing from different sources, have been influenced by many different things. I do believe there is a red thread in what I do. I am very inspired by a lot of jazz music and jazz musicians. I think the 'jazz approach' to music is very inspiring. The personal interpretation of material, the trying to expand whatever material it is that you are working with.
Also I have always worked with jazz musicians - more or less only jazz musicians all along! - but always those who belong to a very broad aspect of jazz. - That´s not the classical jazz forms, I have never worked with these. I mean, I come out of folk-rock, jazz-rock, soul-music - this is more my background! So this is the mixture I am trying to make my own sound out of.
Carina: The Jazzland-label of Bugge Wesseltoft seems to be a sort of community and works according to democratic structures - how does it feel to publish your CDs on the label of a good friend and partner in music? Do you think it possible to get more acknowledgement in Europe with this label-structure?
Sidsel: The Jazzland label is interesting for me because of Bugges involvement in it. He has only an artistic reason for whoever he signs, which is really nice. It is like indie-companies - you know that kind of attitude; nothing to do with money or sales - purely artistic - which is great! However I don´t think it would have been of interest to me if it hadn´t had that connection to Universal.
I have been on different labels since my two records on ECM, which had worldwide distribution. I have been on Norwegian Indie-companies, but with distribution through German ACT. So it´s twofold being on Jazzland, and it seems to work fine so far.
But if it is easier on this label towards german audiences? - You never know - you don´t even know at home how the reception is going to be! It depends on so many factors - and you always hope for the best: that you´ll get some recognition abroad, and that it will be possible to do some tours here - some festivals. - We´ll see!
Carina: Marilyn Mazur has won this years "Jazzpar"-Prize - are you also interested in competitions like this? What about women in music - do you think, they get a wider recognition than their male collegues, because there are few of them?
Sidsel: No, I think it is harder to be woman in this field of music - there are a lot more female performers in the classical field for instance. It is a farly male dominated arena - the rock- and the jazz-scenes! So I don´t think you score particularly high on being a woman - it takes a lot of strength to define yourself, to make the guys accept that you make the decisions. We still have a bit of a way to go in this field - but I haven´t had any problems with this really! But as far as recognition goes, you have to be very strong to get that recognition as a woman. - Marilyn deserves it because she is a wonderful musician and a good composer.
These competitions ... - Last year I was nominated for the "Nordic Council Music Prize", which is the biggest prize in Scandinavia. I didn´t get it - unfortunately -, but it is a big deal to be nominated! I have been awarded for many prizes. I have been working for twenty years now - I´m a "mature lady"! (laughs!) I am pretty happy with the recognition I have got - definitely! - But to compete for prizes is not really my thing.
Carina: You have a special way of singing and improvising. Is it possible to describe the way you think of a song in advance - what are you doing in mind when you sing a song?
Sidsel: I have been working a lot on my own, trying to discover what my voice can do - texturewise, "klangwise" - so that I could "use" myself in different roles, get the voice quite flexible: not just carrying the lyrics or the main theme of a song, but having different functions musically.
What I do when I sing is: I work very "concretely" - I work at getting the sound-total of instruments, voice, words to work somehow. And my focus is as much on purely musical aspects, like the rhythmic things, the "klang" things, the movement ahead of things - more than thinking very much about the emotions behind the lyrics. Because in a way I think those things take care of themselves.
Carina: How much training does your voice need? And in what mood do you have to be to get the best "singing-results"?
Sidsel: I work a lot on the voice and I warm up before gigs. And sing myself down again after a concert. I do Yoga and stuff - I have to do it, because I smoke cigarettes as well - it is a terrible habit! I want to be sort of well warmed up before a concert - I do exercises to become focused, so that I don´t think about thousand things, and try to come down - stand on my two feet. Just to be concentrated on what I am doing - that´s the best situation. - And I am quite nervous before gigs, so I have to warm up a lot.
Carina: Musicians from the scandinavian countries are somehow "in" at the moment. Do you think that there really do exist so many important musicians there - or would you say that it reflects just the need for a "new wave after the Cuba wave"?
Sidsel: I may be not the right person to ask, because in a way I never know what is 'in' and what is 'out'. But the fact is that there are actually quite a number of very excellent musicians in Norway despite the size of the population - which is really small. In Germany you can put it in your pocket! But also there has developed a special sound, which is defined now - since the sixties, with - for example Jan Christiansen in Sweden and others - but particularly with Jan Garbarek. People kind of call it a 'nordic' sound. And I think Garbarek made like a stepping-stone musically for generations to come after him in Norway.
We don´t look so much towards America anymore, but more towards Europe, maybe even the European classical and "Neue Musik"-field. But we look also to our own sources, which is the folk music. And I think these people were important to give later generations some confidence in the fact that we don´t have to copy everything! And also - because it is a small country - there is a lot of very close working-relationships between people, which has been very productive. - It is a fruitful time, there is a lot happening.
Sidsel Endresen - "Undertow"
Carina: You are very interested in poetry - what do poems mean to you - in comparison to melodies? The poem you wrote for your CD-booklet has a bit of a resignative feel and the music sounds a bit like that, too. Would you agree with that?
Sidsel: No, of course not! (laughs) No, I think resignation doesn´t come into it! If I was a resignated sort of person I would not be doing what I am doing. Because every time you go out there, you hope for the best, you "dive from the ten meter diving board" every time! - However my music uses mostly minor chords - I think, I like the darker moods in music! I find them very beautiful, so I get a lot of joy out of that. - I am not depressed or anything. Those moods appeal to me and that´s where I feel I can sort of develop musically.
What the Undertow -poem is actually about - there´s in a way a "celebration of life" in it: it is about taking a step back and looking at it. Looking at yourself in your life. But also at the mysteries in it - our "dark and wild peculiarities". So it is not really dark - but may sound that way.
Poetry to me is maybe the clearest and most destilled form of expression in art that I know of. I read poetry - and I write it, because it also is a clarifying kind of process. When I work with poetry and music, one does not rank over the other. They are supposed to talk together somehow, whether there are very complex, complicated vocal structures or very simple. - Like some of them on "Undertow " - they are quite simple: long stretches - and I can basically do what I want - they are not complicated in a musical sense. But I want to catch kind of a mood there and want to keep things sort of moving forward. I always look to find a synthesis between words and music.
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