Name: Bernt André Moen
Occupation: Pianist/keyboarder/synthesizer player, drummer, arranger
Recent Release: As part of Red Kite, a quartet with Trond Frønes, Even Helte Hermansen, and Torstein Lofthus, Bernt André Moen has just released Apophenian Bliss available via Rarenoise.
[Read our Trond Frønes interview]
[Read our Even Helte Hermansen interview]
[Read our Torstein Lofthus interview]
Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?
My primary instrument is an acoustic piano. It’s the instrument I grew up with learning to play music. For me, the quality is the sound/range and sheer timbre of the instrument. Took me some time, but I have found most of the expressive elements in a Rhodes.
With an instrument as the piano, “touch, pedal use and silent technique” is what makes the individual sound of the players themselves. The way you put it together, instinct and personal preference is the key to express yourself regardless of instrument.
What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?
Intertwined. I have released four solo piano albums consisting of mostly improvisations, alongside seven albums consisting of compositions infused with improv.
I feel that the border (within jazz/fusion) is fluid when it comes to improvisation, but when interacting with other performers, there are different parameters versus playing solo.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
The mind, the mood, the skies, the inspiration of hearing other players' music, the air temperature, smells ... and so on. Liquid, always flowing.
Purportedly, John Stevens of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble had two basic rules to playing in his ensemble: (1) If you can't hear another musician, you're playing too loud, and (2) if the music you're producing doesn't regularly relate to what you're hearing others create, why be in the group. What's your perspective on this statement and how, more generally, does playing in a group compare to a solo situation?
(1) you should never play loud when rehearsing, it will wear down your attention span. (1) you treat your fellow musicians with respect and never play loud when you`re rehearsing difficult parts by yourself during ensemble practice in session, mutual respect. (1) if you`re too loud for a long time, it's between having a bad perception of interception / interaction and a bad leader / teacher.
(2) play with someone who you can relate to and interact musically with. Don’t let your musical vision be dictated by others.
I do play a lot of solo and they're two different beasts, but the common denominator is respect: Respect for yourself and respect for the people you get to play with.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind for your improvisations and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
When it comes to composing, it usually takes some time. I respect those who can randomly generate music based on what they think the listener / crowd will like. It's all about integrity and people have different perceptions about what integrity is. No strategies, just impulse for me.
Anything can trigger an idea. I also do use digital stuff when composing, so that I can move stuff like notes around and not be limited to playing the music there and then. Like Cubase and other DAWs, no limits, just getting the music to be exactly like I want it.
Usually, I hate myself when I have to learn to play the parts.
Can you talk about how your decision process works in a live setting?
Well, Red Kite is a band with very strong individual sounds. Trond has his sound (bass), Torstein has his sound (drums) and Even has his sound (guitar).
I didn’t want to bring in huge, different colours of sound in the form of using a lot for synths and stuff. So, the Rhodes was a natural choice and we all gel together!
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
An electric overdriven guitar and an overdriven Rhodes are a nightmare together sonically. But, as stated earlier, it's all about mutual respect, and a big dose of having the same mindset, the ability to pickup on the details, somehow predict each other.
How is playing live in front of an audience and in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally?
It has been some strange times, streaming digital concerts and playing live.
Playing in front of a live audience tends to give us more energy. The ability to play and see actual people bang their heads to the music, brings us so much energy back. Applause and cheering really adds to the performer’s energy.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Well, the sort of culmination was my release of the album “Dualistic” by my trio Dualistic. It united my past (metal background) and my present as an impro musician. Combining and reuniting old metal riffs with jazz and everything between.
In a way, improvisations remind us of the transitory nature of life. What, do you feel, can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
At my beloved grandmother’s funeral, I played at the end of the ceremony and there was a lot of crying. No one in the family cried through the whole ceremony before that, so music is powerful.
At the same time I have played for people having the time of their life dancing at a country festival! So, all music has its value.