Dynamics - the Terrain

- the thirds album in the Habitable Exomusics trilogy.

I had originally planned that the final artistic product in the project would be an international recording where I recorded selected parts of the compositions from the project. However, as my local KINETICS ensemble worked its way deeper and deeper into the material that I brought to them, KINETICS started to sound like the right ensemble for those compositions. Having the time needed to rehearse more often and extensively than any international assembly of musicians would be capable of, the written material started to obviously belong to KINETICS. And to such a degree that opening up that repertoire to an international ensemble did no longer seem nearly as desirable as I had originally envisioned.

I felt that this premonition was confirmed, during a trip to NYC in October 2014, to investigate options for studios, musicians and recording times. Furthermore, the studios were in a similar price range as Rainbow Studio in Oslo, near Copenhagen, and could not compete with that, in terms of piano quality.

I had an extensive discussion with my friend and colleague Benoit Delbecq on the matter of studio options in NYC, improvisation today, preparations, and the state of the NYC improvised scene in general. And, after pondering over the issue to a great extent, I decided that the final recording in the project would be made in Oslo, with a band consisting of Gerald Cleaver on drums, Nils Davidsen on bass, and myself on piano. I also decided that this recording – contrary to the Kinetics album – would be purely improvised. This became Dynamics (the Terrain).




I again wondered how much information should optimally be shared with the musicians before recording. I extensively explained the Habitable Exomusics pitch organisational concepts to Nils Davidsen, but also made a point of not asking him to use any of this unless he wanted to, in the moment. I knew it would not be a problem, since Nils and I have played together and listened to a diversity of music together over the years. I believed that we would benefit from our tendency to share certain preferences regarding improvised form, and I think I was right about that.

I gave Nils very few instructions regarding my wishes for the approach:

  • Never search for harmonic agreement (not changing direction in case of dissonance).
  • In general, return to zero or start over from nothing rather than opening with a bang.
  • Let every note be a discovery.

We chose to record the entire album in one take. It was a decision we made some time in advance, and it did the trick as to eliminating some of the obstacles that can surround making improvised albums in a studio. We knew that whatever we did, it would be for real, with no turning back and no possible editing, just like it always is in a live situation.

This gave us around 1 hour of music. Upon closer scrutiny, we decided to cut it down to 48 minutes, which felt more fitting as an album. But, imagining during the recordings that such a cut was not possible (or allowed), definitely gave the desired edge to the recording situation.

The trio having played together earlier, though never recorded before, was of course also part of the preparation leading up to the studio session. Furthermore, within the time frame of the project, in the summer of 2014, Nils Davidsen and I had played improvised concerts with other amazing drummers such as Paul Lovens & Tyshawn Sorey, which also taught me a lot in terms of how I wanted to pianistically approach the music that became "the Terrain." Other formative events leading up to the choices surrounding the making of Dynamics included sessions in NYC with among others Tony Malaby, Billy Mintz and Ellery Eskelin, plus my discussions with Benoit Delbecq. Besides these collaborative or collective activities, I was going through a thorough preparation process on my own, similar to the one leading up to the Static solo recording (see the Statics page).




Dynamics (the Terrain) – Habitable Exomusics Volume III was recorded in Rainbow Studio, Oslo, May 2014. Released 25 September 2015, on ILK.