Between Folk and Pianism
A Folk Musical Aesthetic?
Picture the following: on the one hand, Norwegian folk music, historically often played or sung in small rooms, in everyday life, often turned to oneself or in intimate situations, and on the other hand, the bourgeois shiny instrument, the grand piano, played in salons and large halls.
The grandiose belongs to the grand piano. In the slått I hear the hushed, I hear proximity to the instrument, to the strings. The virtuosic belongs to classical pianism, the shiny sound, the rapid fingers, the even scales. In slått music, the way I hear it, the playing does not attract focus in itself. The performance aesthetic of the romantic, virtuosic concert pianist is in strong contrast to the intimate and low voice of a folk musician.
By all means, it is of course not that simple. But by imagining such exaggerated dichotomies, two contrasting maps of aesthetics are drawn out: the monumental versus the simple; the perpendicular versus the oblique; the wet versus the dry; the controlled versus the rough; the polished versus the unpolished; the even versus the uneven; the emotional versus the trivial.
The first word of each of these pairs can be read as an extremity of the ideal classical performance, while the second in each pair can be read as an extremity of folk music performance ideals. That is, at least, the way it is filtered by my ears when I listen to slått playing that I like. These descriptive words are not to be understood too literally, but more as images.
The performer’s playing is immediate. In the immediate action of playing, what is crucial is the musician’s attitude. Attitudes are the guide for the player, through ways of thinking, imaginations and pictures. For me, the exaggerated dichotomies represent attitudes, ways of thinking, that I have used in my playing.
The pianism that I knew, the piano aesthetic I was educated in and which has therefore been incorporated in me, could it be expanded or moved towards another aesthetic, a folk musical aesthetic for the piano? Such a folk musical aesthetic would involve avoiding the romantic, trying to go in the direction of simplicity, pushing myself out of automated ways of playing. Could slått music expand my pianistic world?
The dry, close, oblique, rough attract me. They embody an aesthetic that asks me to listen.
I wanted to use the imaginations of folk musical aesthetic as dogmas for the piano, to ‘de-romanticize’, to push my playing somewhere else, to a personal, folk musical aesthetic.