Photo: Urban Willi / ECM Records

Christian Wallumrød

Conexions: Christian Wallumrød talks to MIC Norway on his involvement with the Conexions series, on collaborating with Garth Knox and his plans for 2012

The unlikely combination of harmonium, viola d’amore, goat horns and spoken poetry creates the basis for one of the Conexions series most unconventional but also highly anticipated concerts as keyboard player and composer Christian Wallumrød teams up with UK viola player Garth Knox and Norwegian saxophonist and poet Karl Seglem.

Christian Wallumrød draws his influences from Norwegian folk music, jazz and composers such as John Cage and Morton Feldman. He also plays harmonium and toy piano, blending with the horns, drums and strings of his ensemble. The result has been described as “wondrously obscure new music.” Knox and Wallumrød both inhabit the worlds of contemporary classical, experimental improv, jazz and folk and played together for the first time for Fiona Talkington’s “Late Junction” show on BBC Radio 3 in November 2011.

MIC talked to Wallumrød in early January as the composer and keyboardist was busy prepping for an upcoming tour and composing new pieces for album releases later in 2012. “At the moment I’m gearing up for a tour of Germany with my ensemble in February and Norway the following month. I’ll also hit the road with my trio. Another major project for me is my new album that I hope to finish this spring and have it ready for release through ECM in the Autumn.”

Says Wallumrød on working with Dublin-born viola and viola d’amore player Garth Knox; “The two of us had never met or worked together before Fiona introduced us and invited us to perform with some of the members of my ensemble at her BBC programme “Late Junction” in November last year. I’d heard him play solo performances before and really liked his approach to playing. At that first concert we played a mix of my own compositions and pieces by Garth as well as long improvised passages, it turned out that things fit together really well and we both liked what we did create together.”

“The March concert in Oslo will feature much of the same material,” says Wallumrød. “Of course, we’ll rehearse a bit more but we might also improvise more stuff now that we know each other better. One element will be totally new to both of us, and that is Karl Seglem who will join us, not primarily as a saxophonist or goat horn player as he is known for; he will be reading his own poetry. It was originally Fiona’s idea to bring in Seglem, but I immediately jumped at the idea; I love his writing and felt that it could fit in perfectly. Karl will also bring his instruments and contribute with his trademark goat horn and sax playing as well as introduce some of his own compositions, but it is the poetry bit that that’s really new for us all.”

Making the transition from the six-piece Christian Wallumrød Ensemble that features strings, horns, percussion and keys to the Wallumrød/Knox/Seglem combo is a challenge the composer and keyboardist seems to look forward to tackling; “When approaching a new constellation like this, I often start with a basis in the instrumentation and try to conceive ideas that fit the tools at hand. Our new combo represents many exciting possibilities within the instrumentation, the viola and viola d’amore fits surprisingly well with an old harmonium that I plan to use. Couple this with Karl’s saxes and goat horns not to mention his fantastic poems and you’ve got a mix that leaves lot of room for exploration.”

Although coming from slightly differing genre backgrounds, Wallumrød feels that he and Knox share many of the same basic ideas about performing and composing; “I feel that Garth, Karl and me all share an openness for new forms of expressions, a will to challenge established perceptions of genres and a desire to promote cross pollination between genres and styles. This new setting is both a fun combination of instruments and performance styles as well as an open space for unrestrained exploration.”

“I see Garth as a performer that has fantastic achievements in spheres that haven’t ventured that much into. He has performed and recorded challenging contemporary works, early music and baroque pieces, music that I love to listen to but have not played much myself. He’s bringing a wealth of experience and artistic solidity to the table, I’m honoured to work with him and to be included in the project in the first place. I can wholeheartedly identify with the project and its scope; Conexions highlights the strong ties between Norwegian and UK improvising musicians that go back many years, says Wallurød before rushing off for a rehearsal with his ensemble.”

Read more on the Conexions concert series here.

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