Opening speech Honorary Doctor Anders Jormin at the IASJ Jazz Meeting, 25 June 2023
These days, in the year 2023, we hear and learn more than ever of the consequences of climate changes, of melting ices, irreversible effects of pollution, crashing ecosystems, species disappearing from our planet for good, starvation, huge migration challenges and unreflecting use of resources. There's political repression, devastating conflicts all over the world, a true lack of freedom. There's an ongoing war in Ukraine.
And we meet to play??
To me, jazz and improvised music is a language of freedom. The art of improvisation allows you to, invites you to, needs you to become a part of the opus itself; to take, as an unavoidable consequence of this freedom, a responsible and dedicated role in the unfolding and building of the music.
‘Improvisus’ is Latin and means the unforeseen, the unexpected. Improvisation, to me, is a way of creating music, of finding yourself, together with others, constantly in a developmental process through curious and respectful interplay.
“Don't be afraid of being human, be proud. Inside you, vault opens behind vault endlessly. You'll never be complete, that's how it's meant to be”. (Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, in his ‘Romanesque Arches’).
Therefore, we can say with certain pride, that jazz music with its communicative and collaborative elements is a manifestation and act of democracy; it's a music that cannot endure our passivity; it needs our full attention and our reflected activity, it needs our own focused contribution. To embrace the otherness, to carefully listen and to share responsibilities, go hand in hand. As if we were building and sharing the image of an uplifted future and society.
Did you know that there is a small animal in the ocean named ‘Amphibalanus improvisus’: the bay barnacle, or European acorn barnacle, ‘slät havstulpan’ in Swedish, ‘siimajalkainen’ in Finnish. Given its name following the systemizing method derived by Swedish botanist Carl von Linné (second part of 18th century), for its ability to always find its way. They do find their way; I have them under my boat at the end of every summer! These barnacles show the same kind of creative resilience that our young musicians develop as free-lancers in a world characterized by economics and lack of understanding and appreciation of the important values of art and culture.
I'd like to personally say ‘Thanks’ for being invited. Thanks to the great professor Jukkis Uotila, who way back believed in me and made me a guest professor here in the Sibelius Academy. These were highly rewarding and memorable years for me. Furthermore, thanks to this in many ways role-modeling Sibelius Academy for later making me an Honorary Doctor, during an unforgettable ceremony where the great classical piano virtuoso Grigory Sokolov got a doctor's hat that was too big. It covered half his face! Maestro Sokolov later told me, in confidence, that after having performed in the most prestigious concert halls all over our planet, he knew that maybe the best Steinway grand piano in the world can be found in Lappeenranta! Thanks to Jussi Kannaste and his staff for organizing what we all feel will be a fantastic week.
To improvise together is to embrace the IASJ Jazz Meeting in its deepest and widest sense. Standing eye to eye and ear to ear with someone, through this remarkable and wonderful chaos of tricky chord progressions, smiles, swinging grooves, slowing down tempos, bad reeds, comforting eye contact, lost beats, shared curiosity, irritating feedbacks, laughs, pianos out of tune, uplifting flow, complex rhythms and pure noise. To be part of this magic creative process, standing eye to eye with someone who will soon become the opposite of a stranger while we do and learn more of and from the music we love.
The music we call “jazz”.
I'm glad to be part of opening this 2023 IASJ Jazz Meeting!
Welcome, all friends!
Anders Jormin, Göteborg, Sweden