Kim Myhr: “this is not fusion music”

If you listen to Kim Myhr‘s music, you can easily understand the connection between him and Tony Buck. The Norwegian guitarist and composer writes lengthy pieces based on a solid sonic structure that gradually evolves, not unlike the way things unfold in the Necks’ performances. Now Kim Myhr is in Australia, to perform at the Substation with Peter Knight and the Australian Art Orchestra, for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, with the participation of Tony Buck, of course. Here is a question for him:


Kim Myhr, what are you going to present at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival?

“I’ve written a 50 minute piece in three parts for the Australian Art Orchestra. It’s a composed piece but it has elements of freedom. Basically, during rehearsals, we are fine tuning the space between the structured piece and the improvisational freedom of the musicians. We’re trying to work out the balance. I have done pieces for similar ensembles in Norway like Trondheim Jazz Orchestra which also has musicians from different fields and I think for hybrid ensembles it is sort of necessary, or at least interesting, to apply a hybrid methodology.

The score is specific but it’s also open. It has very special challenges. For me, when I approach the piece and the composition it is important that the audience doesn’t have a feeling that the musicians are just reading through a big score, but they are actually really present and making music. The score is just a score but the music happens in the room and in the space.

This is definitely not fusion music. I’m not trying to mix different traditions. It’s coming from a very natural place, it’s more like making music out of your own sonic environment. I love hybrid methodology. I’m sort of in-between myself, musically. My background is in improvisation; I studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music, then I switched to classical composition and I also have a very strong relationship to popular music and to different musical traditions from the world, along with an interest in contemporary music. My musical interests are very diverse and the AAO is a perfect vehicle for them.

I’m playing electric 12-string guitar. That has its connotations from popular music from the ’70s, maybe. It is also like a folk instrument. As a basis, as a sound, I will always have that reference. But I don’t tune it in a regular way. It is tuned in a very specific way, which makes it very prone to dronic qualities and rich harmonic sounds. I’m also interested in thick slabs of sound with lots of information in it and I think that the 12 string guitar allows that complexity to happen. I chose it because of the harmonic possibilties. I can play in a way that would never be possible with a 6-string guitar. But I also play 6-string guitar, in other projects. For this project, I wanted big masses of orchestral sound. There’s a lot of harmonic information, a lot of structural playing.

It’s easy for me to bring Tony Buck into this project because I know him so well.The way we play together with Tony is all about the richness of sound and the richness of the harmonic content. But this is the first time I play with Peter Knight.

Peter Knight, do you have a question for Kim Myhr?

Peter Knight:How does he view the relationship between his music and minimalism?

Kim Myhr: For me minimalism is not a word that I feel so close to, but a lot of people use it about the music that I make. Maybe it’s about simplicity. I like that there is a connection with something simple, but I’m not trying to minimize anything. I love working with simple forms, with something like a song but stretched out over a long duration.

Kim Myhr, do you have a question for Peter Knight?

Kim Myhr: How does he feel my approach to music connects with the general direction of AAO?

Peter Knight:I think Kim’s approach is very well aligned with the AAO. It is exploratory rather than formulaic and that’s what makes it interesting for us. We perform a great diversity of music but this is the quality that we are all looking for as musicians. It pertains to opennes and curiosity.


Kim Myhr performs with the Australian Art Orchestra and Tony Buck at the Substation, on Saturday 9 June as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival