If everybody plays in the Orchestra  – is there anyone left to listen? Reflections on Nordtrad 2017

I have spent this week in Stockholm, at the Nordtrad conference. Nordtrad is an annual gathering of academic institutions, teachers and students of traditional music in the North, including The Baltic countries and even Ireland. This was my first. And most definately not my last. Especially not since my academic intitution, The Ole Bull Academy in Voss will host next year’s Nordtrad.


The week has been intense, inspiring workshops, seminars, lectures. And music, lots of music. Some of the best dancers, musicians and pedagogues in this field have shared abuntantly of their wisdom, knowledge, insights, experiences and skills. I have met and learned from some of my favourite musicians. Having played with the folk music «big band» Chateau Neuf Spelemannslag for more than twenty years, I especially enjoyed workshops on aranging for larger ensembles. Also, sessions with director Leif Stinnebom on folk music and storytelling gave new perspectives. I’m going home with a lot of new tools and ideas.

Another dimension of Nordtrad is the amazing variety of musical traditions of the North, of different approaches to singing, storytelling, playing, rhythms and grooves.

The art of listening

What strikes me the most, though, is how much music making really is about listening, being in tune with each other on deeper and higher levels. That is why I also get enough, sometimes. Sensory overload. Too much music. I need to listen to the silence. Thus, I don’t last long at the jam sessions. Musically, I also tend to enjoy more musicians and groups that honors silence, the spaces between the notes.

Being a bit weary after a week of intense listening, and exposure to some  unbelievably loud jam sessions, I was a bit sceptical to the last concert of the Nordtrad conference, with everybody on the stage, playing in the orchestra. To my surprise, it sounded great! during the concert, a riddle came to me:

If everybody plays in the orchestra, is anyone left to listen?
Hopefully everyone!

I guess, the listening of all the musicians in the giant folk big band is good enough proof for the success of this year’s Nordtrad conference.  I’m already looking forward to Nordtrad in Voss next year!

Here are some pictures: