„I would like to play in an ambient festival where the keyword is silence“

Wenn ich an Klang und Stille denke, habe ich sofort die Musik des schwedischen Cellisten Henrik Meierkord im Ohr. In seinen Kompositionen arbeitet der Künstler ebenso sehr mit Stille und Pausen wie mit dem Klang selbst. In den Musikstücken gibt es unendlich viel Melancholie, aber auch  immer ausreichend Licht in den schattigeren Momenten, die vom Cello durchbrochen werden. Nicht selten erzeugt das einen Sound, der sich anfühlt, als käme er aus einer Filmmusik.

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Photos: © Terese Mörnvik (l), © Björn Magnusson (m), © Johan Bergmark (r)

Neben seinem Solo-Projekt spielt der Künstler aus Stockholm in Bands wie Meipr und Strulgattu & Meierkord und begleitet mit seinem Cello andere Künstler*innen wie Pelle Ossler, Sam Rosenthal von Black Tape For A Blue Girl oder Lalita Dasika. Das verbindende Element  sind Emotionen, die die Seele berühren und Henriks Gespür, ein Gefühl träumerischer Spannung zu erzeugen. In unserem Interview  sprechen wir  mit Henrik Meierkord über die Bedeutung von Natur, Stille und den Klang von Stille. Vielen herzlichen Dank, Henrik!

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you grow up? When did you first hold a cello in your hands? And was it „love at first sight“? Was there a particular experience or moment that made you start making music?
I grew up in a suburb to Helsingborg, called Rydebäck. It’s near Öresund, between Sweden and Denmark. Oceans have always been important to me, the waves remind me of music. In Sweden we have a tradition from the social democratic era that all kids will have the possibility to play an instrument for almost no costs. The day I had to choose an instrument, I have a memory that I almost at once found my instrument, the cello. There was no doubt. It was meant to be. We got lessons from teachers from the symphonic orchestra who learned us the basics. I had no idea at that time that I one day would make my own music.
My mother played a lot of great music, from classical, greek music to The Beatles. I remember the Sgt Peppers album where there was a long piano decay tone at the end, and that was perhaps my first drone experience!

What topics are you currently drawn to in your work?
Philosophy, the nature, silence, urban chaos, anxiety, harmony, slowness, slow music movement, nature sounds, humour.

If you had to describe your music in terms of not music … what would you say?
The pause/vacuum of time, unconsciousness, consciousness, dream, reality, meditation, a way of avoiding direct thoughts and reality.

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What are your thoughts about silence? What does silence mean to you? What do you associate with silence?
There is negative silence, when you can’t fall asleep during the night and the silence is eating you up, you can hear the postman drop the newspaper in the letterbox. The highway heard nearby makes me anxious when that happens, but a train that passes feels more comfortable. The positive sound could be a warm wind or eerie winds or the waves that are silent but still beautiful.
When I hear my pulse or heartbeat, I get reminded of the silence in a metaphysical way, am I the only one here?
So silence for me can be both positive/negative. Musically the silence is being experienced with a lot of pauses and harmonies coming and going.

How would you describe the visual aspect of silence?
Darkness where you can experience some kind of visual patterns, like a dream. A deep fog could visually describe as silence or when I look out of the window of a train and see the tracks bowing and changing like in eternity.

What impact do your surroundings have on your music? You live in Stockholm. What influence does urbanity have on your artistic work? To what extent do you find inspiration in urban culture?
There are a lot of influences in the city, from alarming sound to sparrows, people, cars and trains. It’s depending of the style I am producing in that moment. Where I live, I don’t have a very beautiful view, which I am glad of, because that makes me productive. If I had a beautiful view I think I would not make more or the same kind of music. The city sounds are more industrial and looped in a mechanical way, compared with nature, a more robotic flow. In the city you get interrupted the whole time by forced human unnatural sounds.

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How important is nature to you? What role does nature play in your life and in your art?
Nature is very important to me and defines what real silence can be and very different to the city’s pulse. The flow is natural and feels natural, the birds are there like the wind in the trees. Everything is clear, from the small river with its water floating forever to the natural birds and creaking trees. We have a cabin in the forest where we go to get some air when we get tired of the city.

Do you have some favorite artists who compose/represent silence?
The Norwegian artist Biosphere has been a very inspirational artist that uses a lot of ambience in his works and could be a very clear user of silence. Brian Eno and Jon Hassel also. Max Richter perhaps. Andy Warhol. Lisa Gerrard.

What is sound to you? What is the sound of silence/what does silence sound like?
Sound to me is life, warm sounds that can be very minimal or complex. Could be a wind or just a tone that goes into the warm body of reverb and decay. An interior church is silent but you still can hear sounds from people or chairs creaking, If you are in a warm place with the sound of crickets, it’s silent in a way, because the crickets are very repetitive and get you into a meditative mood. The same with waves, I think silence is not white noise or just a dead acoustic, but when you feel harmonic and loose your perception of our conscience, you are feeling warmth and harmony and no disturbance is around you.

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Which piece of music feels to you like silence turned into sound?
Arvo Pärt, Biosphere, Bing and Ruth, Penderecki, Ligeti

What artistic influences, outside of music, have had a significant influence on how you approach your music ?
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Haneke, Ingmar Bergman, Ridley Scott, Frans Hals, Karl Ove Knausgård, Peter Greenaway, Agnieszka Holland, Charlotte Rampling.

You get to work with so many artists. Tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Black Tape For A Blue Girl. How did you meet Sam Rosenthal? How did the writing of „The Cleft Serpent“ happen?
I first got contact with Marco Billi aka Jarguna (Italy) and we made a couple of ambient tracks, which were released by Project Records. One day Sam Rosenthal asked me if I would like to contribute with my strings for a new album and I said yes. It fitted perfectly, I just sat down and recorded the strings without any problems, a very flow-project! And I am very satisfied with the result.

What’s next for you? What do you wish for & what are you most looking forward to?
I am doing some cello live playing with two other artists:
SOLE (link) and OSSLER (link) in the summer, that will be quite avant-garde playing. Will be fun! I´ll release an album with Logic Moon (link) in the autumn. And there are records coming on Ambientologist soon, co-work with other musicians like Marco Lucchi, Pawel Kobak and Rocco Saviano. Meipr has an album not released yet. I’m doing some strings for the singer of Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Jon de Rosa, who has made some excellent tracks that are becoming very beautiful, with his song, guitar and my strings.

Soon there will also be a drone-jazz-album out with the fantastic trumpet player from San Francisco, James Hill, and my string-drones. Strulgattu & Meierkord is getting a new album  (link) out. 
And I can’t tell there is probably more stuff that is being released. But I have a dream that I would like to play in an ambient festival where the keyword is silence. Perhaps we could arrange something in Europe with all these wonderful artists in a very near future!

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