ALEXANDER ON THE ROAD
Orkester-forum has made an exclusive interview appointment with Alexander Rybak. After some days with calls and mail back and forth, comes the message we have been hoping for from the promoter Simen Eidsvåg:
– Alexander will call you this evening at 18 CET – okay?
Of course, it´s okay.
“Orkester-forum” is a Norwegian magazine, a member of UNOF ( Unges Orkesterforbund ) and NASOL ( Norske Symfoniorkestres Landsforbund )
Source: Orkester-forum. Published 22.03.2010. Text Kari Sannum. Photo: Orkesterskolen Ålesund. Translation by Marianne S. Revison by TessaLa and Anni Jowett. The interview with Alexander Rybak is printed on pages 8-9.
At 20 CET, we have nearly given up. Thinking, that the album-recording in Malmö has taken longer than planned. That Alexander, probably is tired. Too tired. Or maybe, he went to have dinner and forgot it all? Then, the phone rings.
– Hello? we say.
– Hello, this is Alexander, says Alexander. He sounds OK. Almost a bit shy and certainly not grumpy or cocky, although he is a celebrity.
– Hi Alexander!- we say.- Where are you?
– I am just getting off the plane, says Alexander. And then it goes quiet… That is, we can hear Alexander is talking, but it is not to us.
– Thanks for the trip! says Alexander to the stewardess.
– Have a nice day, she says.
– Have a nice day, you too, Alexander answers. We don’t ask, but think: How many people, has Alexander Rybak met during the last year? Does he take time to greet them all? Is it possible?
– Are you walking? Are you standing? Can you sit down? we ask.
For a moment, we can hear him hesitate in the phone. Then he says:
– Right now, I am in the escalators…
Right now. Then, that is how it is going to be. An on-the-road-interview with Alexander Rybak. If it’s fine with him, it is certainly fine with us.
– You have been in Malmø to record an album? we ask, while we hear Alexander walking along.
– Yes, parts of it at least.
When will it be released?
-Hopefully before the summer. When I decided to make an album, it had to be a summer album. Those albums that have meant most to me are the ones I listened to in the summer holidays. Then you have time.
Did you make the music yourself?
– Yes absolutely. Most of it at least. And then I have found some very good cover songs. I actually have too many songs already, but I still insist to keep the cover songs.
ORCHESTRA IS FUN!
– You have inspired many children and young people to learn to play violin?
– Yes. I am happy about that. Even though it wasn’t exactly classical I got my breakthrough with, it is important to have a classical background.
Will many of the children probably end up playing in an orchestra sooner or later?
– I hope so! I am one of the rare few, who can´t find any joy in chamber music. Orchestra is much more fun, because there are so many involved. You are really focused. You feel the energy. Finally you become one big organism. When many in the orchestra are focused, it is difficult to be a noisemaker. At the same time it is so that when there is 15-20 minutes left and someone starts to whisper, then everybody starts to whisper and that´s a bit funny!
You have played in several orchestras. Is it more fun to be a soloist or to play in an orchestra?
– In a concert it is more fun to be a soloist, but at rehearsals it is much more fun, to be in an orchestra.
PLAYING IN AN ORCHESTRA SOCIALISES YOU
Has it helped you to be in orchestras that you meet so many people as you do now? – we ask.
This question might seem a bit weird to people who haven’t played in an orchestra themselves, but Alexander understands immediately.
– Yes absolutely. I don´t know how to explain it, but it has helped me. You focus your senses and look out for what you can help with. In an orchestra you might think: ” Perhaps I should play silently, because the others play silently.” You have such a group-sound. The same way if you are on a plane and meet someone. You wish to be at their level. You don’t want to be the one who doesn’t talk, while the others talk. But you don’t want to be the one, who disturbs the whole plane and make the other two embarrassed either.
TEACHER AT ORCHESTRA CLASS
You have been a teacher yourself. Last year in the summer school in Ålesund?
– Yes. I also had a small Masterclass in Mo in Rana…Which also helped me. I found it very funny. I found it especially easy to be a teacher to people who doesn’t play the violin. It was nice to start with that as a teacher – to get students who don’t play your instrument. Then, you can’t tell them anything about technique. You have to start thinking logical instead. For instance if there was an oboe player who bend his back too much, I would just say: “Lift your chest a bit more up!” Or something else. Give suggestions for choreography for instance.
What is important, when you teach in an orchestra?
– It was important to be careful not to show off the best students all the time. To have eye contact with all of them. Sometime show off someone who is not on the top-level. Show them what they did well. So that everybody feels involved.
WHAT IS A GOOD TEACHER?
So what is a good teacher? Which teacher, has meant the most to you?
– That is Geir Inge Lotsberg, without any doubt. He treats his students as individuals. He doesn’t follow any school. Schools are very “dangerous”. Especially unexperienced teachers often do that. They have learned some tricks, and then they use those tricks on everyone.
But Geir Inge Lotsberg has an eye for the single student?
– Yes. That is one of the reasons older teachers often function better. As for myself, I am not the type of teacher or coach who could manage to set up a plan and run a schedule for a student for 2 years ahead. It is a big responsibility, and with all the stuff I have to do now, I wouldn’t be able to do it. When I teach in orchestra class, it is different. That is just fun!
Do you still take lessons with Geir Inge Lotsberg?
– No, but I hope to be able to do it again soon. I haven’t practised for quite a while.
TO PRACTISE TO DEATH
Do you still practise?
– No, no. Before I practised maybe 2 hours every day. When I was young. Very little.
– No, probably not. I only practised when I was focused in my head. Practise is a little bit overestimated. It is rare that you have a programme that requires 3-4 hours of practise. When I had new songs to learn I used to spend 4-5 hours a day, because I found it exciting! But I never saw the point in “practising to death”, when you know all your repertoire. Then I think it is better to spend half an hour a day.
Both your parents are musicians. Did they let you decide, for yourself, how much you had to practise, when you were a child?
Alexander laughs heartily.
– No, no oh no,no! – he says. – They decided. That is the Russian culture, children don´t know so much. But there is something to learn, both from the Russian culture and from the Norwegian culture, where kids just are supposed to experiment and play. It is two opposite poles, that are good to combine. It is very stupid if everybody is just strict and authoritarian, without being friends with children. But it is just as stupid as it is here in Norway, in both kindergarten and school. There is no learning there. It actually works fine to combine the two methods, and I actually think my parents did that. They were shocked about how pleasant children live here in Norway. Even though they didn’t follow the style at once, and were a bit Russian and strict.
How old were you, when they set you loose and let you go on your own?
– Well…When you are in an Norwegian school, you learn that you have control over your own life. But my parents were very good at making me believe in the illusion that I had control over my life!- Alexander laughs!
CLEVER IMMIGRANT CHILDREN
Research shows that children of immigrants often go far in musical achievements, compared to ethnic Norwegian children. What do you think of this? You have perhaps noticed that yourself?
– It´s a much stronger discipline. In Norway we are very good at doing everything with a smile. One is more including to everybody as an artist. On the other hand one is not so good (laughs ). One doesn´t have so much basic knowledge. – Here in Norway the level is not very important. You don’t worry about that until you are 18-19 years old, and then it is too late. When it comes to instruments at least. Too bad. Many try to argue against this and talk about people, who start playing when they are 25 years old. But it´s silly. It is not about the physique. You can always learn, if you have the right physique … But there are some gates in the brain, which close when you are 4-5 years old and then there are some that close when you are 7-8 years old. – What you have learned until then becomes your basic knowledge for the rest of your life. It is very important that parents don’t get over-enthusiastic and ambitious towards a 15-year-old who never has touched an instrument. If they suddenly decide to whip him until he is great, it becomes meaningless.
JANTE-LAW FOR CHILDREN
Many start with the Jante-law, too late, says Alexander eagerly. – The Jante-law should be learned, while you are little!
What? Now, we are suddenly not sure, if we have heard right. Jante-law is a bad term here in Norway. Has Alexander misunderstood something?
– Jante-law is about, that you should not believe, you are anything…- we try.
– In Russia, you don´t learn that, says Alexander.- In Russia, everyone is pretty cocky. They don’t have the Jante-law there. But in Norway one uses such hard methods. Teach the children that they shouldn’t believe they are something.
– But after some time the teachers tell you to take the Jante-law with a grain of salt. There are many grown-ups, who practising the Jante-law, but then it goes wrong. The Jante-law should be a children’s-law!
We feel it is about time to end the interview. Alexander has during the interview sat down and he answers patiently. Now he tells that he is on his way to another place. We manage though, to hear a bit about the two movies he has taken part in and that he found it very funny to dub the animation movie he recently made voice-over for. We also learn that Alexander has a dog named Cindy. What kind of dog it was we didn’t catch. But exactly that, we guess, we can learn some other time.
– Thanks for now, says Alexander
– Thanks for your time and best wishes, we say.
It has been exciting and amusing to talk to Alexander Rybak. Now we know a bit more about the background of the life he is living as a musician on the road!
This post is also available in Norsk.