MUSIC FROM A ROOM

London, 2021

“Some say you are what you eat, but for me it is more like I am what I listen to.” Joel Lundberg is a Swedish pianist and composer who has just released Music from a Room, a singular project that stands out thanks to a freshness of influences and ideas. Made of eight pieces for piano, performed by Kalle Stenbäcken, it is a debut album which uses the subject of impressionism to reflect Lundberg’s musical inspirations and intentions; universality, exchange, interest, exploration, balance, beauty and aesthetic. The composer blurs the lines between concert halls and living rooms, grandeur and simplicity, and conveys through an articulated dialogue a wide range of emotions, sensations and ideas. 

A good way to introduce the album is through Frank Zappa’s words; “The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively — because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a 'box' around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?” For Music from a Room, Lundberg chose the frame of impressionism. 

 

From the first notes of “The Catalyst” and particularly its melodic approach, it is quite obvious that the album is a little different; impressionistic of course, but  above all, inspired and distinctive. 

Of course, there are many musical nudges to impressionism; in “Prelude to a PIB”, one can hear the chromaticisms of Satie and in “PIB” — despite its modern, almost post-minimalist quality — it is through Debussy-esque cascading moments. There are also many references to impressionistic subjects — such as nature, water, sea etc. — but when they do occur, it is with a very different — almost sinister — approach, as in “Killer Whales” or “Dans le bateau, sur la plage”. While these could be seen as musical cliches, they also reflect many contemporary jazz harmonies; some of the direct descendants of French music. 

Music from a Room is a project that impresses by combining a lot of musical diversity in a short amount of time and through pieces that are mostly miniatures — “Predicaments”.

Under the frame of impressionism, many of the pieces aim at description. “El Condor” — its main motif based on a trill, perhaps illustrating the movement of the animal. Just like the condor being the largest flying land bird in the world, it is the longest of the pieces of the album, and allows Lundberg to create a storytelling and narrative full of impressions. Other pieces leave the listener the pleasure to build his own interpretations, such as in “The Friendly Antagonist”.

Fortunately, the composer has a lot to say about his own music; understanding how he approaches his work and its creative process is almost a necessary addition to unveiling its full potential. 

 

If Lundberg had a time machine, Paris at the turn of the 20th century would have probably been his destination. But it is in our modern world, with its diversity, complexity and contrasts that the composer delivers Music from a Room. The intentions of Lundberg are clear; to bring some of his nostalgia to his own creativity through the medium of freedom; freedom of space, content and context. 

He has studied both improvisation and composition and this co-existence between both worlds reflects in the music, particularly with the subject of impressionism. The disappearance of tight structures and rigorous direction allow for a sort of impromptu. Lundberg does not like to compromise with his intentions, and the music of Music from a Room makes it very clear; the composer is free and so is his music. It does not lack direction or cohesion, but it is free of context, free of technicalities and free of understanding. A refreshing work.