Updated: Apr 29, 2018
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Well…the way to my heart is through a good joke:)
A typical whatsapp conversation with Mark Aanderud goes a little something like this:
- Me: ‘Hola! Rehearsal on the 15th at 11am confirmed!
- Mark: Great! What day is that?
- Me: Monday. Don’t you have a calendar?
- Mark: I have a Playboy calendar from 2014. Works?’
And that’s how you know:)
Now, to some extent, I do agree on the fact that humor can be ‘la politesse du désespoir’, as French artist Chris Marker once wrote. But I choose to see in humor so much more, especially when you have it with people you spend a lot of time with. For us musicians, working closely with someone has absolutely nothing to do with how co-workers interact in the corporate world.
In order to even attempt any form of creation, you need to be in that very delicate intimate space within yourself, your own stories, emotional realm, your intellect, your quirks and annoying habits, but most of all, you need to go to that raw space within your soul to bring something worthwhile out of it that may one day be called art. And you absolutely can’t afford to be judgmental. Neither with yourself nor the people you are working with.
If you’re comfortable enough with someone to be just that, that’s already quite spectacular. It’s a form of intimacy you’re sharing with your fellow musicians after all.
And if you laugh often during those challenging yet productive moments, then you’ve got yourself a cherry on the pie, something quite special that will stand the test of time and creative frustration.
Mark’s sense of humor goes hand in hand with his quiet ease and cool attitude. He’s got this amazing paradox I am fascinated with: on the outside, he’s calm, collected, cracking jokes left and right and keeping a straight face. On the inside, however, I can’t imagine how fast his brain must work in order for him to play so seamlessly and effortlessly in literally every genre you can think of! Right there! On the spot! He’s spot on! Every time!
A jam with Mark almost sounds like the material was rehearsed. He needs only to glance at a chart and boom! He’s already infusing it with harmonies that would require an average pianist a few days with that chart to think up… I’m beginning to think he’s only part human…
Mark doesn’t play the piece. He lets the piece come out and play when it’s ready.
Looking back at our rehearsal for the French Night we did at Milano a couple weeks ago, we played ‘Je suis malade’ only twice before the live performance - once would have been enough, trust me. He didn’t play his solo at rehearsal. He wanted it to be expressed as sincerely and authentically as could be.
When I asked him how he prepares for workshops, he said ‘I think a lot’ and he doesn’t always write down his thoughts. He refuses to immobilize his thoughts on paper. It all stays up there, in his beautiful complex mind. It’s only logical then, that he would make a statement such as ‘It didn’t come from the notes’ (meaning the theory). Because, by keeping your musical ideas ‘fluid’ (for lack of a better word), you are essentially letting them flow and play around with all the data that is being injected in there every second of the day. It is so much more organic and real when you are confronted with the moment of synthesizing those thoughts and expressing them through your instrument in that particular moment.
At one point during our interview, I got a glimpse of the child in Mark. The one who, at age 4, started running his fingers on his grandmother’s broken piano, making music and outsmarting the theory and broken keys, going around them, never letting them get in the way of making something beautiful. ‘I just want to play’ he still says today.
And just like that, he’s able to take his listeners take a detour through the hardships and enjoy his music. There. In the moment. Which is all we have.
And, with music, that is more than enough.