Some musicians are so great that you can’t escape them, even if you don’t like their style.
Patsy Cline has always been like that for me – I have trouble believing in what the orchestra does in terms of male choir and charming piano, but the lady herself turns me into a male groupie, no matter what song she sings. She has too much to say, I can’t stop myself from listening.
With the Norwegian singer Elias Akselsen one could believe it was the other way round. He is accompanied by really competent mandolin-, accordion- and other players, which I have gotten really used to hearing, as they crowd the musically pretty large field in Norway of folk music, viser, so-called pop music of different brands, and other “popular” genres. They routinely makes listening worthwhile.
The singing style of Elias, though, is for me in many ways strange. Not that I usually breathe in the right places when I sing myself, and there are plenty of singers that obviously can’t sing and still makes brilliant music. Ole Paus, for instance, in our little world here, is an obvious example. But the way this singer produces the sound sounds…really pressed, too much strain. If I would have sung this in the style that he is in, it would sound banal and completely wrong.
But his presence pushes all this away, the darkness, his conviction that this
was the way it was, this bad, just like that, believe me, I’m not a liar, I tell you the truth about this. He has heard all my objections, seen all my
skepticism, and still, there it is, simply too much to ignore. I can feel those feelings expressed in so-called banal ways, they are as real and as true as Mozart and Mahler usually is to me. Or, for that matter, Stan Kenton or Charlie Mingus.
In some places maybe it is a little too much, the expression becomes too private, but generally not. He may lose me on those few points, which are maybe still accessible to those who are actually living in his world, not mine. I mean, some of the music I usually listen to is sometimes interesting to me, but not to my neighbour who prefers King Crimson and just occasionally lets himself be convinced by some of my house gods, and only when they are powerful enough to reach into his domain.
Akselsen reminds me a little of Munch in his darkest moments, maybe, or Scriabin, Rachmaninov even, if you take him seriously and not just see him as something nice to hang on the wall.
The same desperation as in “my” classical music, the same tears, or maybe compassion sometimes, I don’t know. Or maybe not the same. Sometimes, when I listen to this, I feel that Scriabin starts off where Akselsen leaves us, that Akselsen’s reality forces us to play Scriabin differently, which is ok, or write some new music that encompasses both points of view.
I am sure that what both the classical composers and a musician like Elias
Akselsen say is said from different sides of at least one iron curtain of class
differences (Akselsen is both pentecostal Christian and tater, of the travelling people of Norway). But I am sick and tired of class differences, let’s for God’s sake accept each other, realise that we are made of the same bloody substance, blood, guts, thoughts, emotions, life.
We’ve been eating each other’s food for quite a while. Let’s listen to the music too, in earnest.
I’ve been listening to Elias Akselsen’s Christmas album from 2003 when writing this, but couldn’t find what what I was looking for on YouTube, so here is a song from another album.