Music from the edge of the world by Hal Parfitt-Murray and Nikolaj Busk
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cd cover Hal Parfitt-Murray and Nikolaj Busk
Music from the edge of the world ()
cdRoots Code: go-0312

Hal Parfitt-Murray plays violin, viola, cello, oud, foot tapping, vocals, mandolin and mandola; Nikolaj Busk plays piano, harmonium, indian harmonium, accordion, foot tapping, Wurlitzer, synthesizer, melotron, musicbox, glockenspiel, toy piano, melodica and vocals. orogomal ideas, original performances by two of Denmark's best.

   

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An interview witht he artists

One summer morning, we are sitting in the little kitchen of my fourth-floor flat in the Danish capital, Copenhagen. For centuries, Copenhagen has been a trading and cultural centre for travellers from all over Europe and the rest of the world, and it was here the Danish poet and fairy-tale author, Hans Christian Andersen, lived for most of his life. “To travel is to live!”, were his words, and he knew what he was on about, since he really was one of the most widely-travelled artists of his day.

Now, 137 years after Andersen left the building, I'm here with two of Denmark's most brilliant roots and folk musicians, violinist, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Hal Parfitt-Murray, and pianist and keyboard-player, Nikolaj Busk. Together they are the Danish duo Hal and Nikolaj.

Hal Parfitt Murray has an English mother and a Scots father, grew up in Australia, and now lives in Denmark with his wife and their children. Nikolaj Busk is Danish born, but on his way to Sweden to continue his studies in musical composition.

These two musicians and composers have an unusual and thought-provoking story to tell, of an experience which has had a deep influence on their work this past six months. It is the story of how they came to spend three intense months at the Edge of the World, a sojourn that lead directly to the creation of their second duo album Music from The Edge of the World.

Journey to the Edge of the World

“We were saved by a local fisherman, who towed our plane in to the shore,” relates Hal, and goes on, “He took us to his home and fed and warmed us. He spoke a strange form of English, which we understood only partly. It was mixed up with what I think were Maori words, some Asiatic language I didn't recognise, some French, some German... We couldn't find the island on any of our maps.”

Nikolaj breaks in, “But the local people told us we had come to the land they called The Edge of the World.”

Hal: “Of course, at first we couldn't take it seriously. We know that the world doesn't end, it's round. Everybody knows that!”

Nikolaj: “But it's not so!”

Hal: “No, it's not! I think we must be among the first to visit The Edge of the World, and come back to tell of it. It's dangerous, because you risk being sucked over the brink and into the abyss, or worse...!”

Hal and Nikolaj had known each other for years without playing together, then one day a couple of years back, Nikolaj heard one of Hal's solo concerts. That launched the well-reviewed duo, and soon followed their first album - an album that won that year's titles of Debut of the Year and Composer of the Year at the Danish Music Awards Folk. Now here comes their second duo album.

Hal & Nikolaj

The album Music from the Edge of the World consists, according to Hal and Nikolaj, partly of traditional melodies and songs they learned from the old tradition-bearers at The Edge of the World, and partly of music they composed themselves, inspired by their stay there, but influenced by a variety of other material. “We both have a grounding in modern music, jazz, electronica and classical music,” Nikolaj and Hal explain:

“It's hard to say how conscious we are of sources when we are composing. It's a product of everything we hear. We write long, complicated melodies, because we listen to long, complicated music every day. All composition, I suppose, is no more than the result of everything you have listened to through the years, mashed up in a big pot and poured out over the table. What you write is just the product of everything you have heard!”

Nikolaj smiles and adds a “Hallelujah!”

The Wind Organ

As an example of the powerful inspiration they experienced at The Edge of the World, Hal and Nikolaj tell of the day they went with some of the locals out to the actual edge, where the great fall begins. It is here they see for the first time the Wind Organ. Nikolaj says, “The Edge itself is a very holy place for these people. They do not talk of it as a place, but as a Moment of Recognition. Hal continues:

”There are monks who live on the mountain-top, and you can actually see the Edge from their monastery. The air is always so clear up there because of the strong winds that blow over the Edge. The monks observe many complicated rituals, some of which involve this enormous instrument which is built into the cliff. They call it the Wind Organ, it is a huge thing, and the caves in the mountainside form part of its massive pipes, so that it is the whole mountain that plays music. The reeds in these gigantic organ pipes vibrate in the blast of the wind that roars over the Edge of the World. I don't remember how many octaves the Wind Organ spans, but the sound is incredibly loud. It takes 10 to 15 musicians to play the organ, each with a five-tiered keyboard. The most delicate tones come from pipes of ice, and the combined sound is amazingly powerful because of the strength of the wind blasting through it all.”

English translation by Rod Sinclair.

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