Pianist Baldvin Snær Hlynsson deftly mixes folk and jazz into an empyreal melange of minimalism, drama, and beauty. After releasing his debut album ‘Renewal,’ he recently won “Newcomer Of The Year” at the 2018 Icelandic Music awards. We sat down with Baldvin to learn about his formative influences.
In Iceland, you can go places where there is no one. Sometimes you don’t even hear the animals. I remember one incident from my youth, when I was walking on Keilir with my Dad. When we came down, the sun had set and there was absolutely no sound. To be somewhere outside, around so many living things, but in silence, is inspiring. It is important to be in silence sometimes, especially nowadays.
Folk music is the core of us. It is in the heart and blood of people. Whether it is Latin American, Celtic, Scandinavian or anything else, I love hearing musicians play the music of their nation. It is music they fully understand, that they are made of, that they heard as infants. There are words in the music and a story being told, a story of nations and people, of love, joy, sorrow, despair and injustice.
Debussy & Classical Music
Every musician, whether they are a jazz musician, rapper, or anything else, should always be open to classical music. There is a galaxy of endless brilliance there. Often when I am out of ideas or bored of typical harmonies, I listen to Debussy. I think he opens up the twelve tones in interesting ways that we are maybe not so used to in Western music.
I adore Kendrick Lamar. His songs are like rainforests of amazingly produced and harmonically satisfying beats. They also have clever and thought-provoking lyrics that move. Lyrics full of ideas that tell more than one story at a time. I feel like I need to zoom in on them as if they were a map to fully absorb them.
I often feel like I know nothing, which is good as long as you’re not bringing yourself down for it. Healthy and passionate curiosity—trying to understand things you don’t know, talking to people different from you, not taking yourself too seriously—is good. One time, I heard someone say that it’s good not to always feel comfortable because then you are not learning enough. Being a musician is an endless journey of evolving, making mistakes, learning from them, and being inspired, just like life.
It is good not to narrow your input to one thing, to be open to all kinds of art, whether that is appreciating good food, books, theatre, paintings, or the art of conversation. Being able to listen, not just talk. It is the same thing with jazz, you need to listen and talk only when needed.
My former teacher and one of my favourite musicians and human beings, Eyþór Gunnarsson, introduced me to the brilliance of Keith Jarrett. He is an endless inspiration. They are both, actually, Eyþór and Keith.
People are my biggest inspiration, the beginning of everything. Not just musicians, but everyone. It is important to put yourself in the shoes of someone you don’t understand, or is different from you. Very often you can learn something from them or about people and life in general.
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