It was a dark and stormy night... Music as (self) therapy

It actually was a dark and stormy night - and the day hadn't been that great either. I was about 19 years old, attending the State Academy of Music in Oslo. I had a half-hour train ride to get home. If I missed the second to the last train, I would face a long wait and a short night. What do you do in Oslo when you miss your train? When the weather is nice, and during day-time, there are many happy and healthy diversions, I'm sure, but on the gloomiest of fall nights, with the rain coming down, already dripping wet, tired and completely aware that I would only get to bed at after 2 in the morning, for a 6am start same day...? I went to Fiasco Cafe.

It is still there, but it has changed. Now it is a place with outdoor serving, hip art on the walls, Belgian Ales on tap, and a menu! In those days, it had the cheapest beer in town. The wait-staff never engaged or even made eye-contact. The bathrooms had blue lightbulbs so the junkies couldn't find their veins to shoot up. It was a depressing place.

Sitting all alone at Fiasco Cafe, drinking cheap beer, and feeling wet and miserable (- there was probably some girl-problem involved as well...) I took some staff paper out of my backpack and started notating some desperate sounds. I wanted to flush out all the misery of that wretched day - pour it into some receptacle outside of my body and soul as a cleansing experience. I think it helped - at least a little. I also gradually got a little drier and the beer offered a momentary distraction, even though it was cheap.

Maybe a month later, my ear training professor gave us the task to prepare something to play for our peers in class for their aural analysis. Somehow I had ended up in the "genius" class, with two pianists, an organist and a guitarist, in addition to myself. At least three of them had perfect pitch...

Obviously, they all had a number of options for pieces to present to the class. I; not so much... I decided to play the scribblings from Fiasco Cafe for my class, and was very surprised to see my fellow students taking the piece seriously and hearing all sorts of things that had been far from on my mind as I had written it.

After this experience, I started taking the piece seriously myself (sort of) and have performed it many times.

Now, the interesting part is: Writing this piece served the specific purpose of making me feel better by spewing out some of the darkness that was accumulating inside. In performing it, do I need to relive this desperation? And what about the listener? Am I subjecting the listener to an altogether unpleasant experience, and is this a purely selfish act? Am I dumping on you?

There is a proverb stating that a joy shared is twice the joy and a grief shared is half the grief. It is a beautiful saying and contains much truth. But do I really need to give the general public even half of my grief?

Typically when I play this piece, it is received as a humorous curiosity, and I'm ok with that. The message that we send out might not be the message that is being received - which is fine. I also must confess that I probably have quite a bit of ironic distance to the piece and its emotional content nearly thirty years later.

If I have taken my darkest thoughts and feelings and turned it in to entertainment, I'm pleased...

#KarlKramerhorn #fiascocafe #cheapbeer #dessperado #therapy #composing

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©Karl Kramer-Johansen, 2016, photos: A. Karjaka, N. Graham, M. Gámez, K. Kramer