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Thread: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

  1. #1
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    Default Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Just discovered this guy. I must admit I didn't expect him to be quite so good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWnj_Kxwt8g

    Also check his band Dreamers' Circus.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq_DZT297D0

    I'm surprised never to have heard of these people. However, Ale and the keyboard player are coming to Scotland soon in a collaboration which includes Brian Finnegan from Flook.



    Press release:

    Northern Lights brings together six world-class musicians from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Scandinavia in a cross-cultural celebration of new music that bridges the divide between folk, classical, traditional and avant garde in six new compositions.

    Featuring:
    Brian Finnegan (Flook, Kan) flute, whistle
    Niall Vallely (Buille) concertina
    Ailie Robertson (The Outside Track) harp
    Donald Grant (Elias Quartet) fiddle
    Nikolaj Busk (Dreamers' Circus) accordion, piano
    Ale Carr (Dreamers' Circus, Basco) cittern

    As musical collaborations go, this promises to be an extraordinary music interchange. The players involved have carved out a reputation for not just mastering their chosen fields, but rising above, redefining and renewing the musical world they come from. In Northern Lights, they come together to premiere six new compositions, written by each musician specifically for the ensemble, resulting in a concert of enthralling new music, grounded in tradition, but shot through with the adrenaline of contemporary influences. This is music that is both ancient and utterly new.

    January 2014 Scotland tour dates.
    Jan 15 - Gairloch, Village Hall
    Jan 16 - Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
    Jan 17 - Edinburgh, Queen's Hall
    Jan 18 - Inverness, Eden Court
    Jan 19 - Celtic Connections

    For more information and the latest tour news, please visit
    http://www.northern-lights-music.com/
    David A. Gordon

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  3. #2
    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Here's another great video of Ale playing with Filip Jers.

    Just one guy's opinion
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Fantastic - I thought the solo piece was great!

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    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Ale Carr is a very inspiring Mandola player. I´ve also discovered him some time ago and wondered if he could possibly be the son of Ian Carr. Ian is one of my absolute favorite guitar players and I saw him several times with Karen Tweed and then later with their English/Swedish collaboration "Swåp". He also plays in the Kathryn Tickell band.

  7. #5
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    What he does on the cittern closely resembles the typical style of one of the ancestors of this instrument, the baglama, to my ears. A whole ancient world of oriental dreams to choose from.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    I'm a big fan of his, this is another cracking video of him with Filip Jers. Really makes one long for a 5 course...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX93ECzndjg

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Just discovered this thread. I must admit I didn't expect it to be quite so nice :-)

    Here's something I recorded recently with a Finnish violinist: https://soundcloud.com/ale-esko

    I've started a youtube channel where I'm planning to upload some cittern music, but haven't had the time to start yet. Until then I'm just linking to youtube videos I'm participating in. Here's the link: www.youtube.com/alecarrcittern

    All the best to you, and thanks for introducing me to mandolin café - what a great place! See you around in the forums :-)

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ale Carr View Post
    Just discovered this thread. I must admit I didn't expect it to be quite so nice :-)
    (It has happened again: someone we talk about suddenly appears in our midst, just like in a séance.)

    Welcome to the Cafe Ale! I am glad we were nice about your playing, and rightfully so, too.
    Can you say a few words about your instrument? The headstock looks quite extraordinary.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Sure!

    We call the instrument a cittern, but the story is longer than that. You've all most likely heard the story of the Irish Bouzouki, but in case you haven't heard of the Swedish Bouzouki, here comes a little piece of history.

    The Swedish jazz/blues musician Ale Möller, playing different instruments but specializing in clarinet, cornet and other wind instruments, fell in love with the Greek Rebetiko, with it's many similarities to blues and jazz in it's expression. So for a period of some 20 years he fell deeper and deeper into Greek folk music, learning to play the greek bouzouki and performing with Mikis Theodorakis, and really delving into the Greek folk culture. Then in the 80's, he found that he actually didn't know that much about Swedish folk music, and he decided to go to Sweden and do a little bit of delving there as well. He met up with some of the great folk fiddlers and folk musicians, and learned to play their music - on the greek bouzouki. A while later he made the controversial CD "Ale Möller - Bouzoukispelman", as he was challenging and renewing Swedish traditional music. He also developed a Swedish bouzouki together with the Swedish luthier Christer Ådin, and they were most likely aware and inspired of the Irish model. But there are some important differences especially in the sound ideal, not to mention the play style (google "Låtmandola" - that's what Christer calls the instrument). So my instrument is actually an Irish bouzouki in it's model, hence the name, but it's built by Christer Ådin in the Swedish style. And I actually got my name from Ale Möller..... :-)

    Regarding play style, there quite a lot of great musicians out there playing låtmandola-instruments in Scandinavian folk, and most of them have found their own solution of playing - but there most certainly is a Scandinavian way of doing it. A lot of the playing has been translated from fiddle techniques and the way you use fiddles in the Swedish tradition, with very lively second voices. Basically we play a lot of melody as well as a lot of varied backing - a very organic play style where we combine chords, melodies, second voices, bass lines and a little bit of everything into a nice dynamic, interesting and playful mix. When I studied cittern at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, I had a guitar teacher the first year (no other than Roger Tallroth from Väsen), but from then on I actually just had violin teachers, where I focused on translating fiddle stuff over to cittern. Except for that year with Roger (where we mostly worked with the music, not techniques) I'm all self taught on my instrument. Just two months ago I had a meeting with Mike Marshall, for a "systems check" on my technique, and he had never seen anyone with that kind of play style, and was surprised that it worked. Turned out it wasn't an "optimal" way of doing it, even if it works well as it is. So I'm keeping my current technique, but I plan to learn the conventional way as well, so I can switch between them when I need to. It's both my hands actually, but mostly the right hand, where I hold my pick with three fingers, and with a left-handed angle. I recently found that I hold it that way because it's slightly similar to how I hold a bow, and it's almost exactly how I hold a pen :-)

    Some raw facts about my instrument:
    It's built in 2007, but looks older because of the special violin varnish.
    Mensura 613 mm, the whole instrument is 940mm from top to toe, body is 360 mm wide and 80mm thick.
    Internal microfone system - Highlander IP-2 piezo and a DPA microfone.
    Tuning D G D A D, with octaves on D and G basses.
    I use quite loose strings, which definitely makes the ornamentation easier, and use the following strings:
    D-bass: Nylon string from Hannabach for acoustic guitar bass
    G-bass: Nylon string from d'Addario (E-6th, Medium tension composite)
    D-mid: Thomastik SB30
    A: Thomastik AC516 (wound string, .016")
    D-top: Thomastik P10

    So Christer Ådin made this instrument personally for me, but you can of course order a similar one if you want. But he has a long waiting list, around 1,5-2 years. On the other hand, despite it's great quality, it's not super expensive (around 4500$ depending on specs). Send him an email for nerdy questions and orders: christer.adin@gmail.com. He also makes guitars, mandolins and anything in between. Nice guy.

    So there you go! A little bit longer post than I had planned for.. I hope you found it useful :-)

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Woah, great stuff!
    MandoLessons: Free Online Mandolin Lessons
    Velocipede: My Fiddle Tune Duo
    Old Time Mandolin: Solo Old Time Mandolin Album

  15. #11

    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Wonderful Ale! Could you address the nexus between Scandinavian music and African/Arabic influences? I notice an increasing trend in these elements occurring in contemporary music from Scandinavia, but I would like to know more about historical connections

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ale Carr View Post
    ...fell in love with the Greek Rebetiko, with it's many similarities to blues and jazz in it's expression.
    Just a wild guess: that's the connection leading to where the Oriental element comes in. Rembetiko is a Greek/Turkish border thing, using elements of both cultures.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Arabic maqamat migrated throughout europe and the Mediterranean and we can hear regional differences among all the traditions. yet I hear more elements of Arabic maqam as well as African influences in some scandinavian music I've heard (as opposed to Turkish maqam). It may be as simple as contemporaneous popularity of Arabic (and Turkish) maqam--as throughout the world.

  18. #14
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Well that's interesting that you have noticed similarities between Scandinavian music and african/arabic music! Could you go into detail what you mean exactly by that? Instrumentation? Ornamentation? Time signatures? Modes?

    Because I cannot really see the historical connection. The music I play is based on the Scandinavian fiddle tradition - which is very unlikely to have any modern day influences from Middle Eastern or African music. When Ale Möller started playing Swedish folk music, his goal was to learn it, not to play it in a different way (other than the instrumentation). And my technique is also quite different from Möllers.

    Regarding contemporary music - so called World Music is an increasing trend in Scandinavia, where we take inspiration from folk music from all over the world, and make cross over projects. "Ale Möller Band" is actually a really great example here, where they mix music from Senegal, Greece, Mexico, and finish off with a tune from Sweden: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI6-RP6lknM

    Another good example where some musicians from Sweden play Swedish folk music, but throw in influences from South America, Africa and the Middle East: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMS8IsauZ6Y

    But as I said - this is not traditional Swedish folk music. What I play is in a sense contemporary Swedish traditional folk music, of course with influences from here and there - but with no conscious influences from Africa or Middle East. My ornamentation does not come from Ale Möller, it comes from fiddle techniques. My guess is that you hear a connection to Middle Eastern music because they are famous for their ornamentation on plucked string instruments, and you are not used to hear that in western music.

    For your information: In Sweden we have a museum for Swedish folk music, and it has recently included the Swedish Bouzouki in it's permanent exhibition. Which is great :-)

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ale Carr View Post
    My guess is that you hear a connection to Middle Eastern music because they are famous for their ornamentation on plucked string instruments, and you are not used to hear that in western music.
    It is possible that the instrument family itself makes those connections by common tuning features and the resulting possibilities. However, not all possibilities are used by everybody; your style is closer to middle eastern than, say, to typical Irish dance tune accompaniment. At least that's what I hear.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    I guess it's the spread of music worldwide in contemporary trends. There are some oud players up in Norway from whom I've heard similar traditional "middle eastern" and east African elements, and rhythmic approaches using various "ethnic" percussion (berimbau, udu, etc--the djembe makes frequent appearnaces). I attributed it to the particularly eclectic approach of some of the music coming out of Scandinavia (Ale Moller's projects being one of them)--Edward Vesala, John Surman, Jan Garbarek...some older projects, and of course more in the "jazz" idiom--but I'm curious about the similarities in the tribal traditions (worldwide). It's probably the anthropologist in me

  22. #17

    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ale Carr View Post
    Another good example where some musicians from Sweden play Swedish folk music, but throw in influences from South America, Africa and the Middle East: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMS8IsauZ6Y
    Wow, I've never heard nyckelharpa deployed quite like that. I hear that Morrocoan guitar-type instrument there again. The ECM label and Manfred Eicher famously arranged many such ("jazz"based) collaborations in the 70s and 80s--the big boon for "fusion" projects. A frequent participant was Nana Vasconcelos, who may have been at least partly responsible for introducing so much Brazilian influences

    Of course, many American jazz players took residence or refuge in Scandinavia--which may also account to some degree to the eclectic approach of many contemporary players

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    One of my favourite albums is Norrland by Jonas Knuttson on sax and Johan Norberg on guitar.

    There is one track called Abdullah Latikberg where you might say there is an obvious Arabic influence.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B...dm_mu_dp_trk12

    But most of the time it sounds Swedish to me, albeit not perhaps terribly traditional.
    David A. Gordon

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Hello Ale,

    I wonder if the 'Arabic or Middle Eastern connection' that some perceive is based on the presence of microtones in the Swedish fiddle tradition? I know that Ale Möller had microtonal frets put on his låt-mandola in order to play those notes.

    For some listeners anything outside of the western 12TET chromatic scale can sound 'exotic'. Even unusual modes within 12TET can sound non-western to western ears (although they still sound decidedly western to non-western ears). For years I have heard claims of a connection between the sean nós singing from Connemara and East Indian music and I believe it is for the same reasons.
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Yes, I'll have to pursue it with those (Scandinavian) players playing the traditional mid-east/African instruments to get a sense of how much of the music they've culled--in addition to the instruments themselves. Aside from instruments such as oud being quite excellent for deploying such ("microtonal") music from other (non mid-east/African/Turkish et al) regions--such as with the Greek bouzouki in Irish trad, for example--I would guess that the players adopting these instruments also culled some of the musical aesthetic as well (as happens generally with the migration of culture). Which is why I ask the question. Thanks Ale, and all

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by zoukboy View Post
    For some listeners anything outside of the western 12TET chromatic scale can sound 'exotic'. Even unusual modes within 12TET can sound non-western to western ears (although they still sound decidedly western to non-western ears). For years I have heard claims of a connection between the sean nós singing from Connemara and East Indian music and I believe it is for the same reasons.
    Oh my - I may have fallen for my own tricks here. You don't even have to go outside of 12TET to feel West Asian: anything outside Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian and Aeolian will do.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  27. #22
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    It is possible that the instrument family itself makes those connections by common tuning features and the resulting possibilities. However, not all possibilities are used by everybody; your style is closer to middle eastern than, say, to typical Irish dance tune accompaniment. At least that's what I hear.
    - I see your point. But my technique isn’t inspired by middle eastern styles, that is just a coincidence in that case. You are relatively limited to the amount of different ways to make ornaments on these instruments (compared to a violin), so of course I use some of the same ornaments that saz-players do, for example. I have made some projects with Indian classical music, and have picked up some of their phrasings and ornaments, which you can hear a little bit of in the intro of this video which you linked to above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq_DZT297D0
    If you have Spotify, you can listen to the tune Julpolskan from my band Dreamers’ Circus’s lastest album, where I play a couple of minutes duo with an Indian bansuri player: https://play.spotify.com/track/7miOVWgLw4pvw2UppMgbhI

    Other than that, I enjoy South American rhythms and of course western genres like western classical music, nordic jazz, rock, funk etc… I’m open to implement stuff from all sorts of music. But I am first and foremost a Swedish folk musician, that’s where I have my foundation, that’s how I think and communicate music, and that is my largest source of inspiration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dagger Gordon View Post
    One of my favourite albums is Norrland by Jonas Knuttson on sax and Johan Norberg on guitar.

    There is one track called Abdullah Latikberg where you might say there is an obvious Arabic influence.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B...dm_mu_dp_trk12

    But most of the time it sounds Swedish to me, albeit not perhaps terribly traditional.
    - Yes, Norrland is a great duo! No, they aren’t particularly traditional. It’s a cross over between folk and nordic jazz, somewhat related to Jan Johansson (check him out if you haven’t :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMgitKv-78I

    Quote Originally Posted by zoukboy View Post
    Hello Ale,

    I wonder if the 'Arabic or Middle Eastern connection' that some perceive is based on the presence of microtones in the Swedish fiddle tradition? I know that Ale Möller had microtonal frets put on his låt-mandola in order to play those notes.

    For some listeners anything outside of the western 12TET chromatic scale can sound 'exotic'. Even unusual modes within 12TET can sound non-western to western ears (although they still sound decidedly western to non-western ears). For years I have heard claims of a connection between the sean nós singing from Connemara and East Indian music and I believe it is for the same reasons.
    I agree! Interestingly enough you don’t have to go far away from your home to find something exotic, sometimes you just have to dig deep in the local tradition. We have to remind ourselves that the western 12TET chromatic scale is a relatively new idea, and it is an idea that started within western classical music. It took some time to spread around to other genres and regions, and there are lots of places that it hasn’t arrived to yet. Scandinavian folk music was very rich with quarter notes up until the accordion went popular in the end of the 1800s. And of course there were (and still are) people that never adapted to the new ways of playing. But that's a whole different subject :-)

  28. #23
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ale Carr View Post
    I agree! Interestingly enough you don’t have to go far away from your home to find something exotic, sometimes you just have to dig deep in the local tradition. We have to remind ourselves that the western 12TET chromatic scale is a relatively new idea, and it is an idea that started within western classical music. It took some time to spread around to other genres and regions, and there are lots of places that it hasn’t arrived to yet. Scandinavian folk music was very rich with quarter notes up until the accordion went popular in the end of the 1800s. And of course there were (and still are) people that never adapted to the new ways of playing. But that's a whole different subject :-)
    Very interesting, Ale. Your are right about the use of 12 TET being fairly recent. For many years there was a myth that it's use in western classical music dated back to J.S. Bach, but it turns out that is not true (Bach favored two unequal temperaments that he would blend together). The ubiquity of 12 TET in western Europe dates to ca. 1913 and this has recently been shown through the research of Ross Duffin, who looked at the records of piano tuners in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Question: it is customary for English speakers to refer to "quarter tones"* when what is actually meant is "microtones." Are the microtones in Swedish traditional music literally 1/4 steps between the notes of the chromatic scale, or is it likely that they are simply outside of 12 TET?

    *("quarter tones" are still equally tempered, it just means that the octave is divided by 24 equal steps instead of 12.)
    Roger Landes
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    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

  29. #24
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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Quote Originally Posted by zoukboy View Post
    Question: it is customary for English speakers to refer to "quarter tones"* when what is actually meant is "microtones." Are the microtones in Swedish traditional music literally 1/4 steps between the notes of the chromatic scale, or is it likely that they are simply outside of 12 TET?

    *("quarter tones" are still equally tempered, it just means that the octave is divided by 24 equal steps instead of 12.)
    Well, normally we use 5 steps for each note - so for example with an F:
    1: F natural
    2: slightly sharp F natural
    3: F quarter note (exactly between F natural and F sharp)
    3: slightly flat F sharp
    4: F sharp

    But it's not nearly as picky as it is in for example turkish classical music. Our music is traditionally performed solo, so you were free to improvise as you wish. Regarding mandolas and extra frets - Scandinavians have only used the 3rd example from above. I do not use quarter notes in my music, though, as my tradition is from southern Sweden, where quarter notes are quite uncommon nowadays.

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    Default Re: Ale Carr - great Swedish cittern player

    Ale, I'm impressed with the detail with which you answer questions.

    I hope to go to your gig in Inverness on Saturday.
    David A. Gordon

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