Kirke Karja and Meelis Vind: “We do art because we can’t live without it.”

23. April 2014
Mihaela Barac

Meelis Vind, clarinet player and composer, this year’s winner of Danske Jazz Award klarnetist-helilooja and the Young Jazz Talent 2014, pianist Kirke Karja spoke about their inspirations and future.

In your opinion what award will lead your career?

Meelis: It’s a big responsibility for me. After this award I have to be even better. It’s like when you win a championship, you have to win it next year too. (laughs) It was a very big surprise.

Kirke: I was also expecting that other young talented people will get it, for example we have Mairo Marjamaa, Tõnu Tubli…

M: So many talented jazz artists!


Did you ever hoped or dreamed to win an award?

M: No… Some years ago I got an award, and it was also very good surprise for me. The other one was from Kultuurkapital. I never thought about any awards. For me making music is not a competition, but it [getting an award- editor] is a good surprise. It’s when you see that some people know you and appreciate you and it is a good feeling.

K: I must say the same. We don’t do art because of some kind of prices. We do art because we can’t live without it and it has nothing to do with prices. I knew that maybe Meelis will get it, and I agree that it gives this good feeling that it is the right thing to do and maybe other people agree with what you do. It is encouraging. I think if everybody would be concentrated on getting awards, then nobody would actually get it.

M: For me it’s far from easily accepting it, because I’m not doing so much. I have made some CD albums, but I don’t have so much international activity. I am all the time between classic music and jazz music.


Since when are you interested with jazz music?

M: Since very young. I started to play in a high-school musical “Dixieland”. Then I found Miles Davis, Johny Parker and John MacLaughlin. The jazz and the classic music go parallel. If I think that one of them is more important then the other, I stop it and keep the balance. 


What are your plans for future? What are the projects you just finished or are working on?

M: These days I have so much to do with other bands. Like a very new group “Avarus”. In “Heliotrope” were we play together with Kirke, there’s also  “Deeper Sound”. Currently I have to practice for a new contemporary piece written by Estonian young composer Ardo Ran Varres. The performance will be in July, so a lot of practice.

K: Since this is my first year focusing on jazz music, before I did bachelor degree in classical piano, which means that I don’t have this big past as a jazz musician. But I was playing a lot of contemporary classic music, Ligeti and Cage. At the moment I feel the influence from these composers. In the future I think that I just want to practice a lot and develop composing skills and maybe focus on playing alone or with a piano trio. I think this is my basic future plan.

I kind of have a piano trio, we worked together last year and I feel I want to do it more, write new stuff. This CD album is with the participation of many people and it shows I can compose but it doesn’t show that I can play. I want to practice and be able to play more, not just play some chords there or there.


From where do you know each other?

I was studying in the Otsa Music School and Meelis was teaching there, but not me.

You both have collaborations, common bands. Which one feels better for you – doing a solo or doing communication and depending on band mates?

M: It is absolutely important to have good band members and to find the same synergy. This way the possibilities come. On my last CD there are so many compositions with classical string players. For me it is also interesting to compose, but I am not a composer. I am making this by the way I feel, I never learnt how to do it right. This is like if you feel doing it, if you have vision. I studied classical music on instruments. All the other stuff was self-taught.

K: Maybe you don’t have to study it, when you know lots of good music – as Meelis does – then you don’t have to do composition exercises, because you already know what works. You learn from experience.


Did music chose you, or you chose music?

M: Music picked me. I was very little and my parents took me to choir rehearsals. I have always been in some musical environment. This was normal and natural to, at one point, start studying an instrument. I was also singing all the time in my childhood. (laughs)

K: Well, my mother is a teacher. As a child I remember I didn’t enjoy this stuff a lot, because she was taking me to good concerts and the first thing I’d do was fall asleep. I wanted to be a designer or study history, but still all the time I was thinking I cannot leave music. Because I realized that living without music made me feel really empty.


So, you have thought of doing something else besides music, like you said designer or history? 

M: I can’t imagine it. It would be terrible. If something would happen with my hands it would be a catastrophe. So I never had a plan B. I’m flowing all the time around this music life.

K: Actually, now I don’t want to be a designer anymore. Now, I don’t know what else I’d do. Maybe I would just work somewhere where music is always present, like a cleaning lady in some music school. (laughs)


How do you get your inspiration, where do you find your muse? Is it only from old, classic artists or some new stuff you are discovering? 

K: I like to listen to all kinds of music, which is good. I even like to listen to pop, progressive contemporary classic music and also to play Bach. I think that closest to my heart is still contemporary jazz music. Everything is good. And today’s jazz music is about getting influences from everywhere.

M: There is no mainstream jazz nowadays. Jazz is very different now, a lot of influences. And for me, it is the same. I played a lot of contemporary music and I cannot say that the inspiration is coming only from it, not so much. It is hard to say what the influences are.

It has always been a big question for me, what is contemporary music today and which way is it going. I have very critical views on it, at some points. Because you asked about the new things, so in our days, composers want to do something absolutely new and original, and with great effect. That’s why I like more balanced and rhythmical sounds. Some people listened to my music and said that they never heard something like that.

I make music sincerely, with no expectations. Makinh music is like meditation. When you take the instrument and start meditating and working, then something comes. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. You have to work for inspiration.

K: Larry Applebaum said yesterday that people who are really hard-working are the luckiest ones.


What do you see when you think about music?

K: I see some emotions, maybe there is some kind of connection with the title, but it is not a picture.

M: At first, or course emotions. I am not seeing pictures or structures. I sometimes feel like some figures and forms of spirals, some geometrical objects, something abstract. Sometimes the titles of the compositions come to me. Like… Spiral Head.


So you put titles depending on the emotion?

K: Well it can happen both days. Sometimes you think of a title, or some word and composition ideas are born. But you can also write something and realize that this title is perfect for it.

M: For me, very often I don’t have good titles for my compositions. (laughs)

With the title you give the audience so much interpretation and maybe sometimes even the wrong message.

M: It is very important, because in jazz and whenever you improvise you take the audience into a journey. Maybe to the nature. I often get the feeling of nature while singing.


K: Yes, coming back to the question of what inspires me… It is not only other music, but also everything surrounding us, the people, nature, movies, and books.