Moving between contrasts and contradictions – an interview with Maarja Nuut

04. May 2016
Teona Lomsadze

Mysterious, ritualized, sometimes with shaman mask, sometimes a dervish, whirling in a circle with constant waves of the skirt. Reflecting moving installation of Estonian forests, lightening her silhouette, repetition of phrases. Growing, growing with new layers of music and becoming a snowball, willing to involve you into this huge mass of sounds…


These are my verbalized impressions from Sunday’s concert of Maarja Nuut. Captivated by her performance, I decided to interview the artist, who never gives prepared answers to audience, but gives enormous space for finding them.


How did music appear in your world? What is your oldest memory about music?
My mother was a choir conductor. She used to play at home and we always listened to a lot of music, also very different styles. So, I think these are the first memories.


And how came the understanding that music is your way of life?
It’s difficult to say that this particular date [is that moment], but I went to music school when I was seven and since then I have been studying music all the time, and of course in the process sometimes you really want to quit everything. I found my thing to do about ten years ago and then I felt: “OK, I want to do something myself.”


Why did you choose folk music as one of the ways of your musical expression?

I went to study traditional music in Viljandi Cultural Academy. I had been listening to folk music since I was child. I really loved it, it is very different sort of music. I started to play when I was 15, besides classical music, and when I went to study in Viljandi I got so inspired by the old archive recordings. The things I heard there, the old fiddlers playing in the village, singers…



All this expression on qualities were so captivating, I wanted to find out why. I went really deep into research and was really going into the very old style and copying the style and everything before I started to go out again.



What meaning does folk music have in your art?

It’s just my language; it doesn’t have any other meaning. It’s not important for me to go to the world and say “Hello, I’m Estonian and I play Estonian folk music.”. That’s not relevant.



These sounds just inspire me very much. I think there is a deep connection with a landscape, with people here and the mentality. I’m part of it and its part of me. So it’s my language, there are things I want to talk about or show and I use that musical language for it.



In one of the interviews you mentioned that you want to give listeners some space and don’t want to give much explanation. Could you explain a bit more?

I see myself more of creating a space and room together with the listeners, so I can tell you story or what the song is about. I don’t want to give answers. I like to play a lot on this kind of gray area where everything is possible.

I think I like to make people active when they are listening, so it’s not so much entertainment. I’m creating some space, giving them possibility to become active and dream and make their own stories. Sometimes there is a lot of information. Everything is there and everything is done so black and white and so clear nowadays. So I think when I go on the stage and when there is a concert I like to create a different sort of space. It’s more like I take away answers and leave question marks.



What makes you to create something? What is your inspiration?

Very different things! On one hand, much of the nature and landscape, as you could see from the whole visual. At the same time, I live in Tallinn and I love New York or London, so it’s really just set of different spaces with their atmosphere and with the people and with the stories.


I think people and the stories inspire me a lot. I really like to move from one room to another and it’s always different just to keep on moving all the time in between contrasts and contradictions.



If you could look at your music from distance and generalize about what is the main message of your music?

It’s difficult because on one hand I feel I don’t want to say anything like “do this” or “feel like this”. At the same time, when I look at the process, I just want people to feel. Sometimes I tell quite dark stories and they are not so nice. We have lots of emotions, and we just really go through all of the emotions and take life as it is in all of the ways. It doesn’t have to be nice and beautiful and perfect all the time. It’s okay to be sad and angry and cry. So I think, just to be there and take life as it is.