Espen has a vast list of performances both domestically and abroad on his résumé. His knowledge of different musical styles and his skills on different instruments has taken him from playing classical mandolin in Tokyo to playing Berber music on guitar in Marrakesh.
The list of collaborators is long and he has performed with among others Steinar Ofsdal, Åse Kleveland, Silje Nergaard, FRIKAR, Jelena Tomasevic, Elin Kåven, Aslak O. Brimi, Ole Jørn Myklebust, Tore Bruvoll (Hekla Stålstrenger), Unni Løvlid, Ståle Ytterli, Geir Bratland (Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir), Kari Svendsen and Carl Morten Iversen.
Raised in Geilo, a small Norwegian mountain village between Oslo and Bergen, I started making music at an early age. The village was small and situated far from the big cities so there were few possibilities to attend concerts. But the local community was encouraging culture and music amongst the young ones. Some of the teachers back then is still close friends of mine. I received my first guitar at the age of 5 but initially starting making music on the trumpet and the piano. Later on I started to get fascinated by the guitar and the different mandolin family instruments and since then these have been my main focus and my instrument of choice when I have been wanting to express myself musically. I also play several other stringed instruments, various flute instruments and ram’s horn. I currently live in Oslo and work as a self-employed musician with several active projects and concerts throughout the country.
My musical education started quite early with culture school and all the basics in music theory and performance. Later on in my high school years I would study classical music and the classical guitar. At that time I was also a member of Oslo Gitar Ensemble and was playing concerts and doing productions with Sven Lundestad, Duo Gvito and different choirs and dancers. After high school I went on to study jazz at the Norwegian Academy of Music with Jon Eberson, Morten Halle and Bjørn Kjellemyr. The jazz students and the folk music students shared rehearsal rooms in the academy and it caught my interest to pursue the folk music quite early on. I started dwelling into this already on my first year at the academy. In my last years at the academy I was going deeper into the world of traditional music while at the same time working a lot with improvisation. I also studied traditional Norwegian folk music and traditional instruments with Odd Sylvarnes Lund and Steinar Ofsdal among others. I finished my bachelor studies at the academy in 2015 with top grades on my final exam concert. My musical development in the academy was consisting of further progress in the art of improvisation and interplay to finally finding my own path in traditional music, bringing everything that I have learned into different music styles. The most important thing was that I got to know many new friends and play with many great musicians that I still get to play with to this day. As of 2018 I am going back to the Norwegian Academy of Music to do my Masters Degree. This time it will be the Graduate Program of Musical Performance in Folk Music. I will be the first guitar player ever to be accepted in this program at the Norwegian Academy of Music, and I am very much looking forward to continue to develop my own style and approach to playing traditional music.
I have been working as a professional freelance musician since 2008 although I have been playing concerts many years prior to that. Most of my work is playing concerts but occasionally I play in other kinds of venues like radio, television or in theaters. I have been working with professional musicians from all genres and from many different nations during my years as an active musician. In this line of work you also get to travel a lot and see different cultures and meet people. That is a part of my work I really appreciate and enjoy.
I have had the opportunity to play in some big projects ranging from huge television broadcasts to playing with a full symphony orchestra for a couple of thousand people.
I have found my place in the world as a passionate musician who likes different types of music and I find great joy in all of the styles I exercise. It is with great gratitude that I get to play music as a livelihood with people I appreciate and respect.
In my musical life I have always been searching for beautiful and simple melodies. My musical philosophy is that those magical moments in music that we all strive to recreate or invent are often constructed of very simple elements. In this way, the musician have more freedom to play the melody either simple or complex. Many of my compositions are characterized by the principle of simplicity, but provides that it can be complex at the same time. I do also enjoy to play more complex material and I do also compose in this way at times. It needs a different kind of mental approach and can be just as pleasing when done right.
In my opinion it is very interesting to listen to and create music that tells a story. A tale with an intruiging plot and an exciting development. I come to think of the old folk tales that were told to me by my grandmother when I was a child. These stories caught my attention immediately and I was dragged into a completely separate world full of excitement. In my improvisations and compositions I try to get as close to these principles as possible. In later years my focus has been on improvisation not connected with any specific genre but more on how an improvisation works when it is connected more with an individual melody or feeling. This has been very rewarding to incorporate when I play in all the different genres. In improvisation fellow musician’s can have a conversation and get to know more about each other. No words need to be spoken but mutual understanding is still present. This is a great way to connect with a person on a different level and to get to know each other.
Above all, the music should be joyful and rewarding for both the performer and the listener. It should be a platform for communication between people for which no spoken language can ever be a substitute.
The Kuraybers & Jelena Tomasevic at Kulturkirken Jakob 4th of June 2017.