Mike Nord never knows what to expect when he performs improvisations on stage.
He has nothing memorized, no sheet music to follow. Instead, he relies on his instincts.
“It’s scary,” says Nord, an associate professor of music technology, improvisation and music education at Willamette University. “I have no idea what we are going to play. It’s take a leap, sink or swim, bend or break. You just go.”
Nord’s improvisational jazz music — which blends a mixture of Eastern and Western styles — can be heard through his ensemble’s new CD, “The Music of Noru Ka Soru Ka.”
Comprised of nine song excerpts recorded during live performances in Europe last year, the CD was produced by Leo Records and released in September. It’s available in venues around the globe, including the Willamette Store.
“We intend a performance to be thought provoking. That it offers the opportunity to discover new meanings, to get in touch with feelings or perceptions,” Nord says. “We hope we’re bringing people an experience that’s meaningful to them.”
Noru Ka Soru Ka emerged in 2006, when Nord visited Japan through the Willamette-Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) faculty exchange program and was first introduced to his now collaborators.
The ensemble consists of both music and dance theatre. It features Nord on guitar and electronics, Swiss percussionist Georg Hoffmann and Tokyo dancers Makoto Matsushima and Mao Arata. Matsushima also provides voice.
“Our work is the best when we are very in tune with each other,” Nord says. “It’s like a conversation. You get four people in the same room and begin to talk. We push ourselves to grow, to expand our vocabulary. We attend to each other and let our instincts take over.”
The ensemble most recently performed on a four-city tour in Switzerland, followed by performances at Willamette University and Chemawa Indian School in September. Later this fall, it will perform at The Peoples’ Fringe Festival in Hong Kong.
“It’s all exciting,” Nord says. “Ultimately, we want to do something unique. Our music is off the grid. It’s experimental. Our plans are to keep going and look for opportunities to develop and disseminate the work.”
To learn more about Noru Ka Soru Ka, check out an interview Nord gave with CCTV.