CD releases of both flow and Glimpses brought the music
of Danish composer Henrik Hytteballe and The Haiku Project
to the attention of instrumental music fans. The 2017 CD release
of Nebula, credited to The Haiku Project with
Sara Grabow, takes the Haiku Project sound to new heights. Speaking
about the title of his latest recording project, Henrik tells mwe3.com,
"Nebula as the title of the album is a symbol of where we
all come from and that we are all part of the universe. Some scientists
say we are born of stars. Nebula is my tribute to our amazing world."
Henrik is part of a growing movement among artists who are speaking
their minds over concerns of climate change, pollution and human rights
and to that he adds, "We
need to change the way we are treating the earth. Greed has caused
so many disasters and how we behave is destroying our planet. That
is why we have to find out why we are here." The Nebula
album was expertly mixed and produced by Freddy Albrektsen.
The addition of vocals by Sara Grabow on several tracks gives Nebula
a post-modern Scandinavian pop edge bolstered by Henrik's vast
array of instrumental sounds that highlights his great compositional
strengths. With Sara's vocals as a counterweight to Henik's stark
synth soundscapes, some tracks are quite startling, contrasting her
New Age vocals with Henrik's electronic neoclassical / soundtrack
influence. With its impressionistic mix of 21st century electronica
romanticism, Nebula presents a fascinating cross-section of
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
The Nebula Interview
How have things been in Denmark? By the way, I did hear from you that
your good friend and famous Polish artist Ireneusz passed away in
Henrik Hytteballe: Yes, Ireneusz Cyranek just passed away.
It is a loss. He was a good friend and an excellent photographer.
I have been using his photos for all my albums except for Nebula.
He was too weak to even carry a camera. But he followed the process
and was the first person, whom I shared the final mixes with. I will
miss him a lot.
mwe3: How did you meet up with Sara Grabow and how did that
lead to her working with you on the new Haiku Project album Nebula?
Is Sara also a recording artist? It is interesting that Saras
children responded to your music to help them calm them down before
Henrik Hytteballe: Last year, Sara attended a course, where
one of my friends also participated. Sara told my friend that she
had been playing my flow album when putting her kids to bed
for the last 2 years. She knew nothing about the music or where it
came from. She heard it in a yoga class and it. My friend told Sara,
that she knew the person who had made flow. Sara wrote to me,
asking me that if I would like to work with her in a future project,
she was ready. I replied at once as I have always like Saras
voice very much. Sara has her own career with four albums out and
has a lot of experience from theater and many concerts all over Denmark.
I can warmly recommend her latest solo album Enerum
is just Sara and her guitar and the songs are wonderful.
mwe3: What does the word Nebula mean to you and in this case,
how does it apply to your music? Nebula as in interstellar space right?
Nebulous can mean hazy or foggy too. Are there multiple meanings in
the title? You say Nebula is about how we are here and you also say
your next album Coexistence is about why we are here. Are the
two concepts interconnected?
Henrik Hytteballe: Nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust
and gases. It can be the birthplace of stars and, apart from being
very fascinated by the huge universe, myself, Nebula as the
title of the album is a symbol of where we all come from and that
we are all part of the universe. Some scientists say we are born of
stars. Nebula is my tribute to our amazing world. There are
so many glorious wonders happening each single day.
We need to change the way we are treating the earth. Greed has caused
so many disasters and how we behave is destroying our planet. That
is why we have to find out why we are here. Reflecting on this question
I hope we will save our planet and stop slaughtering humans and animals.
The answers to the why should raise our moral and ethics.
We must see that giving is not losing, but instead it is adding to
the whole. By sharing we will all have so much more and everyone will
mwe3: How does the title track Nebula set the mood
and tone for the album? You mentioned the Viktor Frankel book Mans
Search For Meaning
what about that book made a big impression
Hytteballe: Nebula is one of the wonders of the Universe. With
my music I hope to raise the look above daily life to the exploration
and appreciation of the beauty on earth. For me, personal making music
is something that gives me a meaning in life.
Victor Frankels book Mans Search For Meaning is
a fantastic book. He writes about his three years in a Nazi concentration
camp, where he noticed that only one out of twenty persons survived
and wanted to find out what it was that made these persons survive.
He found that without seeing the meaning of life, you succumb. Many
people in modern society dont see the meaning of life. They
spend time on superficial activities and their discontent just increases.
From this comes a lot of anger and fear, and if your life is controlled
by fear it is an unhappy life and you become a victim instead of seeing
the possibilities and wonders in life.
mwe3: You also speak in the Nebula liner notes about
your accident several years back. How are you dealing with the pain
and physical issues and is making New Age music kind of therapy for
you as you work through your physical pain? What else can you tell
us about your car accident some years ago? Would you say the mental
anguish from being in a car accident has something to do with your
music and the temporal nature of our existence and the suffering we
must endure as humans?
Henrik Hytteballe: I have tried all sorts of treatment, but
none has had any effect. So pain has become a condition in my life.
During my childhood and youth I had several accidents and did hit
my head too many times. Sixteen years ago, I crashed on a mountain
bike in Spain and it was a disaster. Apart from the fifteen stitches
in my head, I had second-degree whiplash, a brain concussion and three
slipped discs in the neck. It took four years to regain my physical
abilities and cognitive functions. But the pain never stopped
on the contrary it increases as I get older, so today, three to five
days a week, I have such pain that I cannot do anything. I dont
have much social life anymore as I am too exhausted to go out in the
night. So it is of great importance for me, when I am able to, to
do things that are important to me and that is painting and making
music and being surrounded by my loved ones.
So finding the meaning in my life has become so vital to avoid being
sad about my condition. My situation has a big influence on my music
as I find peace in what I am doing. Due to my condition I am no longer
able to play live concerts, so I have become a recording artist and
this kind of music that I am doing is a kind of self-healing and is
definitely my way of expressing my thinking. I want my music to be
reflective and inspiring as well as being a sanctuary.
Tell us about the cover art for Nebula. I see it has one of
your paintings too. How about the painting on the inside of the booklet?
inside cover picture at right) Its
amazing and kind of Marc Chagall inspired. What is new in your life
as a painter and are you planning any exhibits in Europe or in the
US or North America again?
Henrik Hytteballe: Yes both the cover art and the inside painting
are mine. Thank you for the comparison with the great artist Chagall,
whom I admire a lot for his skills and imagination. I am far from
his level, but practicing to become a better artist.
I celebrated the release of Nebula in combination with the
opening of a new exhibition at a gallery in central Copenhagen. It
was amazing how many people came and I am grateful for the huge support.
Both the cover and the inside painting have been sold. So I am adding
a bit of the space to peoples living rooms! I made the inner
sleeve painting as a cover painting, but found that it worked better
with the one chosen as it is simpler and has a stronger graphic identity,
which is necessary as the cover is mostly seen as a small thumbnail
on the internet.
I would love to exhibit outside Denmark. Being in New York was a fantastic
experience but it is expensive transporting paintings on long distances.
If the costs are covered, I will go for it!
mwe3: Tell us about Saras lyrics in track two, Breeze.
What is the message in that song and what about some of Saras
other song lyrics as it applies to the track? The song has almost
a fairy tale like sound to it.
Henrik Hytteballe: Breeze is a fable about the
seasons. The lyrics just names the four seasons in Danish: winter,
spring, summer and autumn. My idea with this track was to illustrate
the cycle of life in form of a leaf, starting with the small budding
before winter, the coming into a leaf in spring, growing during summer,
the turbulence in an autumn storm and then falling to ground and becoming
part of the soil.
Are the tracks on Nebula interconnected in some ways? Seems
like that just from looking at the titles. Creation is
just that. It almost sound like things are being conjured in the heavens
with Saras vocals really complimenting your music. Creation
has some incredible string like effects on it. Are they all synth
Henrik Hytteballe: Yes the songs are interconnected as the
whole album is about the elements. Thank you for your nice words on
Creation. Though the lyrics are in Danish, you know exactly
what the song is about. I think love is the strongest power of creation.
And that is what Creation is about. I agree that Sara
does a wonderful job with her voice weaving in an out of the music.
And yes all strings are played on keyboards, but I have spent a lot
of time making them sound almost like real strings.
mwe3: Glow is a real highlight on Nebula. What
do the lyrics speak about? Sounds like Sara is singing in Danish.
Sounds like one of the more upbeat Nebula tracks.
Henrik Hytteballe: Sara wrote the lyrics for her 4 year old
daughter. It is about seeing her hit by sunlight and seeing her face
full of joy and resting peacefully. Glow is more upbeat
and less meditative than some of the other tracks. It has an ongoing
beat and a repetitive pattern plus a collision of 3/4 and 4/4 rhythm
which I quite like.
mwe3: What can you tell us about the Nebula track Earth
and how does it fit into the concept of the album? Its another
cool track with Saras vocals.
Henrik Hytteballe: Earth is one of the four elements. With
all the complexity and power on our earth, it had to be described
with more energetic music with a base of drums and electronic beats.
The main theme is quite folk-orientated to illustrate something of
origin. Then I have added various sounds illustrating the multiplying
life on earth and beneath the soil. The electronic beats are to illustrate
life on earth and some ethereal, spacey sounds to make the sky above
us. And again it is great to have the voice of Sara on top of it all.
mwe3: Water continues the elements theme on Nebula.
What is that amazing keyboard effect that you use in the track?
Sounds like its a volume pedal controlling the synth sound.
Amazing indeed. Is Saras voice used like a synth there? I know
its strange but it kind of has a slight Pekka Pohjola effect
on it. Maybe its just the ghostly effect. I hope you believe
Henrik Hytteballe: I like your mentioning Pekka Pohjola
I used to listen to him a lot in the 1970s. I made the composition
thinking of ebb and flow, waves and the movement of water in brooks,
rivers and seas.
Sara does not sing on Water, rather it is a sound from
Omnisphere library that I have manipulated.
How about track seven Rain. It has a kind of hypnotic
feel like the rain does. Is Rain more stark then the other
Nebula tracks? Something is hidden in the rain right? Its
almost like a veil of tears.
Henrik Hytteballe: Rain is ambiguous. I made it
as symbol of purification. I am inspired by the works of a video artist
Bill Viola, who always works with man and water. In the last work
I saw by him the liquid looked both like water, milk and blood. I
see his works as illustrations of death and life and rebirth. My music
is an attempt to show both the cleansing and life giving of rain along
with its capability of creating damaging floods. So your veil of tears
shows me that you have given the track a careful listening, which
really pleases me. I think it is a stark track, which is why I have
asked a young photographer to do a video for Rain.
mwe3: What is the 5th Element you speak of in track
8? Peter Kater and Terrence of Real Music came up with the idea for
his album, that the fifth element was a type of ether, conjuring the
ethereal or the cosmos? Would you agree that track does have a kind
etherealness about it? Saras vocal also has a kind of etherealness
Henrik Hytteballe: In philosophy, physics and chemistry, you
have the four elements: Fire, Air, Water and Earth. The 5th element
is the quintessence of all four elements. I agree that it is ethereal
and that is why I have made the music ethereal and at the same time
tried to include the four elements. In esoteric philosophy and in
Hinduism the 5th element describes that which is beyond the material
Tibetan philosophy has the five elements: earth, water, fire, air
and space. Our song ends with the words: Feel the space,
Let go of time...
mwe3: Wind even has the wind sound on it. Is wind
considered an element? What other effects are on that track? Does
it sound menacing at all to you? They call hurricanes a wind
event. Amazing how much damage wind can do yet they can also
power turbines and windmills so its a two-sided coin to be sure.
Henrik Hytteballe: Wind is not an element, but it is not easy
to illustrate air. Describing wind is much easier. You are so right
that the wind can be a destructive power. Just look at Puerto Rico,
where people are still suffering the effects of the Hurricane Maria.
Now six weeks after they still have no electricity and many people
are still without a home.
But without the air that we breathe, we cannot live. As a practitioner
of yoga during many years, I know the importance of a healthy breath.
And as you mention we get a lot of energy by using the power from
wind. In Denmark more than forty percent of our energy comes from
mwe3: Fire And Water is a great way to end the
Nebula CD. What can you tell us about Saras lyrics and
also something about that track overall? Why do you end the album
with that track? Its a very full-bodied track with some hypnotic
percussion and, of course Saras vocal is superb on it.
Hytteballe: Fire And Water are two strong elements.
The lyrics mentions the other elements, too, but the theme is fire
against water, birth and death, black and white, yin and yang, feminism
the dualism in the world. Fire And Water
is really a rock song, so I think it is a strong way of ending an
album about the elements.
mwe3: You mentioned the Coexistence album might be your
next venture into recording? What else can you tell us about that
album in its early planning stages?
Henrik Hytteballe: I am quite far in the process of making
the next album. It will be more similar to flow with two long
tracks suited for yoga and meditation. Sara shall sing, without words,
on one track and on the other I work together with a guitarist, playing
both acoustic and sparse electric guitar. I do hope to include a classical
bass player and another guitarist on other tracks.
Coexistence is about the big question of why are we here?
I am sure there are a lot of answers we will never find, but I am
convinced that we were not meant to destroy the earth and mistreat
humans and animals. We must stop being greedy and find a way to peaceful
coexistence with all living creatures instead of feeding the ego.
We as humans must learn to accept that we are part of nature and so
are all other living creatures. It is insane that elephants are being
slaughtered just because people want the ivory for decoration. The
respect for other all other living species is crucial for our way
of living together. That is something to wish for in the new year.