Meetings No 11
Intro
Infrastructure 2.0
Atti Soenarso on the significance of infrastructure.
Cover Story
Mats Lindgren, Kairos Future
“How do we create new thoughts? That’s the issue we have to confront.”
Psychological Meetings
Meeting the Unseen
Hans Gordon: “What on earth have I been through?”
Intermission
The Relief
“Let’s drift off for a moment.”
Sharma
10 Quotes That Changed My Life
Robin Sharma lets us know which they were.
Improvisation
Jan Lundgren, Pianist
“Improvisation gave my fingers wings.”
Brain Check
Danica Kragic
“The robot knows how you like your coffee.”
Kellerman
How can you think at all?
Challenging ourselves with new knowledge
classifieds
news
business intelligence
Borneo Convention Centre Kuching
Awarded AIPC Gold Quality Standards Certification.
development
Meet in Reykjavík
signs a partnership agreement with three more universities.
business intelligence
Strategic Alliance
of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe meets in Reykjavík.
games creates meetings
Dreamhack enters partnership with Rotterdam Ahoy
bringing the Festival to the Netherlands.
trade fairs are meetings
Europe’s largest maintenance event
chooses for the Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre.
important meeting
The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD
confirms its first conference for 2026.
business Intelligence
85th UFI Global Congress
in Saint Petersburg.
new jobs
Christian Woronka new director
for the Vienna Convention Bureau.
business Intelligence
10th European
 Farmhouse
and Artisan Cheese & Dairy Meeting 2018 FACE in Kristianstad, Sweden.
business Intelligence
AIM Group International
celebrates 10 years of its Madrid Office and opens in Barcelona.
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Jan Lundgren, Pianist
“There are two routes to take in music. You choose either the predetermined route or another direction. Improvising is like holding a conversation, you have to concentrate. For me improvisation is a way of living, it’s a language with a myriad of nuances.”

These are the words of Jan Lundgren, who calls himself a pianist, improviser and composer, in that order. He is one of the world’s most in-demand jazz pianists and holds seventy to eighty concerts a year, of which just under half are abroad. Over the years he has worked with people like Richard Galliano, Paolo Fresu and Johnny Griffin. He has recorded over forty albums and featured in a hundred and twenty. In March his acclaimed first solo album, Man in the Fog, was released.

Jan Lundgren is also Artistic Director for the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, helping to make the town an international jazz venue. On top of this he lectures and holds workshops at Malmö Music Academy. He has also begun holding improvisation lectures for non-musicians.

Many musicians seem to have a soft spot for improvisation as a musical form, for the sound, the instruments, their fellow musicians and the moment. It has been said that the meeting in improvisation is like discovering a new landscape that is unchartered until you set foot in it. What surprises Jan Lundgren the most when it comes to his type of music and how he reaches out to people is that so many like the idea of improvising.

“And yet so many more say they don’t like jazz and improvisation much. But if they do get to a concert they usually say it was some of the best stuff they’ve ever heard! I find this hard to understand.”

He maintains that the majority of people listen to predetermined music; they know how it should sound. Maybe they are not really receptive to improvisation; do not want to be taken unawares by the unexpected; do not really trust the artist in question. Perhaps it is all about feelings of insecurity. Jan Lundgren says a lot of people find it difficult to accept that something is improvised, not a music package for which you already know the content. That music can be performed in another way, that words can be played in a myriad of nuances.

Jan Lundgren’s mother was determined to give him and his younger sister all the opportunities that she never had as one of ten children growing up under poor conditions. One of her dreams as a child was to take piano lessons, but there was no scope for that.

“We lived in Ronneby and my mother began going to a piano lady, as they were called back then. I tagged along and was given some tasks of my own. That’s how it all began. But mum found it hard going. The fingering was difficult and it’s not easy to learn coordination at 36 years of age. My father, on the other hand, just sat down at the piano and began playing. He sang and accompanied himself, and could pick out melodies. I grew up surrounded by music, most of which came from him.”

Jan Lundgren says that he gladly sat at the piano with his father. He played and accompanied and did descants, tried to follow along with the melodies and picked out tunes with his right hand. This happened parallel with going to the piano lady.

“We never played notes at home. Father was all rhythm and ear training. It was music-making. Pure boom, bang and all together now stuff. Just as music should be. My piano lady gave me notes to rehearse. It wasn’t boring, I just did the tasks I was given. Today I realise that playing with dad was much more fun.”

When it was time to start at the local music school, eight-year-old Jan Lundgren was allowed to bypass the compulsory recorder lessons because he had played the piano for three years.

“When my prospective piano teacher heard me play she said I deserved to start piano lessons straight away. And so it was.”

The piano teacher, who had just graduated from Malmö Music Academy, was to have a great influence on Jan Lundgren. He was her student for twelve years, from when he was eight until he began at Malmö Music Academy himself.

“She was my mentor. She taught me classical music, notes, piano technique, everything in fact. It was very inspiring to have somebody so good to show me the ropes. She was a fantastic classical piano teacher. When I was around eleven I was given the assignment of playing The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, I liked rhythmical music. But it wasn’t improvisation.”

In the spring term of the eighth grade his piano teacher told him she was pregnant and would be off work for an academic year. Jan Lundgren had his mind set on giving up because nobody was better than her. But things turned out well in the end. When autumn term began he met his stand-in piano teacher, an older man from Germany with a year left to retirement. The talented student played a piece, upon which the teacher said: ‘I’m very sorry, but you’re much better than me in classical music. But I can teach you something else. I’ve played in New York a great deal during my life. I can teach you jazz music and improvisation. Your first task is to buy an album by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.’

“I said that’s a strange task. I usually get a new piece complete with notes, which I prefer. But he said: ‘Not this time. You only need to buy the album, go home and listen to it.’

Jan Lundgren went to a music store, bought Night Train by the Oscar Peterson Trio and went home and played it. He was speechless. He sat in his room listening, thinking and getting annoyed.

“How could this music be kept from me for fifteen years? I’d never heard anything like it, and was happy and angry at the same time. It was like falling in love. A bit like going on a school trip to somewhere like Turkey and meeting a Turkish girl who can’t speak English. You don’t understand a word she says; you just know you have to learn Turkish.”

He recorded the album onto a cassette tape and played it for his friends, who always listened to music when they played cards. But the four teenagers did not react. None of them experienced the ‘wow’ feeling that Jan Lundgren wanted to share with them.

“That confused me. Up until then we’d nearly always liked the same music.”

One possible explanation, according to Jan Lundgren, was that none of his friends played an instrument themselves.

“They hadn’t had the benefit of growing up with music, had no relationship with an instrument and therefore couldn’t absorb the music quite so easily.”

For Jan Lundgren, improvisation is about following one’s impulses, utilising the dynamics we all have inside of us. At the end of the day it is about daring to be oneself.

“Improvisation is a bit like us sitting here talking. It’s impulsive without reflection. We just let it spin. It’s like speaking straight from the heart. But to improvise you need to know the language. If I hadn’t been able to speak Swedish with you, this dialogue wouldn’t have been possible. We could have got by with English or broken German, but without a common language we wouldn’t have been able to improvise. You have to have a language that you master. If you don’t then you can’t improvise all the way. It’s about nuances and their shifts. A word can have so many different meanings.

“I was fifteen and had played the piano for ten years, but this was a whole new language for me. When I listened to Oscar Peterson for the first time I got the urge to learn this new language. It was then I realised that improvisation was a language – it gave my fingers wings.”

When Jan Lundgren was given the chance to play in the school orchestra, his regular piano teacher said: ‘You have to learn to play with other musicians if you want to be a jazz musician and not just sit by yourself. Playing in the school orchestra is a good start.’

“I’d also formed a small jazz band with a few guys of the same age. They weren’t easy to find. I still play with the drummer from the band now and then. We were the only ones who went on to become musicians.”

On the question of whether improvisation is a conscious decision when playing, Jan Lundgren says it’s difficult to say. There are two routes to take in music. The great majority stick to predetermined music down to the finest detail where they repeat the same thing over again. When they perform it sounds more or less the same every time.

“Improvisation in classical music is very rare. Here we speak of interpretation, which means we’ve decided what we’re going to say. But we’ve not decided whether to speak quickly, strongly, calmly or slowly.”

Jan Lundgren explains that jazz musicians decide jointly which subjects to talk about when playing. It could be the weather, tennis, chess, cooking or any other subject as long as everybody is in agreement.

“I give the tunes names as though they’re pieces we’re playing in a concert. We’ve decided on a subject area that we stick to. This means that all the musicians must have some knowledge of the subject. It’s boring for an audience to listen to musicians who don’t know what they’re talking about. If I know a lot about chess but the others know nothing, it’s pointless playing with them. This means you have to find suitable partners to work with who are well-versed in the subject areas. Improvisation has a lot of hidden knowledge and so many nuances. The most important thing for me is to be able to express myself in my music as the person I am.”

When Jan Lundgren is alone improvising by himself on the piano he can let his imagination flow. It is like holding a speech in public where one thing just leads to another.

“I can bring my experiences to the fore with the subjects I know. I can also change the subject if I want to. In a group we’d decide to talk about chess or something, but I can ignore that when I’m alone.”

Sometimes Jan Lundgren surprises himself when improvising.

“I could be sitting there playing and start laughing inside. Something crops up that I’d never thought of before and I glide onto another track and into another room.”

It is easy to think that technical skills are important when improvising. Jan Lundgren says you have to be able to move your tongue when holding a dialogue. But technique is generally overrated, he says, quoting famous jazz musician Thad Jones: ‘You get the technique you need.’

“There’s a lot in what he says. Just letting your fingers roam the piano keys is very dull. It’s what comes from inside you that should dictate what you do with the music. Not many people have more in their heads than what their fingers can manage.”

Jan Lundgren returns to the subject of conversing. It is not the talking but what is said that is interesting. Nobody would pay 300 or 400 kronor to listen to a mathematics lecture by somebody who knows nothing about mathematics. The person probably knows the words but not the subject.

“To improvise you have to know your subject or it just sounds flat and boring. And you have to practice, practice and practice.”

On the question of whether there is a difference between improvisation and composition, Jan Lundgren says that the latter is the exact opposite of improvisation.

“When composing I sit and think everything out, evaluate, renegotiate, adjust, change things for the better. You can never take back something you’ve said in an improvisation.”

In jazz there is a genre called non-idiomatic improvisation. It has its origin in jazz and was known as Avant-Garde in the 1960s. The idea was to decide what to talk about as you played. Jan Lundgren describes this approach as throwing a ball and then talking about what happens.

“It’s a musical form without a lifeline or framework. I don’t improvise much in that way, but it can be very exciting. Even in that context I think frameworks are built up. It’s untenable not to have some sort of framework around you. It’s like being on a football pitch or ice hockey rink. You know the framework and can keep to the structure. I also think it’s easier for the listener and everybody taking part in the improvisation. We musicians shall converse with each other and the audience shall experience the conversation taking part in this meeting. I think a framework makes it easier for people to keep up.”

People who have not learnt the language of improvisation usually find jazz very repetitive. Part way through a concert they might discover that the drummer is improvising in the same way in song after song. Jan Lundgren returns to the significance of subject awareness. You need a certain amount of knowledge in order to vary your output. If you do not know enough about a subject it can be boring to listen to.

“You can never be greater than the sum of your parts. I can’t start speaking Turkish when speaking Swedish, it’s impossible. I can try but it all goes pear-shaped. I can use some Swedish words, but that limits things. In all this knowledge, if we call it that, you also have to be prepared to use your own personality when conversing and trusting your intuition. Improvising is to use your inner dramatist. Who am I?

“I usually tell my students to bring out their inner selves, their inner dynamics.”

Who is Jan Lundgren as a person?

“I show that on stage. My temperament and way of being should come out through my music.”

Who is Jan Lundgren as an innovator?

“I’m not sure it’s possible to answer that. It’s like asking what kind of person I am. For me that’s the same thing.”