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Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff says she was drawn to the church organ by its physicality: "When you play it, you can really feel it because you're sitting close to the pipes. It's almost as if you're becoming a part of the instrument." (Courtesy of the artist)

Anna Von Hausswolff: An Artist In Thrall To A Mega-Instrument

Jul 13, 2013 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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Swedish performer Anna von Hausswolff is one of the few recording artists in the world who plays the pipe organ in popular music. Her latest album, Ceremony, was recorded over five days at a church in her hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Getting access to the church wasn't a problem. It was getting access to the church organ, because every church has their own organist, and the church organs are their babies," von Hausswolff says. "So I had to convince the organist that I wasn't going to harm his little baby. ... I mean, it's a really old instrument, and it's kind of complex. And if you don't know what buttons you are pushing, you don't want to push those."

Von Hausswolff spoke with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon from NPR's New York bureau, on a trip that also included a concert in Brooklyn — her first U.S. performance. Click the audio link to hear their conversation.


Interview Highlights

On connecting to the church organ

"I think when I sat down and played on a church organ for the first time, the first thing that really struck me was that it sounds so huge. It's a very physical instrument, so when you play it, you can really feel it because you're sitting close to the pipes. It's almost as if you're becoming a part of the instrument; it makes me feel small as well."

On her grandfather's recent passing and its effect on Ceremony

"Just before he died, he said to me, 'Anna, you should only write about things that are relevant to you. Nothing else.' And when he passed away, that's what I felt. I felt that I need to write about this situation that I'm in right now, and what I see and what I hear. When someone close to you dies, you start to be concerned about the existential questions in life."

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