Altisonans (1966)

Karl-Birger Blomdahl

The Journal of Sonic Studies managed to obtain exclusive rights to show composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s astonishing experimental film Altisonans. Originally commissioned by the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation for a domestic audience, the image-sound-composition has rarely been seen since it was premiered on Swedish television on 25 October 1966. Altisonans was the result of collaboration between Blomdahl and the physicist and astronomer Ludwig Liszka. Their twenty minute film is a unique audio-visual coalescence of bird songs and electromagnetic signals from satellites and astrophysical objects, laced with a mesmerizing flow of poetically synchronized televisual images, including birds in their natural habitat, scientific instruments recording satellite telemetry signals, and pictures of outer space. The subtly crafted assemblage of pictures and sounds makes for a sublime viewing and listening experience. Further, the inclusion of Altisonans in this particular issue of JSS is a perfect counterpart to Stenström’s perceptive article on Blomdahl’s 1959 opera Aniara and constitutes a nice entrée into sounds of space. [1]

[1] This brief introduction is written by William R. Macauley.