About the Project

In my project, Sound of Time - Tuning into the Norwegian Landscape and the Post-Industrial Soundscape, I reflect on how we as humans relate to public space, how we relate to other living beings and the environment around us, our collective auditory memory, and how sound functions as a physical and psychological phenomenon, as well as social, economic and political constructs. 


The overarching idea for this project that consists of several parallel artistic approaches, philosophical questions and sub-projects as well as considered artistic goals and pre-planned artistic outcomes, sparked from a working retreat and self-isolation at my grandmother’s farm in Lyngen in Northern Norway in 2018. I felt myself in an artistic vacuum, banging my head against the wall, unsure if I should continue working as an artist or how to re-new my practice and methods. I had been recording the empty spaces of Høyblokka, or the H-block that survived the 22nd July attacks in 2011, a year before, in 2017, one of my most serious and problematic art projects so far, but I was unsure how to compose or choose material. I knew that I wanted to make an album, maybe a book and a public sound installation. 


Looking back at my former practice now, field recording and site-specificity have always been an important tool and a way for me to access new sound material and creative input in my installations and compositions. At the same time, I never had any formal musical education (I played flute in a school brass band as a kid) or technical courses for audio recording or editing. This is self-taught knowledge and skills that I’ve been developing through the years as an interdisciplinary artist.


The first project working strictly with field recording, without any extended audio effects and sound processing was the Y-album. That is why I mention this later in the text. It serves as a turning point in my practice which has led me into the research trajectory I am working with right now. The process of recording several spaces with a security guard, an assistant, a headlamp, in total darkness, inside an abandoned building (that carries a trauma), have taught me how to be structural, professional and how to approach and search for interesting spots to record. This has also led me to build up a toolkit with assorted equipment, some which I need for future projects and some which I don’t. This is also a part of a continuous process of successes and failures.


It has also been an attempt for me to dive into the history of recording, with emphasis on Norwegian sound archives, field recordings, field recording practitioners (both artistic and scientific and listening practices in the 19th and 20thcentury, both to re-educate myself, build up a platform of knowledge, contextualize my work and to offer a generous ‘gene bank’ of crucial sound works, actors, agendas and to contribute to current discourses within field recording and the sound art scene. I have by no means tried to give a chronological or objective historical overview, but rather follow a personal gaze involving artists, philosophers, scientists and so on that I find utterly inspiring and relevant. 


As a professional artist and artistic researcher, my interest is to investigate, reflect and dig deeper into the current state of Norwegian landscape and the post-industrial soundscape through my artistic practice, using methods such as field studies, audio recordings, interviews, photo and video documentation, collecting objects, sound editing, audio processing, exploring archives, developing new soundscapes and creating new sound installations and experimenting with sound in a space. 


In my research I have established a process-based, mobile laboratory and further developed a wide range of recording techniques, recording equipment and a platform for various acoustic experiments with sound as material, sound as aesthetics and sound as a narrator. Through the years I have built up an archive consisting of sound recordings, sound sculptures, images, videos, texts, drawings, found objects and so on. All these elements present a crucial role in my research and my artistic practice, and must be seen as a whole and not within a set hierarchy. I still find it challenging to judge where the art ends and the research starts (I am researching while I am doing), for me it all blends into one thing, which is research-based artistic practice, it doesn’t have to be scientific, but it is process-based, relational and follows a repetitive pattern of certain rules or dogmas. I have established a two-headed method while recording, the first method demands being present and listening to the recording for 10 minutes, it often creates an intense, sharp and curious focus. The second method executes a continues audio recording from dusk to dawn, to map the changes of the landscape, activity, weather and so on. I am not present, I leave the equipment at the location and go to sleep. This is a bit more like fishing with a net, you don’t really know what you will get. For me that is part of the fun. Listening back to these recordings is often surprising and engaging.


During my time as an artistic research fellow, I went into a set of fixed roles and donned the hats of a natural scientist (a bit of an eccentric one), a conceptual sound artist, an environmental activist, and a stubborn and playful teenager, to study, listen and immerse into the Norwegian landscape. With emphasis on the North Norwegian landscape and environment, focusing on the acoustic and audible qualities, their importance, in a historical context, until the present and for possible futures, as a source of knowledge, inspiration and creative input.


My goal has been to achieve a more refined and precise knowledge of my sound work, the international sound art scene, current discourses and where to place myself in this field. To look into different sound environments with new glasses on and to explore how soundscapes evolve and how sound affects us in everyday life as individuals, how it affects other living beings and how it affects us as a collective body (a diversity of humans, non-humans and environments). 

How does sound affect us?

From upbeat and catchy music in shopping malls that makes us want to shop more, to soothing café table music that makes your americano taste better. Tune into and wonder about the beauty and tonal qualities of ‘Hurtigruta’, the coastal steamer’s deep bass rumbling (like a distant rave) or feel the high-pitched rhythm patterns from various air conditioning systems prickling in your ears. Sound is shared property, surrounds us, enfolds us and affects us, whether we’re conscious of it or not.


Since my childhood, I’ve spent countless hours in the north, visiting my grandparents’ house, hiking in the mountains, fishing, picking berries, etc. My ancestral and family roots come from Lofoten and Lyngen. The North Norwegian landscape, atmosphere and mood resonates within me. The smell of rotten fish, the sound of seagulls screaming outside the bedroom window, the dark cold winter and the bright endless summer nights. This serves as a backdrop for who I am, how I reflect, how I work and how I access my role as sound artist in Norway and the world. 




Why I’m interested in sound, sound art and the post-industrial soundscape?

In my work, I’m interested in sound, vibration, resonance, feedback, acoustic reality and how psycho-acoustics embodies us and influences our experience of time, memory, space and place.


In the book The Sound of a Room - Memory and the Auditory Presence of Place by Seán Street (2021), he emphasizes the concept of a room not only in terms of diverse locations, but extending ultimately to the universe as the inner space of the self. Street takes a poetic and philosophical approach to the underlying questions of how sonic environments interact with our concepts of self, creativity and memories. This connects with several concepts and ideas in my work dealing with how sound environments and acoustic reality influence and transform our experience of time, memory and place.


Since I finished my studies at the Art Academy in Trondheim (1996-2000), I’ve been exploring various venues, places and spaces all round the world, from performing loud experimental music in tiny, dark club spaces in Tokyo, recording sounds of people walking through an echoing tunnel in Prague, to modulating and transforming almost inaudible frequencies for humans, based on the Mosquito Alarm Technology, inside the reverberant Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum in Oslo. I’m always curious, intrigued and interested to find new places, explore their acoustics and their underlying stories.


In 2020, I made a temporary art project called Y (59°54′54,76″N 10°44′46,03″Ø) based on the abandoned government buildings in the centre of Oslo. The projected was funded by KORO/URO and osloBiennalen.


The Y-project serves as a sonic meditation / sonic portrait that investigates and reflects upon the acoustic qualities, memory and place. The recordings were done at night when the city was asleep with a stereo pair of DPA’s. The material resulted in a publication with photos by photographer Arne B. Langleite, a double vinyl and a digital sound/visual stream (because of Covid-19). The project was my first public art project using strictly field recordings. All the tracks where edited as multi tracks, following the original timeline and processed with eq, to be able to highlight and filter out certain frequencies. 




The WSP at Simon Fraser University, 1973; left to right: R. M. Schafer, Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, Barry Truax and Howard Broomfield. Photo Simon Fraser University

The World Soundscape Project was established as an educational research group by R. Murray Schafer at Simon Fraser University in Canada during the late 1960s. The group consisted of R. Murray Schafer, Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, Barry Truax, Howard Broomfield and Hildegard Westerkamp. The group still represent a pioneering position in the field of sonic archaeology and sonic ecology, even if new voices debate their relevance today.


In 1975, Schafer led a larger research project, “Five Village Soundscapes”, which made detailed investigations of the soundscape of five villages in Sweden, Germany, Italy, France and Scotland. The tour completed an analogue tape library, which includes more than 300 tapes. The archive is available online on demand. For me, the fact that they did this and collected all this material, and that the archive is still accessible on demand, is an important achievement to the history of sound.


The World Soundscape Project and R. Murray Schaefer’ s book Soundscape - Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World served as a reference and starting point for my artistic research project , even though the artistic outcome, the available technology, sound environment and time we live in is very different from back then, I still find the project relevant, rewarding and inspiring. 


Today the term ‘soundscape’ is used broadly to apply to any sonic phenomenon. According to Schafer, the soundscape represents a critique of the modern world whereby the sounds of post-industrial civilization are almost always considered to be negative.


Schafer describes the transition from the rural to the urban soundscapes in two categories, hi-fi and lo-fi soundscapes: The hi-fi is one in which discrete sounds can be heard (long-range-viewing), because of the low ambient noise level. In lo-fi soundscape, individual acoustic signals are obscured and the perspective is lost.


In 1992, the anthropologist and sound artist Steven Feld, coined the term «Acoustemology» that merges the terms ‘acoustics’ and ‘epistemology’, Feld uses acoustemology to accumulate a set of hearing, listening and sounding practices. What he describes as an ‘Anthropology of Sound’Sound and listening as a way of knowing, through social and material, knowing with and knowing through the audible. 


Feld used the term acoustemology to describe an accumulated set of hearing, listening, and sounding practices consolidated as culture. Numerous sound researchers from anthropolog. Feld’s part to expand the vocabulary available for the description and study of human engagement with and within sound, constitutes a simultaneous development and critique of Schafer’s soundscape concept. Like soundscape, acoustemology emphasises the importance of sound in human experience, particularly in relation to place and notions of emplacement. However, through its derivation from and association with the landscape concept, soundscape arguably conveys a sense of a sound environment that is static and in-some sense arrayed before the spectator. Feld, argues like other critics of the term soundscape, that it fails to capture the experience of sound as being produced by movement through, participation in, or interaction with an environment that is dynamic and in continual flux. 


The project was initiated and started before my artistic research project, but was finalized during my time at Kunstakademiet in Tromsø. It was never meant to be part of or judged as part of the artistic result, but for me the project served as “milepæl”, a milestone in my artistic career, because of the historical and political importance of the place, the challenges to obtain permission to enter the building from Statsbygg, my field recording skills and technical requirements, and the ability to push yourself to stay up and work all night to record the building when the background noises from the city were at a minimum


The Y-project was inspired and influenced by Spanish sound artist Francesco Lopez’ album, Buildings [New York] from 2001, the album contains recordings from various office buildings in New York at night, when there is no one at work. One of the recordings is from the inside of an office in the World Trade Centre, which we know no longer exists. Listening to this track today creates  haunting and scary associations. At the same time the piece is really balanced, subtle and beautiful. It creates curiosity and makes you reflect upon the value of the recording as a form of sonic archaeology. Francesco Lopez works both as a sound artist and biologist, and has been one of the key figures in the international field recording and sound art scene. For many years he has hosted Sonic Mmabolela, a international field recording workshop in the Mmabolela Nature Reserve in South Africa.


When Lopez performs, he puts the audience around him in a circle, with their backs to him. He offers people to put a blindfold to intensify the listening experience. I have been fortunate to experience his performances on several occasions, first at a theatre in Trondheim, later at the venue Blå in Oslo and Black Box Theatre. I guess the two first times made the biggest impact on me, since I was not really prepared for such an intense and embodied listening experience. At some point it was such a loud and intense experience that I imagined I would die if it became louder and sharper. I survived, but I still kept that feeling.


How has industrialism and post-industrialism affected our sonic environment and our relation

to sound (worlds)?

With the development of industrialisation, a whole gamut of previously unheard sounds appeared: the rumbling of factory machines, the roar of new mechanical means of transportation, telephone, data, radio and television transmission and so on. 


The increasing awareness of the problem of public noise, which was generally perceived as more intrusive and troubling than ever, generated a number of corresponding practices related not only to the perception of sound, but also to its distribution, measurement and regulation. 

With post-industrialism, machines and technology are becoming digital and quieter. Still we have everyday noises like cars, planes, boats, fans, elevators, kitchen machines etc. We’ve moved (the noisy) industry and production to other low-cost countries. For northern Norway, this means moving production to countries such as China, Chile and Estonia etc. Catching fish in Norway, sending them to China to be processed and packed before being returned to the Norwegian market doesn’t really make sense. It’s neither efficient nor sustainable.

What is a soundscape?

Raymond Murray Schaeffer coined the neologism ‘soundscape’ in the 1970s. A soundscape is the collection of sounds in any given environment – natural and man-made, intentional and unintended. Each location has a unique acoustic sound mark that differentiates that place from another.


The earliest writings about soundscape in history came from R. Murray Schafer’s Soundscape - Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1977), which is the inspiration for the title of my PhD, and Barry Truax - Acoustic Ecology (1978), who established soundscape studies as both artistic practice and academic pursuit in Canada.


Both Schafer and Truax agreed that the best way to productively engage with and understand historical soundscape, is through what Schafer described as ‘earwitness accounts’, written accounts from people who described the sounds of their own time and place. I would argue that the actual recording of a place or a sound source are more precise and have a greater heritage value than oral stories about sounds and soundscapes.

The H and Y block (1960). Photo: Teigens Fotoatelier