Jeg har vært en del av Universitetet i Stavanger sin Smart City PhD Group. Ved å delta i en sammensatt gruppe med stipendiater fra mange fakultet på universitetet har det gitt meg mulighet til å se arbeidet mitt i en bredere kontekst.

Deltagelsen har også åpnet øynene mine opp for store utfordringer som angår offentlige ansatte (Universitetet i Stavanger, Stavanger Kommune og meg selv inkludert som offentlig ansatt stipendiat) som kuratorer for det frie kunstfeltet i «smartbyen» Stavanger. 

Under er et bokapittel jeg har skrevet sammen med min veileder, professor Petter Frost Fadnes, hvor vi ser på Bugs and Hugs-prosessen utenfra og hvor vi setter spørsmålstegn ved implementering av kunst i en smartbykontekts. 

Kapittelet er skrevet på engelsk og er en del av en antologi med foreløpig arbeidstittel: Interdisciplinary perspectives on the smart sustainable city: Experiences from research and practise.

Boken er planlagt utgitt i 2024 og kapittelet har vært gjennom redaksjonell gjennomlesning.

Redaktører: Daniela Müller-EieKristiane Marie Fjær Lindland og Barbara Marie Sageidet

Streetwise in the artistic city: jazz, Beats, Bugs and Hugs

Kristoffer Alberts and Petter Frost Fadnes

We saw wealth and power from the point of view of down-and-out people on the street. That’s what the Beat Generation was about— being down-and-out, and about having a sense of beatitude, too (Ginsberg in Raskin, 2004)

Wise up!

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was one of the first pieces of poetry providing modern, post-Bloomsbury-bohemian, counterculture with a voice. The poem, drawn from hours of field recordings capturing the sounds of New York City, perpetuates a type of urban knowledge – an existential ‘way of being’ – the Beats referred to as streetwise; an emerging, urban ideology based on survivalism (Anderson, 1990), rebellion (Quinn, 2004), non-commerciality, spontaneity (Belgrad, 1998), and how to cunningly manoeuvre the drug-infused madness of a city (Davis, 1990; Pepper, 1994). In his excellent comparative chapter between Beat and bebop – specifically Jack Kerouac and bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker – Richard Quinn describes a new generation of urban thinkers and intellectuals (anti-consumerist-suburbians), who highlighted “the active process of improvisation” as a common methodological approach, critiquing, in his words, “hegemonic post-war passivity while simultaneously fighting its effect” (2004, p. 154). The movement was anti-hegemonic, against all forms of backwardness, set up to mirror real life through the inevitable, intersubjective and transdisciplinary exchanges between post-war city-dwellers. This echoes through Kerouac’s On the Road, with jazz protagonists like Charlie Parker placed amongst “the children of the American bop night” (1957, p. 139). Through Kerouac, we clearly hear (see, feel and smell) the sound of the artistic city as it evolves through street-bound ontologies.
      Ginsberg’s pursuit of open form poetry (as opposed to closed form) altered his language towards “cadences used idiomatically in ordinary speech”. In light of his Buddhist-beliefs, this can be seen as a hierarchical correction, or a realisation, in Ginsberg’s words, that “ordinary speech is the highest speech” (1994). Candour, frankness, freedom, openness, voice, vernacular, are here all key words Ginsberg summarizes as the pragmatic form of ideology behind his work; able to “penetrate in every direction, aesthetically or intellectually, but also commonly understood” (ibid). As Jonah Raskin’s descriptions of Ginsberg and Howl resound through his aptly named book American Scream:

Ginsberg captured the ambiance and the atmosphere of New York— its real and surreal weather. He filled his canvas with the colors of New York: the “drear light of Zoo”; “submarine light of Bickford’s”; and the “darkness under the bridge.” He recorded the sounds of New York— the “noise of wheels,” the “ashcan rantings,” and the wailing of the Staten Island Ferry (2004, p 134)

This notion of streetwise is connected to not just the Beats, but the rise of youth culture, including post-war generations’ appropriation of urbanity as contemporary, experimental and cutting-edge. Through Ginsberg’s eyes and ears, music, art – and not least jazz – is the urban, war-like soundtrack to the urbanity of Howl, in which jazz becomes the “eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio” (Howl). Alexandre Ferrere (2020) here refers to the Situationists, specifically Guy Debord’s use of psychogeography, and how the “psychogeographical poems of Ginsberg are the embodiment of an inner struggle, of a crisis that is deployed in a sensible field: the difficult process of transcribing the world and the poet’s evanescent reactions to it into poetry, into a new vocabulary or context” (p. 14). Psychogeography is both inner (psyche) and outer (geography) marred with the poetic landscape of the artist – pointing “towards the ambiguity of psychogeography: the observed environment is as influential as the observer’s mindset” (ibid) – in turn setting the demands for a new language, new forms, streetwise poetry; art and music.
      This chapter is both a critique of ‘smart art’ terminologies, as well as a recognition of how smart-related -ologies and -isms are already integral to artistic processes. These connections are not least apparent within facets of urban counterculture; ranging from 50s beats, 60s free jazz, 70s rock, 80s punk, 90s electronica, and 2000s P2P sharing, to the various transnational networks and online cultural waves of the subsequent decades. This ambivalence – smart and ‘smart’ – is meant to guide and provoke, bring activism and resistance to the surface, and carve out a representative space for the arts within the ‘smart-city’ discourse. Unabashedly, our argumentation is drawn from categoric presumptions – manifesto-style – of ‘smart’ representations in the artistic city, hoping to set up a discourse which reveals hidden knowledge, shows creative solutions, and highlights transferable values within a streetwise world.
Although the cityscape-come-virtual-environment we are referring to in the following case, does not represent ‘danger’ per se, the analogy of streetwise survivalism still seems apt in the context of countercultures and Beat-like vernacular speech. In manoeuvring fourteen years of fieldwork in a US-community (pseudonymised Village-Northton), sociologist Elijah Anderson describes the streetwise as a person who “neither takes the streets for granted nor recoils from them but becomes alive to dangerous situations”, and, more importantly, “the person learns street sense, how to behave in a sensible manner”. Anderson underlines the level of adaptability needed (he talks about street etiquette) in order to survive, evolve and prosper; “more than a passive reactant to public situations, the individual becomes proactive and to some degree the author of public actions” (Anderson, 1990, p. 6). The innate knowledge of what we see as artistic ‘survivalism’, connects to, not just ‘food and shelter’ (i.e., making a living as an artist), but also the need for urban expression, experimentalism and energy Ginsberg reflects through Howl. In a contemporary, post-digital world (Cramer, 2015), we may also add new technologies (Kittler, 1997), the internet (Dubber, 2015), analogue revivals and evolving sub-cultures (Fadnes, 2020) as solutions to how current disasters – not least pandemics and wars – initiate creative expressions and streetwise opportunities. The following text is therefore about creative problem-solving within the artistic city, with reference to a specific case study concerning online-collaboration and global sharing cultures – developed as desperate solutions to pandemic lockdowns and music scenes in crises. Beyond the poetic allure of Howl, this case rationally illustrates how a post-war evolvement of streetwise armed our creative countercultures with ‘smart’ solutions to very real problems – a process largely unnoticed by the establishment, policy makers, and so-called ‘smart’ cities. Thereby we finally introduce our case Hugs and Hugs (BaH for shorts), a collage-type musical composition patched together by blocks of music, all recorded in isolated, pandemic lockdowns across Europe. The piece is brought into the argument to highlight artistic problem-solving, measure levels of ‘smartness’, and search for the digital streetwise. The fourteen-member group of musicians was called Block Ensemble and was curated in April 2020 by Kristoffer Alberts when most of Europe was put in lock down. They were asked and selected based on their competence as musical improvisers and musical problem-solvers, since the recorded sonic material was executed in isolation without technical assistance and not much compositional guidelines, other than a one-page email correspondence with Alberts. The sonic material was processed digitally, and then cut, pasted and edited together into a composed sonic collage released digitally and physically in 2021 (Alberts, 2021).  

A ten-point manifesto

Amor Kohli (2016) makes an excellent reflection on Ted Joans’ initiation of the phrase Bird Lives! – a homage to then recently deceased saxophone player Charlie Parker (1920-1955) – simply through writing the two words on New York walls in the years after Parker’s death in 1955. Joans, the poet, musician, artist, and former roommate of Parker, also associated with the Beat movement, here adds a performative dimension to the phrase Bird Lives!; reflecting words as action – music as action – ala an Austinian speech act and Butlerian performativity (Fadnes, 2020). This graffiti – a.k.a. what we now call street art – was seminal in coining the phrase Bird Lives!, as a symbolic gesture towards civil rights, urbanity, bebop and the jazz legacy. Bird Lives!, Kohli argues, “emphasizes Bird’s music as a generative force, transforming how we now ‘sound’”. And with an emphasis on sound, we see – or rather hear – how streetwise is not just hipster, jive and trendiness, but a more substantial formation/affirmation of identity within urban countercultures. If smart art – either as policy, symbolism, or a form of creative tool – can capture the sound of urbanity, it gains momentum, meaning and purpose, beyond empty policy jargon and pseudo trendiness. To ‘set the record straight’ we therefore propose a ten-point list (MPs 1-10) of what smart art is and isn’t (equally alternating ‘pros’ and ‘cons’), before we contextualize the statements and present the artistic case-study BaH, using the manifesto as a backdrop to our reading of BaH.

MP1 The semantic meaning of smart (intelligent, neat, trendy, computer-controlled, quick (Oxford Dictionary)) has no meaning within the artistic field and should not be used in an artistic context.

MP2 Incorporating smart art as part of a smart city pillar emphasizes artistic practices and expression as a vital part of a modern, innovative city environment.

MP3 Smart implies the presence of dumb, and questions who, or what systems, should have the power to make that distinction (smart city CEOs?).


MP4 A smart city ethos is about user-friendliness, accessibility, clever forms of mediation and the connection to local, urban cultures, and the artistic communities can learn from this – and force them out of their secluded ‘bubbles’.


MP5 When it comes down to it, smart art is only about its potential for commercial value, specifically in which way the artistic fields are able to connect to ground-breaking industries (e.g. technological innovation).


MP6 Within the fields of experimental art, we have no idea of what expressions remain secluded experiments, and what history deem important contributions to the evolution of humanity (and the arts) – ergo have no idea whether they are smart or dumb.


MP7 An emphasis on smart art will help integrate artistic dimensions to all aspects of our lives, and put greater demands on commercial industries (design, city development, innovation) to also include artists in their development and decision-making processes.


MP8 Smart art empowers art, and shows that all art is inherently smart (creative, innovative, mediated, connected, etc.)


MP9 Smart art within a smart city context, is ‘artswashing’, smooching on artistic fields as a v (Ginsberg would not approve).


MP10 The smart logo – including sm(art) – is a clever branding exercise for the development of urban cultures, and the arts are forced to ‘ride along’ rather than being left behind.

Although this list might cloud more than it clarifies, it certainly takes the arts discourse seriously and engages in the non-consensuality of artistic ideologies. It also emphasizes the binarity of smart, and helps explain the confusion related to – not just the arts fields – but the smart city discourse in general. In fact, by sharing the stories, the sound, and the images of the urban city, Ginsberg was opening ears and eyes; highlighting, reflecting and contextualizing the real and surreal ecology in which city-dwellers live their lives. Ginsberg and his fellow citizens shared the same references, walked the same streets, smelled the same smells, heard the same sounds, from which a familiar understanding, commonly understood or not agreed upon, is placed into individual contexts as urban citizens.

Becoming smart(?)

BaH moves away from the stench of city streets to embrace other-worldly musky surroundings of digital connections and lonesome physical disconnections. Juxtapositioned with the Manifesto-points (MPs 1-10) and Ginsberg-style streetwise mentality such a shift generates valid concerns: Does smart make sense in an artistic context (MPs 1, 3), is it smart to begin with (MP8) or does it have the potential to become smart (MP4)? Can we foresee whether art is perceived as smart(er) after our time (MP6)? Should the artistic city strive for embracing smart more enthusiastically (MPs 2, 7), or is the whole thing just a policy-based marketing ploy (MPs 5, 9, 10)? Historically, we know that some of the great defining artistic expressions is represented or articulated through- and in crisis, segregation, and war. Does it follow that brutal internal, political and violent struggle is part of the smart art discourse? Although the answers might lurk somewhere in the asking, to logically follow these questions into the fallouts of the various post-war movements, -isms and -ologies, we need a psychogeographic placing, a physical/mental starting point, and a home… New York, London, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bloomsbury group? Sorry… we shift instead to a small place on the Norwegian coastline…
      Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway, with an approximate population of 150 000. Placed on the southwest coast, it has long seen itself as the gateway to the nautical lands to the West; both the relatively close UK-islands, as well as North America across the Atlantic (in fact, what is considered the first Norwegian US-bound migrant vessel, the pinnace Restauration, left from Stavanger in 1825). Over the years, the city has shifted from Viking-mythologized-hub to Christian diocese, from fishing industries (tinning was invented in Stavanger) to oil (now the centre for North Sea exploration and production), and small village life to international urbanism. Stavanger ‘punches above its weight’ in cultural spending compared to the other major cities in Norway (Roncossek & Kleppe, 2017), and was even a capital of culture in 2008 (clearing (a whopping) 300 million NOK for a yearlong cultural program). In addition, Stavanger is a self-declared smart city (adopted by Stavanger City Council in 2016), and more to the point, the municipality have included urban art/smart art as the fifths pillar within their thematic focus area. On the ground, that means that the dedicated department (Stavanger Smart City), has a yearly budget towards developing artistic work (or at the very least an artistic discourse) connected to the other four pillars they are meant to cater for (1) health and welfare, 2) education and knowledge, 3) energy, climate, and environment, 4) governance and democracy).

The municipality's work in smart art is about strengthening the artist's and art's role in society, by finding a new practice for how we can implement the knowledge and competence that lies in the art and the artists

("Smart art," 2021).

This use of ‘smart’ in an artistic context is not without controversy, setting a hierarchical standard of smart and smarter, even implying that some art – on an artistic ‘smart-scale’ – is not smart at all… Dogmatic assessments of less smart or unsmart imply that only ‘approved’ smart-enlightened art can be seen as relevant, innovative, ground-breaking, urban, or culturally connected. The rest, further down the smart-art-hierarchy, is irrelevant, dumb, unconnected, traditional, and non-urban (MP3).

Sharing cultures

In the smart-art discourse set up so far, the meaning of smart in a performative context tends to boil down to elements of decision-making: on the one hand making the ‘right’ decisions (i.e. not dumb), on the other, trying to make the ‘right’ decisions. And, in the light of another poorly hidden presumption, trying is both much more fun and the only non-essentialist perspective that makes sense in an artistic context. Fun as it is, this will invariably include terrible mistakes, messes of diabolical dimensions, and utter failures. Returning to pandemics and wars, urbanity and madness, chaos and disorder, this is about agency on a trying/failing axis, representing the ultimate smart set-up towards contemporary success and future legacy – the sum of bebop, the Beats, Howl and On the Road as a good case in point. Another good argument for introducing a trying/failing axis into the smart-art discourse, is its assured acquisition of performance-based, practical knowledge. Entirely based on artistic doings, this is based on the cognitive nature of learning (Pressing, 1984), knowledge production (Fadnes, 2021), inside knowledge (Ingold, 2013) and shared knowledge (Richardson, 2016), but also something developed through a long line of temporary events, misunderstanding, failures and intermediaries. The reflection of all this can be summarized as a point of reference; relating to identity formation/affirmation, how the world sees you, how you want to be seen, and, in a Butlerian sense, what you do.      
      Although it is virtually impossible to draw a coherent line between a point (or perhaps points) of reference as obvious origins to all this, we nevertheless sense, to borrow from ethnomusicologist Ellen Koskoff, crucial relationships  “between […] cultural and individual meanings”(1982, p. 353) as the foundation to a complex network of artistic knowledge. To help untangle this complexity, musicologist Bruno Nettl refers to musical models (2003), often called styles, schools or genres, highlighting the connections between knowledge and references as the precursor for these models. In our context, Nettl shows how the improvisational points of reference behind the models are connected in meaningful ways, establishing the forms of embodied knowledge mentioned earlier. In South Indian classical music, for example, the strict rhythmical and melodic references represent a stringent network outlining the improvisational foundation of the music. These references-come-models are often groomed from childhood through sociocultural connections; family members, schooling, community and whatever helps form the already mentioned sense of psychogeograpy. By seeing musical improvisation as a skill originating from quite mundane and specific reference points therefore, we may also start experimenting and manipulating these skills in unusual contexts. Hence, we move into a territory of all the MPs dealing with the potentials and opportunities of smart-art; urban-cultural development (MPs 2, 4), artistic integration and mediation (MPs 7, 8), commercialization and jobs (MP10).     
      By focusing on analogue and digital sharing platforms, we start recognizing the vast tools we have at our disposal to experience music across the globe and beyond borders, and as technologies get ever cheaper and more accessible, how these tools get democratized and accessible beyond social hierarchies. This means that – past the communities of Beats, beboppers, and Indian classical music – global artistic identity, knowledge, and references evolve in cultural parallels, affecting one another in circular fashion – all at much, much greater speeds than Kerouac’s road trip or Parker’s touring schedule. The record industry for example, through its global distribution-networks, enabled musicians to experience, recontextualize, and interpret music from a radio station, a record player, or a streaming-based playlist. In turn sparking off ever-evolving hybridized genres (Novak, 2011) made from divergent artistic and sociopolitical backgrounds. In one way, the often media constructed genres and enclosed artistic knowledge we know as genres or models, are standards to contain and share common thoughts and ideas within the expected boundaries. Although, as Ginsberg and co. postulated, they also represent an end to artistic growth, experimentation and progress. On the other hand, the common ground represented by such models is needed to have something defined to share, and a ‘ground zero’ to develop and  evolve from, what sociologist Fabian Holt sees as a “new centrality”, and a “potential to strengthen our common ground without sacrificing diversity” (2009, p. 2).
      In addition to Beats and 40s bebop, facets of 50s and 60s jazz are also examples of self-centrism (‘art for art’s sake’), marred with symbolisms for a utopian world, or at the very least, a more just world against a segregated US (Lewis, 2008). In addition to being representative for political change and artistic culture in what was called the West, jazz also refers to a counterculture of jazz enthusiasts and political radicals behind the iron curtain in the East (Hakobian, 1998). Here American jazz symbolized the enemy. Same sound, same genre, different references towards whatever sociocultural contexts make up performative identity.  Further east, in the late 70s and 80s, Japanese musicians who identified as punk rockers, engaged in various kinds of anti-music (Novak, 2013, p. 15), presumably borrowing from dadaism, fluxus, situationism and the likes. Their recorded outputs were shipped off to North America, re-released, and subsequently labeled noise music; a new term outside the etymology to play quiet or in harmony. Conversely, it created an internal gap between fractions of Japanese musicians, where some identified with the North American classification of (their) noise, whilst others found it alienating from the origins of their artistic intent. Nevertheless, the music they produced – and keep producing – is still categorized globally as noise, or japanoise; further divided into sub genres such as harsh noise, noise rock, ambient noise, pink noise, white noise and others.
      When the world embraced cheap and easy sharing platforms, Debord’s psychogeography had to look for new connotations in reference to a place-bound streetwise, even questioning its meaning within a global, digital, sharing-based playing-field. The global introduction of audiocassettes in the 70s for example, made it easier for remote artists without label-backing, helped by what Novak sees as “new social and economic relationships around sound recordings, allowing individual users to reproduce, remix, and distribute their own material.”(2013). Chain Mail Collab (Das + Jerman, 1988), for example, created and composed what they saw as an improvisation-based circle of cooperation: originating in a single musician’s recorded material being mailed on via audiocassette to the next person who then adds to the tape, as so it goes on in perpetuity. This media-circulative method of creating music was prominent within the so-called noise music generation, and the sonic content was usually electronic signals modified and transformed through guitar amplifiers, synthesizers, and other electronic supplies that change the sonic nature of the sounding source. In addition to the electronic manipulation process, this also represented a new improvisational direction compared to the site-specific, real-time, interactive nature of jazz. The sharing of audiocassettes as an improvisational practice differed from the ensemble ideology of the jazz canon, questioning whether improvisation was now lifted beyond the sound of the artistic city altogether.

Having worked long distance in nearly every collaboration I have ever done has allowed me the space to create very special atmospheres, it's a pretty interesting alternative to on-the-spot improvisation where decisions are made instantly and the fallout from a turn of phrase that doesn't work requires a thought process like no other… (Phillip B. Klingler, email correspondence, 25th of May, 2020).

Chicago-based Phillip B. Klingler was one of the many noise artists that took advantage of music creation beyond domestic borders and local cultures from the 80s to this date. With reference to Nettl’s models, noise is commenting on how we understand urban-artistic ecosystems, how it can expand into something undefined, constantly in flux, ‘unplaceable’. The model also examines how we recognize and experience improvisation beyond momentary/spontaneous/real-time points of reference (i.e. gestures, incidents, events). Improvisation forces us to act in a dialogical manner, and to construct coherent phrases (‘sentences’) with whoever/whatever the ecology allows for. We then process all this dialogical information to construct and compartmentalize points of references from which we preempt (guess) how the music is likely to develop. To engage effectively in such a dialog demands certain qualities from each musician, recollecting previous arguments and plan responses. When this dialogue works, and the future pans out as expected, we call it flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991); improvisational events developing/flowing through time unbroken. BaH breaks the ideal of a flow-based timeline, and rather reconstitutes – in a streetwise, adaptable manner – improvisation in an age of digital sharing cultures. The piece also problematizes the usage of improvisational knowledge, how to utilize material from isolated sources, and how to virtually cross borders beyond established models. Smart? Would Ginsberg concur?

Bugs and Hugs

The global pandemic that hit in 2020, forced us into isolation and made us reevaluate how we work as musicians. Deprived of otherwise common referential points related to collectivity and liveness, ‘being on our own’ put knowledge, competence, flexibility, even identity to the test. Others embraced the situation, found well-earned peace and quiet, and finally managed to break free of everyday distractions, developing new projects, acquiring new knowledge. For most, the situation was unexpected and challenging, and BaH, composed by Kristoffer Alberts (2021), was one of many artistic outcomes from around the world sparked by (desperate) isolation. (Is desperate art still smart? (MP 8)) Although BaH ‘stand on the shoulders’ of 70s and 80s cassette cultures, Covid-limitations demanded rapid evolvement, driven by advanced technologies and creative ingenuity.

Illustration 1

This circle of cooperation, sharing-based project consists of fourteen musicians contributing individually from wherever they were stuck in pandemic isolation. And although the process is inspired by noise/Japanoise work-methodologies, almost all the BaH members consist of performers outside the noise genre, leaning more towards forms of jazz, acoustic improvised music and composed contemporary music. The group was solely curated by Kristoffer Alberts, and not, with regards to ‘noise-authenticity’, as a curatorial chain. Emails were instead sent out asking for solo-improvisational recordings, which were then virtually posted to Alberts as digital sound files with diverse sound quality. The material was then (re)composed, spliced and edited, turning the isolated acoustic material into new wholes. Breaking with established noise models, the musicians pursued the acoustic qualities of their instruments, setting up a sense of false, ‘synthetic’, or emulated interplay – sonically ‘normal’ but beyond norms. When mixing the isolated material together, Alberts was looking for small points or areas in the music that he perceived as atomistic (Callingham, 2007). Atomistic improvisation can be in general be explained as when two or more musicians are perceived as one atom, they function as one unit, finishing of each other phrases, being in sync. Due to their individual isolation this emulation of atomistic interplay was limited, but few as they were, Alberts brought them into a compositional whole à la interplay pretense.

Illustration 2

As a start, an email was sent out to the musicians tasking them to follow a series of six tasks (alternatively, in a Ginsbergian spirit, “show the finger”):

1. Three-note melody
2. Short and loud, slow and low
3. Massive and fast
4. Space is the place and far away
5. Too many bugs or too many hugs

6. Dubbing/audio guide (play with one of the above on your headphones or by memory. If you like you can do several tracks and feel free to use your own unique dubbing technique. You can also play with your favorite record on the ear)

The motivation for playing live is for most improvisers the social meeting-points between co-players and a participating audience. BaH initially robbed its participants of this, but, in order to reform motivational frameworks, Alberts gave the musicians composed tasks to work from instead; including the possibility to completely disregard the task, be punk, show the finger. Although, speaking to musicians afterwards, it seemed covid had sparked new motivation all by itself; the invitation to join a community – albeit virtual – was motivation enough. Cellist Lene Grenager:

I am me regardless, which I suppose is both the challenge and the solution in such a situation. I didn’t feel I had to solve any new tasks in a technical, aesthetic, or ethical sense. I tried not to think, but rather use my improvisational experience to tackle the tasks

(email correspondence, 23rd June, 2022).

Grenager’s contributions became the most used material on the record. Her improvisations were placed as soloistic passages in the overall composition, but also in ‘interplay’ with others. In hindsight, Alberts was curious to why her material was so adaptable and usable, explained by Grenager as soloistic/solitary experience:

I tried to relate to the various titles you had written as openly, and at the same time as concretely as possible. Really conjure up an image of the titles in my head before I started. I tried not to make a plan, but to see what matched that image in my head. I was aware that this should not be a musically finished product, but rather a snapshot into a state. At the same time, the instrument has been retuned and it gave me a challenge making me even more focused on the task. In the dubbing task [6], I chose to listen to a song that I was hooked on right then. Completely different genre. Completely different expression. What you hear is my experience of the song and not me copying the song (ibid).

The sum of previously amassed experience and knowledge from live improvised music helped make the record sound coherent, clearly showing an aesthetically common ground between musicians, and ensuring that the record feels like more than simply layers of blocked sounds. Downbeat Magazine’s Martin Langley seems to recognize this:

The results are gripping and calming, in turn, involving some of the most impressive improvising heard in recent times, even though these elements are "comprovisations", filtered by the mind of Alberts

(January edition, 2022).

The term comprovisations here used by Langley normally relates to a process where improvisation and composition meet outside canonized genres. Alberts had little awareness of Grenagers skills as a composer and abilities to utilize her isolated recordings to their full potential before she was asked to join. Here contributions were complex and gave room for other sonic material to be superimposed on her playing, empowering her with compositional qualities beyond the other contributions.
      Still, BaH was curated and composed, organized and orderly, filtered through the mind of one single person. And, with reference to the Downbeat review, although the piece sold the idea of in-sync, atomistic coherence, most times the sound files were nothing more than a chaos of different ideas; with little degree of the streetwise qualities so easily tangible in the jazz clubs frequented by the Beats. In fact, if we see streetwise as knowledgeable insights to the vast array of city-living-reference points (with communal connections), it is hard to place BaH inside the artistic city. Brutal and unromantic as it sounds, it seemed unimportance that Kristoffer Alberts was situated in Stavanger – not least due to the pandemic lock-down. Removed from the streets, and the delicate wisdom connected to them, it was imperative for the project to find its ground zero, its tabula rasa, or, at the very least, a common ground to build the artistic process – without compromising artistic diversity or breaking ethical boundaries. The curatorial process of putting together an ensemble with a feel for digital manipulation of acoustic recorded material was essential. They all had to sign up to a process by which their precious recorded material was disordered and recontextualized. This was the danger, the open poetry, the street etiquette constituting their ground zero. Although the outcome was a fairly experimental record release, another binding element was the person selected as co-producer of the recording process itself. All the performers knew Lasse Marhaug as a renowned performer of noise music, and as someone well-versed in the production and making of releases based on manipulated recorded material. The association of his name constituted artistic trust, and the musicians knew the project was in good hands.      

Illustration 3

Although the pandemic was devastating to many, the enforced lock-down became the point of departure (MP 6):  Musicians agreed to the project because they had time, wanted to stay active and play, instinctively feeling the need for urgent experimentation. Although all these musicians use collectivity as the foundation of their daily practice, they were now left by themselves, desperate for seeking out new solutions to their unplanned predicament. [PFF1]This isolation away from the stage was unusual, but most still had the infrastructure (a microphone, a computer, and a sound card) and the knowledge/capacity to produce sound, improvise and compose. The idiosyncrasies of this mirrors the construction of the piece, and how it forced a rethink/rework of points of reference otherwise stemming from real-time, live concerts. The creative advantage was that time and space could be manipulated, deconstructed and rebuild. Streetwise and urban knowledge came back into the picture as the outcome formed a ‘living breathing’ testament to creative, sustainable problem-solving. Most importantly the piece became a document on how different improvisational ideas, diversity and chaos, merged into a collective experience and a way to process improvisation, genre, knowledge sharing and relational frameworks. In a reciprocit fashion it even challenged the workings of real-time-liveness, especially when it came to decision-making: BaH was recorded and edited in 2020 and emulating the process with some of the same musicians, Alberts experienced how they adapted to isolated situations, making themselves more functional in the overall (emulated atomistic) process. BaH, it seemed, was actively inviting musicians into a new, sustainable, digital ‘street etiquette’, fueled by forms of circulative and reusable improvisatory knowledge.

Stavanger streetwise or Stavanger ‘streetwise’

Being a born-and-bred-Stavangeriean entitles you with the slang-based label siddis. Perhaps alluding to the traditionally anglified nature of the city, the word siddis is a local variant of the English word citizen. In fact, the term, as referred to in 1920s sources, was Stavanger-Citissen – a citizen of Stavanger. In the Porto Santo Charter on cultural citizenship (2021), democracy (or democratization) is highlighted as the highest virtue, its goal to engage citizenship across Europe. “Democracy is a dynamic social methodology”, they write in the report, providing “a voice and a choice”, which, through respect and diversity, “relies on the cooperative intelligence of the community” (ibid, p. 4). BaH represents a streetwise solution to an age-old problem: how to survive in the face of adversity. The democratization process as highlighted by the Porto Charter is in our case ensured by musicians utilizing the means at their disposal. By all accounts, this is an activist stand, a deep-rooted need, stretching back to Ginsberg’s call to arms, in which BaH, to reborrow form Ferrere, is a psychogeographical poem of its day: “transcribing the world […] into poetry, into a new vocabulary or context” (2020, p. 14). BaH is thereby a sonic-digital “Bird Lives”, inscribed by individuals in solitude, but meticulously collated and curated as a virtual community – a “social methodology” – by a ‘siddis’9, a citizen of Stavanger.
    Digitalization in music production is here to stay, but so are its users… Put otherwise, most of us live and breathe as citizens in a place we call home, and that place – city, village, recording studio or jazz club – has as much impact on our doings as the technology we utilize. In BaH, Alberts drew on musicians from diverse places, urban and rural, domestic and international: from Oppegård and Oppdal, to Stavanger, Trondheim, Oslo, and further afield to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Stockholm. Although  physical contact became immaterial, the piece was nevertheless founded on a shared, collective, and, ultimately, chaotic (Borgo, 2007) common ground. The entanglement of this ground (city, space or place) becomes the sum of all points of reference (departed from or referred to). As keen listeners in an audience, or in front of our living room speakers, we hear with limited comprehension, but tend to understand and experience what references are at play within – outside, around, past, present and future. By presenting a case-study linked to a specific artistic practice, and to situate that in a smart city discourse entangled by theories, manifestos, hypotheses and parallel artistic events, we aim to problematize the readers’ subjective idea of how they value the activities of the artistic city. In the spirit of manifesto-point MP6 – not knowing whether art is smart or dumb – we cautiously consider BaH to be a smart art project but have no idea whether it will stand out as a secluded experiment reflected in book, or whether if it will have artistic impact and value on its own merits. In fact, it was essential that this project evolved from musical and artistic practice. We also did not force existing theory on that practice, but undertook a type of bottom-up theory development. Rising from practice into the streets (or the digital collaborative world) we looked for whatever wisdom, mistakes, wrong turns, and subtle approaches the project demanded. If this non-theoretical approach is considered smart, and by referring to MP8 – that all art is inherently smart – we may iron out the friction between smart art to just simply art…
    Having to deal with unstable variables such as fleeting audiences, socio-political fluctuations, pandemics, wars, and many other unknown (and very human factors) brings us back to our manifesto, and how the definition of smart in the artistic city is distracting at best; at worst, it is outright stupid… Streetwise, Ginsberg, Bird Lives!, pandemic restrictions…? Perhaps BaH nevertheless reveals smart as the reconstitution of sharing cultures, which, in a post-digital spirit, utilizes what is already here, albeit in a more sustainable, effective and creative way. Within the Bourdiean open space of interest and investments which art represents, smart (in a streetwise sense) is already outdated; past its ‘sell by date’, useless for future action, beyond already established models and references. Realizing the essence of smart art is therefore to look at the underlying factors of smart artistic processes, smart intermediaries, and smart artistic outcomes, including how the art is perceived, and maybe most importantly, how it is understood and expressed by artists themselves. We can investigate flowing timelines driven by feedbackloops, previously acquired knowledge, noisy methodologies, a trying/failing axis, and instrumental objectives that are forced to adapt to processual change. But to even attempt to label something as smart art in a manner befitting the streetwise clan of Beats, we must account for perspectives of time and realize our limitations. To finish off where we started, with Ginsberg himself:

I say things to people but I don’t notice that I’m saying something which is going to affect them. Years later someone will come back with a story, saying “years ago you said to me something that changed my life (Ginsberg & Le Pellec, 1989).


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