Hidden Sounds of West Telemark / Løynde Lydar Frå Vest-Telemark

"Hidden Sounds of West Telemark / Løynde Lydar Frå Vest-Telemark" is a sound-art project consisting of seven short audio-visual compositions which can be thought of as sonic postcards. The project is about listening to the everyday cultural sound landscape in new and interesting ways.

"Hidden Sounds of West Telemark / Løynde Lydar Frå Vest-Telemark" was exhibited at West Telemark Museum during the 2023 season. In addition to the artistic research grant from the Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (DIKU), the work was supported by West Telemark Museum. Special thanks to the advice, input and work of Tilman Hartenstein at West Telemark Museum.


In April 2022, composer Natasha Barrett and photographer Gudrun Kristine Semons visited several locations in Vest Telemark to record what they found. The recordings were captured using the MhAcoustics EM32 microphone, and the sources of the sounds were documented through photographs. The decision to opt for photographs over video served a dual purpose: to prevent the work from resembling a documentary film and to avoid timeline constraints that video recordings would impose on the exploration of the sound.

Natasha then composed audio-visual compositions to be listened to over headphones in binaural and viewed through peepholes in a wall. The peepholes were of different sizes and shapes, and designed for a public of all ages and heights. There were four pairs of headphones, also arranged at different heights, and a simple button box for the public to be able to jump to a video if the did not want to listen and watch the complete sequence.


The sound recordings were explored, transformed, and composed using techniques similar to those developed earlier in the Reconfiguring the Landscape research project (Barrett ref). The music was initially composed in ambisonics and later rendered in binaural format.

The videos were created by arranging a selection of photographs on a timeline synchronized with the music. To prevent the impression of a slide-show, some basic visual transformations were incorporated. The videos were rendered in 4K resolution. Both audio and video were played back from Reaper, with the video displayed on a 55" 4K public monitor, and the audio distributed to the four pairs of headphones via a powered headphone splitter. Some videos also incorporated 360-degree photographs captured by Natasha at each recording location. The resolution of these images is unavoidably lower than that of professional photographs, prompting the inclusion of some higher-resolution photographs taken by Gudrun into the 360-degree visual field. To produce a video from this amalgamated 360 image, the resulting visual field was gradually rotated across a standard angle of view and then rendered as a 4K video.


The work is primarily about sound, and the peepholes serve multiple functions:


  • To entice the visitor into a more intimate experience than the usual habit of observing from a distance without bothering to pick up the headphones.
  • To mitigate the often dominating impact on our senses caused by a large, high-resolution video.
  • To transform the experience into an explorative process, where many of the peepholes do not reaveal the complete visual image. Moving one's head slightly becomes necessary to explore the entire visual field.


Looking through the peepholes

Adult visitors

Younger visitors

When planning and designing the project it was important to consider who the audience would be; a combination of tourists mostly unfamiliar with electroacoustic music and sound-art, locals and museum friends of mixed interests, and of course the museum itself which focuses on cultural heritage.

At first glance, the work appears simple, yet it gradually engages the visitor in a listening experience that might have initially seemed more challenging to them: the entrance and the a wall of peepholes and headphones piques curiosity. Once the headphones are worn, it becomes immediately apparent that the soundtrack differs from what one typically encounters in other museum exhibitions—those dominated by narrative texts and clear sound effects. While some visitors may initially perceive the sound as unusual, the visual clarity of the images sustains their interest until they acclimate to the unconventional auditory experience. The installation appealed to all ages.

"The notion of discovering something visual connected to a peculiar sound by looking through a peephole appears to resonate with visitors of all ages. The soundscape gradually fills with meaning as the visual part develops from what one can see behind the wall; the motives are often not clearly identifiable at once. Visitors needs to invest some minutes of time to grasp the idea of what they think this is. By elevating sound from its normal secondary role, the installation forces the mind to slowly rediscover specific everyday phenomena that belong to the West Telemark area. Due to the quiet and slow character of both the soundscape and picture, it provides a meditative "strangification" of things well known to some visitors and unknown to others. VTM has received many positive comments about this experience." - Tilman Hartenstein, mediation officer, West Telemark Museum.


There are seven videos which are each documented as follows:

  • The source which was played in the installation.
  • Videos as they were seen through the peepholes.


The videos shot through the peepholes are somewhat compromised as they are re-filming a film through a small hole, where exposure and focus become unstable. They are however a good illustration of the viewing and listening experience. Further below are a series of photos that likewise document the visual aspects of the work.

Video 1: original video / peephole view

English title: Sounds of An Old Dwelling
Norwegian title: Lyder frå eit gamalt hus
Location: Juvestoga, Vest-Telemark Museum, Eidsborg.

Video 2: original video / peephole view

English title: Ways of Water
Norwegian title: Vassvegar
Location: Helveteshylen and Soria Moria Sauna, Dalen.

Video 3: original video / peephole view

English title: The Goats’ Debate
Norwegian title: Geiteting
Location: Rismyr goats, Grungedal.

Video 4: original video / peephole view

English title: Companions
Norwegian title: Følgjesveinar
Location: Ponies, donkey and chickens, Solheim, Fyresdal.

Video 5: original video / peephole view

English title: Husky Chaos
Norwegian title: Huskystoge
Location: Haukeli Husky, Rauland.

Video 6: original video / peephole view

English title: Memories of Tenants
Norwegian title: Minne om husmannsfolk
Location: Historical homestead, Fyresdal. 

Video 7: original video / peephole view

English title: Chimes and Chains
Norwegian title: Bjøller og sager
Location: Forest thinning, Fyresdal.

The Artists

Gudrun Kristine Semons and Natasha Barrett

 Slide show of photos taken through the peepholes (the slide show will take a few moments to load).

Left wall information poster

Right wall information poster