To shoot photos day after day in a remote frozen lake is a multisensory and aesthetic experience. All my senses are working actively. Focussing on my sensory attention is a notable part of an aesthetic engagement (see Lehtinen 2015, 69). Now I will concentrate on the auditive information of the environment. This is also an example of how the understanding created by the sensory attention pushes the borders of the periphery and puts them in a constant float.
It is typical of our hearing perception that we perceive sound as vibration. Therefore, sound ‘comes on the skin’, and it is a very subjective experience (Vikman 2007, 36). The very first impression is easily that the ice-covered lake is silent, where one can find one’s own contemplative silence combined with the refreshing natural silence. However, the silence is full of sounds and rhythms. Some of them are periodically powerful.The silence dominates the auditive landscape. The sense of hearing becomes sensitive to separate every sound, even the slightest cracking of ice or the crashes of snow under the boots. On ice, I tune my senses to the extreme and avoid talking or producing any other kind of voices except working sounds.
Silence—understood here as a combination of the inner and external silences—is contemplative, but instead of a relaxation-oriented way of being, it is focused on working, shooting and seeing (see Ampuja 2016, 73-98, Venäläinen 2016, 34–52). Typical of the sounds of nature is that humans tolerate quite loud sounds of nature. These sounds are interpreted as a part of the natural silence, as a part of the genuine and natural soundscape representing the opposite of human-generated sounds in nature (Venäläinen 2016, 37–38).
Here, silence is not a shortcoming or lack of something, but rather, a space that allows one to hear previously unheard sounds. In this case, silence is also not a feature of a place or thing, but rather, a relationship between things and oneself (see Venäläinen 2014, 36). The silence experienced in nature gradually builds up by sensing the sounds, becoming aware of them. Silence as a relationship between me and the environment guides how I behave on ice, how I tune my mind to the extreme sensitive and avoid talking or producing any unnecessary sounds. At the same time, my inner speech can be momentous.
Soundscape researcher Murray Schafer (1994) gave four meanings to noise: noise as ‘unwanted sound’, as an ‘unmusical sound’, as ‘any loud sound’ and as ‘disturbance in any signaling system’ (Schafer 1994, 182–183, 273; Lehtinen 2015, 48). If noise is understood as a set of disturbing sounds that one cannot have an influence on, on the vast frozen lake, there is seldom noise created by human beings. Randomly, I can hear a passing motor sledge or chainsaw buzzing far away. Sometimes, I even hear the hollow noise of the icebreaker. These noises settle in the uttermost edges of my soundscape.
As a material, ice produces sounds that resemble basic, repetitive notes. One could loosely call them the ostinato of the ice or a keynote sound in Schafer’s (1977a) terminology, or tonality in Justin Winkler’s terminology, understood as being close to German Stimmung—atmosphere, mood—a term that bridges the musical, technical realm and environmental experience (Winkler 2001a, 31).
This basic voice (ostinato) varies according to the cycle of the seasons and the streams beneath the ice. However, common to all the variations is that it creates some kind of bass line. In the early winter, the ice bangs when it gets thicker. In the mid-winter, the snow mantel changes the acoustics of the arctic lakes. There is less echo and very little sound. In the spring, the ice gets restless. Its quiet period is over and it starts to moan. Common to this keynote sound or ostinato is also that it has no clear ending or beginning. The ice makes sounds according its own conditions and rules.1
1 See Laura Maes and Marc Leman’s (2017, 27–40) 13 criteria of sound art. The type of ending and starting of the sound is one of these.
The annual freezing and melting of the ice is a cyclical process that has its own repetitive rhythm. Henry Lefevbre2004, 8-9) calls this type of rhythm cyclical, separating it from the linear rhythms created by humans. However, the rhythms of the body, heartbeats, circulation and breath are also cyclical. All these cyclical rhythms are mixed. The linear rhythms of my working on the ice are determined by the cyclical rhythms of the seasons. In this way, my work is bound to the cyclical rhythm of seasons in the same way as the work of farmers is.
It is astonishing that living beings are full of different clocks, molecules, nerves, chemicals, hormones, each more or less in sync with the other. Even single-cell biochemistry has chemical mechanisms that maintain a 24-hour rhythm (Rovelli 2017/2018). All these clocks with their same tempo are living in us and creating in their own way our relationship to the environment. The innesphere tunes not only in sync with the kinesphere but with the cosmosphere as well.
In his study of ambient sounds, soundscape researcher Wolfgang Ernst (2016, 59) has said that acoustic space is not linear, but rather, it is synchronous, emerging simultaneously from every direction at once (Kuivakari 2019, 7). If we see the acoustic space as an unseparated mass, the sounds of the Icy Score can be seen as a non-linear and synchronous soundscape. However, with close listening, the synchronous soundscape is separated into distinct sound layers.
The constant surrounding noise brings specialised local listening for professionals, like farmers, smiths and railway workers. Their local and focussed ear has learned to separate even the smallest changes in the sound environment (Winkler 2001b, 21). In my case, the rhythm of the keynote sounds or ostinato of the ice, gives me information about when to be afraid and when to trust in the ice. The frightening and cosy go hand in hand. In a way, the icy ostinato creates an auditive net of protection for my shooting in the cold.
Here, I understand the soundscape as Outi Ampuja (2016, 76–77) has defined it: Soundscapes involve all types of sounds in the environment, while the sound environment focusses more on the physical qualities of the sounds in the environment. By close listening, I have found five sound layers like five note lines in my sound environment. These five layers come together to form the Icy Score. I call the auditive outcome the Icy Symphony. Some of these sound layers are made up of the sounds of nature, some of the sounds of my body and mind and some of the sounds of the tools. The visual outcome of the auditive layers of the ice can be observed in the image The Icy Score .
In the image The Icy Score you can see the visual outcome of the auditive layers of the ice.