Figure 1.18. (Haapoja, 2019). Live concert, Resonance album launch, Vuotalo, Helsinki.

7 November 2019


This musical case study took place during the period from September to December 2018, culminating in a recording for the album Resonance. 


The starting point for this dialogue was based on investigating the following core elements:

  • Creating a piece that would be self-contained using only double bass and voice

  • Expanding the sonic palette of the double bass through utilizing attachments and newly developed percussive techniques drawing on inspiration from the traditional Sámi frame drum

  • Absorbing the essence of Sámi Joik* as an element in the composition

  • Asking Hildá to collaborate through writing lyrics for the melody in her local Northern Sámi dialect and interpret the melodic and rhythmic content of the composition in her own way 


















Transcript of the Discussion Between Hildá and Nathan During Rehearsals


Nathan: the percussive sounds that you produced, could we try a bit of those? If I avoid the notes now and just play percussively and you also just work with percussive sounds, let’s see what we can find with that. So, I’ll just stay in the 6 a little bit. 


Hildá: yeah, sure. 


N: I love all those inbreath kind of sounds that you have, and the sudden high sounds as well as the low stuff. How do you do that actually? You’re breathing in and creating…


H: Yeah, so that’s why it sometimes comes in quite random places! It’s hard to control. 


N: Is that your own technique?


H: Yeah, but I have been a bit listening to Greenlandic throat singing.


N: Ok, they use these sounds?


H: Something like it








Figure 2.2. (Länsman, Thomson 2019)

Figure 3.1. (Tanttu, Thomson 2018)

Creation Process

Reviewing the Rehearsal Recordings

Reviewing the recording after this session, I began constructing a composition based on discoveries made during the improvisation, particularly paying attention to the ways in which Hildá had responded to the source material and the natural idiosyncratic elements of her voice. This resulted in constructing a melodic and rhythmic framework for the piece, with a small amount of harmonic movement.


I made a demo recording of the resulting composition and sent it to Hildá, asking if she would like to write lyrics for the melodic structure in her local Sámi dialect. I proposed the theme of ‘invisible’ and we discussed the human phenomenon of being able to sense things without actually seeing them, which Hildá reflected on from her personal perspective and experiences within Sámi culture.


During the following two sessions we integrated Hildá’s lyrics and rehearsed the composition. The outcome was a structured piece ready to be recorded in the studio. 



During the process of creating the music, Hildá suggested that Joiking* could be used somewhere in the piece. Sámi joik holds within it idiosyncratic rhythmic and melodic sensibilities that cannot be communicated accurately or understood fully through Western musical systems or concepts. In an attempt to provide an accessible framework for Hildá to work within that somehow harnessed the feeling of this sensibility, I decided to set up a structure for the middle section of the composition that would play with rhythmic ambiguity by using a shifting 5/8 alternating with 6/8 rhythmic cycle in the double bass over a 4/4 feeling in the vocal part. Using this structure, I composed a set of notes and basic shapes of phrases, which Hildá then used to improvise a Joik. All of these elements were then used freely by both Hildá and I as tools for interaction and dialogue.  

I was interested in understanding more about the distinctive qualities of a joik and asked Hildá what this meant to her. The following is a transcript from our written dialogue on the subject through text message (Länsman, Thomson, 2019). 

Nathan: Do you consider the middle section of the song to be a joik? Why or why not?


Hildá: I felt like I'd be joiking on the middle, because during working with the melody I also thought of some joikers I admire. This joik in my opinion might not be so traditional. But still would consider it as a joik. 


Nathan: Thank you. What is the essence that makes it a joik? Is it more to do with the inner feeling you have and what you hold in your mind when singing? Or the vocal techniques used? Or the combination? And in my understanding, you may joik a person, or an animal, for example. So in this song, are you joiking the essence of the theme of the lyrics, or are you thinking about a person, or something else?


Hildá: It's the combination. The inner feeling, and the function what the joik means to you and what you want to bring through it to the people and land you are in. While joiking my home, roots, family feels very present. On this piece I'm also honouring one specific joik artist. But also keeping in mind the essence of the theme of the lyrics. 


This process was particularly interesting for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, there was a noticeable shift that took place during the course of working together, which moved from a starting point that was initiated and led by myself, to a place of shared ownership, which appeared to represent each of our unique voices equally. This was not a straight-forward process, however, and I questioned by approach to initiating the collaboration in the early stages. Asking myself, does the act of one person (me in this case) initiating a collaboration automatically tip the balance of power at the beginning of the process? If so, how can I turn this around to create a situation in which my collaborator would feel equally valued and able to contribute to the collaboration on their own terms? Would we have reached a point of trust, equality and shared ownership more quickly if I had chosen not to bring starting point material at all, as in the case of the duo with Adriano Adewale, for example? 


Regardless of the way in which a collaboration is established, it appears to me that there are specific interpersonal skills and qualities required to mould and nurture the situation in ways that have the potential to embrace each participant’s unique contributions and provide an environment for true collaboration. In the case of Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible, this involved finding a way to communicate that my wish was to find points of connection and ownership in terms of the contributions from each of us, rather than maintaining sole ownership of the composition. Looking back, this happened both through verbal communication as well as through musical communication, which involved playing in a way that was open and actively responsive to Hildá’s musical impulses. Hildá commented on this process in an email exchange I had with her some months after our collaboration, where I invited her feedback on the process:


I really enjoyed the way we used to approach the song making progress with the song Oaidnemeahttun. Just jamming and improvising first to see what our musical instrumentation and presence etc. evokes in this collaboration. I felt that through the first jams and Nathan’s knowledge on some of the aesthetics in Sámi music also had some impact on the outcome. This approach brought me [a] confident/trustful feel[ing] to the process, and this kind of communication and working way supported and valued my artistry and musical background (Länsman, written feedback, 2020).

Other interesting aspects to reflect on from this process are the ways in which this piece drew on connections to Sámi joik, the ways in which Hildá approached this and how these aspects affected me as a bass player.  When working with Hildá, it is evident that she embodies what she sings with a great depth of feeling and connection to the music. This seems to ring true whether she is singing a traditional Sámi joik or creating new music. Witnessing this kind of connection had a direct impact on me and my own connection to the double bass. Referring once more to the concept of resonance, there is particularly tangible resonant vibration that is created and felt in the body in real time when playing in the same room together, perhaps enhanced in this case by the resonant qualities of the combination of double bass and voice.  

The resonance concept is further enhanced in those moments when unknown, unexpected elements spontaneously emerge during the process of exploring the musical material together in real time through improvisation. In those moments something intangible happens, which can perhaps best be described as tacit knowledge or tacit knowing, as first discussed by Michael Polanyi in his book The Tacit Dimension (Polanyi 1966, 2009) where he states ‘we can know more than we can tell’ (Polanyi, M. p. 4) as well as more recent publications on the subject. (see Gascoigne and Thornton, 2013, for example)




Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible: A Collaboration with Sámi Singer, Hildá Länsman

M u s i c a l  C a s e  S t u d y  T w o  

Figure 1.20. (Arola 2019).  Live concert, Resonance album launch, Vuotalo, Helsinki. 7 November 2019.


Figure 1.17. (Nauska, 2017)

Studio Recording of the Resulting Composition

This video excerpt illustrates percussive techniques developed for the double bass and utilized within the context of Musical Case Study Two.


Seed shakers are worn on the hands and feet, whilst simultaneously playing the body of the bass like a drum. These approaches draw inspiration from the Sámi frame drum and borrow a hand technique derived from the west African calabash tradition.

(video by Ville Tanttu, 2018)

Creation Process: Audio Example.

Figure 2.3. (Länsman, Thomson, 2018)

Creation Process: Audio Example.

Figure 2.4. (Länsman, Thomson, 2018)


Creation Process: Audio Example.

Figure 2.5. (Länsman, Thomson, 2018)

Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible 

Northern Sámi lyrics by Hildá Länsman

Savkkastalan jogain ajain

I am whispering with the river and pond

sattocalmmiiguin, dola njuovccain

with the grains of sand and tongue of fire


aimmuin, eatnamiin

with the air and the land

oahpasiin, apmasiin

with those who are familiar and those unknown



dalaciin dolociin

I communicate with both present and ancient times


nu mii njuorranit libardit

so we move and flicker

sajis mii ii leat, leat gostige

in a place that is not there, is nowhere


lihkka leahkkime, min aiccamis

yet still exists, sensed, instinctively


sanit mat eai gavdno, leat leahkkime

words that can't be found, do exist


Savkkastalan jogain ajain

I am whispering with the river and pond

sattocalmmiiguin, dola njuovccain

with the grains of sand and tongue of fire

(Länsman, 2018)


                            Studio Process

On the day of the studio recording (18 December 2018), we began by trying a first take of the piece based on what we had rehearsed. The result was partly what I had expected, but the performance somehow felt too constrained when captured in the studio environment. 


This triggered a discussion with producers Simon Allen and Adriano Adewale, who were both listening to the live takes in the studio. We decided to partly break apart the planned structure of the piece and try a more improvised structure, where the elements were known but moveable in terms of how long each element was played or when to move to the next section. This immediately opened up more interaction and dialogue between Hildá and me. 


I also suggested that Hildá could try changing her vocal approach and the colour of her voice in different parts of the piece, paying special attention to the smallest sounds. This in turn effected the way I was playing, and I found myself concentrating more on the tiny details in each sound I was producing and how they related to Hildá’s voice.


The outcome of this process was two alternate takes of the piece. The first take was captured directly after we had discussed these new approaches in the studio and the second take was an alternate version using the same principles. Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible appears on the CD, Resonance (2019) and Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible (alt take) appears on the LP, Resonance (2019)released by Sibarecords (Thomson, 2019). 

The creation process began with exploring percussive approaches to the double bass based on rhythmic cycles of 5. This rhythmic cycle was chosen because of its idiosyncratic connection to some rhythmic aspects of Sámi Joik*. 

The Sámi frame drum was also a source of inspiration here as I began exploring the variety of sounds that could be produced on the body of the bass, as well as playing percussively on top of and behind the bass bridge.


This source material was used as the basis for an improvisation session during the first meeting with Hildá. My intention was to try to set up a framework based on the source material that would give clear direction and at the same time provide an open space for Hildá to be herself within. My hope was that the material would act as a jumping off point for our collaboration and provide a space for us to uncover unknown elements that were shared in terms of ownership and meaning. 


After explaining what I envisioned to be the basic concept of the piece to Hildá at the beginning of this first session, we proceeded by improvising without further discussion. After some time, we reflected on what had happened musically during the improvisation and discussed various ways forward. Both the improvisation and verbal dialogue were recorded. The following audio files are excerpts from this first session. (see audio examples: figures 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5)

N: Yeah, this is great material that I think we could work with. Maybe this piece could actually start like this with all these percussive sounds and gradually move into introducing the pitch. And then what I think I’ll do is write a little melodic phrase or a set of notes to work with. But then it’s a question of whether you would then use lyrics or just syllables and sounds. What’s your preference?


H: Lyrics would also be nice and then add Joiking. 


N: Yeah, so it’s good to have some lyrics to work with as well?


H: Yes


N: So, then it’s a question of language, which language would you use?


H: If you have the theme or the idea then I can also write some in Sámi.


N: Yeah, ok, so if I have the kind of basic melodic structure and the core idea, the theme, then you could think about possible Sámi lyrics? 


H: Yeah


N: Yeah, that would be really nice. Well what I could do is work on that and send you some ideas before we meet again next time.    


H: Yeah, that would be nice.

Figure 1.19. (Arola, 2019). Hildá Länsman, Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible, live performance, 2019.