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)