Place transposition through Spatialization
It was during the seminars and artistic projects that took place across several institutions and arts organizations in Stockholm, at the aforementioned Transpositions: From Science to Art and Back Again symposium, that I began to understand the spatialization techniques I am using in my current work more specifically as a form of transposition.  There was, in particular, a project from Daniel Peltz, who took us on a transpositional journey through a vast swath of places in his exhibition Recovering Data Remains: (Re)Working Knowledge, following the path of a working elephant and all the animal's life might imply, through geographies of colonization in objects and models that traversed distances from Australia to China, Myanmar to Sweden and even underwater, in Reyjmyre, Sweden.  His work, part real, part imagined, represented a marvelous example of the same fusion of real place(s) and phantasmagorical ones I seek to bring forth in my spatialized works about the city of Stockholm.
One of the wonderful things about surround arrays is their ability to gesturalize place. During a dérive, only people (or perhaps ghosts, or ideas) can wander the city. But here, the city may also take up and wander around those listening, or even around itself. I have made several electroacoustic pieces and sound installations about Stockholm, where neighborhoods, events, histories and locales flash through collage points, offering anyone listening an array of different places in the city to find memory or relation in. Some of these works take the form of sound installations, which are called "ghost installations". These are similar to the electroacoustic works in many ways, but are really closer to being sound art, and are done in miniature. They are site-specific and are built by placing small speakers, playing generative compositions, directly into the places they are meant to transform. Their main act of transposition here is to play processed and transformed sounds related to a given site back into that site, feeding its own imaginary "data" and “ghosts” back to itself. But these are limited in scope and complexity. Thus, I will write about the larger, electroacoustic works here, since techniques of transposition are more varied and explicit in their design.
Vädersolsmodernitet is an x.1 fixed media work in two movements. The title is difficult to translate into English – “Modernity’s Sun-Dogs” is not exactly what it means when connotations are taken into account. The oldest known image of Stockholm was painted in 1538, and hangs in the great cathedral in Stockholm – the painting is called Vädersolstavlan (or “The Sun-Dog Painting”). Looking here, you can see why; vädersol means "sun-dogs", the rings appearing in the sky. Like memory or story traces, they illuminate the city in a different light, transforming it into something from stories. Sun-dogs are rare in Stockholm, but real. They have appeared in great brilliance and number over the city only once in my own memory, several years ago, and looked as strangely augural as those depicted in the painting. They are like a kind of ghost or apparition, and thus speak to the individual ghosts, memories and stories we all paint onto the places we traverse, which this work is made to illuminate. The other part of the title refers to the great modernization project undertaken by the nation in the 20th century, whose architecture is still a major feature of the city, in stark contrast to the societies that are architecturally imagined either by the older buildings, or by the new, neo-liberal-esque structures going up. Each wave creates and wipes out cityscapes, and thus creates a myriad of phantom cities in the imagination, which one might seek in walking the streets, in traces, or in gaps.
The piece follows a “tableau” structure, passing through combinatoric areas of the city – here is a pictorial score in the form of a slide show, depicting the first movement's scenes. There were many questions I was reflecting on over the year I worked on it: How strong of a role can representation play in a music or sound work, while still leaving room for interpretation, and space for individual listeners to meet the work with their own stories? How far can one depart from the original sonic “image” of a place and still have that “image” be understood by those individuals who listen? If field recordings from that place are re-combined or fashioned into gestural materials, how can the work maintain a balance between being a “composition” driven by musical gestures, and a “sound art” work, driven by the representation of immersive or spatialized sonic environments? The “Protagonist” in this work, who only appears as an agent once in the first movement, is someone I envision being born in late 40s early 50s, living alone in an old rent controlled apartment, traveling through the city of Stockholm at varying points of its last 100 years of history. Rather than push this story onto the one who listens, I have left it vague, so that they can meet the psychogeographical act of walking through Stockholm with their own imaginary cities. Finally, this work is about owning one’s identity as an individual city dweller, as much through darker or contentious stories as optimistic ones.
Vädersolsmodernitet is made as a phantasmagorical, psychogeographical place-transposition, combining times and places in Stockholm in impossible ways, placing those listening on streets that shift and re-combine around them, juxtaposing locales that transform between being stationary places, and animated gestures drawn from the materials of those places.
This work was made with massive, high-end speaker arrays in mind. There are 8.1 channel and 13.1 channel versions of the piece, all made for halls and conditions where these systems can engulf the audience in the whir of places and re-mappings the work depicts. The examples below should therefore only be listened to with headphones, in order to understand the model of the surround spatialization there.
The piece opens with a protest, spatialized to suggest that one could be standing in a single place. But this is a montage of several places. One is a speaker from the Syndakalisterna (the Syndicalists) in Sergels torg. Then there are several recordings of the Social Democrats' First of May demonstrations between Kungliga biblioteket and Norra bantorget, including the trade union brass bands that march and play, among other things, the Internationale. But the most emphatic protests are taken from August of 2015, when a spontaneous protest gathered at Östermalmstorg subway station to tear down advertisements from the Sverigedemokraterna (or "Sweden Democrats"), a right-wing, populist political party. The advertisements were placed throughout the station, plastered over large surfaces where advertisements are not usually placed, and the protesters, who I joined, tore them down in short order. 3
The tense, new situation of the rise of this right-wing party in Sweden is often treated with a deafeningly uncomfortable silence at the long-established rallies on the First of May. But here, protesters who never met march together. Meanwhile, on a summer day’s train platform some years earlier, a scouting troop sings Om dom inte höra oss, ta det lite högre! (“If they don't hear us, then we take it a little louder!"), fore-shadowing the Fridays for Future protests founded by Greta Thunberg in downtown Stockholm.
Later in the piece, a foreboding construction machine, audible from deep underground, is heard at midnight in Sergels torg. In the same recording, it is surrounded by younger men, hanging out in the checker-diamond plaza at Sergels torg, or “Plattan”, in the evening, whistling and calling over the plaza. The whistling of the young guys who hang out in “Plattan”, almost all of whom are immigrants or come from immigrant families from various other places in the world, is a particular soundmark of Sergels torg; I have recordings of it stretching over a ten year period. This single field recording is of one midnight in 2016. It is cut up, collaged and moved around the listener in sweeps, perhaps trying to follow the trajectory of the calls and whistles, perhaps ornamenting the vast, structural work happening throughout this central neighborhood. A melodica playing busker often sits on the ground at the entrance to the shopping center at the edge of the plaza, as well as in the more well-heeled Stureplan neighborhood, and plays his tune, almost like a dance. These meld, and become several days worth of the early morning spring chorus in an affluent, wooded neighborhood dotted with large houses, or “villas”, near a station called Stora Mossen (“The Big Wetlands”), eight stops out on the green line.
Later on in the second movement we arrive at the christening of the new commuter rail station at Odenplan, where the inaugural speech is surrounded by priests, hip-hop artists, speakers at rallies and voices of people on the street and in cafes, perhaps adding to, or perhaps gently mocking, the Prime Minister's proclamation.  The new train is darkened, so that people may see the new tunnel, as celebratory rock, folk and chamber music fuses into church bells from the city's many steeples, and the "Hesa Fredrik" emergency horns, officially called VMA:Viktigt Meddelande till Allmänheten ("Important Message for the Public") that are tested across Stockholm on the third Monday of every month, as part of the national warning system. The train descends through the fading wafts of a forest trance rave into a dreamscape of drones and choirs.
Thus, Vädersolsmodernitet is wholly a space transposition work. The tableaus built of places shift in time and space around the ones who listen, carrying them forward and backward through years into a myriad of different versions of Stockholm, where I have walked, where others have walked. They combine around you to form new territories out of which might come a forgotten day or time, a place that disappeared or a person who faded. The Swedish word förflutten is a beautiful one - literally “for-flown”. Like forsaken. Like the bird. Even the seemingly vast substantiality of cities can be taken away, by invisible hands, or by the inexorable passage of time. In this voice, in that room, in these birds, we can hear our own whispering maps, and build the world anew.