Bálint Laczkó is a Hungarian composer, audio-related software developer, hobby-programmer, and generally a technology enthusiast. He further describes himself as “ a bookworm, a nature- and cycling-lover, and a learning-junkie as well”.

Bálint has a long experience of music. “I studied music since the age of 7, and after high school I specialised myself in music composition. Sounds and our relationship with them are what has fascinated  me most in all my life. So studying music seemed to be a reasonable choice.

Bálint’s residence which started in september last year, is funded by an Erasmus scholarship.. But why did the young Hungarian composer choose Norway?

“I chose Norway because of Notam, and I chose Notam because it is an exceptional crossroad of technology and organized sound. Here I am surrounded not only by musicians, composers, but people who build custom hardware and software, produce music in studios as well as in concert halls; so generally people from whom I can learn a great deal and who can really broaden my horizon. I didn’t necessarily plan that but I have also learned a great deal from all the people I’ve met, and all the kindness, generosity and enthusiasm which surrounds me here.”

If you drop by Notam, you probably find Bálint working with a project or two. His enthusiasm is quite infectious. “Ultimately, the discovery of sounds or sound-relationships is what has always been my drive, no matter I am listening to music, working on or learning about software and programming, or – especially – composing.

“Generally, I start from something like an aural vision, which is usually how the piece would start as well. It illustrates a characteristic dynamism, source sound(s), process, texture, movement and spatiality, most often a mixture of all these. Depending on this vision, finding the right musical starting point can be a very straightforward and very tedious process as well. But what may be a general approach is that I always look for short, and fairly simple musical ideas to start with, and the act of composition mostly emerges from the expeditionary work of deconstructing or rearranging that idea, and adding more and more levels of abstraction. Another general approach is that I always feel that music is the network of contextuality of a lot of different sound-“beings” sharing some sort of mutual space. This may have something to do with my enthusiasm about nature, and it is definitely closely related to the idea of collage (from a purely structural perspective).”

Bálint will finish his internship at Notam in the middle of June. “It has been great, intense, full of new experiences. Beyond the enormous amount of technical things I’ve learned, I will definitely take a load of dear memories with me, about the lot’s of fun we had together (during and beyond office-time), the sacred 12 o’clock lunches, the high level of shared friendly nerdiness, Uruk (the famous Notam dog) resting his head on my elbow while I am working at my desk, the shared late-night work craziness, the spontaneous bar-times, and that there is always someone interesting to listen to over a cup of coffee or tea… Or just walking through the corridor seeing everyone doing something interesting. I will really miss everybody here!”

On the 15th of June, Bálint will give a presentation on his work. The will be some fingerfood and everyone is welcome.

Developer at Notam, Hans Wilmers, supervised Pernille Meidel under the project Hav-Havn-Savn-Gavn to build a speaker on the sailing boat Slursula. The design of the fog horn was made based on acoustic principles.

Pernille describes the project as follows:

“The noise of fog horn can be heard on the coast when the fog prevents the vessels from seeing. The sound is violent and can carry many kilometers to prevent ships from grounding. The signal consists of low-frequency sounds that travel long distances.

The sound signal is picked up by the landscape and creates echo variations. The sound will then be able to convey the environment despite poor vision, depending on the echo of the sound in the landscape. The signal is associated with mystery, it warns of an unpredictable situation and signals both danger while conveying hope.

It was  the Canadians Robert Follis who invented the fog signal. When he got home one evening while there was fog, he heard through an open window his daughter practicing the piano. He recorded that the dark tones could be heard better than the high ones.

After the lighthouses have been automated, most fog horns, at least in Norway, have been removed and they have been replaced by electric alternatives. “

Why Pernille further why she chose the Fog horn:

“I am primarily concerned with the huge dread such a horn can make and the mystery I feel it represents. The subject of the project revolves around how the fog horn signal can both give us a sense of security and insecurity at the same time. The doubleness that the fog horn signals danger while simultaneously signaling that one should avoid danger makes the sound both beautiful and creepy at once.

I think it’s an important aspect that after the lighthouses have been automated, most fog horns have been removed and replaced by electronic alternatives. “

One of Notam’s guests this spring was Pierre-Luc Senécal from Canada. Senécal has worked on 4 different projects : 3 projects for dance and 1 personal project of electroacoustic music.

“I’m especially sensitive to sound quality and techniques such as mixing and mastering. Therefore, I always look for studios that offer great listening environment, so I chose to work in studio 1. My teacher Robert Normandeau praised the quality of Notam, especially the multichannel studio 3, saying it was one of the most beautiful studio he ever worked in. Also, I am passionate about travels and culture, and saw this stay in Notam as an opportunity to discover Oslo and Norwegian culture.

I really enjoyed exchanging with Cato Langnes, the in-house sound engineer of Notam. He gave me practical tips that I’ve already integrated in my working process. The amazing freedom of use of the studio was instrumental in the important productivity I was capable of achieving. Also, hearing Norwegian musicians during the Only Connect festival was extremely inspiring. I haven’t heard this level of musicianship often.”

The canadian explains his projects further:

“Espaces is a soundtrack for a contemporary jig creation which also blends elements of theatre and science-fiction story-telling. 95% of the sound material I used comes from Ondes Martenot recordings that I’ve processed in order to obtain an abstract aura of spaceships and interstellar travels. At some point in the creation, the soundscape will be ruptured with rhythmical, quasi techno music. I thought of opposing the very refine electronic material of the Ondes Martenot with raw noise, such as the one I obtained during a few sessions of “no input” music I realized at Notam. The only sound source I’ve used was feedback that I created within a mixing board made accessible by the studio. Instead of using a mouse and a computer, I created material by performing microscopic changes of the knobs and faders, which produced unsuspected sound. There is something inspiring about the playfulness, nearly childlike pleasure I get from obtaining sounds that are considered aggressive, culturally speaking.

Spectre is a soundtrack for an art video centered on the choreography of 4 female dancers. I evoked the thematics of fear, power and struggle through an arsenal of heavily processed sounds such as electrical arc, waterphone, glitch, synthesizers, voice recordings and other metal objects reminiscent of the industrial environment where the images were shot. The long and strenuous hours I spent mixing and the systemic comparison of my material to super-produced pop music gave the soundtrack a sort of hollywood-esque quality of production. In addition to my conversations with in-house sound engineer Cato Langnes, this process is very representative of the technics I used to compose a music both fierce and dynamic, between sheer agression and exciting tension.

Exude.light is a miniature for Ondes Martenot and electronics. At first, I wanted to exploit the instrument’s inherent lyricism, and avoid at all cost its more stereotyped electronic sounds. In the end, I fully embraced those timbers of postindustrial science fiction movie. Moreover, the final melody clearly recalls the music of Vangelis, making the piece a sort of neo noir or cyber punk fantasy, a kind of Blade Runner 1949. Since I’m not an instrumental composer by any means, I recorded the playing of Estelle Lemire, processed and assembled the material from which I extracted a melodic line that she played in the concert. I first used this back-and-forth fashion between electronic and instrumental during Prim’R, the 4th piece that I remixed during my stay at Notam. Here I was asked to compose a piece for a dance duet representing two children playing ball in a park. In collaboration with a tuba player, I decided to “play a music game”, where the tuba’s extended technique could mimick the rebound of a ball but also to invite the tuba player in my “sandbox of electronic music”. After a session of recording with him, the sounds where, yet again, processed and mixed into an electronic track that inspired a score which was played live during the dance choreography, blurring the line between fabulated and realistic tuba. My stay at Notam allowed me to extend this idea of game and frontiers between electronic and classic music, between reality and illusion. With a variety of artificial reverbs, I explored notions of space and acoustics in which the sounds can exist and seem realistic or outworldly.

I thank the SOCAN Foundation for their funding, which facilitated my stay at Notam studios.