Camille Norment worked in Studio Nordheim with Cato on the soundtrack for a short film, The Haunted in early March. It premiered in January at TIFF – and got nominated for the program NEW:VISION during CPH:DOX 16th–26th of March; an artistic competition program sporting films picked by the jury because of their ground-breaking experiments in the area between documentary and artistic reflection – quoting their home page.

When we talk to Camille, she is busy editing on the soundtrack which is nearly done. From the loudspeakers comes sound of wind whistling, many layers of a talking voice and a deep, warm, slightly worrying tone.

We learn that the film is about Uzbekistan and an extinct tiger.

Hi Camille. What is this soundtrack made up from?

It consists of recordings from my home studio of the glass armonica, feedback and several more abstract sounds. The bass elements are treated to make a certain sense of space and presence; repeating throughout the film to link certain images together and reinforce the telling of the story. The bass also balances the high range sounds of the armonica. There is also diegetic sound, and a voice-over, a “letter” to the tiger, which is often conceptually referring to something that happens in a dream or in the past. Visual and the sound in realtime and giving the same information, occurs only in one small section of the film. Elsewhere the sonic narrative is a matter of negotiating when to give more information or to take it away: Just because you have a outdoor scene, doesn’t mean the sounds of birds should actually be there.

What is the theme of the film?

The film is about the now extinct Caspian Tiger, one of the biggest cats to have ever lived, who still has a very strong presence in the culture of Uzbekistan today. People still dream about it – a cemetary caretaker in the film tells about how the tiger comes there every Friday as soon as it turns dark. The Uzbekistani history is one of great change. As one of the poorest Soviet republics, the area got made into new regions, the original language changed and with an ongoing loss of many aspects of culture. The tiger is tied up to the nation’s history. It’s extinction was a result of, amongst other things; forced industrialisation, watercorses transformed into desert landscapes, fur and boar hunting by Soviet military personnell.

So, who is the filmmaker and how did you meet?

The filmmaker Saodat Ismailova asked me because apparently the Caspian tiger was capable of hypnotizing its prey – Who knew tigers could do that? It’s a frequency that they could emit or vocalise which hypnotized their prey before they attacked it. The magic, mystery and dream that is associated with the tiger is similar to the superstition connected to the glass armonica, including the hypnotizing quality that can be at play when you use the instrument in certain ways. I couldn’t find any information about this, but I also like that – it reiterates the space between actuality and myth.

You have many times earlier been working with sound and its impact on your body and your emotion, isn’t that true?

I am interested in that, but I always clarify that I use the armonica quite objectively as a contemporary instrument – sonically in relationship to the electric guitar feedback and the very objective and  ”neutral” sine wave. I have no claims on what the music will do and I don’t expect it to do anything. I use it as sound. But I am interested in the mystery, historical connotations and censorship in relation to it and the fact that some people loved it and some were afraid of it.

What are your thoughts on similarities and differences between a sine and the armonica?

The sine wave can be described as a “perfect” tone with no overtones, whereas the glass armonica is near perfect, with characterizing overtones. Because the bowls are hand blown, if you see it spinning on its spindle it looks a little wobbly. That creates beats within the loop that you wouldn’t have in a sine wave cause there would be no sense of an beginning or and end, its the same exact tone wherever you enter it. The sine has no overtones, the armonica has some, very few but they are present. The wave is not completely pure, and for me that is also what gives the sound its interesting qualities. For me, this is important as a social metaphor. The overtones give unique character which is far more valuable than the ‘pure’ tone. If you relate overtones to genetic diversity, we already know that groups with poorly diversified gene pools cannot thrive well.

What is Cato’s work?

My focus is the composition. The balancing and mastering of the sound is in Catos hands, also there was certain creative elements that I wanted to execute that he has great expertise in developing. We have worked together many times before. I came to Notam first time around 2004 I think, a long time ago. Cato knows my working language and my intentions. It is important for me to feel comfortable with where my role ends, his begins, and the overlap. Also to have the possibility to jump in to each other’s seat to make changes or suggestions makes it a good working relationship.

 

 

From the program of CPH:DOX:
Saodats Ismailova’s symbolic and suggestive film is a cinematic letter to an extinct race of tigers, and uses an almost hallucinatory force to conjure up a mythological, Central Asian world of yesterday. A majestic animal that speaks to us about the historical changes that led up to its own extinction as a result of modern industrialisation and fur hunting, but which lives on in the collective imagination of Turkestan as a sacred image of the soul. Ismailova’s elegiac but vitalistic work lets us sense historical and cultural changes through a hypnotic smokescreen of visions. The patinated archive footage of urban life in the region at the beginning of the 20th century, which emerges before us between pictures of today’s vast landscapes, is haunting in its modest intensity. ‘The Haunted’ is a work that consists of admonishing appearances, but is also an aural experience of a different (and more spiritual) world.

Christiana Rose is a practicer of circus artistry, music and computer technology which is a pretty unique combination. Last month she travelled from Colorado and Oberlin Conservatory to Notam, where she met up with Henrik Sundt, spending a week further developing her project, SALTO, which is an instrument for control of sound with body movements. We wanted to ask her some questions about that.

Why Notam?
My professor, Peter Swendsen, helped set up this residency for me. As a recent graduate of Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, I was looking for professional settings to continue my work. I was going to be in Norway assisting him with the premiere of his work, What Noises Remain? so Notam seemed like the perfect fit to see what’s out there. To take SALTO to the next step I was in need of help with some of the computer programming. Since programming hasn’t been my main focus of study, working with Sundt was a great experience to get the in depth help I needed.

Could you explain your project?
I am developing a musical interface for trapeze artists, which essentially makes the choreographer become the musician too. It puts them in control of the sound via movement creating an interactive performance with aerial dance and sound. What we are working on now is the Max patch. My first version was limited and not very flexible. We pulled it back apart to all the different layers that are needed within the interface and the system, then opened it back up to make it flexible through machine learning and logics.
Henrik: Mostly we do this in Max, but there are alternatives like Integra – which is a framework for making electronic music tools available to a broader audience. It is more simple to set up these patches, a little like Max, but you don’t have to know all the nerdy details to get things up and running which can be very relevant for working efficiently with an idea.

How, or maybe why, did you come up with this idea, and how can it be implemented?
Mostly it comes from me wanting to combine all of my interests. There is a history of similar projects with modern dance, and so I thought, why not circus? Contemporary circus recently has produced multimedia works, like Cirkus Cirkör’s Limits and has the possibility of reaching a broader audience. With circus there is a big potential because the movements, think of flipping, the vertical height, the distance traveled and gravity, are well suited for sensors to record. One idea could be training the audience to recognize difficult moves through the sonification of pressure. If you are wrapped in ropes of the trapeze there is a lot of pressure on your arms and legs. The muscle sensors can read the activity and the data can be translated into sound, e.g. creating percussive sounds every time the sensors are activated. The sound comes from the body, the physicality being represented. This integrates the artistic and conceptual with the technical and physical means, creating a unique platform for expression.

What are the parameters of the armband?
It uses 8 EMG myoelectric sensors, which are electromagnetic sensors for muscle activity. For instance when you grab something, your neurons start firing and send messages telling your muscles to contract, those messages are little electrical impulses that sensors can pick up. Also, there are two other sensors, an accelerometer and a gyroscope, which give you different information about position, velocity and rotation.

Do you imagine this as a multi speaker setup?
Eventually I think it would be fascinating to spatialize this performance. Even with stereo speakers you, the performer, are listening to this either upside down, or spinning quickly. During the performer’s listening experience filtering occurs,  whether that’s from the blood rushing to your head, or because you are spinning, you hear the sound differently. I think it would be very interesting to spatialize the sound in a way which can give the audience a taste of what that feels like to be upside down and spinning around.

How did you get in to the field of technology in music and art?
I started to design instruments after taking courses in computer music, studio recording, and circuitry at Oberlin. Since I was 5 years old, I had been practicing gymnastics competitively and playing classical and jazz piano. I got into music technology in high school when I joined a R & B band and began recording demos. The summer before my senior year I went to Oberlin for summer camp. That was when I first got introduced to electroacoustic music and the Max software. Thinking the camp was going be about keyboards and sampling, and without having heard any electroacoustic music before, when the first concert started, it was all electroacoustic multi-channel works and I thought “I have no idea what this is, but it is awesome!” I fell in love with the music and sonic possibilities then and there. One piece I remember was Moth by Tom Lopez.

Sounds like an interesting place. Does Oberlin differ from other Universities?
Oberlin is certainly a unique place. There are two institutions: the college and the conservatory of music. The Liberal Arts College aims to produce a well-rounded exploration of different disciplines, like arts and technology, and how they connect, while the Conservatory of Music is in traditional western style, with intense performance-based programs, including opera and all the orchestral instruments, a composition and music technology programs. All this is situated in an eclectic place, the middle of the Ohio cornfields where students come to from different backgrounds. It is a small school with no more than 35 students at the biggest lectures. You really get to know your professors, and can develop personal relationships with them. Oberlin takes a critical approach to learning and teaching. It is all undergraduate students, and the professor’s attention is focused on teaching us, not on a graduate or PhD student’s “more important” research.

What is your long time perspective, why do you want this to be available as a tool?
My hope is that other aerialists and choreographers can use this as a tool within their own acts, making the choreographer independent. They can design and choose what they want the sound to be like through some predetermined options. With this, they could continue to use SALTO to create new works and it could become part of their performance practice.

Tell us of your plans for the future!
I will continue to work on these types of instruments for the next five years and hopefully continue this research and development in graduate school. I plan to keep collaborating with aerialists to develop it and see what interest there is – if there is any – to use and work with this kind of technology. Oberlin has been a very safe place, supportive and allowing me to dream big. The other part is: are people actually going to want to perform with this type of technology in circus? or could it be an interesting tool for artists outside of that realm?

Photo and video by Emily Volz. Performer: Katharine Geber

in 2017 Kjell Samkopf organizes under the heading USAL  a series of house concerts in which he will present a selection of his sonological works. A limited number of listeners (preferably not more than 20), gather in a room where auditory and visual distractions are sought minimized. Under the guidance of the composer we listen through a sonic piece in its entirety, with headphones. Duration: ca. two hours.

Program:

• An introduction by the composer (approximately 15 minutes)
• Adjusting the listening level
• about 5 minutes of silence
• Attentive listening with headphones to a sonic piece
(Duration 50 to 80 minutes)
• about 5 minutes of silence
• Possibility of a brief summary, questions to the artist

After the audience has itself well installed, Samkopf gives a short presentation of today’s work and share some perspectives on our ability and possibility to listen, and challenges related to our attention. Throughout a long life we develop our listening towards a habit controlled action (even though very few of us like to admit it). Breaking this habit requires an effort. Just as visual art gives us an opportunity to develop our ability to see, sound art gives us an opportunity to develop our ability to listen.
The attendants are encouraged to bring their favorite headphones.

Spring program – Biermannsgården, Maridalsveien 78, Oslo

March 13 Mårådalen Walk (1994) (56 min.)
April 24th Mountain Listening (1996) (58 min.)
May 8 Burragorangian Stones (2003/2011) (79 min.)
June 1 Studie i å spille for kråkene (Study to play for crows) (2014) (60 min.)

Start: 7:00 p.m. (doors open half an hour earlier, light refreshments)
Tickets kr. 100, or, ticket + CD kr. 200 (recommended).

http://bidrobon.weebly.com/usal.html

USALS concerts are supported by the Norwegian Society of Composers and are organized by Kjell Samkopf in cooperation with Drivhuset/bibrobon concert series.

Photo by Lisbeth Risnes