On Saturday I returned to Oslo via train from Lillehammer, I was able to witness some rather wonderful vistas, though many of the most spectacular were so fleeting that they proved too elusive to photograph.
I’m afraid that you’ll have to put up with these modest snapshots of snow covered trees, frozen lakes and distant mountains, and then use your imagination to envisage the spectacular landscapes that I wasn’t able to capture.
On Sunday I popped out with the hydrophones to make some recordings in the river Akerselva that runs through the middle of Oslo and past my hotel.
The weather on the second day of recording was similar to the first, though there was more gusting in the wind. This resulted in a greater diversity of ambient wind sounds and gave us the chance to record some more close skiing sounds with less background noise. Many of the recordings from the previous day had a fair amount of microphone movement noise and we discovered early on this second day that this was coming from us resting the boom pole into the snow, which was not an entirely stable surface. So we opted for either holding the pole aloft and attempting to be very still, or resting the pole onto our boots / skis.
We were able to capture a diversity of ambiences, amongst a thicket of trees, at the edgeof a clearing, high amongst the branches, low by a fallen tree and behind a snowdrift. We also recorded some extensive skiing sounds, travelling between static recording locations, Jøran skiing past and the crunching of skis as you step in the snow. As the texture of the snow varied so did the sound and so recording similar actions in different locations yielded different results.
I also spent some time skiing about without any headphones and recording equipment, simply listening to the soundscape with my own ears. This was vastly quieter than the amplified sound I had been hearing through the headphones and I felt it important for the future piece that I listen to the soundscape in its natural form.
Eventually the wind picked up and so we retreated back inside the cabin for the evening. Despite the constant wind we had managed to capture a diversity of sound textures and plenty of material to experiment with and explore. The materials posses their own dynamic flows and these will likely become a major guiding aspects in development of the works form and structure. Filtering, EQ and layering will explore these sounds and seek to highlight the details in the textures.
While these sonic materials are fairly quiet and full of subtle details the work itself should not neglect the fairly harsh nature of the conditions in which the sounds were recorded and should seek to embody something of the physical power of this fairly unforgiving environment.
We headed out at around 11am to make some recordings. Temperature was -13ºC with moderate wind and constant light snowfall (both increasing in intensity as the day wore on). This resulted fairly good conditions for recording wind in the trees (and even got some whistling from telegraph poles) but made it difficult to record other detailed sounds. I found tree with hanging bird feeders on it which was rather popular with a group of small birds, they flitted around the tree, occasionally hammering their beaks on the branches, tweeting and diving into the bird feeder.
Jøran also took me to the mountain river nearby which was almost entirely frozen over. Only a small section of fast moving water was exposed. The exposed section of the river offered up wonderful gurgling and bubbling sounds with the water tunnelling its way downstream under the ice. A further covered section below the bridge (a metre or two downstream) also revealed some nice medium / low rumbling sounds as the water sped below the ice towards a nearby precipice.
It was a bit of a challenge to manage holding all of the recording equipment, boom poles, ski poles camera and headphones etc. but made it work eventually. I also took some recordings of skis crunching on ice, Jøran zipping past on skis and boots stepping in the snow.
By 2pm the wind had picked up and the snowfall became a little more intense, so the executive decision was made to head back to the cabin and have a cup of tea (Yorkshire Gold no less).
Wednesday 15th January we set off at 09:30 heading North from Oslo, passed the largest lake in Norway and up the main road toward Lillehammer and beyond. The roads were icy and it began to snow as we wound north, (not heavily, but enough to interrupt my view of the scenery). I was, however, able to see some spectacular scenery, and I hope that it will be clearer on the return leg so that I can see more.
The car was playing up so our progress was slower than it might have been, but we were up at Ulmo (the local village/centre) for around 14:30. We had some lunch, collected some supplies and began to climb into the mountains. The climb was very gradual, due to the car’s trouble, but we made it up to the top for around 16:00 and prepared to ski across to the cabin. I only fell over completely once (Jøran was either far enough ahead not to see this or was polite enough not to comment) and though there were a few other near misses I made slow progress up to the cabin.
Inside the cabin was the same temperature as outside (-13º), but without the wind chill it felt much warmer, the trek up from the car had also good the blood flowing so it didn’t feel too cold. We set about defrosting the place and I was charged with throwing more logs on the fire while Jøran went back to the car with a sledge for the rest of the supplies.
Whilst he was away I stood outside and listened to the roar of the silence. The trek up had also highlighted many good ski sounds (poles, skis, breathing, shuffling, sliding (and falling)), so I began to anticipate the next days recording session.
The temperature in the cabin gradually climbed reaching 0 after a few hours and a very civilised 18º by the evening. We had dinner, drank some whisky and watched a film with some very interesting sound design ‘The Sun’.
The second leg of this project is focussed mainly on developing a work composed from the sounds of nature. Anders Tevit had recommended that I take a journey up north to a more rural area, so as to immerse myself more realistically in the genuine Norwegian landscape.
Jøran Rudi had told me about his cabin while we sat at Baden Baden airport on our way back form the Compose With Sounds concert / event at the ZKM, so before Christmas I had dropped him an email to see if it was available. He very kindly offered to allow me to use the cabin as a base for recording and to accompany me up there both as a guide and for tech support.
Obviously me arriving in a wintery Oslo wearing a tweed jacket, fair isle jumper vest and a pair of tan brogues (rubber soled for the inclement weather) didn’t inspire him with much confidence regarding my readiness for Norwegian mountains in winter. Thus, with the trip only days away, Jøran invited me over to his place to try on some ski gear and have dinner.
I met his delightful daughter Vera, had some very engaging and stimulating conversation and enjoyed a lovely dinner washed down with some excellent home brewed beer (an IPA and a Stout). Also, the ski gear fit.
Luckily the weather forecast for the visit to Høvringen had swung from -25º (predicted on the 9th Jan) to a balmy -13º with light wind and a smattering of snow. So with my borrowed ski gear and my M&S super thick thermals I was ready to go.
Monday the 13th January was my first day back at NOTAM. Having left the piece that I had begun on my last trip completely untouched (and un-played) over Christmas and New Year I was able to return to it with completely fresh ears. I heard a work (Draft 2) which contained a series of snapshots, containing good ideas, but with insufficient development. The whole work felt rushed. (Incidentally a quirk of fate may have further enhanced this opinion, as I was initially listening to the bounced/exported file, exported at 96k, with the soundcard was playing back the audio at only 48k. I enjoyed the slow development of the introduction at this lower sample rate and the emerging drone, but was disappointed with the lack of HF content and impact in the gestural motifs at the crescendo. It was only at this point that I realised something was amiss). So with this new found perspective I took to stretching the work, I grabbed it at both ends and pulled.
At some point in the afternoon Notto rushed in excitedly to say that a new sound had been discovered for me (we had had a brief, but very good, conversation about my piece on the 22nd December in which I revealed all of my close recorded source sounds to him). He told me that Gyrid’s mouse was making a rather pained squeak / screech. Having a keyboard solo already and needing something to act more assertively in the centre of the piece it suddenly became so clear to me, I was missing a mouse solo. So in the evening, when Gyrid was no longer torturing the mouse, I took it into the studio with a KM140 and made some recordings.
When placed in the piece these recordings seemed to work rather well after the ethereal second section of the work (in which the pitched sounds swoop and zoom around in circles). In complete contrast to this previous section the pained mouse sits static in the centre, and begrudgingly strains.
Back to Oslo on the second part of my residency / project. This time I’ll be heading up near to Lillehammer so that I can record environmental sounds.
The forecast looks fairly chilly but not exceptionally so, and there does now seem to be light snow predicted (which is what I’m after).
I’m certain that the temperature is going to be a bit of a shock to the system when I first arrive but hopefully it won’t interrupt the processes of recording.
This leg is certainly going to be more of an adventure than last time (which consisted mainly of barricading myself into the studio for late night sessions), and some details about the adventure I’m still not clear about.