I am currently working on a Phd in Music at Lund University. I am nearly half way through my project, and have completed 12 music/sound works for it so far. Here is the current draft of the project’s abstract:
The steeples of Lutheran churches are prominent in the Stockholm skyline, yet the country is largely secular. The frequency and amplitude modulation apparatus of the Swedish Radio reach out over the city alongside privatized spectrums, internet cables, and the city’s all but abandoned underground telephone system. Stockholm contains cityscapes that have been there for centuries, yet it is also full of the most modern and current day examples of architecture and built environments, all jostling for their place in parallel collective memories.Thus I want to expand allegories to these architectural instruments into the world of the mechanical and the electrical, stretching back into the folkloric world and forward into the unfolding universe of electronic music technologies, in order to spin ephemeral cities from stories more subtle than the forces at work where the physical one is changing rapidly in ways that are often disempowering.
The materials in the project are drawn around themes of urban memory and transformation, psychogeography and the “ghosts” of the imagined city. There are two sets of questions the artistic works of this project are created to develop and address. One is about the ability of individuals to affect their own experience of urban life in terms of collective memory and imagination, and the other is about how the combination of unusual timbral materials and real-world sounds can trigger or inform that ability. Experiential contact with the collective daily life of the city that is the subject of the work is necessary to the aims and methods of the research. I have used Stockholm as a model, because I have lived and worked there for many years. Stockholm’s particular history has offered a unique contrast between the optimistic modernism and industrialism of the last century and the ghost of the older, pre-industrial city, as well as a third, very new strain of globalization.
The music for this project centers around a group of compositions , improvisations and sound installations utilizing modular synthesizers, pipe organs, multi-channel settings, PureData and SuperCollider programs, mechanical string choirs of hurdy-gurdy and nyckelharpa and the scordatura violin central to much of my artistic practice. These instruments form an allegory to different architectures in Stockholm. The project also employs field recordings, and the sonic archeology they represent, to meld these instruments together and further address the questions posed. The finished work is a collection of psycho-acoustic triggers for collective memory. Here the aim is to make an audial exploration into psychogeography, and learn how music and sound might be used to give people a stronger sense of place and identity, and thus be empowered before transformations taking place in the city where they dwell.
There is an improvisatory practice in how we relate to urban environments; en ever-transforming inter-play of action and memory played between the animate and inanimate. Each individual draws a phantom set of memory images- or “ghosts”- onto the cityscape, which is played out in everyday transit through the city. There are as many Stockholms as there are people there and gone, and this yields subtle ways people can be empowered in their surroundings. The theoretical material utilized in this project deals with questions of what collective memory of a city is, and how it can be found or represented in sound, through the study of psychogeography, urban history and activism and theoretical writings around space and place. The methodical application of these theoretical materials in the project’s music include work around micro-tonality and acoustic artifacts, synthesis, field recording, processing concrete sounds, combining acoustic and electronic instruments and work with different kinds of spatialization and installations. The sonic creation of imagined places and histories is a metaphor to urban environments, where new places are created by filling in the gaps between and building upon the foundations of the old ones. In total the project creates a monad – The Ephemeral City – out of music and sound works, in order to argue that the reclamation of the ephemeral, the subtle and the imagined is a way to empower urban dwellers with ownership of their own city, immune to the vast economic forces tearing through the fabric of Stockholm life by virtue of the ghostly, transitory and mercurial, as compelling to the inner eye as brick and mortar to the outer life.
As this site progresses, the music/sound works of the project will be able to be accessed here.