This blog post is a presentation of Øyvind Brandtsegg and his guest lecture for MCT held the 26th of March. The lecture is the first part of the series of lecutres given in the course in sonification, led by Anna Xambó. The author is the facilitator of this talk.
Øyvind Brandtsegg (born 1971) is a composer and performer working in the fields of algorithmic improvisation and sound installations. Adding effects to his instrument, the vibraphone, was his entry into electronic music. In 2008 he completed his PhD at NTNU where he made a computer program that he could improvise with. Sonification is the translation of data values to sound, and Øyvind is interested in creating sounds that represent that data in a meaningful way, and the sound can relate to the origin of the data. When he works with sonification installations, Øyvind always starts with visiting the research area to get inspired by the place the data comes from. His job is then to tie the art-piece to the place of origin, to facilitate the relation between the art and the field. He presented us with two installations, and talked about the creation and life cycle of these.
Flyndre is a sculpture by Nils Aas placed in Inderøy in Trønderlag. It is inspired by the golden flounder, which is a flat fish that was a valuable commodity in Trondheim. Øyvind has made a sonification installation of this sculpture. This is a good example of an algorithmic composition, as it maps time and weather data to different sound parameters to mirror the environment. For example, the parameters Øyvind uses in this composition includes tidal data, moon phases, weather(temperature/light), weekdays, times and months. All these parameters produce a composition that changes over time. The first cycle was for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, but when it was completed, the project got renewed for another ten years, which is a very impressive lifespan for a sound installation. The Boros Bunker in Berlin only allows for four years.
Louisa Wood Ruby, in “Layers of seeing and seeing through layers” states that you cannot experience art in the same way online as you can in being on site, and Øyvind seems to agree with this. He says that the true form of the sonification is first experienced when it is coupled with the sounds on site. The massive metal sculpture has a sound of its own, and it resonates with the wind. Couple that with both the sonification and the ambient sounds of the weather and wildlife, and you get the intended sound of “Flyndre”. Still, an online real time sonification of the work can be found here.
Very long baseline interferometry, or possibly the world’s most expensive sine tone instrument is a sonification of the data produced by triangulation measurements created when measuring the relative distance of quasars that are a billion lightyears ago. The origin of the light we observe when looking at quasars are from a time when the earth was nothing like what it is today. The VLBI technique is used in GPS navigation as well as map making, where two antennas on earth observing the same point in the sky (a quasar) creates a triangulation. To do sonification properly one needs to understand the field one is working in. Øyvind has used a lot of time traveling reading and talking to scientists to understand the complex scientific field that these data originate in, and upon completion, he was hailed by the scientists for making a great way of presenting this data to the non-scientific community. That is the quintessence of sonification.
The projects home page can be found here.
Here is a video of a TED talk that Øyvind did on this project. A TED talk is an inspirational film that is made to hit the sweet spot between entertainment and teaching. Here he explains how it is possible to translate processes in nature into sound, so as to get a new view on nature.
Exerpt from the Q&A section
Øyvind was asked about his thoughts about the cycle of “Flyndre”, and how it would feel when the project finally ends in 2026. Originally the project was meant to last for ten years and end in 2016, and he was very happy to see it renewed, Øyvind Told us. But for now, the epquipment starts to show signs of wear and upkeep is getting harder and harder. He talked about how weather and the elements not only affected the sound of the installation, but also the wiring and electronics as well. Some of the epquipment is about 15 years at this stage. But now, he sees that it is natural to end the cycle. When he visits the live stream, he can tell that it “sounds like what i did in 2006”. As an artist it is always necesarry to look forward.
My background is among other a master in fine arts, and as a person interested in art, i find it very interesting how sonification seems to be able to bridge the gap between science and art. It is appartent that Øyvind does with integrety when one looks at all the trouble he goes through to set the data into context. The sonification itself is the technique and the craft, but the realtion it has to the world we percieve around us is what makes it art. Sound can be a powerful converyer of meaning, but only if it is put into prorper context. It was very inspiring to see how Øyvind is able to do this in his professional artistic work.
It is highly relevant to have a speaker such as Øyvind in the sonification course. It is very relevant to see how this field can be implemented into society in an artistic way. If you were not able to be there, the TED talk above is a good source of information to get you interested in the work and style of Øyvind Brandtsegg