three landscapes

27 minutes

three landscapes was commissioned for the festival grieg 07 in norway, celebrating edvard grieg on the 100th anniversary of his death. an exhibition, sleppet, was part of the festival – showing the work of 6 artists who use sound. and several months earlier, we were invited to experience the norwegian spring to make recordings in landscapes similar to those that inspired grieg’s work. the source materials and inspirations gathered in the field became the building blocks of our installations.

my piece – entitled three landscapes was made up of three short films and sound works. the films and sounds were created independently of each other, with the idea that over the 9 minute length of each section, a viewer-listener could lose themselves in the visuals and sound, as well as either independently of the other. i wanted the work to hover (perhaps awkwardly) between film and sound installation – attempting to deny any kind of hierarchy between sound and image.

for the first section: a glacier for peder balke, i laid out strips of clear 16mm film over a map of the gloppen area of norway, and traced all the glacier and water elements in different hues of blue ink. after the drawing was finished, i attached the strips end to end. the film is the exact size of the map, and hence, has a scale relational to the actual landscape.

for the second sequence: a waterfall for bjornstjerne bjornson, i traced every word in a chapter of bjornson’s book arne, using a color coding system for the line lengths based on the first letter of each word. in the chapter titled searching for a lost song, the main character is listening to waterfalls; and notices that from a distance, they become like the sounds of an organ. as with the map tracing, the marks that make up this sequence are also the same scale as the text from the book – in this case regular text fit along the 16mm strip in two rows, but the sections of poetry, where text was slightly smaller, fit three rows of smaller lines.

for the last sequence, a cabin for edvard grieg, i used a player piano roll of grieg’s peer gynt suite as a stencil for ink spots. in this case the length of the film strip is the length of the piano roll. while dubbing this section to video i decided to use the footage in negative form, so the red, magenta, and orange dots became various shades of glowing green.

the sound works were made with fragments of recordings of the areas we visited – from glaciers to lakes to an island to grieg’s writing cabin (with ant hills, melting ice, breathing water, humming wires, and birds in between). i also added the sound of a 100 year old pump organ at the suggestion of arne’s sensitivity towards waterfalls sounding like a pipe organ sounds. i also used a 100 year old banjo played with a bow, in reference to the old hardanger fiddle hanging on the wall of grieg’s cabin wall – and i also used the sound of his tuning fork, which i struck upon the edge of his writing desk.

here’s the quote from arne:
“spring had come to the mountain-tracts. it was sunday morning; the weather was mild and calm, but the air somewhat heavy, and the mist lay low on the forest… when he opened the door the fresh smell of the leaves met him; the garden lay dewy and bright in the morning breeze, but from the ravine sounded the roaring of the waterfall, now in lower, then again in louder booms, till all around seemed to tremble… as he went further from the fall, its booming became less awful, and soon it lay over the landscape like the deep tones of an organ.” 
bjornstjerne bjornson, arne, 1869