On 6th – 15th August 2022 I visited the Faroe Islands to work on a live electronic and instrumental music project called Maskinverkir. A collaboration with percussionist James Philip Goodwin and electronic musician Heðin Ziska Davidsen. The aim of the project was to establish a cultural exchange between the UK and the Faroe islands in the field of EA music. Sonic creativity has considerable reach to establish international partnerships.
The Maskinverkir project explores the sonic qualities of machines based on the Faroe Islands. Mechanized and electric structures through a combination of human and automata interaction reveal musical experiences. Our task was to musically engage with the unique sonic contours generated by everyday machines, using percussion and live electronics.
‘Colossal caverns of intricate machinery whose outlines and purpose were wholly strange to me, and whose sound manifested itself only after many years of dreaming’.
Text from The Shadow Out of Time by H.P. Lovecraft’’s
Through a process of musical experimentation, unexpected results emerged that inspired us to reimagine the sounds into musical forms. Each creative task began by designing analog and digital sonic processes, assembled to enhance emotional experiences. Working freely with the electronic medium, we were able to let our feelings and intuition be guiding factors in shaping the fixed media piece. We were shaping sonic trajectories to stimulate emotional reactions. Prior to the visit, recordings were made by James of various machinery from around the islands. An assortment of machines provided a diverse topology of sound material. For example, the interior of a fishing boat, woodwork tools, weaving machines, letter sorting machines, laminator, etc.
The sounds of machines often sound similar to extended techniques applied to standard musical instruments. This particular musical aspect was identified by the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo utilized the musical potential of mechanical machine at the turn of the 20th century and is highlighted in his Art of Noises manifesto in 1913. Seeking musical elements such as pitch, rhythm and timbre morphologies within the sound is part of a global experimental music tradition.
Sounds with similar pitch types were identified and edited together. The rich sonorities embedded in the recordings meant little sonic manipulation and processing was required. The onset of the sound recording was important to create loops. EQ was used to filter out unwanted frequencies.
For two days we composed a fixed media piece and rehearsed with percussion and live electronics at the Hoydalar studio based at Sanatoriivegurin. Located in the green belt of Tórshavn, the Faroese capital, Hoydalar is a historically rich and unique area of 37Ha.
Together, the landscape and inhabitants of the Faroe Islands offer a unique environment. All aspects of everyday life are shaped by an overwhelming sense of nature. Due to extreme cyclonic tracks and the predominantly rugged terrain with meagre woodland and limited agricultural land, conspired to produce an environment that can severely challenge colonizers. The steep cliffs of the cathedral shaped mountains stand in contrast to the architecture of city life. These reservoirs of space allow for reflection on the inaccessibility of the rugged terrain. The sea surrounding the islands acts as a conduit for trade from around the world. There are under sea tunnels connecting the islands. One of the tunnels contains the ‘jellyfish’ roundabout, where you can tune your FM radio to listen to the sound art of Jens L Thomsen. Immersion in the landscape provokes imaginary thoughts with a strong sense of mythology. Music plays a significant role on the Faroe Islands. A strong choral tradition exists that connects communities along with emerging contemporary art forms of electronic music.
The Maskinverkir project was a fantastic opportunity in which to work and meet musicians and sound artists on the Faroe Islands. I hope to return one day to compose new work, collaborate and developing opportunities for artists in both the Faroe Islands and the UK.