Sonic Life – Listening to NSU’s History

Lived Anthologies gathers the “sound worlds” of Nordic Summer University – the voices of keynotes, theoretical texts and artistic pieces that make up our archive. The project explores how we listen to someone’s voice, how it shakes us with a rattle or sway, a quiver or surge, a swell or a drop. The sounds collages play with the relationship between sense and sensuousness, a balance that voices must bear as they deliver their ultimatums in a unique aurality.

Below, you can find details of how to access the soundscapes of Lived Anthologies, which are being gradually released. The “listening stations” are scattered across the Nordic and Baltic region. Anyone can trigger and listen to the podcasts at these locations by downloading a free app. These locations reflection significant places in NSU’s history: the sites of our academic and artistic partners, our previous meeting spots, and places from our history.

Lived Anthologies is produced by researcher and sound artist Eduardo Abrantes https://eduardoabrantes.com.

  1. This is a list of the works that will been given a sonic life:
  • Available:
  • Abrantes, E. (2017). Local sound families and a choir in Estonia: Inquiring into acoustic specificity through multi-layered soundscapes. In L. Greenfield, M. Trustram, & E. Abrantes (Eds.), Artistic Research – Being There: Explorations into the Local. Århus: NSU Press. (Read by Gry Buhrkall)
  • Upcoming:
  • Lagerström, C. (2015). Silent Walk: Unpredictable Encounters in Urban Space. In C. Fentz & T. McGuirk (Eds.), Artistic Research: Strategies for Embodiment. Århus: NSU Press. (Read by Katharina Stenbeck)
  • Koefoed, O., Kagan, S., & Dieleman, H. (2011). Sustensive Intercultural Chronotopes. In M. Paulsen, O. Koefoed, C. Ydesen, & J. Kromann (Eds.), Learning from the Other: Intercultural Metalogues. Malmö: NSU Press. (Read by Kate Donovan)
  • Riikonen, E. (2017). Entering Spaces, Creating Places: A Human Geographical Approach to the Production of the Everyday. In C. Friberg & R. Vazquez (Eds.), Experiencing the Everyday. Århus: NSU Press. (Read by Rosa Oikonomou)
  • Steinskog, E. (2005). The Decay of Aura – The Aura of Decay. In D. Petersson & E. Steinskog (Eds.), Actualities of Aura. Svanesund: NSU Press. (Read by Katharina Stenbeck)
  • Straume, I. S. (2011). The Political Imaginary of Global Capitalism. In I. S. Straume & J. F. Humphrey (Eds.), Depolitization – The Production of Global Capitalism. Malmö: NSU Press. (Read by Arlene Tucker)
  • This is how to listen to them:
  • Download the mobile app Echoes at: https://explore.echoes.xyz/ -this is a free app which allows you to listen to the different sound files at their physical locations.
  • Once on location (see list below), just open your app and click on the “near you” option to find the anthologies, they will be marked as blue circles (“echoes”) in the map, named “NSU Lived Anthologies”, and all you have to do to start listening is to walk into them. You are then free to explore the location, moving or standing still while the anthology is playing. All the “echoes” are placed in public spaces with free access.
  • These are the locations where all the anthologies are available for listening:
  • Copenhagen (Kongens Have)
  • Århus (Botaniske Have)
  • Stockholm (Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen)
  • Göteborg (Slottsskogen)
  • Oslo (Vigeland Park)
  • Reykjavik (Grandi harbour area, around “the pond” / Tjörnin)
  • Nuuk (Old Nuuk area)
  • Tallinn (Hirvepark)
  • Vilnius (Bernardine park)
  • These are the special locations where only particular anthologies can be heard – these are more remote areas somehow closely related to the anthology itself:
  • Mooste village, Estonia (Abrantes, Local Sound Families)

CALL FOR VOCAL NARRATORS

For his arts-research project Lived Anthologies, Copenhagen-based sound artist and researcher Eduardo Abrantes is looking for vocal narrators to read and record a selection of texts from Nordic Summer University’s history of publications (2000-2018). Could YOU be Eduardo’s collaborator?

If you are interested in lending your voice to this project, reply to: 
eduardoabrantes@gmail.com by sending:

  1. 1. A recorded sample reading of this text:

(You can choose your own location, it does not have to be studio silent but the voice needs to be heard clearly and richly.)

2. A short biography (200 words or less) and contact info (website, email, phone).

3. A description of the equipment you will be able to use in case you are selected: microphone and recorder type.

4. Write “lived anthologies – vocal narration” in the subject of your email.

Practical details:

Texts are in English, and should be read in a clear way with careful pronunciation. However, you do not need to be a professional voice actor or a native English speaker, since your accent and vocal nuances are welcome. 

Given our current social distancing, the recording will be made by each narrator using his/her own equipment. So you do have to have access to at least something like a Zoom-type recorder, since mobile phone microphones are usually too limited in their frequency range. 

If you are selected as a narrator, the whole process will be something like this: you and Eduardo start with a skype meeting to discuss the text. You then make a recording. You and Eduardo meet once again (online) for feedback and adjustments. You implement the feedback, and send Eduardo a final audio file together with an invoice.

Duration and remuneration:

Text lengths vary, but it is predicted that a text reading and recording process (including max. two short online meetings with Eduardo for preparation and feedback) can be concluded between 3-5 hours work. Upon completion, each narrator will be payed a flat fee of 2.000 DKK (all included).

Deadline for Submissions:

May 15th 2020

What is the Nordic Summer University!?

Since 1950, the Nordic Summer University (NSU) has been an independent, democratic, academic institution, committed to cross-disciplinary research and critical thinking. Inspired by the 19th Century Danish public reformer N.F.S. Grundtvig – who developed a social philosophy of “people’s high schools” (folkehøjskole) – NSU was founded to express Nordic humanistic and educational values.

For 2020, NSU has commissioned 10 artists and researchers to trace the spread of NSU’s values across the world. At the forefront of creative techniques in archiving, philosophy and creative methods, the projects will culminate in a mini-festival in Norway in Summer 2020 to celebrate NSU’s 70th anniversary – truly the oldest Nordic institution of its kind!

Closer

In a text submitted for one of the most recent anthologies to be published in the NSU context, Artistic Research: Being There (2018), I described at length a constellation of voices belonging to a few friends and co-creators I happened to be sharing a lodging with during springtime 2015, in Mooste, southeast Estonia.

I remember them as they sounded to me. Their voices together in that place, as a family of consonant sounds. John, soft spoken and quiet even in motion, almost all breath and no tone in his often lingering words. Evelyn, resonant and sharp in her mezzo-soprano harmony of briskness and warmth. Sebastian, a soundscape of crescendos in his open, inviting tone, words following thoughts, climbing and descending, always gathering strength for a higher peak. Luisa, the voice of a listener and a storyteller, with a quick, lithe and rich tone, and a confident hesitation that allows others’ voices to rest with hers. Ming, both tentative and booming, a hyper masculine and well-rounded baritone, at times undercut by breathless reticence. Elsie, their child’s voice vibrating in low shy clarity, reminded me of the subtle presence of a single glass marble rolling, swerving and throwing sparks of light. Kathleen, the voice of a speaker and a witness, combining coloratura of expression with matter-of-factness of punctuation. Myna, her tone paused and deeply rooted, balancing arresting sobriety with an undertone of flashing curiosity.

In the current phase of my anniversary project – Lived Anthologies – I have been thinking about voices a lot, because I am actively searching for speakers for vocal narration. There is so much to consider when thinking about a voice, it brings with it not only the whole body, but also a biographical aura, a cultural context, and the radical lived presence of an acoustic soul.

Soul. Hard to use this notion meaningfully nowadays, if not metaphorically or poetically. The ancient Greeks had a lot to say about the soul. At least one of them, in at least one book, discussed it as a chariot pulled by two horses. One horse was good, the other not so much. The uneven communion which is the human soul therefore would move much like a sinewave. Sometimes going up towards heaven, other times falling down to earth. Pulsing imperfectly, vibrating constantly. Like its Greek namesake, the butterfly (ψυχή). Like a voice.

When listening to someone’s voice, one is shaken. Literally. If it is a rattle or a sway, a quiver or a surge, a swell or a drop – the associations are lively and active when we become aurally engaged. To frame and fasten the voice, the right one for the task at hand – for the saying, telling, or singing even of the kind of truth inherent in a text – is not easy. And these are not poetic texts I am dealing with. These are science, most of them, in the sense that science is when it aims at making sense non-sensuously. Sense and sensuous are the key terms, and it is voice that bears the brunt of the task, the heaviest corner of the pilgrim’s icon throughout the procession.

So I listen and make choices, and layer sounds upon sounds, sounds under sounds, masking and enveloping, sometimes outright misleading, using all the tools available to create a sensorially rich aural scenography of meaning. From letter to utterance, from utterance to swelling composition, with a more than healthy pinch of constant doubt thrown in. It is the due owed to creative bringing forth. Hope you listen for it when its summer embodiment comes around for a visit.

Eduardo Abrantes, Copenhagen, March 9, 2020

Out and Loud

When engaging with the written word, reading out loud is not the norm. Most reading happens in silence, external at least. The inner sound-world might be set ablaze by the inflow gathered by the scrolling eye, but the lips, more often than not, remain tightly sealed. 

True, exceptions abound, some more fortunate than others. A political proclamation, any kind of speech anchored on a written text preparation, a roll call or a checklist relying on immediate response and acknowledgment, a story told, a letter passed on to the ears of the blind or illiterate, and many others.

I have become fascinated by the practice of reading out loud for crowds or groups of people engaged in a task. Like the tradition, stemming from the mid 1800s, of reading to the workers in Cuban cigar factories during their work shifts. I remember vividly the example given of the book being read as being Cervantes’ Don Quixote. But anything went, from Jane Eyre to Paris Match, from the Quran to Das Kapital. Everywhere where the busy, repetitive bodies were deemed opportunities for the literary colonization of the headspace. Happening again and again, in industrial, religious, or pedagogic settings. I might actually have dreamt once that Ballard’s Crash was being read to an operating team during a hip reconstruction surgery.

At the current phase of the Living Anthologies project, I am constantly balancing between reading silently or out loud. Through the constant doubtful path of text selection, trying out resonances is both a priority and a willy strategy. The ear is, after all, quicker than the eye*.

Reading out loud activates listening in context. In the context of the acoustics of the reader’s immediate surroundings, but also in a deeper sense. Rooted in the situation of loaning a voice to borrowed thoughts, one is invited to embrace a mixture of fusion and resistance through an intense co-created exchange. And as I have written before, books are mostly dead things crafted by dead people – so reading, and particularly reading out loud in a very literal sharing of living time, is a task of thaumaturgic, even necromantic, overtones. Books take from the body in time so they can add to the soul – as medieval thinkers might have framed it.

For this to happen authors do not need to be dead, though some indeed are. Every written text carries dead time, a carefully wrapped package of irretrievability, miraculous donated onto every reader. And unpacking is always a practice of archeology. Indiana Jones in every bookworm, “the pen is mightier than the sword” and other cinephile jokes aside – this is very true, I swear. And by swear I mean “I curse”. Loud and proud.

Eduardo Abrantes, Roskilde, October 9, 2019

*According to research (quoting for example Horowitz’s 2013 The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind), an average brain takes at least 0.25 seconds to process visual recognition. But sound? One can recognize a sound in 0.05 seconds.

Inflection

Inflection is a process of word formation. It essentially means that a given word will be modified in order to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, etc. Some languages are highly inflected, especially those closer to the Proto-Indo-European, such as Latin, Greek, Spanish, Biblical Hebrew, and other modern Romance languages, such as my own native one: European Portuguese. Others, like modern English and contemporary Scandinavian languages (Icelandic excluded), are markedly less so.


An example. In English you can start with “cat”. You need “cats” to convey plural. “Catty” to mark someone out as being prone to sly and spiteful remarks. “Categorical” to point out something or someone as an absolute, a sphynx-like mystery, standing in the deep silence of staring cats. “Concatenation” to single out a group that behaves not like a unity, but like an intensely telepathically linked hivemind, covertly scheming to rule your house from the catnip hangout. Oh, “catnip”, here we go…


In earnest or less so, one speaks of the inflection of a given voice. Some languages, like Maasai (spoken in Kenya and Tanzania), Tlatepuzco Chinantec (Southern Mexico) and Mandarin, are even prone to inflect using tone change alone, producing distinct meanings merely by the sonic variations of pronunciation of the same word. But when one speaks of the inflection of a given voice, one is bound in a specific conversation, meaning pouring from every corner of the acoustics of the room, or forest, or beach, or tunnel, or bunker, or airport lounge, or shopping mall, or school yard, or favourite waffle café.


Audio-books are all about inflection and situation. To have a text, in its literal complexity and unabbreviated glory, read out loud into your ears. Pages and pages and pages, every single one full of sentences and words and words, each of them inflected by a human being. An actor in a recording booth, a minor god of literature. A gift of meaningful sound.
And the situation? That is all yours. Washing dishes, jogging, sitting in a couch, sharing an earbud with a significant other, playing it out loud so the cat can hear. (If at this stage you are, however understandingly, assuming I am a cat person you are severely skewed in your assumption.)


Books are dead things mostly built by now dead people. Or are they? Yes, they really are. Except… When they are being choreographed in someone’s mind and body, by a voice, be it inner, outer, or unqualifiedly all of the above. The browsing eye, skimming the contrasting surface of immovable tiny black bodies on white shores, the fingertips chasing bump after bump, ridge after ridge, or just fucking shutting up and paying attention, for as long as we can muster, creatures of distraction that we are.


There is an artistic project behind these gangly words, and it is about bring text into sound. It is called “Lived Anthologies”. It departs from NSU’s body of publications, produced between 2000 and 2018. I am reading all the texts, some closer than others. Out of the mess, and my own criteria, and a few opinions I will seek, a selection will come about. Around seven to ten pieces. And then we will go into compositional cacophony, and use every dirty trick and every available tool to turn these into sonic compositions, unabbreviated, messy enough, hopefully drinking deep enough of the original meaning to create other, unsuspected layers of relation between reader/listener and the words put down. Listening forward to it.

Introducing: Project 2

Researcher and sound artist Eduardo Abrantes brings a host of recent NSU publications to life as sound compositions of landscapes, narration, ambiance, and sounds from historical archival material. 

Eduardo’s approach is to gather and compose anthology-specific sound-worlds which, together with the plurality of voices in the texts, create new models of knowledge-sharing. Follow to discover more about Eduardo’s process, and to hear the compositions as they emerge through his podcast in 2020.