Changing soundscapes
Jonna Hägg
1 January 2020 - 31 December 2020

During the last months Jonna Hägg has been listening and observing the soundscapes of different islands, recording a lot of sound from these places. At IAC she will continue processing the collected material, create new soundscapes inspired by her observations of how we no longer can differentiate between natural and manmade sound environments. “Natural” nature sounds and manmade sounds are always mixed together, wherever we are. If species, both plants and animals become extinct, many soundscapes disappear with them. That is exactly what happens here and now. Outside my door, on the other side of the globe, everywhere! It not only removes many organic sounds from our environments, it also creates new engineered sounds, sounds created by man. Everything we build and all our machines, motors and houses create new sounds that are incorporated into the landscape. It creates new soundscapes, new melodies of nature, nature today. This is the topic.

Jonna will work at the IAC on a sound / sculpture project in which she paints shapes of weathered pine trees for which she will compose sounds.

On a dark and stormy day at Örö (a small island placed in the south part of Finland), I walk on a pebble beach at the north part of the island, the sea is deafening. The wind cuts my face as the sea bruises my ears. The waves pour vertically down on me, engulfing me in their harsh sounds. I am entrenched in my own listening, heavy and alone. Only the screeching of the seagulls piercing pitch penetrates through the wall of noise, adding a layer of extravagant pain. I get dizzy and disorientated and cannot feel myself in the cold noise. It isolates me from my surroundings as it carries me off into its ephemeral weight. I walk away from the beach…

In the late afternoon, when the tide is low and the wind died down, I came back, walking on the pebbles. I can see some swans moves in circles in a calm and steady sea. The wind is a breeze now, still cold but no more than a quiet hush. The wall of sound has turned into a different, more delicate soundscape. The pebbles cracking as if laughing quietly as the water draws in and out. This rhythmic whisper is almost tangible, tingling the palms of my hands. In this quietness I can hear myself. My shoes slipping on the larger and smaller pebbles in the dark and my cold breath are at the center of the sonic scene, which engulfs me still but does not carry me off in its deafening roar, instead it opens my ears to hear myself listen. After the crashing clamor of the morning I come back to silence. From the intense isolation of noise, I join the quiet of the swans and start to sense the possibility of speech.

Inside the forest at the island, the whole ground is covered with moss, I see stones resting under the thick and soft cover of green moss. The rhythm of activity appears slower here, unhurried, just trembling quietly. The movements are slowed down by the landscape and the weather; the sounds are muffled and contained. Even the murmur from the sea has been suffocated of a heavy sheet of moss, leaving no sonic hint of its former vitality. It feels dense and compact like a thick carpet. I am inside this carpet, listening.

Now I can hear real people walking on the other side of the forest. Their presence and noise divorces me from my own sound making and listening. The tiny sounds hush away, underneath the carpet, back and out through the crowns of the trees. Now, I do not bond with the tiny sounds anymore. They no longer combine with my own sonic presence in the bed of silence that covers and reflects us both. Instead they are subsumed into a new soundscape, and have become truly quiet, mute. The tiny sounds have distanced themselves from my listening. My acoustic environment expands away from me into a new perspective, its sounds slowly moving into the visual sources that sweep them up. They belong to the sound makers around me now, who penetrate through the cover of moss into my ears, disowning me my own quietness. The silent tension is broken and with it my focused listening.

Jonna Hägg