What does the sea sound like below the surface? The Baltic Sea Festival is brought to a close with a dive deep into the ocean and the senses. Exciting sound artist and composer Aurélie Ferriere invites us to a suggestive concert experience with a focus on the sounds of the sea. The lighting of the concert will give the concert audience a sense of being under water.
“You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you – or unmaking you.”
Nicolas Bouvier, from The Way of the World
Winds abating, sails slackening. Wooden decks, ropes, microphones, saucepans, salt-tangled hair. Soon, every step on dry land feels foreign and unnatural. A dot on an infinite blue sea: a 33-metre sailing boat by the name of Fleur de Passion. From the rail, hydrophones are lowered into the water and we are suddenly in the unknown. What does the ocean sound like under the surface? A piece of faded plastic floats past, a pod of dolphins, plankton, the sound of a ferry’s engine. Day and night merge into one in the darkness of the sea.
500 years after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sought a western sea route from Europe to the exotic Spice Islands in Indonesia, the experimental musician, music engineer and audio explorer Aurélie Ferrière boarded the Fleur de Passion. At this stage of the voyage, the boat had already been out on the ocean for two years following the same route as Magellan, and had made it to The Solomon Islands east of Papua New Guinea.
It is very warm. The Ocean Mapping Expedition is mapping the oceans and humanity’s impact on them, not least through noise pollution. Aurélie examines the expedition’s recording equipment and is impressed; there are state-of-the-art underwater microphones of various designs. She creates music from the sounds she records during the journey. When she boards the boat, she has no idea what the end result will be.
“My first instrument is the violin and I come from classical music”, says Aurélie Ferrière. “In this project I wanted to try to create something completely free from notes and tempo. If I write a score, there is a person playing it. If I write text, it is people who read it. In this instance I focus on nature, not man.
The crew consists of 5-10 people during Aurélie’s time on board, half of whom are researchers. For many of them, her music is their first encounter with experimental, sometimes classical, music. The familiar sounds of everyday life on the boat are mixed with the sounds of the ocean, some of them not even the researchers recognize. And human touches: fragments of piano, violin, organ.
Electro-acoustic instruments controlled by underwater sounds through modular synthesizers on stage, live. It will be a suite, a musical journey. “You will be sitting on the stage in Berwaldhallen surrounded by sounds. I have designed lighting for the concert to make it feel like you are diving into the ocean”, says Aurélie Ferrière.
The Ocean Mapping Expedition is not only a research project that focuses on sustainability, it is also an existential journey. What is humanity’s understanding of its role here on earth? How have we taken care of the resources we have?
Text: Janna Vettergren