Jenny Berger Myhre – Lint
We were struck by the freshness, the sincerity and the footprints of humanity present in this album.
Lint by Jenny Berger Myhre is a music diary which melds together memories of life collected through field recordings, beautiful story-telling songs and soundscapes. It is an honest description of a moment, an autobiographical photograph. Songs, electronics, field-recordings and post-production touches are equally important in this beautiful artistic work.
We had the lucky chance to interview Jenny and to dive a bit more into her music:
A few words on recording and field recording: history and techniques.
Since the possibility to record audio and to reproduce it with a certain degree of quality became available at the end of the XIX century it drastically changed the history of music. Having the chance to record a musical performance not only meant that the music sheet wasn’t necessary anymore to convey a musical statement in space and time, but that it was as well possible to listen to a composition straight from the hand of the composer performing it, even on the other side of the planet or years later.
This possibility slowly lead to the merging of the split between the composer and the performer typical of the so called “classical music”, and opened up the way to the improviser, who could now just record his performance without the need to refer to any predetermined material: this is how jazz and other genres of popular music rapidly developed during the XX century.
As the technology developed in quality, and while recording and mixing audio became art forms in their own right, recording devices became portable as well, allowing ethnomusicologist and naturalists to record sounds in open spaces in order to document human oral communication or animal sounds; pioneers in this field were Bela Bartok, John and Alan Lomax and Charles Seeger just to name a few.
Some years later, when radio broadcast was spreading, sound engineers started adding environmental sounds and noises to pre-recorded speeches in order to better characterise the content of the recording. While working in this field, Pierre Schaeffer in the 40’s had the intuition to combine ambient sounds and noises selecting them with a musical logic, promoting them from mere background to musical phrases with a dignity by themselves: this was the conception of concrete music.
From that moment on, the use of ambient recordings for musical purposes became more and more frequent and nowadays it’s a common practice in many genres, from experimental music, to hip hop, techno or commercial music, also thanks to the advent of the digital recording technology.
Jenny Berger Myhre’s “Lint” is a very good example of this technique and we warmly encourage you to give it a listen.
Have a nice trip!
Interview with Jenny Berger Myhre
HR: How did you record the album and how long have you been collecting all the materials?
JBM: The album consists of songs and field recordings that have been written and collected over 5 years. As a way of collecting memories, I’d been recording my friends and family, as well as other moments of my life, since I was perhaps 16 years old. I started piecing them together at some point, making small collages, as well as generative compositions. So I had a compositional practice based on this. In 2016, I was approached by the sweet people from Canigou Records who asked if I was planning to release anything. This was at the same time as I was studying Live Electronics at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, and I had developed an improvisational practice as well. So the album came together by puzzling field recordings together, and then adding instrumentation to them, as if they were melodies or other musical events. Some of the songs had been written and recorded a while back, but I produced everything to fit the cassette format and to become sort of a non-linear or non-narrative journey.
HR: Did you produce, mix and master the record all by yourself? Which instruments do you play in the album? Are there other musicians playing in it?
JBM: I produced and mixed the album myself. It sort of went hand-in-hand with composing, because of the way the album was made. It was mastered by Lasse Marhaug, a great producer, and multi-talented noise-master. I play most of the instruments on the album: guitar, piano, vocals, synths and clarinet — purely like an amateur, except perhaps for the clarinet (which I actually know how to play after being in a school band for most of my childhood and teenage years!). I’ve recorded some friends playing too, for instance Jo David Meyer Lysne playing guitar in the beginning of the first track, Niklas Adam playing guitar on «Lage Setning Av Et Ord». They were sneakily recorded in everyday situations, so they didn’t come to the studio. Rudolf Terland Bjørnerem is playing background nylon strings on «Speak Softly», which I’ve overdubbed with steel-stringed guitar myself. That recording was from a rehearsal in his bedroom, so not very studio session like that either!
HR: How did you choose all the field recordings? Did you just record several moments of your life and then put the most significative ones on the album or was there something planned?
JBM: I tend to use the field recorder in the same way as I use the camera: by capturing ordinary moments, and putting them aside for a while before going through the archives when I want to compose something. Some of the recordings stuck with me, and I knew I’d want to use them in some context. I guess they are quite ordinary, but representative moments from my life in this period — voices of the people I’ve spent time with, activities I have attachments to, and of course they were also chosen for their sonic content: I like the way they sound, and they were good as compositional starting points. Some of the «field» recordings, as in recordings that are from the real world, were actively recorded — for example the first half of the track «Interne Puslespill» was recorded at my studio, and you can hear me walking in the studio, where a song I was working on was being played on my monitor speakers. I wanted to create a feeling of a multilayered curtain with events to be revealed behind each layer. The random starts to feel planned when I work like this — using a sonic event that might have been a mistake, or just a coincidence, as if it is a specific musical event and then emphasizing it.
HR: You’re also a photographer. Which similarities and differences you find among this two art fields and how do they interact? Did you want to provide a specific image of a particular moment of your life?
JBM: For me, the way into doing field recording was definitely a parallel to doing photography. Both activities are acts of capturing a moment, but of course recording sound is a durational practice and photography an instantaneous one. Sometimes it can be frustrating to record sound because it takes time, but mostly I’ve found it to be a very relaxing and contemplating practice, and it has definitely affected me as a listener. Both doing photography and field recording were initially very melancholic activities for me, because I would get drawn into past moments as if they had bigger value than the present or the future. I was a very nostalgic teenager, I think! Luckily the reason was purely because I had such a good time, I was very happy and didn’t want things to change. Now, I think looking back at photos I took 10 years ago, definitely brings back memories, but the field recordings do it in a much more direct way. It’s a bit like how a specific smell can do the same, you know? I think it’s interesting how memories change in our minds over time, and playing with the difference of what I remembered and what was documented was a big part of the making of «Lint». The reason I called the album «Lint», was both because of what lint is — the fluffy stuff that gathers in your pocket over time —as well as a beautiful poem by Richard Brautigan, saying «…they are things that just happened like lint». And the printed photos I chose for the cassette release provide a visual aspect to the album and the title, without being specific for the music other than having been taken within the same time period as the sounds were recorded.
HR: Is there a connection between the field recording, the overdubs and the title of the songs?
JBM: The overdubs were recorded specifically for the field recordings, working on them as instrumentation of melodies. Some of the titles of the songs come from this incredible book from the 50’s, with parlor games for parties. They also fit either the content of the main field recording in their track, or they fit the way I composed the piece. I really do like titles, and I think long sentences are super nice as titles, if they describe something without locking the meaning of the piece.
HR: Did you ever try to chop up your field rec and resample them or repitch them in order to create particular soundscapes? Do you use hardware machines as well or you just work in the box while producing the album? Can you talk about your experience (if you have some) in using hardware samplers or other devices? Do you perform this music live as well? If yes, how do you do it?
JBM: I do love pitching down, looping, and creating soundscapes of recordings. I’ve been doing this a lot to recordings of birds, both digitally, and on vinyl. I love playing things back at the «wrong» speed. I also love granular synthesis, and stretching sound to the unrecognizable. The grains of stretched sounds remind me of the noise or grains in analog photos. I have used the Boss SP-303 sometimes, but I find it a bit limiting when I’m used to the custom instruments in Max for Live and Ableton. But hardware is always great for getting away from the computer screen and for getting different ideas! Lately I’ve been playing around with my tiny modular synth, and I enjoy the module from Music Thing called Radio Music — which is a simple playback device, or a sampler if you wish, made to simulate the randomness of tuning around different stations on a radio. I also enjoy playing with the sequencer Elektron Monomachine, although that is quite another story… At some point I’d love to expand on my modular. But it’s an expensive activity, so I’ll have to take one step at a time!
When I was making the album, I used a live setup that I had developed during my studies, with a turntable, two cassette players — one with a speaker, the other an open walkman which I can adjust the playback speed manually on — as well as my laptop and a homemade instrument, an «acoustic laptop», made after the idea of the Norwegian DIY noise-improviser Erik Honoré Bøe. I placed these different playback devices in the middle of the audience, and spread them apart so I had to move between stations and properly listen to the soundscapes I made. This way, the layering of sound could not be abrupt or fast, but slow-moving and slow-paced. I used some of the live recordings from my concerts as starting points for tracks on the album, for instance «Lage Setning Av Et Ord». When I play concerts now, I use the album as a starting point, and I improvise with this setup within the framework of the field recordings — processing them, layering them, and piecing them together slightly differently each time, as musical material I know by heart and can work with.
HR: Which are your influences for this record and who are the artists you are inspired by? You mixed electronics music and singer/songwriting. How do you think these 2 different aspects of music should cooperate and what would be your final-goal trying to combine them? Have you got other projects for the future?
The album was very inspired by my friend Einar Goksøyr Åsen, who has a brilliant project called Stiv Heks (https://soundcloud.com/stivheks). I love the way he uses samples from real life, voices and parts of conversations. His quirky beats and circuit bended synths are also just fantastic. Another big influence, always, is my partner Niklas Adam (https://niklasadam.oddodd.org/sound.html#), who is a magician both in arts and in technology. He has inspired me so much, and played a big part in my musical endeavors. The way he processes field recordings, and treats them both as musical events and as pure sound, is awesome. Other contemporary artists I am inspired by are Ashley Paul (http://ashleypaul.net), a really interesting songwriter and composer; and of course, my friend Jenny Hval (http://jennyhval.com), whom I’ve been a fan of since I was 16; the fantastic duo Listen To Girl (https://listentogirl.com); the duo Native Instrument (https://soundcloud.com/native-instrument) who combine field recordings and vocals in a really refreshing manner; ambient master Sarah Davachi (https://sarahdavachi.bandcamp.com); Marja Ahti, an electronic music composer who has the project Tsembla (https://tsembla.bandcamp.com); as well as the VOKS (http://www.vokskabinet.com/content/blogsection/4/29/), especially his 90’s computer music. I’ve also listened a lot to Laurie Spiegel, Else Marie Pade, Goodiepal, Opsvik & Jennings, Michael Rexen (Mongol – https://soundcloud.com/silentatoms/b-barbara), Clara Mondshine, John Bender… the list goes on!
A lot of my influences do have that mix of electronics and singer/songwriter elements. For me it has come very naturally, and I have been interested in approaching both fields, not as contradicting fields, but perhaps using elements from both. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m a very good song-writer, which is certainly a special skill that I admire. If I was — I would probably be much more focused on that side of my compositional practice! So perhaps it’s a good thing, keeping me open for different ways of making music, and combining different working methods.
Recently, I’ve become very interested in pure electronic music and circuit bending, and I just circuit bended my first toy — a “sound machine» sampler, which I can now pitch down so low it starts crashing, creating these pure, harsh electronic sounds. I find it super fascinating and fun to play with, so I guess that will have an impact on future compositions somehow. Right now, I’ve been performing with Jenny Hval together with Håvard Volden and Streifenjunko (Espen Reinertsen & Eivind Lønning). We have a few concerts more together, and it’s incredibly inspiring to be a part of it. This autumn I will be making music together with a fantastic composer and pianist/synthist Guoste Tamulynaite at a residency in the Swedish countryside; I’m traveling to Palestine with Vilde & Inga to work on a field recording & improvisation workshop there, as well as going to Mexico to create a site-specific piece for Borealis – a festival for experimental music in Bergen. So there are many fantastic projects coming up, and I’m really looking forward to continue the journey!