Terje Isungset åpnet Nansen-Amundsen-året i Tromsø

Nansen-Amundsen-året ble offisielt åpnet i Tromsø 23. januar ved at Terje Isungset spilte på 100 år gammel is fra Sydpolen.

Instrumentet, som han kaller sørpolofon, bestod av fire issylindre av ulik lengde med en diameter på 8-10 centimeter. De var montert etter xylofon-modellen på en resonanskasse av is, og han spilte på dem med mindre isklkubber.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.
Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen tålte ikke mildværet i Tromsø, og sylindrene ble tydeligvis ganske porøse av en halvtimes venting etter lydsjekken. De hadde mista en del klang, og brakk opp under sydpollåten, som isflak i vårsola. Det var likevel en stor opplevelse å høre og se dette instrumentet. Kanskje akkurat disse snøflakene landet på Amundsens bare hode da han hilste flagget ved polpunktet?

Det var en flott konsert Isungset leverte sammen med sangeren Lena Nymark. De har funnet en nydelig formel med klangfull isperkusjon og lett, spretten kveding.

Lena Nymark og Terje Isungset
Lena Nymark (sang) og Terje Isungset (Svalbard-is).

Isungset hadde mer gammel is i å by på. En annen melodisk-perkusiv variant var biter av 500 år gammel is fra Svalbard, som han hadde plassert på et isbrett og spilte på med andre gamle isbiter. Han spilte også på hengende stemte isplater av klar is, som med en smule delay gir lange, dype og varme toner. Til slutt, eller var det midt i, tok han opp isluren, og blåste kalde, rå og forlokkende toner, som vindens evige jag over polisen.

Isungset og luren.
Isungset blåser i luren.

Med vakker sang og lyden av arktis og antarktis ble det en konsert verdig en polfarer eller to. Isungset er en kreativ musiker og instrumentmaker, og bringer tradisjonene fra Amundsen og Nansen videre i sin utforskning av isens musikalske egenskaper. Det er underlige og vare toner han får ut av istrumentene. Enkelt, skjørt, evig og uhørt.

Isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.
Fra venstre: isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Tromsøs ordfører Arild Hausberg og Norges utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre bidro også under åpningen.


Erlend Lien

Ancient trumpets played eerie notes

Scientists analyze tunes from 3,000-year-old conch-shell instruments for insight into pre-Inca civilization

PREHISTORIC POPComputer scientist and musician Perry Cook plays a tune on a 3,000-year-old conch-shell instrument discovered in Peru. José Luis Cruzado, Chavin de Huantar Investigation and Conservation Project

Listen to shell music.

Now you can hear a marine-inspired melody from before the time of the Little Mermaid’s hot crustacean band. Acoustic scientists put their lips to ancient conch shells to figure out how humans used these trumpets 3,000 years ago. The well-preserved, ornately decorated shells found at a pre-Inca religious site in Peru offered researchers a rare opportunity to jam on primeval instruments.

The music, powerfully haunting and droning, could have been used in religious ceremonies, the scientists say. The team reported their analysis November 17 at the Second Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics in Cancun, Mexico.

“You can really feel it in your chest,” says Jonathan Abel, an acoustician at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. “It has a rough texture like a tonal animal roar.”

Archaeologists had unearthed 20 complete Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets in 2001 at Chavín de Huántar, an ancient ceremonial center in the Andes. Polished, painted and etched with symbols, the shells had well-formed mouthpieces and distinct V-shaped cuts. The cuts may have been used as a rest for the player’s thumb, says study coauthor Perry Cook, a computer scientist at Princeton University and avid shell musician, or to allow the player to see over the instrument while walking.

To record the tunes and understand the acoustic context in which the instruments, called pututus, were played, the researchers traveled to Chavín.


ANCIENT ACCOMPANIMENTAncient civilizations in Peru might have played this 3,000-year-old shell trumpet as part of a religious ceremony. New research has reconstructed what the instrument would have sounded like inside the religious site’s ceremonial chamber. Jyri Huopaniemi

As an expert shell musician blew into the horn, researchers recorded the sound’s path via four tiny microphones placed inside the player’s mouth, the shell’s mouthpiece, the shell’s main body and at the shell’s large opening, or bell. Similar to a bugle, the instruments only sound one or two tones, but like a French horn, the pitch changes when the player plunges his hand into the bell.

The team used signal-processing software to characterize the acoustic properties of each trumpet. Following the sound’s path made it possible to reconstruct the ancient shell’s interior, a feat that normally involves sawing the shell apart or zapping it with X-rays.

The researchers also wanted to know how the site’s ceremonial chamber, a stone labyrinth with sharply twisting corridors and ventilation shafts, changed the trumpet’s sound. To find out, the team arranged six microphones around the musician and reconstructed the sound patterns on a computer.

If the trumpets were played inside the stone chamber in which they were found, the drone would have sounded like it was coming from several different directions at once. In the dimly lit religious center, that could have created a sense of confusion, Abel says.

“Were they used to scare people while they were there?” asks Abel. “There are still a lot of things left open.”

Turns out, such questions about how sounds affect people and their behavior, an area called psychoacoustics, can be tested. It’s a field of active research, and not just for ancient civilizations: Another group at Stanford is now studying how a room’s acoustics affects human behavior. In one recent experiment, researchers separated test subjects into different acoustic environments to do a simple task — ladling water from one bucket to another in a dimly lit room.

“What your ear can actually hear plays into how you would behave, or the psychological experience in the situation,” says Abel.


A group of conch-shell instruments made by a pre-Inca civilization sound similar to a kid learning to play the trumpet.
Click here to listen.


A musician plays the fundamental frequency and the first overtone of a 3,000-year-old shell trumpet unearthed in Peru.
Click here to listen.

Credit: Miriam Kolar

100 daily views – an all time high for Polnytt!

A few days ago, we reached an all time high of 100 daily visits to this site, and over 1600 monthly visits! We must be doing something right – mostly re-posting bits of polar news we find interesting and adding the occasional comment, as well as writing an original entry once in a blue moon. We try to post environmental information that becomes more and more important as the ice melts under the polar bears feet, and stuff that lies within Hornorkesterets sphere of interest.

At this point, we’d like to thank all or readers for staying with us for this long!

Do you feel you could contribute to Polnytt? Articles on current polar issues, polar history, environmental issues, norwegian identy, sami culture, inuit culture, early music and experimental acoustic instruments are welcome – drop me (Hornfar/Jonas) a line at hornorkesteret@lavabit.com and I may add you as a contributor to this blog. No racists or tree-hugging neo-folk nazis, please!

For those of you who long for more Hornorkesteret news, there will be more exciting information coming up as we close in on the 99 year anniversary of the conquest of the South Pole in December 2010, and even more as we work our way towards the centennial anniversary in 2011. But before that, new instruments, new stage costumes and props, new videos, the  release of our CD anthology, new collaboration projects and concerts, so stay tuned!

Our main site, http://www.hornorkesteret.no is down at the moment and we are working on getting a new server space for it. For now, keep your eyes on Polnytt, our Myspace page and the unofficial Hornorkesteret fanpage on Facebook.

Hornorkesteret: The Marhaug and Bøe expeditions MC (2000) reissued

The obscure Hornorkesteret release “The Marhaug and Bøe expeditions” is back!
Still a cassette-only release, you can get this gem at Hornorkesteret gigs or contact Jonas Qvale to buy, beg or trade for one.

In May 2000 a young Hornorkesteret was joined by origami republika veterans Lasse Marhaug and Tore H. Bøe at Trondheim Kunstmuseum for two completely improvised meetings of crooner noise (Marhaug) and lower case noise (Bøe) with Hornorkesterets newly established “call of the wild” soundworld. This is quite harsh material, but a must if you like any of the involved parties.

Lasse Marhaug
Tore Honoré Bøe

Hornorkesteret line-up:
Torbjørn Benjaminsen
Jens V. S. Ledaal
Mette Torvund
Thomas Oxem
Mona Sæther
Jonas Qvale
Jan Krey

Originally less than twenty copies were made, given away, lost and completely forgotten about. Now we have hand-dubbed some new copies of this tape, keeping levels firmly in the red and using no noise reduction.
The release contains two tracks:
Side A: Lasse Marhaug Expedition (28 minutes)
Side B: Tore Honoré Bøe Expedition (29 minutes)

60 NOK including order directly from jmqvale@start.no