Norwegian artist Jana Winderen finds music hidden within natural sounds | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Norwegian artist Jana Winderen finds music hidden within natural sounds


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Ever since John Cage popularized the idea in the 1950s, musicians have worked to find music in the everyday noises of nature and the human-built world. Many composers have sought to transcribe such sounds, as Olivier Messiaen did with the songs of birds and John Luther Adams has attempted in his evocations of Alaska’s great outdoors. Other artists—among them Chris Watson, Annea Lockwood, and Christina Kubisch—use field recordings to create immersive compositions, sometimes complementing the tapes with musicians on conventional instruments. Over the past decade, Norwegian artist Jana Winderen has emerged as one of the most exciting active field recordists, able to locate exquisite harmonies and melodic shapes in natural sounds. For the gorgeously meditative album Cloître (Touch), a 2017 release in collaboration with German sound artist Thomas Köner, she played back field recordings of unspecified origin in the cloisters of the Évreux Cathedral in Normandy, France, so that they would spill out, resonate, and intermingle with long swells of the church’s organ. Elsewhere Winderen draws exclusively on sources from nature, such as the hydrophone recordings that constitute her 2016 piece The Wanderer, a 31-minute investigation of zooplankton and phytoplankton. These microscopic aquatic animals and plants form the basis of the marine food chain (phytoplankton also produce half the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis), and Winderen has deftly edited together a rich sprawl of insectlike sounds that pulse, drone, and squiggle below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. In her Chicago debut she presents a recent work called Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone, whose eight-channel mix combines sounds collected from the Barents Sea, in the liminal region where open water meets sea ice.   v

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