In the Arctic region of Raudfjorden, on a pebble strewn beach stands a small, crude wooden cabin. It’s said that on the same site stood an earlier cabin once inhabited by a lone trapper seeking refuge in the fjord after a terrible mining accident left him disfigured. As I stood in the hut, peering out through one of the many cracks that made-up a wall, I wondered what it must have been like, both for the trapper and others like him who chose to live in such climatically extreme isolation.
I tried to imagine living in concert with such an unrelenting, yet singularly wondrous place; a home amidst the striking duality of extreme elements, harsh winds and frozen ice, and the many fragile, delicate and captivating sounds produced therein.
Within this reactive terrain of sound and light was a world so finely tuned it responded to every nuance in temperature, no matter how slight. As the sun arced across the mountain tops, ice fragments in the fjord dissolved, gently hissing and cracking. Occasionally, two fragments collided, producing strangely resonant harmonies refracting off the pebble strewn shore, creating a prismatic soundscape of colour and motion.
The majority of recordings found in ‘frostbYte - red sound’ are taken from a day at the hut and its surrounds. The two exceptions are a triangle, which is introduced to provide resonance within the piece (augmenting the resonance that was unexpectedly found within the ice and stones that populated the shoreline so prolifically) and a small dinghy as it slews through an icefield. This second recording occurs toward the end of the composition, and is used to express the rugged motions of the boats rise and fall as it pounded through the frozen fields of ice collecting in dense masses around glaciers. The omni present glissandi throughout the work represents the vertical nature of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and cliff’s that form the contours of the fjord enveloping the cabin.
The title itself refers to the name given to the region in the early 17th Century by the English explorer and whaler Robert Fotherby, who referred to the fjord as ‘Red-cliff Sound’.
The frostbYte cycle
‘frostbYte - red sound’ is a work from the frostbYte cycle, a collection of ongoing pieces central to which are location-based field recordings I made whilst on expedition throughout the Arctic region of Svalbard (Spitsbergen).
Positioned at 79° north, 10° East (situated above Norway) the archipelago of Spitsbergen is a truly remarkable part of the world that continues to inspire awe and fascination, and is often at the heart of our collective consciousness for its ecological and climatic sensitivity.
It’s renowned for its visual and cinematic beauty, yet it’s also no surprise to find that sound plays an integral role in the uniqueness of its appeal. There’s a great deal of sonic activity within the archipelago, both animal and aqueous and the frostbYte cycle of works seeks to portray some of these sonorities in a highly abstracted, yet clearly discernible way.