The Music Department of IUA together with Centre for Research in Music (CRiM) presents a Symposium on Friday, March 9th at the Iceland University of the Arts from 12:30 - 14:30.
Everybody welcome - free entrance.


Singing in a State of Emergency: 
Storytelling and Listening as Medium and Message
Michelle Kisliuk
University of Virginia

The voices are louder and clearer every day: We are at a tipping point for climate and environmental disaster; the anthropocene taken to its (il)logical end. 

But do we have the listening skills required to respond in time? This essay takes up a challenge to find new ways to dismantle barriers between areas of study, practice, and politics, seeking the language and the spaces of imagination within which we can take action. 

The essay looks in detail at some of the polyphonic, poly-social musical practices developed by BaAka from Central African Republic, asking how these kinds of practices matter to our collective future, and offers ideas for disseminating them while grappling with the aesthetic and political implications of doing so. 

What key role might nonfiction poetic narrative storytelling play in spreading knowledge of cultural practices—listening, singing, dancing practices that teach how to live on the earth without destroying it? BaAka people have developed sustainable practices, knowing how to sing and live with the forest and with each other. 

This essay asks how might what they know be shared through stories about learning and about living, challenging the ever-expanding borders between previously separated realms of personal and intersocial life, the creative, and the scholarly.

Selling Nature to Save It: 
Approaching Self-critical Environmental Sonic Art
Erik DeLuca
Iceland Academy of the Arts

With similarities to the emergence in fifteenth-century landscape paintings, to poems by the Transcendentalists, and to the more recent 1960s land art movement, environmental sonic art is always
context-based and conjointly performs as environmental activism with aims to break down the nature/culture dualism. 

Nature, however, is both a material object and a socially constructed metaphor that is infinitely interpretable and ideologically malleable based on one’s values and biases. Does the environmental sonic artist acknowledgethis? The theoretical framework of this essay extends acoustic ecology, first theorised by R. Murray Schafer, to include environmental history and cultural theory—ultimately problematising definitions of ‘nature’ and ‘natural.’ 

Through this framework, the author critiques the way composer John Luther Adams represents hisenvironmental sonic art. This analysis will illuminate a dialogue that
asks, ‘What is self-critical environmental sonic art?’

Sound and Sustainability: 
Musical Responses to the Kárahnjúkar Hydro-power Plant
Tore Størvold
University of Oslo

In an age of global climate crisis, “nature” is taking on new shapes and new meanings. What we mean by “nature”, and what kinds of values we attach to it, are the most important questions of the new century. Music can function as a kind of “laboratory of environmental theory”, imagining and testing out new ways of relating to the natural environment through sound. 

This talk will present three examples of music that does exactly this, localized in an Icelandic debate on hydro-power development. In Iceland, successive neo-liberal governments have made a “pillar of the economy” out of selling greenwashed hydro-electricity to foreign corporations involved in energy-intensive industries like aluminum smelting. This strategy culminated in the controversial Kárahnjúkar mega-project, constructed in 2007. The heated debates surrounding Kárahnjúkar reveal the political dimension of natural landscapes, where conflicting views of nature become conflicting views of what Iceland is or should be. The hydro-power plant sparked a range of artistic and musical responses. 

This talk will focus on three examples: Valgeir Sigurðsson’s radical re-composition of the old folk tune “Grýlukvæði”, Björk’s experimental pop track “Náttúra”, as well as Sigur Rós and Amiina’s performance of “Vaka” at a protest camp. The three examples are vastly different in musical style and expression. Together they open up a window into discussing the cultural tensions in Icelandic society on matters of natural resource use and economic dependency on foreign corporations.