BALTIC SOUNDS GOOD
Type of project: exhibition
Where: Art Centre Gallery EL, Elbląg, Poland
When: 27–30 September 2011
Artists:
Krzysztof Topolski (PL), electroacoustic improviser, sound artist
Maciek Olewniczak (PL), electro-acoustic artist, curator of SOUNDLAB workshop
Danil Akimov (RU), sound artist and performer
Sergey Ivanov (RU), musician and sound engineer. Co-founder of Romowe Rikoito and Kratong.
SoundLab GROUP. The primary interest of the group is to examine sound and its associations with pictorial elements and other external impulses. Its participants use technical instruments such as microphones, computers and recorders. Gathered and examined sounds become the raw material of future “musical” tracks. The recorded material is processed and distorted and turned into soundscapes.
Wiktor Piskorz (PL), drummer, sound artist, photographer, member of music cooperation „Mentalnych Narzędzi” (Mental Tools).
Mariusz Owczarek (PL), fine-Art teacher in Youth Culture House in Elblag, sound artist, painter and performer. Member of music cooperation Mentalnych Narzędzi (Mental Tools).
Rafał Wawrzyk (PL), music instructor and teacher in Youth Culture House in Elblag, sound artist, member of music cooperation Mentalnych Narzędzi.

The spacial guests during the performance were Anna Nacher and Marek Styczyński – creators of music group „Magic Carpathians”, who presented a sound installation „Noise to silence”, based on recorded and processed sounds of Baltic Sea.
Curator: Krzysztof Topolski (PL) and Maciek Olewniczak (PL)
Organizers: Art Centre Gallery EL, Elbląg, Poland

Baltic Sounds Good

by Krzysztof Topolski

Workshops, concert, installation
As part of the BSG Baltic Sounds Good project, we ran 3-day international workshops in listening and field recording. Polish and Russian participants went on a 24-hour ferry trip from Gdynia to Karlskrona and back. They also spent one day at the Marine Station in Hel. Armed with portable recorders, dynamic, condenser and contact microphones, a tripod and a hydrophone, we set off on a journey in search of sounds. This extraordinary sonic trip to Sweden ended with a laptop orchestra concert in the gothic interiors of the EL Gallery in Elbląg. The recordings provided the basis for an electroacoustic music composition. A ferry plan projected over the stage provided a graphic backdrop for the concert. We presented recordings played as sound installations during the summer holiday period in 2012 on the Stena Vision and Stena Spirit ferries. The journey and workshops were documented on film.

Listening and recording
The main event during the workshops was a journey by ferry during which we listened to its sounds. We also spent one day listening to and recording on a hydrophone the sound of the Marine Station in Hel. Despite being so close to the sea, the ferry seems to separate us from this principal. We are on a huge, vibrating boat which has more to do with technology than nature, and more in common with industry than with the sea. This overwhelming, resounding mass of steel, a little town with its own restaurants, swimming pools, hair shops, spa and boutiques is like a swimming hotel. The main officer kindly lets us see the engine room and the bridge – places where passengers would normally not be allowed to venture – as we are entering the port. The sounds that accompany us are not only those of the ordinary, everyday kind. There are also weird, strange and new sounds. The main deck is flooded with elevator music, seeping from ubiquitous speakers, loud and monotonous, while the engines (the size of a small lorry) send the walls and floors into vibrations. The whole ferry vibrates and shivers all the time. Dawn welcomes us on the bridge, as we enter the port. Focused, we listen to the orders given in Swedish, and the sounds of electronics and radio connections. When the ship stops, everything starts to vibrate, with the metal walls and glass windows playing their own melody. Shoes screech on wet, metal floors and something is clicking on the ceiling. There is a strong wind, which never stops blowing.
In Hel we learn what it is like to work with a hydrophone. When we put our device into the water from the pier in Hel we can hear the engines of the boat which is still invisible, beyond the horizon. This is a completely new and fascinating experience, a perspective which was previously unknown to us. The waters of the Marine Station are quiet. They seep delicately, and we can hear the sound of a working unit. The travelers are leaving the ship to multilingual farewells spoken through speakers, and are invited to use the ferry again. These are only a few of many recordings made during the workshops. Most of them, including the piece recorded during the concert, can be found on the project website.

Sacred noise. Does the Baltic sound good?
Field recording is a method used by many scientists and artists. In the 1930s, a musicologist, John Lomax, travelled with a recording equipment around the United States. Pierre Schaeffer used sound recordings in his pioneering experiments in “musique concrete”. Field recordings are also the main method of composers and researchers working in the field of acoustic ecology. Research and reflection on soundscapes are a domain of the World Soundscape Project, a group established by the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. According to Schafer, our sonic environment is polluted. We should protect it by fighting off noise and fostering natural, unspoiled and unique soundscapes, as well as creating new ones. Witold Lutosławski, thanks to whom in 1969 UNESCO passed a resolution on the right to silence, would fully agree.1 The World Soundscape Project group, founded in the 1960s, recorded all over the world, creating such projects and records as Vancouver Soundscape, European Sound Diary and Five Village Soundscape. The artists’ compositions contain pure, unprocessed field recordings, or so-called soundscapes, a kind of patchwork of sounds. Acoustic ecology is thriving in many countries, promoting a listening culture. More and more people are becoming interested in listening to the Great Musical Composition of the World.

Krzysztof Topolski is an electroacoustic improviser, sound artist and a curator of Baltic Sounds Good.

References:
1. Kapelański M. (1967-2005), Mała historia ekologii akustycznej.

The artists recorded the sound of the water and the waves on the Stena line ferry.