Thursday, November 3, 2011

Musikkteknologidagene 2011 Conference report

Rockheim is clearly the new pride of Trondheim, at least when it comes to museums. It's a thrill in interactive and technological communication of history. It embodies so much of the current trends in music technology. So it was a great ide of the organizers to arrange this years Musikkteknologidagene conference here. Is this why it was such a good conference? I don't think it was the only reason.
 
Rockheim (foto: Rockheim/Geir Mogen)

Before I start, I should say a couple of words about why I'm writing this text. I'm blessed with a bad memory. You've heard the definition of happiness? Bad memory and good health. So at least I'm halfway there. Now, this is a clear disadvantage in my work as a historian. Luckily there are several remedies available. Writing is the most prominent one. I find that taking notes really helps. But I must admit that no matter how many Moleskins i fill up, it's when I write for others that I really activate my mind in way that things might stick. A conference bombards you with impressions. You meet people, hear about exiting research (and some not so exciting), and the brain goes on full power and caffeine. If you're lucky, a good conference will lead to a flurry of great new ideas and perspectives. If you're not so lucky, hopefully you at least visited a cool place and ate some nice food.

Musikkteknologidagene 2011 was in my view a really good conference. Much better than I expected, I have to admit. I probably assumed it would be too much local flavor - nothing bad about that, we need these conferences too. But I was happily surprised to see that the program was packed with interesting people and projects, and that the level of the presentations were very high. It was actually a bit awkward that the conference language was Norwegian, as maybe a third of the participants were not Norwegians. I guess this will change for next year. How many were we? I will guess around 40 - 50 on the most crowded sessions.

As academic fields go, music technology is quite fresh. At the NTNU the Mus-tech people can celebrate it's first decennial this year. This is one of the beautiful things about the filed. You find lots of different people, from senior studio technicians that barely ever touched an academic paper to full fletched academics tweed jacket and all. The majority is doing something along the lines of what's today gaining fame as AR (Artistic Research). This roughly translates: making an in depth artistic study of something, and then writing about it in an academic fashion. Lots of exciting stuff is going on, and I just enjoy listening in.

Some highlights from the program? I don't know - there were many. I only end up doing unjust to the people I don't mention by highlighting examples. The best moment I have to say was Gerhard Stenikes dense but witty recollection of the Subachord story. Great entertainment. Myself, I presented some preliminary findings on the history of the sculpture Ode til lyset by Arnold Haukeland from 1968, that Arne Nordheim made music for. By the way - I'm not pretending that this was a highlight! It was the first presentation of my PhD project, and although I was a bit nervous a couple of months ago that I would have nothing to present (and thus tried to press inn some theoretical points as well), I instead experienced the luxury of having prepared too much material. To be frank I only finished 2/3 of my talk. Lesson learned: stay on only one topic. Just one. I got too ambitious when I wrote the abstract. Classical mistake. Not doing it again (I hope).

The other obvious highlight was the tour of the museum. Man, I could have spent hours up there. This museum must be designed for me - it reflects both my musical upbringing and my current interests. I could see several of the conference participants feeling the same way. Some people were almost crying when they saw that synthesizer or that drum machine. I spent almost an hour looking at photos and videos of Motorpsycho, Seigmen, Turboneger, Jokke, fiddeling with the mixing desk from Nidaros Studio and so on. This photoset from Rockheims flickr-page gives you an idea:



So far I haven't written anything about the concerts. The reason is that I sadly couldn't attend so many of them. A shame really, but that's life when you're breeding a new generation :-)

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