Piano by the fjord
“Arvesylv” emerging as a new artistic experience in Eidfjord
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Harding Puls, a unique interdisciplinary organization for artists with a connection to the Hardanger region in Norway, has embarked on a new project in Eidfjord, in Hardanger. For their project
“Arvesylv,” on March 1, they placed a piano out in the open air by the fjord and will document the decomposition of the instrument over 12 months. This will include both video footage and sounds recording.
The mayor of Eidfjord, Anders Vatle, was on hand for the inaugural event, and it was his own tractor that hauled the piano to its new home by the fjord. Local children stood by in great curiosity, and then waited in line to try their hand at the keyboard, while parents and others stood by with the cameras and cell phones to take pictures.
“Arvesylv”—“Heirloom Silver”—is the name of a composition that local Eidfjord pianist and composer Inger-Kristine Riber will create for the project with Oslo-based musician Ragnhild Tronsmo Haugland.
The new musical piece for electronics will take shape from samplings, that is to say, recordings of sounds from the piano outside by the fjord, as it interacts with the acoustic piano that Riber will play at the premiere.
A visual component will be added by photojournalist and videographer Ingerid Jordal, also from the local Hardanger area. Jordal, of course, was on hand to document the big moving day for the piano.
Both Riber and Jordal have a special connection to the United States, which makes sharing this story even more exciting. Riber has performed throughout the Midwest and Pacific Northwest on many occasions, and Jordal has traveled through the same areas to document the lives of Norwegian Americans, older generations in the Midwest and younger generations in the Greater Seattle area.
Riber and Jordal remain in close contact with the Seattle-Bergen Sister Association, whose members are looking forward to sharing the new project here on this side of the Atlantic, as part of a shared cultural heritage.
Art as experience
Putting a piano out in the wind and weather is not art in and of itself. “Our goal is to create something out of the process of leaving the instrument out, so that one experiences something new based on the changes the instrument goes through,” the group explains.
As far as the group knows, nothing like this has ever been done before, so there are no precedents to study that would allow them to anticipate what will happen during the process. For the most part, “Arvsylv” is an act of artistic curiosity, and they hope that something positive will come out of it.
The location in Eidfjord, with a view of the magnificent Hardangerfjord, provides artistic inspiration. The Hardanger region is rich in traditions and has inspired many of Norway’s best artists, both past and present, holding an important place of Norway’s cultural heritage.
“For me, it’s important that art can be experienced also outside the big cities,” says Jordal. “Hardanger has a history and tradition for attracting artists, and we want to keep this tradition alive. Harding Puls is a great artist community of many different disciplines, where traditional and contemporary arts merge.”
But this project is something entirely new. As the organizers have said, “art that ‘rots on root’ is not very beautiful after a while.” But this project is not meant to be beautiful. The piano placed out in nature will evoke feelings and questions and lead to new insights.
Music has an important place in Norwegian culture. Teaching music has been an important impetus in cultivating and carrying forth culture, but today the piano no longer has the same status it once had. In the 18th and 19th centuries, interest in music and music education was strongly linked to the bourgeoisie, but today, society is taking another shape.
The possibilities for creating music have changed, and there is a new set of tools. Musical tastes and the way we consume culture changed. The project’s organizers ask if this means that an old instrument will become obsolete because its color will no longer match a new interior or because no one can play on it.
Eye on the environment
The climate crisis will also come to the forefront with the innovative Eidfjord piano project. A key issue is the relationship between cultural heritage and the impulses from the outside world, in this case, the wind and weather. But Harding Puls had underlined that the purpose of the project is not to evoke a debate, rather art is about immediate experience.
With this project, Harding Puls is creating something new from a piano that has been put out by the fjord, by writing new music and creating a visual expression and putting it into a new cultural cycle.
All photos by Ingerid Jordal, Harding Puls
To learn more about Harding Puls, visit www.hardingpuls.no/kunst-i-hardanger. The website is in Norwegian, but individual videos have English subtitles.
This article originally appeared in the March 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.