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All At Sea [2010-12-01]

It’s from the oceans that all life on the earth sprang forth, and it’s to the oceans that Jana Winderen is drawn back time and again, tirelessly. Her fascination isn’t part of her art; it is the art, and that utter dedication comes through the recordings of hers that have come my way (Heated and Energy Field, both excellent).  Here’s questions and answers gleaned from a short email interview I conducted with Jana earlier this year.

m[m] Tell us a bit about the way "Heated" was performed? It's a live performance, but it has the polish of a studio production.
JW: I practice and prepare a session before playing, then I develop it until the last minute according to the space and acoustics. I use eqing, panning and volume a lot in the live setting. I carefully select the sound files and the mixes in a planned "story telling kind of way" for a specific place and project. I have also different sources of sound connected to the mixer that I mix live there and then.

m[m] How did you end up recording for Touch?
JW: It would be better if you ask the label.

m[m] The albums I've heard from you so far all revolve around field recordings rather than actual instrumental performances. Are you also interested in creating more conventionally-performed music as well?
JW: I am more interested in communicating the content of my interests, though of course also the listening experience is important. I consider my microphone as my instrument. The composition process starts out in the boat or hanging in a rope in a crevasse. It is about concentrated listening. I have not considered using my clarinet in a performance!

m[m] What occupies your time and attention outside of music?
JW: I enjoy very much learning by travelling which I am doing a lot throughout my work, to get different perspectives on issues concerning our planet... to pay attention to the places I visit.

m[m] There's something very "tactile" about your work, from what I've heard -- the way I described it, it was "music I wanted to sink my teeth into". Is this something you consciously strive for, music that you can feel with the whole body and not just listen to with the ears?
JW: Indeed, I appreciated your reaction.

m[m] Tell us a bit about your maths/chemistry background at the U. of Oslo -- how much of that has been applied to the artistic work you do?
JW: I wanted to become a marine biologist and to concentrate my research to the mammals of the sea. This was in the late 80s. I have a lot to do with what I am doing now, it is the same actually. I have always been concerned with the oceans since I was a little child. My studies are very important for my collaboration with marine biologists now.

m[m] Is there a dream project you'd like to execute -- something that for lack of time or resources you can't attempt yet?
JW: Yes, to build a studio in a large sailing boat to be able to go further out at sea to follow specific species on their migration. I would like to be able to listen to the ocean continuously from my boat, and to communicate my findings with people. I am working on it!

m[m] What are some of your favourite non-musical creative works (books, films, visual arts, etc.)?
JW: Reading about issues concerning the oceans. I love films like Roy Andreson: "Du levande", or Tarkovsky’s films, I love the books by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal, or films with David Attenborough.

m[m] When I talk to creative people generally, during the conversation they almost always mention at least one or two personal dogmas they hold that they're also trying to remain skeptical about. Have you encountered anything like this in yourself -- and if so, how have you dealt with it?
JW: I guess my dogma started in 1992 when I decided to not make any more physical objects, but to work with immaterial material, like sound, in my art practice, and to reuse my tools. Now when I am making a living from this I have started to make CDs, USB sticks and Vinyl to sell ... althought it is still true that my studio can still fit in a 10 square meter space...

m[m] If someone offered you a fairly blatant commercial opportunity for your line of work (e.g., designing the soundtrack for a big-budget movie), would you take them up on it? Why / why not?
JW: I would consider the content of the film, if it was totally against my beliefs I would not do it, for sure.

m[m] And of course: any comments to our readers?
JW: Tread carefully and listen with focus. Do not accept that you cannot drink the water from your tap or swim in your local river.

Thanks to Jana for taking the time to answer our questions. Visit her website (, where you can find information about upcoming and existing projects.

Serdar Yegulalp
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