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In search of organized time

Christian Blom was tired of composing music on a computer and listening to music through loudspeakers. He is currently finishing a project where ideas about how time is organized result in subtle works in the form of performances and installations.

From 2004 to 2010, Blom collaborated with the Verdensteatret theatre company in Oslo and helped them stage their productions. It was there, while seeing an actor walk across the stage and then hearing a sound expressing a similar movement, that it first occurred to him that a movement and a sound could emanate from a common source.[SO1]

Sound, light and movement

“I imagine a temporal structure, for example a steady rhythm, as a series of intervals, one after the other,” says Blom, snapping a steady pulse with his fingers. “This is a temporal structure. It can be expressed through sound, as with the fingers snapping, and as a movement, for example by moving my arm up and down. The series of movements expresses the same temporal structure as the series of sounds, and likewise you could switch a light on and off. Not only that, but light, sound and movement can also vary in their intensity. These media can therefore channel an underlying structure of time and intensity and thus create a transmedia[SO2] composition.”

A composer observes his installation

Blom notes that the composing process must take into consideration what sort of movements a computer program can make a mechanical element actually perform – in the physical world, gravity and friction are very much for real. The process might unfold by him writing a fairly simple randomized computer program[SO3] that makes the mechanical device play some sequence or another. Blom then sits and observes what transpires and lets the device show him what it is capable of. Whatever happens to work can then be stored and tentatively recreated. Thus, the composition is gradually whittled into shape.

“Rather than compose a final, authoritative work, I create the final framework for what the work can be, expressed as an algorithm. And then I can make as many ‘impressions’ I want to of the work, with both minor and major variations.”

 

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The installation Trio for pinne, streng og lyspære

Toning down the individual media

Christian Blom wants the movement and the light to be connected within a common structure, rather than in parallel as is the case with music featuring added lighting effects. In order to achieve such a synthesis, the activity of each individual medium must be sufficiently toned down to prevent a medium-specific structure – music – from being created.

Self-taught mechanic and electrical engineer

The road to these electromechanical installations went through Blom’s involvement with Verdensteatret. There, various artists worked closely with one another to develop the company’s productions, where part of the underlying philosophy is to let the artists move relatively freely across disciplinary borders. Christian Blom was brought on to structure speech and sound before ultimately ending up as a mechanic.

“One of the most enjoyable things I do is to work all the way from the initial software development and through to the physical movements,” he explains. “I’m allowed to involve myself in everything from the overall idea – such as transmedia, which is very abstract – and down to making each tiny, mechanical element work. This provides a number of approaches to the same problem, so that you can use both your head and your hands. It becomes an obsession – and then it’s easy to be a human being.”

Last updated: 4. April 2017