on life, music etc beyond mainstream

Michael Engelbrecht: What is your approach to field recordings? Your fascination seems endless and coming from different angles. By the way, one of my favourite field recordings has been recorded in England, Scotland and Wales during the early ’60s, „Trains In The Night“, the final years of steaming locomotives, beloved rhythms of early childhood memories …


BJ Nilsen: I am not a purist when it comes to field recordings, I allow myself to approach my recordings or methods in any possible way I want. It is in many ways a orchestra of sounds with an open air studio, things reverberate, coming from different directions and so on. I think the experience and energy that you partake by interacting with a sound source or location is half of the benefits doing field recording, together with that you never exactly know what you are going to get. It is never just about pressing REC. I am also interested in the anthropological sense of field recordings and that you can read in so much information in a single recording.


Michael: The record sounds, in certain passages, like a rather dangerous and unsafe journey. Is that right, or a wrongfooted impression … I mean, the composer has been t h e r e, but the listener has to develop the place in his own mind …


BJ Nilsen: It can be dangerous yes, but so is crossing the street in some cities. This was no dramatic mountain expedition … . However you always have to be prepared, the mountain does not care if it is suddenly snowing and you are poorly dressed …



Michael: The source material was recorded in Gran Paradiso. What are your basic principles (intellect vs intuition) if you shape, change, reshape the original material?


BJ Nilsen: I allow the material to take form and the sounds should work together, there is a great deal of processing, editing and rhythm. I go through many versions and mixes before one is decided upon. Great deal of experience and intuition, chance. Always pay attention to the mix.


Michael: By sequencing the album, has there been the idea to give the music a narrative arc, or at least, if not exactly storylines, then a kind of „energetic suspense curve“?


BJ Nilsen: When I compose for an album I tend to work in one timeline. Track order can of course change later. Sometimes one longer piece becomes 2 or 3 separate pieces in the end, but I prefer to work on the album as one long piece. Hopefully then I always have an overview how it works as a unity. I do a great deal of shortening of passages and deliberately try to not fall into personal or obvious classical tricks.


Michael: A quote by André Daumal accompanies the album. In which way has this quite enigmatic figure been an inspiration for „Massif Trophies“?


BJ Nilsen: That happened after the material was composed, I was reading the book for the first time and did not realize it had been such an inspiration for many, for example Jodorowsky or Zorn. The album is not in any way related to „Mount Analogue“ more than it has a mountainous theme and I could relate to the book. Perhaps what I wanted to touch upon was the same idea of observing the act of climbing with all its psychic and physical properties. An alpine environment can also be quite surrealistic, mythical and almost otherworldly, all this was attractive to me.


Michael: In Kristiansand, during the Punkt Festival, I heard a lecture and had a little breakfast talk with Jez Riley French. He spoke about the difference between how we listen to the world and how the world actually sounds. I assume you also more interested in a kind of „hyperreality“ different from usual connotations with climbing mountains or mountain walks – or is the aim to deliver a somehow raw, naked experience?


BJ Nilsen: Mountains are „Massif Trophies“ in a sense of achievement but also of energy and symbolism. People have always read into all sorts of connotations and symbolism, the mountain being center of the world, point of creation, contact between heaven and earth. Being a place to hide or meditate, myths of mountain demons and the accursed mountains in Montenegro. To me they are timeless and raw and therefore a place where the mind can expand. Worst that can happen is that all mountains turn into a new type of tourist destination mecca.



Michael: My next radio night show will probably start with that long first track of „Massif Trophies“. Maybe you can tell me (and the listeners) about its story and components. At some point some nearly subliminal sounds emerge from nothing, slowly merging with this huge space …


BJ Nilsen: During one hike we got caught in a massive thunderstorm, as the weather can be very unpredictable in the mountains it is advisable to take shelter, especially with lightening involved. We ran to what happened to be an old farmhouse (Alpe Djouan at 2.200m) and squatted under the roof.

I immediately set up my equipment on a dry pile of bricks that was reaching up to the roof. The panorama view over the valley was incredible and as the storm took shape rain and thunder was building up. Lightening was striking both horizontal and vertically. One lightening hit a nearby peak creating a rock avalanche that threw head size boulders down the same path as we ascended from. Truly mesmerizing event that went on for at least half an hour, the thunder rolling around in the valley was creating the most incredible real time phasing effects.

I could not believe my ears when I suddenly heard the farmers bringing out the cattle from the larger farmhouse behind us, trying to navigate them onto the grassy knoll for grazing. I looked to the side and there a huge bull stood majestically looking out the valley, 10m away. I wanted to use the whole version but felt too long so I edited it down and decided to add some underlying electronic manipulations, bringing it somewhere else.


This entry was posted on Freitag, 22. September 2017 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    OUT NOW: BJNilsen: Massif Trophies / EMEGO 233, VINYL+DOWNLOAD

    All photos by BJ Nilsen

  2. Lajla Nizinski:

    Interesting. Funny that you chose a picture with the cow. I would have appreciated to have a look at your equipment, save on the brick.

  3. bjnilsen:

    Personally I think there is too much focus on equipment in this genre, but for your curiosity I used a Sounddevices 702 with 2x DPA 4060. For production I work in Logic 9 with an array of plugins. Don´t underestimate the brick, without it I would have been soaking wet, and without a recording.😊

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