Begin from zero, from nothing.
It’s like if there is a fresh snow and nobody has walked,
and you take the first steps on this snow.
And this is the beginning of new life.

– Arvo Pärt

The research project “A soft hiss of this world” is focused on the loss in many aspects such as the loss of language as a result of the Anthropocene through the absence of certain states and processes that occur naturally in the environment like different states of water, snow and ice. In Finnish there are more than forty terms* to refer to them and because of the loss of these states in the landscape, the loss is also displaced to the language, in this case, the Finnish.

This research project took these words as a starting point to make hundreds of hours of recordings in the Finnish landscape. The sound of snow, ice and snowflakes are the reference and the sound material of this research project. And to obtain these sounds, as well as the possible sound differences between each snowflake, special and specific microphones were developed for this very specific and fragile recording process.

Is it possible to record the impossible or what does not exist? There are three types of impossibility in each recording: the recording of a sound event due to its absence, its extinction or the impossibility of recording itself. The condition of possibility for the absence is the presence itself.

It is known that in the Arctic, people can see and hear things that are impossible in other places on the planet. These phenomena are caused by special atmospheric conditions and some people in these latitudes have described some sounds that happened at great distances or sounds of extreme delicateness. How much of the landscape resides in our listening?

In 1985 Joseph Scrimger wanted to calculate the noise generated by rain, hail and snow underwater (Nature 318, 647). Scrimger found an unexpected constant sound during snowfall, but failed to identify its origin. Years later, Lawrence Crum of the University of Washington (Seattle, USA) when listening to these recordings suggested that in this constant sound there were a lot of micro-sounds that corresponded to the tapping of the individual flakes on the surface of the water.


* Notes: These are some of the words in Finnish used to refer to the different states of water, snow and ice: sataa, lunta, lumi, pyry, myräkkä, rae, räntä, loska, tuisku, hyhmä, sohjo, ahtojää, kide, lumikide, jääkide, kohva, paanne, paannejää, railo, tykky, tykkylumi, iljanne, kaljama, hanki, huurre, härmä, kuura, kinos, lumikinos, nietos, nuoska, viti, vitilumi, polanne, avanto, jotos, rannio, latu, nirskua, narskua

This project was made possible with the support of Tabakalera, Kone Foundation, Etxepare, the Spanish embassy in Sweden and EMS Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm (Sweden) (2016).

Photographic documentation of the project.