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USO: In the latest years you received a lot of commissions by many institutions. Did their request influence your ideas and work itself?
NB: Normally I am free to compose what I wish within two types of guideline. The first is whether the work is acousmatic or involves live instrumental performers. The second is the duration and an agreed degree of involvement reflected in the time the work takes to compose. Even for a commission that is part of a thematic festival I am normally able to specify what I would like to do. Only in few cases am I strictly controlled. For example last year I composed some sound materials for a visual artist where the requirements were clearly specified.
USO: Which software resources are you using for composing your pieces? What make them specials?
NB: Well, as I mentioned above it’s easier to talk about the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ as I use any software that is appropriate – and probably the same as everyone else. It’s all down to how you use the tools! 14 years ago I would maybe have discussed how I use university mainframe systems or software that was non-commercial and custom made. Now, most non-commercial sound transformation algorithms we used in the mid-late 90’s are embedded in commercial software, which is accessible to all and significantly easier to use than the buggy programmes of the last decade. Even if we build a custom-made Max/MSP patch we are still working within a defined collection of Max/MSP objects (which I do quite a lot). We can of course write our own programmes and our own objects but are nevertheless mainly coding existing algorithms. I can however talk about one main area that I find interesting, and that is the difference between software intended for haptic ‘real-time’ control and software more suited to scripting and ‘out-of-time’ control. For many reasons ‘real-time’ and ‘out-of-time’ control of the same algorithm can produce markedly different results.
USO: What's the importance of Ambisonics in your works?
NB: I first used Ambisonics in 1999 and discovered how three-dimensional spatial structures (rather than stereo phantom images) may be transmitted directly to the listener without the need for headphones. Prior to this time, for me, three-dimensional sound lived either metaphorically in the stereo phantom image or in concert sound-diffusion performance over a large loudspeaker orchestra. In my work since 2000 Ambisonics has opened up a new layer of compositional potential in terms of both sound and temporal structure. I should point that I am referring to 3-D sound through the spatial continuum, rather than sound being positioned on specific loudspeaker points. I do however regularly perform traditional sound-diffusion.
USO: Can you talk about your menthors and how they affected your work?
NB: Hmm. Well mentors change, don’t they? Maybe I don’t really have any mentors, rather people whom I admire, or works that I admire or find inspiring – and the list grows all the time, spanning electronic music, instrumental music and visual art. To throw in a few classics: The early works of Stockhausen. Xenakis. Luc Ferrari. François Bayle. Brian Ferneyhough. Early electronic and tape works from the 50’s to 70’s – some are inspiring for the composition, others for the pioneering spirit and shear commitment to the immensely time-consuming process of the time.
USO: What does it mean to be an electroacoustic music composer in Norway today?
NB: I guess the same as anywhere else in Europe – one needs to be open-minded and active in a broad definition of electroacoustic music as composition and as art involving sound, while staying true to personal beliefs and knowledge.
USO: How should a composer survive nowadays in the global community, where the market and profits determine the reality that surround us, acting like a natural selection process, leaving the outsider thinkers behind?
NB: If you give in to market and profits then you may be able to live through working with sound, but then you need to ask yourself if you are surviving in what you believe in and what you find fun? The point is that no contemporary marginal art-forms survive in a free market economy. But there is rarely a completely free market. Public funds and private grants are there for marginal art-forms. In some counties they are of course very sparse, tricky to get and unfortunately sometimes distributed on a collegial basis. Collaboration can be both interesting on creative terms and useful in opening up new funding opportunities. I would say to be faithful to your ideas yet to be flexible enough to imagine how an idea could function in an alternative setting or framework.
USO: Is there room for a contemporary music scene in our western culture?
NB: Yes. There will always be people who wish to be actively stimulated by music or art rather than simply ‘absorbing’ or using music as a function for example to dance or work to. I know I am not alone in finding intellectual experience one spice of life and contemporary music is one area that offers such an experience.
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