Úlfur Hansson is a Brooklyn-based solo musician, film composer and sound artist. He has released three albums—2008’s ‘Sweaty Psalms,’ followed by ‘White Mountain’ (2013) and ‘Arborescence’ (2017). He has also performed and collaborated with Gyða Valtýsdóttir, Nordic Affect, Kronos Quartet, and Jónsi, among others. He is also the creator of the Segulharpa (electromagnetic harp, in English)—an electromagnetically powered acoustic instrument he invented and built—which is currently in use as part of Björk’s ‘Cornucopia’ show. We asked him to share a few of the influences that made him the artist he is today.
More and more I enjoy subtle things; like the way a candle behaves when it is dying out. The flame will begin doing things candles normally shouldn’t do, and then, as the flame turns to ash, the sudden burst of vapour takes its flight with great importance, it’s as if it instinctively knows where it must go. Writing music is a bit like that, but it can be tricky finding ways to allow yourself to rush towards your creation, the part of you that exists fully outside of yourself. It’s almost as if that part of you has been projected out into the exterior world, and from that place it radiates desire back into you. This mysterious circuitry is only activated through softness and subtlety.
Ghost in the Machine
When electricity passes through a wire, or a carefully arranged network of carbon and silicon, the flow of energy can create disturbances in the air, vibrations, which then enter into the brain through the ear canals. When the sound is heard, the complex ebb and flow of electrons is mirrored within the listener, as a hologram, and so the listener has become part of the circuit—the energy flows through you before it hurtles towards earth, its source of desire. It’s such a cosmic thing. Looking at it this way, I think it’s clear that an instrument can become so much more than just a sum of its parts.
A Love Supreme
Can you imagine the world exploring itself through a love circuit of John Coltrane and his saxophone? The world mirrors itself within you. Was the world completely blind before there were eyes? The world will see itself through your eyes. The interior and exterior world meet like two spheres, and sitting between the two great pressures is a point of spectacular intimacy where creation is happening, burning like a fire. It may just be the source of everything, the fabric of the universe. A kiss. A love supreme.
I believe nothing exists but thought and motion, and the impermanence of things is the drive of constant creation. “you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself,” says Miles Davis. Maybe the end goal is to sound like the universe. As you keep interacting with the world, you are driven towards further iterations of the dream that is your existence. Creativity is a cosmic force; it is the only thing that is real.
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