Is There a Sonic Iconography of Remoteness? Northern Islands in Contemporary Sound Arts Practice.

Conference Paper

by Cathy Lane

at REMOTE: Rethinking Remoteness and Peripherality Conference, Svalbard, Norway

15-19 January 2017

Organised by Island Dynamics and International Development & International Studies (RMIT University)


Between 1967 and 1977 Canadian pianist Glenn Gould produced three radio documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Collectively known as the ‘Solitude Trilogy’, these works, ‘The Latecomers’ (1969), ‘The Quiet in the Land’ (1977) and in particular ‘The Idea of North’ (1967) have achieved foundational status within the sound arts canon. This is primarily due to Gould’s innovative use of "contrapuntal" radio using multiple speaking voices simultaneously, as well as his engagement with, and association between, remoteness, wilderness and North which has, since then, become a trope within contemporary sound arts practice. In this paper I will discuss the sonic representation of North within contemporary sound arts practice with reference to works by sound artists including Anna Fritz, Elin Øyen Vister, Jacob Kirkegaard, Peter Cusack, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Jana Winderen, and Chris Watson and my own work in Iceland and the Outer Hebrides and try to draw out the commonalities of methodology and representation to establish whether there might be a sonic iconography of remoteness related to North in general and northern islands in particular. 


REMOTE: Rethinking Remoteness and Peripherality conference: International, interdisciplinary conference exploring the concepts of remoteness and peripherality. How do remoteness and peripherality affect spatial relationships; developmental logics; and the exercise of social, political, and economic power?


Image by Island Dynamics

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