Audio ambassadors: Prolific local youth teams with visiting duo for stellar sonic soundscape inspired by Svalbard


Vilde Markussen, 18, has shared the sounds of Svalbard plenty of times with audiences to the south. This time she got to experience new notes with a visiting duo whose concert was influenced by experiences here and on the way.

This review was written by staff writer Marion Prudhon. Like it? Donate!

The two-concert evening at Kulturhuset, one day before the sun’s “return” to Longyearbyen during Solfestuka, began with Markussen playing three solo vocal/piano songs. A frequent performer who has participated in music shows and competitions on the mainland, she has also recently started helping younger musicians during such events.

But on this occasion she was then joined by Canadian Megan Kovacs and Norwegian Gunhild Ramsay Kristoffersen, who comprise the group Bow To Each Other. They’re no strangers to Svalbard, performing at Polarjazz in 2014 and again this year after arriving in early February to experience living here for several weeks.

The performers experimented at length with a variety of different instruments including piano, synth, guitar, kanklès – and some technical mishaps which they coped with humor.

The spur-of-the-moment spirit also infected the songs. One a cave, called “The Best Place To Leave Me,” was written by Kovacs because she figured a cave would be a nice, cosy and protective place to be – although she’d never been in one. Coming here, they explored an ice cave and the feeling was quite not what she expected. Among sparkling beauty, she said it felt hard to breathe and there was an urge to run away. While singing, they still managed to convey the idea of peace of mind.

Then came a song called “Where Is Your Heart,” inspired by the situation facing Syrian refugees. “They try to find a place to live,” explained Kristoffersen, “but there are many people who don’t want to help them – or agree to help, but don’t want them near – who don’t want to share the comfort we have in some countries, like here in Norway.”

They continued with two songs, then Kovacs talked about the Northern Lights. “I used to live in a place in Canada, where the land is flat and the sky huge. There is no trees no mountains, so we can watch Northern Lights. They move as they usually do and we were convinced we could make them move by yelling at them.”

They asked a scientist in Tromsø, if the Northern Lights made noise. The scientist built a device for them during her free time and they went to listen to them in the field, a bit anxious about polar bears. They made us listen to their recording before playing the song “Hands In Pants.”

Kristoffersen presented the next song, “It’s Easier,” by explaining “how it is to feel helpless” in front all that happens in the world.

“It’s nice to believe we can make a change in the world,” she said.