John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal
with Rebekah Oomen
Torsketromming (sound installation), 2019
Torsketromming is an interspecies collaboration between cod (torsk in Norwegian) and people. For too long, people have characterized the underwater world as something silent. In fact, many languages contain expressions such as “mute as a fish”. This is not just incorrect, it is harmful. We ignore the sounds of the sea, and we are oblivious to the human-led destruction of sonic ecosystems. At least 50% of fish use music to communicate, and codfish are one of the most outspoken. In Torsketromming, we record cod with 3D underwater microphone systems and use these recordings to do various projects in the scientific and artistic fields. We explore how cod use music in their mating rituals and how noise pollution could be harming their reproduction. Torsketromming are also making a number of works that span genres, including dance, visual and sound art installations, and concerts, that use cod music as both a raw sonic material and as a social framework. Initiated by scientist Rebekah Oomen and composer/sound-artist John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal, the project’s collaborators include the percussion ensemble Pinquins, visual artist Anastasia Savinova, choreographer Maja Wilhite-Hannisdal, artist Per Hüttner, singer Andrea Silvia Giordano, and neurophysicist Robert Oostenveld. Our current research aspires to explore biofeedback wherein we can play our music for the cod while recording or amplifying their responses, so we can hold live, interspecies, concerts.
John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal is a composer and double bassist living in Oslo, Norway. John Andrew’s compositions investigate and instantiate social relationships. For John Andrew, the social is not simply restricted to the living or the human, but looks across time and can connect us to other species and beings. His projects bring us into contact with such diverse mediums and bodies as codfish, broken tape machines, German baroque literature, and hands. John Andrew often participates in the performance of his own work, and these works often include improvisation and chance elements.
Rebekah Oomen is an interdisciplinary marine evolutionary ecologist at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis at the University of Oslo and the Centres for Coastal Research and Artificial Intelligence Research at the University of Agder. Rebekah seeks to understand how organisms respond to environmental change by studying natural populations of fish, particularly Atlantic cod, using integrative experiments and genomics. She is interested in mechanisms of evolutionary adaptation across different spatial and temporal scales and how these impact predictions of population and species responses to environmental changes, such as fishing and climate change. The human dimension of her work drives her to explore and challenge our relationship to biodiversity by engaging in sociological and artistic investigations of human-cod interactions and species concepts. Through the scientific and artistic project, TORSKETROMMING, Rebekah investigates the role of drumming songs in the cod mating ritual, using deep learning to unravel distinct voices and dialects, and co-creating a better understanding of the cod with musicians and technologists in connection with society.