Images courtesy Olle Cornéer. Used by permission.

If you think culture has become too disconnected from the Earth, “Harvest” and the Terrafon instrument surely count as a shock to the system. A traditional ensemble picks up an enormous tone arm and transducer and, through back-breaking labor, drag it across arable fields. It’s part sound art and performance, part agriculture. But it certainly counts as a gramophone – it’s just a really big one that reads the grooves of the earth.

Beat juggling with two of these I’m guessing is largely out of the question.

One half of the artistic creative team, Olle Cornéer, writes with a description:

Harvest (2009) is a new art piece for the new instrument terrafon, traditional ensemble and cropland – by Olle Cornéer and Martin Lübcke.

In this performance Alunda Church Choir, conducted by Cantor Jan Hällgren, plays the soil of northern Uppland (in Sweden) on terrafon. Harvest by Alunda Kyrkokör was exhibited at the Volt Festival in Uppsala the 6th of June 2009. Terrafon is a large agricultural version of the horn gramophone, amplifying the sounds in the track it ploughs.

There is more to come. There are still many croplands still untouched by terrafon. The only thing needed is a powerful local musical ensemble that can sweat it out. This is indeed a demanding piece.


Video illustrates what this all means in practice:

Harvest by Alunda Kyrkokör (2009) from Olle Corneer on Vimeo.

The artistic duo behind the work is a fascinating collaboration. Olle is a producer and musician, while partner-in-crime Martin Lübcke has a PhD in theoretical physics, specializing in superstring theory. That has been the grounds on which their other work, Bacterial Orchestra, explores ideas both of biological epidemics and multi-celled organisms and neural networks. Of course, to make it truly multi-celled, they’ve made the piece an iPhone creation. (I think some folks have found the iPhone phenomenon to be viral as is, so this seems somewhat appropriate.)

Public Epidemic No 1 from Olle Corneer on Vimeo.

Every cell listens to its surroundings and picks up sounds, trying to play together in a musical way. The musical material comes from the background noise, people talking or sounds played by other cells.

Every cell has a unique DNA. Only the ones that are musical fit enough survives. If
the surroundings doesn’t meet up to its conditions – too noisy, too quiet or no distinct
pulse – the cell dies and is reborn with a new, hopefully better, set of DNA.

The result is a musical organism adapting to and changing its environment, growing and evolving with other cells and spectators.

More on that piece:

It’s nice to me that, while these works are both conceptual, you might not guess they came from the same team. I wonder what will come next.

  • All we need to do is throw on some more harmonies in Melodyne, brickwall limit it, add some quantization and the piece will sound good. [Tongue in cheek] 😉

    Ok, I'm gonna duck out now before all the flames start.

  • CPRoth

    @ Keats: Sorry dude, I think Good Charlotte already beat you to it! 😉

  • Cort3x

    Too bad we don't get to hear a longer sequence of evolution in that second video.

  • The 'Harvest' video made me laugh so, so hard… It is a joke, right?

  • Oh, sweet home soil of Uppland!

  • I think there's a certain amount of parody going on, yes. I think you can take the concept however you like. And dig that Uppland earth.

  • Damon

    This is what is known as white people "keepin it real…" and "getting back to the roots."

  • Polite

    I must admit I was a little disappointed in the Harvest video. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I thought it might be more than just the sound of gravel scraping along the bottom of the device. I appreciate the concept though, and the apparent tongue-in-cheek humor.

  • s0undc10ud

    i think these people on the video have way too much time to waste. lol. i cant see any practical or musical use of that…"gramo-grader???"…? But its always nice to know all the crazy musical ideas people have from time to time.

  • The earth sounds bad, but the concept is nice ^_^

    Sort of Land Art going audio.

  • what would the capta

    im with sound cloud on this I love crazy musical ideas – but these idea strike me as a nice concepts poorly executed. The gramphone was really dissapointing in its sound, and so was the iphone cells, which really just sounded like a slightly fancy echo effect – "listening for and completeing musical phrases" – Im not sure their programming sophistication really went far enough for that to happen…..

    raises some interesting questions though – is the concept more important than the result or vice versa

  • I think the strength of these pieces gets more pronounched if you take them as conceptual art. Just take the DNA sequencer for reaktor (can´t remember the link to it) as an example. I honestly dont think it really sounds that good, and is a bit hard to combine with other things to make more of a 'song'. But Its beauty lies in the fact that it creates a sequence of audible events based on genetic instructions.

    Then again, I'm the kind of guy who can listen to the sound of the 'fire synthesizer' from the tutorials over at obiwannabe.co.uk for hours. So I guess I like my noise noisy 🙂

  • That really did blow! Had to be a joke…

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  • For obvious reasons, I HAD to comment on this one!

    I didn't know anyone would take the name of my production company so seriously. LOL!

  • while Uppland earth has a unique timbre that cuts through any mix, i prefer the [counterintuitively] warm sound found in the soil of Lapland.

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  • I think I heard a worm scream? And would like to hear this on a sand beach. Great percussion axe but I need a little melody.

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  • To take the Earth gramophone concept even further, one could take a reading (via laser) from an orbiting satellite – the variation in distance from the surface to the satellite caused by mountains and valleys as the satellite passed overhead could be used to calculate the 'grooves'… these could then be used as the seeds for a synthesis engine of your choice…

    Anyone have access to a satellite?

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