Arctic Auditories Tiny Conference

We’re entering the new year with intention and reflection, and on Feb 1-2, we are gathering all our participants, guides, friends, and colleagues to join us for our Tiny Conference. 

Each project member will give a short presentation on their contribution to Arctic Auditories in their respective fields and disciplines, and share some works in progress.

While this full-day event is for our consortium (all the folks from the community involved in the project) only, this blog is dedicated to documenting and informing the public of our activities. So, for those who can’t attend: among our acticities, we’ll delve into methodological discussions on the evolution of soundwalks with one of our guides, we’ll take a look at some field notes, pictures and of course, some audio-materials.  

The first day will conclude with a talk from artist Margrethe Pettersen on her ongoing “Remembering with Rivers” project. The event is open to the public, free and streams on Zoom. Tickets available here.

Water, my companion

By Elizabeth Barron, Arctic Auditories research team member.

By May 2023, we were well into Arctic Auditories. Spending all this time with colleagues focused on sound (something I have never worked on within my own scholarship) was starting to influence affect me. I was co-leading a field course in the United States for a mixed class of Norwegian and American students. The class was on conservation, sustainability, and environmental citizenship with a focus on national parks. After four months of mostly classroom-based learning, we took the students on a three-week trip to Yellowstone National Park, with stops at Teddy Roosevelt National Park and Grand Tetons National Park.  

The students were well-bonded by the time we were in the field, and talked a lot! They were also a generally healthy, fit group of fast hikers. Some kind of combination of youthful energy and peer pressure to not fall behind meant I, being neither youthful nor willing to push myself way outside my comfort zone to keep up, was often hiking alone.  

Was I alone in these mountains? Or was I [alone] along rivers, [alone] surrounded by volcanos, [alone] with microbes (Figure 1)? 

Figure 1: Beehive Geyser at Yellowstone National Park. The geysers at Yellowstone are an amazingly diverse community of algae, fungi, and bacteria that live happily in the extreme heat and toxic-to-humans landscape of the active volcano that makes up the heart of Yellowstone National Park. It erupted just a few minutes after this photo was taken (May 20, 2023).

I wanted the students to slow down, to listen to their surroundings rather than each other for even a few minutes. In the classroom, I had taught them about different ways to engage in fieldwork, and other sensory geographies such as smellscapes and soundscapes. So, when we were in the Grand Tetons, after making it to the top and re-joining the group (who were all done with their lunch and exploring by the time I met them (Figure 2)), I asked everyone to spend at least 10 minutes of their return hike in silence, ideally hiking alone, listening.  

Figure 2: Student peering over the cliff edge at wildlife below, Grand Tetons National Park with Jenny Lake in the background (May 21, 2023).

I set back down the trail at 2 pm. It was sunny, 22°C, and now I chose to walk alone. Thinking about my Arctic Auditories crew back in Norway, I chose to focus on watery sounds as I walked the Jenny Lake Wilderness Trail. This is what I heard – although actually, this is me deciding what words in my native language of English can come anywhere near trying to describe what I heard, which of course you can never read.  

This exploration and play with language is something we will soon start focusing more on in Arctic Auditories, as we begin to build a multi-lingual glossary of sound words, sonic writing practices, and how we write ourselves into sound and place.  

Sounds of water on the trail  

  • The slap splash of my boots in a puddle on the trail 
  • The dull roar of the big waterfalls, and slightly gentler, higher sound of rushing rapids 
  • The gurgle plop of the lake edge, like an unassuming toddler talking in her sleep, loses out to the deafening motor roar of a passing speedboat, which when gone has left me the loud crashing waves on a built-up rock wall at the lake’s edge 
  • The gurgle on the rock wall at the lake’s edge, of water breaking on rocks, is different than the little bubbles that pop up like friends when the waves hit submerged wood 
  • The shush-shush of slush alternates with the slap-slap of walking across trails damp with melting snow and puddles 
  • A gurgling brook emerging out from under a boulder and draining into the lake reminds me spring is well underway, but here in the mountains of Wyoming, USA the snow is still melting, feeding the lake for the summer to come 

Like a TV cooking show host tasting their final dish and telling you how delicious it is: the smells and textures that you only hope to experience…I can only tell you my experience of water and hope that you will know something more. Perhaps you will think about the paradoxical nature of our watery words – that water on the mountain is powerful and strong – it crashes, rushes, and roars. Water on the trail is more of a nuisance – it slaps, slushes, and plops. All this water reminds me that water is change, it is almost constantly moving, and its instantiations are ephemeral. It is like sound in this way. How can we, with writing and language, convey the fluidity of the watery sounds around us? We hope you will help us think through this in the coming months. 

Water hits the sides of my water bottle like irregular drumbeats, reminding me I am on the move. I am alive in this landscape with salty water running down my face, proving that I can move, I do move, and my body takes care of me as I take care of it, at my own pace. 

Figure 3: The author (me!) after just arriving at the destination for our Jenny Lake Wilderness Trail Hike – a nice lake overlook you can see in Figure 2. Students relax in the background. 😉

@ Elisabeth Barron

Soundwalk Week: A Prelude.

Next week is soundwalk week (try saying that five times fast), and we’re looking forward to exploring new sites as we head into a new season. The leaves have not quite turned yellow and red, but rain has traveled North causing a constant tattoo of droplets turning into rivulets, pooling on the pavement. There is a different susurrus of sound now than a mere week ago. The rain is at times so loud that it drowns out traffic, bicycles, and seagulls.

Most of the people here will probably

remember this summer fondly, with its

unprecedented warmth and number

of uninterrupted sunny days – forest fires and sunburns aside.
Those days were dry, filled with dust and seagull cries.

The season we have entered now has a different feel.

Out from storage comes rain boots, waterproof jackets and our focus shifts to keeping ourselves dry. The land around Tromsø, however, absorbs and rejoices at this deluge. The rivers are filled, the waters rising. This is the era of watery sounds, and we can't wait to take them in. 

We are doing walks in Hamna Wednesday Sept 13th at 5pm, and in Tromsdalen Saturday Sept 16th at 11am and 2pm.

If you’d like to join us, here are links to sign-up forms in English and Norwegian.

Walk&Talk at Sommarøy

This weekend one of our team members traveled to Sommarøy to conduct a Walk&Talk with one of our guides. The weather was fast-changing, blustery snow one moment and sunny and quiet the next. According to the weather-report it was going to take a turn for the worse later, with powerful winds (“elinger” as they say) and blinding fog-like snowfalls. We were not the only ones making the most of the let-up; a small group of sea-bathers were standing in the shallows and on the beach, taking turns going into the water. 

 We began our route by the marina a few hundred meters from the hotel, and then we walked through the snow-covered heather out to the aptly named Lyngøya (Heather Island), looped back and walked along the small beach next on the opposite side of the marina. 


Standing at this beach next to Lyngøya, my guide points to the landmass to our left and to the newly erected cabins and compounds. This used to be underwater, he notes, but they filled it in, thus connecting the larger island with the smaller islet. 

This cove is particularly sought after for the stunning view of the sea and the smaller islets, and while it is seldom quiet on Sommarøy, there is a calmness to this natural susurrus of the wind, the waves, the birds, and the sound of our footsteps through snow and ice covered heather and sand.  

My guide talks of the plans to build a small marina straight out from where we’re standing towards Buholmen. Won’t that defeat the purpose of the serenity of this location, I ask. It sure will, he replies.  

Across the bridge on the mainland we watch the windmills on Kvitfjell and Raudfjell silently turn. I ask if you can hear them from here normally, but my guide shakes his head. If we were up there, it would be a different story. Up there on a windy day, even standing at a safe hundred-meter distance, you can still feel the earth vibrate, and the roar of the turbines. 


A soundwalk is a short walk where you focus on the sounds of a place and how these sounds affect your experience of this place. 





We’ll be walking this route again on Tuesday May 2nd. If you are in the area and you’d like to join us, please reach out! The walk is open to tourists or local residents, and while the guide is Norwegian, we can offer German and English translation. 

Photos: Paula R.Mikalsen. Posted with permission of photographer and guide.