When I was asked to reflect on the two-year anniversary of my album, A Gold Ring in a Pig’s Snout, it forced me to reckon with the chasm between myself today and my former self. I was a fairly nervous, untrained musician, recording with a handheld recorder taped to the back of a chair (in lieu of a microphone stand). I had some sounds in mind, and more importantly, a conceptual framework for the record shaped entirely around my experiences with gender. I was barely two years into medically transitioning, had largely rejected any form of traditional masculinity in both presentation and behaviour, and found myself labouring to establish my new understanding of my gender in the eyes of the world. That mindset of ‘gender work’, of pushing myself physically and mentally so I could be ‘read’ ‘correctly’ by others for who I wanted to desperately be, is splattered all over this record.
In many ways, I did not fully register how strained I was in my task of convincing others of who I truly was. I perceived Gold Ring as a political record, one which allowed me to align myself with concepts of womanhood I have often held close, despite not being able to consciously and publicly access them for the majority of my life. In many ways, that is still the case, but my relation to the pressures of gender conformity and upholding some kind of universal standards of womanhood has dramatically shifted. The exhaustion became overwhelming, and bodily, and I found myself squirming out of some of the boxes I had placed myself in. This record allowed me to establish myself in the experimental music community, to publicly claim spaces that had been previously denied to me, and to begin exploring myself through sonics in a way I had never previously managed. But the key word here is begin: I have since continued exploring, and found myself in an entirely different part of the forest.
By a nice bit of chance, my second solo album Overlapping Magisteria is being released a few days after the anniversary of Gold Ring. This album also marks the beginning of an exploration in its own way, but one of the ways in which my queerness and transness intersect with my experiences as an occupied-Palestine/Israeli-born Jewish immigrant in Australia. I honed in on both clarifying and challenging my relationship with Judaism, one which has simultaneously been lifelong and yet highly disconnected. I was rebuilding spiritual synapses that had long atrophied, both in my musical and everyday practice. This was my first experience of sitting with my own sounds and letting them speak to my life. It was my first time letting sounds name themselves through me, using my experiences as a lens. In many ways this record was the opposite of Gold Ring - abstract rather than political, a leap of faith into mystery rather than a concrete plan executed with just the right amount of failure. There I was, nervous, untrained, with a handheld recorder carefully balanced on the back of a chair. My two selves, superimposed, working towards placing themselves within a world that has so little room for them.
A Gold Ring in a Pig’s Snout was named one of the Top Experimental Releases of 2017 by Music Australia.
The initial cassette release sold out in the first year and has now been reissued in an edition of 50 blue cassettes. Shoshana’s latest release Overlapping Magisteria is out on January 29th, 2019.
Presented in association with SymbioticA, Moana and Artsource. Photography by Jess Boyce.
This morning was off to a good start with a serene listening session at Christian’s which included his newly-acquired copy of Aussie grindcore legends’ Captain Cleanoff’s “Symphonies of Slackness” (recommended by yours truly; never say I’m not a great cultural ambassador!) After explaining how you write grindcore (“there’s a blast, a d-beat and a breakdown, and you just kind of shove them together”) we headed off, and I was directed to a little bookshop near the centre of town. Cappelens Forslag, according to its owner, is “like walking into a Swedish home”. This meant books in Norwegian and English side by side, some interesting approaches to the alphabet, and black coffee as the singular menu item. I left with my second SOFA Records LP for the trip, a copy of Search For The Dice Man, and my head full of a conversation about free will and changing drunk guys’ lives with esoteric literature.
After becoming a little snowblind and losing my path, I made my way onto a tram and onwards to the Norwegian Music Academy, where I had my first experience playing with a viola player (Tuve). It was pretty exciting contrast to what my ear is used to hearing from a violin (played by Hans Kjorstad), and I probably spent too long nerding out about it. We played some musical games, including my personal favourite “compliment and contrast”, which involves constantly supporting or opposing what other players are doing. After recording some tunes and figuring out the night’s plans, it was time for the show.
Tonight’s performance took place in NyMusikk, a New Music organisation based in Oslo but with branches in several other regions. AllEars made sure everyone was stuffed with curry and bread before the show began, although my personal partaking may have been a mistake. At this point I’d been awake for about 15 hours, and the comfort food meant my brain was ready for sleep. Nonetheless, I pressed on, and managed to only embarrassingly nod off and snore one time.
Jöelle Léandre started off the night with a set of demonic conversations between her voice and her contrabass. It was like watching someone negotiate for a front-row seat in the Sixth Circle with the only other person intent on sitting closer to the infernal flames. Next up was WEDOMAGIC’s set, which involved a clarinetist, bassoonist/flutist and contrabass player being live-mixed by a fourth player. Their set was like a deconstructed musical: foley, sampled conversations, and waterside noises were mixed in with looped key clicks, string screeches and flute spits. Unfortunately this was the set where my body gave up; the music was too immersive and I was too susceptible to becoming immersed. Sorry!
Before the final act, there was a panel on sustainability in a musical and political context. Short and brief, some of the night’s performers and festival organiser Guro discussed their perspectives on the ethics of sustainable musical practices and beyond.
Finally, BNSU ensured I had enough energy to make my way home, with an improvised splattercore set which was half Agoraphobic Nosebleed and half something from the Bloody Fist archive. Nice.
With 22 hours of wakefulness, I finally dragged myself home and into bed for my final night in this apartment.
Today was a day for running around. I left the apartment of my gracious host at 10am, dragging my tiny-wheeled luggage through snowy paths beyond its design. Having overcome several physical and mental barriers, and one Sisyphean hill climb later, I arrived at Ila Fysikalske for the workshop with Wave Behaviour. The French duo took us on a living autopsy tour of a 16mm film camera, from the bulb to the lens. We were then invited to take turns making our own films: using only the light from the camera and a series of props (magnifying lenses, perforated screens, zebra-stripe duct-taped lampshades) we were each given the opportunity to explore how light travels through a camera and what happens when you disrupt this path. This may have been one of the most generous workshop experiences I’d ever had.
Following the workshop, I dragged my belongings through some more beautiful, viscous slush and arrived at my hotel. Being the clever, seasoned traveller that I am, I decided the best use of my time between arrival and heading to tonight’s event was to watch the new Jim Carrey documentary and give myself a full-blown existential crisis. Why am I here? What is the mask I wear for my art and what is real? When I quit making albums, will I have to grow a beard? Simply awful.
Eventually I left the hotel and made my way to tonight’s event at National Jazzscene Victoria. It’s a spacious hall, with two balconies, comfortable back seats and a performance/dance floor that was partially occupied by additional audience seating. It’s a $9 fancy cola kind of place, but the vibe was right.
Andrea Parkins’s set was a quadraphonic experience of looped bells, rattling items and accordion. Originally an installation, she adapted it to a live performance especially for allEars. Maybe it was the accordion, but Pauline Oliveros instantly came to mind as I felt myself constantly attending to different speakers and trying to figure out the individual voices of the piece.
Jöelle Léandre and Kazehito Seki played for the second time this festival, this time as a collaborative duo. Squelching, guttural inhales and murmuring were the main vehicles for the performance, and rather than one winding piece they relied on producing a series of moments. At one point Jöelle exclaimed “I don’t know what I’m doing”, which seemed to fit the mood just fine.
Next up was a double duo featuring Malaysia-based Yong Yandsen and Siew-Wai Koko and Norwegian natives Mofjell and Sandtorv. It was basically an alien invasion being greeted by a very upsetting saxophone and drum orchestra, along with some traditional tuned cymbal for a truly interplanetary experience.
Arma Agharta’s set was an amazing combination of broken toys, Casio drum sounds, DJ gear and plastic fruit. I’m not really sure I can explain it much further. It was... a lot.
Finally, The End carried us out in a heavy duty set of metal riffage and duelling baritone saxophones. You could tell there were some prepared bits in there, but the overall feel was as jittery as it was furious.
A sick and fitting continuation to the opening night, topped off by me falling asleep while watching The Fifth Element for the millionth time.
Shoshana Rosenberg is visiting Oslo for All Ears festival this month. She will be documenting her time there in the form of a Journal, excerpts of which will be uploaded here.
Listen to her live performance on BBC Late Junction here.
After nearly 48 hours in transit, around half of which were spent trying out every uncomfortable, nowhere-to-lie-down bench as well as “who let me in here?” lounge luxury, I finally arrived in Oslo. Christian Meass Svendsen (identified by his signature green beanie) greeted me at the train station, and gently led me through the first couple of hours of culture shock/general touristy gawking (i.e. “oh my god it’s snow!”, ”fuck, Satyricon and Emperor are playing on the same bill!”). I settled in with some Cheerios, Goldfisk and salted potato chips (I’m on a health kick), slept like the dead, and eventually hauled my carcass two floors up from Christian’s apartment to Andreas Røysum’s flat.
After a deep Rahsaan Roland Kirk listening experience I was left to prepare for my recording session for the BBC’s Late Junction program. This included some playing, but mainly the mental task of remaining (relatively) lucid as I made my way across mortifyingly deceptive iced pavement to Guro Moe’s house, and then onwards with her and our third trio member Danishta Rivero to the BBC broadcast session. Luckily Danishta was similarly lagging in the jet department, which resulted in us being asked to be our “best, most quiet selves” before going on air.
We managed to be on our best behaviour and played some nice noise for our invisible, potentially quite conservative audience. Maybe it’s easier when you can’t see people frowning, or maybe I just managed to visualise some inspirational audience frowns in my mind. Either way, I left feeling accomplished, despite missing the opportunity to photograph a sign that said “Bro” which stood tantalisingly out of reach as we ran out of the building to catch our respective busses and trams back home. I’ll get it next time I see a bridge, no doubt.
I spent the first hours of this day still awake from the previous night, being regaled with stories about NecroButcher from Mayhem’s aunt and Darkthrone’s Fenriz’s passion for local soccer and handball teams. Other than watching tiny dogs bravely tread through the snow that my fur-less feet need boots for, I couldn’t think of a better way to solidify in my mind the fact I really, really am in Norway. Aside from these stories, most of my night’s end consisted of listening to the Norwegian language slowly chatter past me, while Ustad Bismillah Khan played in the midground. Being a non-understanding listener here feels like becoming washed over by a really beautiful aural texture, and the lack of obligation of attention is very liberating. I recognise the privilege of being able to tune out of comprehensible linguistics, whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that at any moment I could be brought back into the conversation by my colleagues’ crisp and careful use of the English language. I’ve been really thinking about the creepily-globalisational but also crucial role of the English language in these situations, and how it is slowly (quickly?) becoming what Esperanto could never be.
After catching some haphazard Zs, I met up with Christian and went for a record store tour; the fancy shop (Big Dipper), the tiny shop (Tiger), and the scary shop (Neseblöd). I feel like I’ve got all bases covered now, having purchased a microtonal tuba record as well as a collaboration between allEars founder Lasse Marhaug and noise legend John Wiese. All that’s missing is going back to Neseblöd and buying that Sarcofago LP (and posing in front of the cheesy black metal nativity scene in the basement, of course). Only then will my nerdy music tourism be truly complete.
The night ended with an exchange of unpleasant Norwegian customs tales between myself and the newly-arrived Yong Yandsen and Siew-wai Kok. I got off easy with a deeply uncomfortable conversation, while the other two spent some more time getting to know Norway’s finest government officials. Seems like Norway wants to make sure we’re here for a good time, not a long time.
I’m writing this entry at 4:30am. The festival starts in a few short hours, and I’ve still got some sleeping to do and some donuts to make.
Harsh noise from Testicular Atrophy, aka Sage Pbbbt and Shoshana Rosenberg.