”This can be a long or a short meeting. The question is: how are those statues of Hans Magnus and me coming along? There won’t be any exhibition at Rockheim, you know, unless they put them over at the main entrance.” (Bent Sæther, 3 October 2014)
In October 2015 an exhibition dedicated to the Norwegian rock band Motorpsycho will be opening at Rockheim, entitled Supersonic Scientists. Follow this blog to get updates, and have your say on the content of the exhibition until it opens in October. Because Motorpsycho has an enormously dedicated and knowledgeable fan base, we want to give them the chance to help shape not only what we include in the exhibition, but also what we might leave out. You can get in touch with us at this e-mail address: email@example.com
The uncompromising, tenacious and incessantly experimental rock mammoth Motorpsycho made its public debut with a cassette release and concert 25 years ago. When the time came for Rockheim to lay its hands on the wealth of material about this productive band, its sheer scope made it necessary for us to choose a few particular areas to focus on. One of the focal points of the exhibition will be their recording and studio productions, since the actual recording process – within rock music in general, and Motorpsycho’s in particular – is a poorly documented, under-communicated area.
The word ‘production’ has traditionally been associated with pop, commercial entertainment and dance music. The discourse regarding rock music has made little mention of this critical component of a work’s sonic identity.
This is because of the hierarchy between pop and rock existing in both journalism and academia – a kind of high/low cultural divide that arose in connection with the birth of folk-rock, psychedelia, the idea of rock as art, and the first underground newspaper publications in San Francisco and London in the middle of the 1960s.
Rock music came to be seen as ‘genuine’, and able to tell us important truths about life. Artists were attributed with integrity, power; they were seen as making art for art’s sake, not for money and popularity. In their book The Art of Record Production. An Introductory Reader for a New Academic Field (2012), Simon Frith and Simon Zagorski-Thomas write that the challenge of studying studio and record production does not lie in its multidisciplinary nature, nor in its theoretical and practical orientation, but rather in how the topic challenges well-established notions (both within and outside of academia) of how music works, culturally and aesthetically, and thus of how it should be understood.
Studying the recording process means focusing on two aspects of musical practice that conventional musical research tends to ignore: the technological and the commercial. It is also a questioning of established notions implicit in our own everyday understanding of music, such as the situation of the individual music-maker and the mythology surrounding musical creation.
Motorpsycho has composed tons of effective rock riffs, touching melodic lines and lyrics spun over interesting harmonic progressions, and they have developed into a rhythmically experimental band. They are also a hugely experienced live act known for always delivering energy, surprises and – not least – a kind of escape from the cares of everyday life during their concerts. Yet the ideas conveyed on stage were born in the practice room, then took shape and materialised in the studio through varying layers of sound, unexpected and diverse instrumentation, electronic processing, various spontaneous outbursts, and tasteful sonic contrasts.
Bent Sæther (1969) and Hans Magnus Ryan (1969), who have both been part of the band since 1989, have spent a large part of their lives working and waiting in control rooms and recording studios lacking in natural light but rich in analogue and digital sound sources. Despite this fact, there are just a few film and photographic sources documenting this important part of their lives, their careers and their art.
Rockheim can’t promise any bronze statues, but it can offer loads other things in its exhibition Supersonic Scientists opening at Rockheim Temporær, Trondheim, Friday 16 October 2015.
Curator and project manager, Supersonic Scientists