SØS Gunver Ryberg — Machines are the essential tools for my creations
SØS Gunver Ryberg is a composer, performer and sound artist known for her uncompromising intensity in releases and live performances. She is internationally recognized and creates groundbreaking and genre-crossing electronic music. SØS has received multiple awards for her music and her unwavering willingness to seek new expressions. She has for example, a BAFTA nomination for her work on the multi-award-winning computer game INSIDE from Playdead. In addition to computer games, she composes for multi-channel works, installations, dance, theatre and film.
Her work is known for its powerful transformative power which includes textures, sounds and intense raw rhythms which explore states of consciousness. The sounds of reality are framed by almost symphonic sounds with their own expressiveness. She performs all over the world in different contexts such as festivals, museums, galleries, nightclubs, museums, theaters and cinemas and more site specific locations such as underground water reservoirs, cargo spaces on an old ship, a running subway train and a swimming pool. Most recently, she has been invited by Aphex Twin to play. She has already performed at prestige festivals and venues such as Berghain, Atonal, Boiler Room, CTM Festival, Corsica Studios, Flow Festival, EKKO, Rewire etc.
7 Questions for Søs:
- What are you curious about in technology right now?
I received commissions from four Nordic electronic music festivals, which all work in the intersection of art, sound and new forms of musical expression. Therefore, I am in the process of choosing which machines I will use to create the work and whether I should also integrate some software in my performance. The choices are important because the machines need to be able to take me to the artistic expression I would like to end up with. There are limitations in the different machines: just now I have a very specific idea I am pursuing and technically I need to find the right tools for it. I want to get started with the advanced multi track sequencer called Cirklon. And there are some different synthesizers that I’m getting to know. Some are based on FM synthesis, the others based on additive or subtractive synthesis and sampling. Those choices take up a lot of my focus right now, and I’m curious about trying them.
2. Why or how did you choose this path?
It has always been the artistic goal that has driven my interest in technology. I was part of an experimental performance environment at the beginning of the 2000’s and began collaborating with a woman who introduced me to electronic music. At first she worked with the machines, but at one point she suggested that we both focus on the music in order to achieve a common expression. At the time, I was not at all interested in the technology of what we were doing but over time I found that technology is a necessary tool which allows me to realize my artistic vision.
3. What has been your biggest failure in the past year, and what did you learn from that?
I’m trying to be less critical of myself in terms of not knowing enough. I always want things to be a certain way, and maybe it’s part of my drive to seek new expressions and techniques. I keep throwing myself into new projects because luckily, curiosity is greater than uncertainty.
4. What is your biggest daily challenge working with technology in this field?
To keep searching for new machines or software which provide for new sounds and for new learning opportunities. Also, troubleshooting when something doesn’t work. I continue to build on the knowledge and experience I have gained over the years. So it’s also about giving myself the time it takes to learn something new. Right now I’m also learning a new program, Bitwig (digital audio workstation), where you record and modify audio files. What is special about Bitwig is that you can work both linearly with the composition and at the same time “program” different sound files, to have a more intelligent behavior in relation to when they are played, how often, etc. Or you can work with an open modular environment. It offers some completely new opportunities to create a unique sound universe.
5. How do you see concretely, the next 5 years and this new decade in tech?
I think artificial intelligence will be much more integrated into the way music is made and experienced. In 2019, I participated in a research project that emerged in the intersection of VR, AI, Performance Arts and Wave Field spatialization. Based on the concept of Singularity, the performing arts collective LOGEN and the XR studio Makropol, in collaboration with the two artists Dawid Gorny and Carl Emil Carlsen, created a hybrid work that was partly a concert, a performance and a virtual reality experience. The work featured an artificial intelligence, which contributed as a creative partner, which aimed to interpret the actor’s movements and gradually took over graphic animations. The project was supported by the Danish Arts Foundation and developed through a workshop at Multimedia Sensorylab at Aalborg University (AAU).
The idea of the work is to create a performative concert experience in which the audience in their own body in virtual reality, will experience an exponential acceleration towards a so-called “event horizon” and together with the artists, come out on the other side, into the unknown — which only the artificial intelligence determines. The music was spatialized in collaboration with Cristian Vogel via 64 speakers in a Wave Field system designed by AAU technical assistant Razvan Paisa.
In addition, I also see in the future, development in modular composition. The Eurorack community is constantly designing new modules that are exciting to follow.
6. What has been your favourite project to date and why?
INSIDE, I think. It is so accomplished in its expression on all parameters and I had never worked with computer games before, so it was exciting to learn a completely different compositional approach and gain insight into how to cope with the limitations as well as work on a project over several years. This “immersive” quality and creating new musical “spaces” is something I have come to appreciate with computer games.
7. What do you think is something we should be paying attention to?
To a lesser degree, I’ve been following the development of machine learning in music. There are, for example, Google’s Magenta open source, which enables machine learning in relation to both visual and audio development. I don’t really know anyone who works with that yet in their music. I tried to work with it in the “Singularity” research project and since then, have tried to generate the midi variation of what I am working with in order to arrive at something new, and to break with my own composition pattern. I follow NeverEngine Labs which has always been innovative in audio and music technology. Robot technology is also developing at a wild scale. Let’s see where it leads us and how it affects music creation.
Follow Søs’ work at:
Greater Spaces is written by Majken Overgaard and Vanessa Julia Carpenter where we work to expand the narrative of what technology is and who creates it. We speak with Danish and international female role models within technology and between these interviews we share what is most interesting to us, with a focus on diversity.
This blog is originally published on Ingeniøren “The Engineer”, a Danish news source for Engineers in Denmark. This is the translation of that blog for our English speaking friends. Visit it in Danish, here: https://ing.dk/blog/soes-gunver-ryberg-maskiner-mit-vaerktoej-noedvendigheden-min-skabelse-234064