on the 15th of June at around 5 in the morning i took my portable keyboards and played 3 short concerts at the locations b,c# and d.

i played main themes of the kilpisjärvi piano piece that i am composing, each place its special themes:

place b focused on the tone b, place c# on c#, and d on d, all three of them only or mainly the tones b.c#, and d.

at place b, a bird decided to sing along with me.

watch the video:




i want to thank the austrian cultural ministery for supporting this project!








We have been back for the past week for the second part of our project. What a difference in the landscape; from blue, white, and black to all the colors of early summer. We’ve had some sunny days and some rainy days; I will try to keep this brief so I can finish some more sketching before we have to leave in the morning.

Now that David and I have been here in the early summer, the full scope and possibilities of our project have become possible to define.

In my last post I described the idea of pairing representational paintings of each data collection site with a “data painting” showing a visual representation of David’s scientific findings.

Well, because it is early summer, we don’t have snow/water available in some of the winter collection sites, such as the mountain birch forest. And because the trails through Malla were not accessible to us in the winter, we don’t have data from the waterfall and river from the winter. I created the following Venn diagram to more easily sort out where there is and isn’t overlap between the summer and winter collection sites:

project chart


With apologies for the large photo; you have a better chance of reading my not-so-great handwriting if it’s bigger!

What this chart is trying to show is collection sites which encompassed only winter, only summer, and both winter and summer.  The winter only sites will each generate two paintings (representational and data painting), as will the summer only sites.  The sites that met the criteria for both winter and summer sample collection will each generate four paintings–comparing not only the landscape to the data, but the change from winter to summer.  Three sites met this criteria: 1) Birch Forest Transitional Zone; 2) Alpine (Low); 3) Lake (Water no Ice or Snow).

We need to decide which section(s) of the Venn diagram to work on.  Long term, we would like to do all of them.  Short term, we need to decide what we can finish before we leave Finland in about a month.

I’ve been working on the winter paintings but am now excited to work on the “quads” from the green area of my Venn diagram. It’s clear that this project will benefit from being worked on in sections.

Here’s two sketches–a matched pair of the lake in winter and summer. Winter is a bit more zoomed out. Summer needs more green on base of Malla, but I was distracted by the rocking of the boat and forgot to add it! (Thank you David for rowing me out on the lake while I relaxed and made a drawing!)

Lake sketched from rowboat on June 12, 2016.

Lake sketched while sitting on ice, March 10, 2016

More soon!

David last posted about the analysis he did on the snow samples he collected when we were here in March. I made 4 simple paintings to pair with each one of his collection sites:
1) Mountain Birch Forest
2) Birch Forest Transitional Zone
3) Alpine
4) Lake

Here’s a picture of the winter paintings in progress:

Winter paintings in progress

The four winter landscapes in progress

Each painting is in a vertical format sized approximately 60 cm. x 40 cm. The next step is to create a twin for each landscape painting which incorporates the scientific findings for each site. I call these the “data paintings”. The plan is to show each representational painting with its data painting twin as a diptych, so that the viewer may experience the landscape on a macro and micro scale simultaneously.

my kilpisjärvi piano piece

an open structure in three connected parts

construction,  parameters and all other necessary information result of three parts of the landscape, three places.

they are connected, in all the places the tones b, c# and d are the main tones and the base of the melody/modus/joik of the place.

the other tones, the use of pedal, and the functions and patterns/rhytmical and funtional structures are read out of the landscape.


the first place, on the way from kiekula to saana mountain, at a crossing of paths in the wood: bkilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber


the second place,69•3´32´´North, 20•48´19´´ East. basic tone: c#kilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber

(the little stone on the stone symbolizes the c#, half a tone higher than the c note)c# place 2 kilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber


the third place, 69•3´36´´N, 20•48´11´´East. Basic tone: dkilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber


the way from place 1 to place 2 is about double the way from  place 2 to place 3,

meaning a whole tone, b to c#. the way from 2 to 3 equals half a tone, from c# to d.


the dimensions of the very place will help find me other tones, like f.e. in place 3 f#,g,e, and e#.kilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber

the colours symbolize the funtion of the tones and the rhytmical expression:

red/right hand, very high, soft in tone, fast up and down.

blue: left hand, slow and in equal steps (1/8 notes).

green: both hands, emotional expressive, focus on chords.

yellow: very low volume, whole scale, „around“ the other tones and actions, use of pedal .


kilpisjärvi piano piece rupert huber

the main tones of my kilpisjärvi piano piece will be c#, d and b.





i want to thank the austrian ministry for european and international affairs for funding my travel and  supporting this project!

today everything unclear, undecided.

in the last days and today i found three to four places that would inspire me.

i measured those places, recorded the sounds there and took pictures.

of two of the places i created a map.

no decision today.

absence of human noise: memories instead.

in sami culture in the northern areas  „each person often has their joik, which is seen as personal and representative of them, like a name.“(wikipedia)

a polyphonic piece of music, when they meet.

do the parts of the landscape have joiks? do i have one and did not know until now?

today no decision, no definiton, no composition.


scared and annoyed by the noise of the cars on the way back to the house.


there are 2 personal statements i have to make as a starting point of this blog:

- i never have been so far up north before, never experienced 24h sunlight / midnight sun.

-and i have never written a blog before.

this first contribution is written on the 5th day of my stay.

i took my time to adapt to the time of the place, which is very different from the fragmented time i normally experience or serve. i took my time to think about the gravity of nature and how fragile the human enviroment is, that possibly nature is not so impressed by our achievements at all, does not care so much about us humans at all.

i have to thank Leena Valkeapää for helping me to install myself here, helping me with shopping, and, by far the most important of all, explaining and partly translating her wonderful book. this opened my eyes, specially the drawings of the old sami lady. thank you so much!

this is what i had in mind to do here:

i will choose an area in nature to be sonified.every plant, every stone will be surveyed and put in a map.other paramters will include the acoustical situation, the sounds i hear during my stay. this map will give me the structure and the parameters of the piece.as i am interested in a power- independent project i will compose a piano piece on paper. the essence, or „leitmotiv“ ( in the sense of a mathematical formula that summes up a process) will be tranformed in an object installed in the very area with materials that i find there, f.e stones. this object in nature- a musical landart- will be documented on photo.the photos will be printed in a limited edition and come together with the full written score. the object-score it self remains there after i leave.

In March, around the time that snow packs were deepest, I studied snow along an elevation gradient from the lake, through the birch forest, and up Saana. The picture above is the deepest pit I dug, around 1.7 meters, just at the upper edge of the birch forest on the way up Saana.

I measured snow temperature (that’s a thermometer stuck into the snow) and collected snow from the top, middle and bottom of each snow pit.  The snow is a wonderful insulator, and temperatures at the bottom of the snow pack were just below zero, while it was as cold as -11 C or so at the surface, especially higher up on Saana.

Down in the forest, the snow was thicker and more fluffy. Up on Saana it is windscoured and dense, and provides less insulation…

…but is still beautiful (this is view from near the top of Saana)

So, anyway, I spent a wonderful week getting to know the snow in its natural habitat. But the fun didn’t stop there. I took samples back to the University of Jyväskylä and studied their microbiology and chemistry. I knew that bacteria can enter the snowpack from snowfall and wind, but seeing how relatively pleasant it is down at the base of the snowpack, I wondered if bacteria might be thriving there during the winter. So I hypothesized that the snow surface would be a random assortment of bacteria deposited by chance, while the base of the snow would host an actual community of active microbes, selected for their ability to grow in snow on whatever food sources there might be.

My hosts were kind enough to allow me use of this flow cytometer, which is basically a microscope with plumbing. It counts cells and gives you information related to their size and other properties, depending on how you stain the cells.

Watch out, it’s data! There were generally more cells at the base of the snowpack (green bars), especially in the birch forest (BF) and forest-alpine transition zone (Tr) where the snow was deepest. The middle depth of the snow packs (red) had the lowest populations, except at the highest site (AH), where snow is thin and blown around like mad.

I also grew bugs from my samples (you can usually only get about 1 % of the total bacteria from the environment to grow, but it’s still useful to try). I let these guys grow at 5 degrees C for 6 weeks before counting them. Left to right shows plates from the snow surface, base of the snowpack and lake ice. Consistent with the flow cytometer data, only the top and bottom samples produced colonies. The middle of the snowpack is basically a desert. The lake ice sample on the right has a bunch of brightly colored colonies. It looks like the lake ice community is probably more like the lake than the snow on top of the lake. The snow microbes could all grow at either refrigerator or room temperatures, but the lake ice isolates could only grow at low temperatures. The flow cytometer also showed that the ice samples look very different from the snow samples.

And, yes! The overall community at the surface of the snow was very different from the one at the base of the snowpack. The data above are from sequences of DNA extracted from filters that had about 100 mL of melted snow water forced through them to capture the cells.

The top of the snowpack was more diverse, with about twice as many kinds of bacteria as in the bottom. The top looked a lot like a soil sample, with Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria, which makes sense if these cells were mainly just blowing in from the surrounding environment. But at the base of the snow pack there are a ton of Gammaproteobacteria. Presumably these guys are the ones that can grow under the snow, diluting out the other types that drifted in randomly.

Last question, what are they eating? Based on the spectrum of UV light the snow samples absorb, there is protein and some other compounds with aromatic rings. Again, in the middle of the snowpack (red line) there is very little to eat. The bottom sample (green) has the highest concentration of goodies, and the clearest protein-like pattern, with peaks at 205 and 280 nm.

So what does it all mean? Here’s my story: organic material and microbial cells are transported to the surface of the snow. Most of these cells just sit there in an inactive state. Down at the base of the snowpack the temperature is high and constant enough to support a higher level of microbial growth. These bugs eat the dead cells and organic matter that is deposited with the snow, converting material with a lower UV absorbance into protein.

So the snow is not just a barren expanse of frozen water crystals, it is a blanket that protects and feeds a specialized community of bacteria during the winter.

Thanks for the opportunity to Know the Snow!


Kilpisjärvi, 8th of April 2016
_One of these mornings, after a cold night, the birches seem to
wear little bud-mirrors at the edge of their branches. It reminded
me about this (and linked for few seconds the lap lake and the thaï
_Thank you Ars Bioarctica residency for having me and the research 
by the lake! And kiitos auroras borealis and billions-of-stars nights,
sparkling cryosphere, high golden eagel, Malla and Saana placid
siblings, biting polar winds, sleepy fog and bluest skies and hours
ever, warm boots and loyal woolen socks, resisting hairy birches,
hidden and sought reindeers and weasels… this will be remembered
for a long time! And the best luck for the next ones!

The residency-period is coming to an end. The movements of the embodied zooming and distancing are leaving substantial traces for the on-going research.  I think this experience will echo in my research for a long time.

I wish all the best for the residency and the artists coming here; thank you and hope to see you some day again!