In short, how would you describe Bercy Bus Station?
Pernille: Bercy Bus Station is a multimedia piece, where we use three different medias, so those are music, text and video and try to make them work together in a piece, where the different parts are not supposed to back each other up to tell one story, but their supposed to – one is supposed to be able to feel all three different elements and what they’re saying in their oppositions and juxtapositions and parallels. And more concrete, it’s a story about a woman who is on a bus journey from Paris to Barcelona, and she writes down little notes and you see visuals of other journeys or stuff that’s moving through space and time, and then we have the sound part.
Nanna: The video and the speak have these dynamics that I wanted to work with as musical gestures in a way. So what Pernille just described as these themes like movement and stillness and traffic, which is like a theme that goes through the entire piece and many shots of river and the road. So there are like these dynamics, that I wanted to work with in the music, like I said as musical gestures, so that was my starting point with the music. So the video was in a way the starting point for me, as well as for Pernille. We started with the video and the speak came, and then that was the material that I worked from when I composed the music.
What was the main inspiration behind the use of music and video?
Nanna: In the very beginning, it came from this desire to combine these two elements, and see what happens. Pernille being a writer, and me being a composer. It was obvious that we should try to work together in this sense, and see what happens. And then the material developed from that.
Pernille: It seemed obviously like a good idea to put the two together, because the one you hear it and the other you see it. You can easily perceive the two things at the same time, and the difficult part was where to put the text. Because that is either something you hear or you see it. We had a lot of discussions of how text could also fit in without people being too bombarded with information.
Nanna: And also how text could be a musical element in itself. That was a big discussion in the beginning.
And when it came to selecting or creating the video and pieces of sound that make up Bercy Bus station. How did you go about choosing the components that make up the piece?
Pernille: That was a long process. I think we started with me making huge files of video put together that I sent to Nanna, and then we talked about which one she could hear sound to, and a lot about which video clips worked well together. Because there is this sense that they should fit together, but you should also be surprised, so there should always be something that doesn’t work between the two video clips, so it’s not too smooth. So there is always something maybe going a little bit against what you’d expect of the next thing.
It seems like it was an incredibly collaborate process. Could you talk about what were some of the challenges you faced in bringing together the different elements of the piece?
Nanna: I had some challenges with coming up with the mood of the music. In the beginning, I was thinking a lot about how the music directs the interpretation of the video. I found it difficult to basically do anything, because I felt like that it would instantly become something loaded with meaning and interpretation, and I wanted to keep the interpretation open. And just like Pernille said it shouldn’t be smooth all the time. That was a challenge for me in the beginning, because I felt music does that. It puts meaning to a picture.
Pernille: Yeah, meaning or do you mean maybe feeling?
Nanna: Yeah, feeling. Yeah both meaning and feeling. Like a mood you should be in. And I wanted to avoid that. But that was also an interesting challenge. It forced me to think about how the music can be open. And something that I came up was using silence as a musical element. Many of the pictures in the video have a lot of sound, I feel like in themselves. Visually. A lot of noise in my ears at least. All of these obstacles, it became an interesting process for me.
Pernille: For me an obstacle was that I started out with the video, which in itself is very you could say poetic. Because it doesn’t have a clear meaning. It’s in some way abstract. It is made up of different elements put together, more than a sequence that makes sense. And so I started coming up with a poem that I put over the video, and it didn’t work at all because then you then had poetry on poetry. And it was a mix of two abstract noise in a way. So going from that to realising, that I needed to write something very concrete. And I came up with this story of a woman doing a bus journey. The inspiration behind it was one day I was going to pick up my friend in a bus station in Paris, and I arrived in Bercy Bus Station, which I’d never been in before. It was a bright sunny day, and then you go into this building, which is like a cave with a lot of neon signs. The lighting was so different and the people on the outside were walking and were going somewhere. The people on the inside were sitting there waiting, and they were in this very special place that you are when you wait. Like this in between time, that is useless. And what do you do with yourself in this position and what do you think about in this position. And that interested me so much. And from there, I found this urban planner called Kevin Lynch that wrote a book called ‘’The View from the Road’’ where he aestheticizes the highway experience. And I tried to use that, but then I found out you can’t use too much aesthetics on aesthetics. There needs to be some concrete material – a concrete story. And if not we should just get rid of the text and just do like poetic video with music. That would work, but the third element of poetry would be floating away.
Time as a concept is an important part of this piece. How would you say it is expressed in this piece visually and sonically?
Nanna: I feel like sonically it has two modes of time in the music. There is this sense of flow and there is this sense of the abruptive time. That I worked with. So there are moments where the music is very fragmented – like abruptive and always trying to start, but never really managing to become something before it dissolves into nothing. And there are other times when there’s like either flow or like a noise that flows throughout the scenes. Like concrete, it works with loop and repetition in the music, so I feel like that is a place where the music and the video mix together because the video does the same thing. Like it manipulates the time.
Pernille: So obviously, we worked with the same themes here. So for me a lot of flow and abruptive. For me very concrete water flowing for example. And I think form or melody wise – the technique for filming it is very much me standing very still with the camera, and watching things go by. So it has this slowness of real life, or like real time expanding itself. You see how you have to go into the picture and accept that this is as slow as real time is moving. And also, as Nanna said, I work a little bit with manipulation, so sometimes the time goes even a little bit backwards, which is sometimes a feeling you can have when you’re waiting on a long journey. Like time doesn’t move as it should or as it usually does. It goes very slowly. There are some shots of the waiting room of this Bercy Bus Station. And another part is a lot of driving you see the highway going past trees, and these two different modes of motion also speaks to me about time. Because you have the waiting and the moving through, but while you’re moving through in the space in the car, you also sit in the car in the same kind of waiting position. It’s just the outside that is different.
Were you thinking road trip movies of some kind?
Nanna: Oh yes.
Pernille: In the beginning I wanted to make a story about someone being kidnapped. It should be really thriller-like, but then I found out I was more interested in the formatics of the kidnap story than the actual kidnapping, so I just some little thriller elements of horror, but it’s not really horrible in the text.
It seems like a lot of the piece was formed in post-production?
Pernille: Yes, a lot of was formed in the post-production. You can definitely hear it in the way that Nanna cut the speak. You can hear definitely the post-production. It doesn’t sound natural. I love the behind-the-scenes feeling. You feel the moment someone sat down and cut the film, and the music. There is like a little tinge left of the in the film. And there are pieces, where the video moves backwards then forwards and then backwards again, so it’s very clear it’s extremely manipulated.
Can you tell us a bit about if there was a moment specific moment where you realized you wanted to explore these themes? In relation to the music.
Nanna: It’s a funny feeling because I felt like in the beginning, like I said the starting point was the material that Pernille already made – like the video and the speak. And I began doing something from that and then I realized that what I was doing was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Sort of like these textures and timbres that I’m working was something I actually wanted to do for a long time, but I didn’t really realise that that was what I was beginning to do before like in the middle of the process. I think the inspiration goes back.
And when it comes to the audience – what do you think the audience should pay specific attention to when experience this work? As well as overall what do you hope they gain from experiencing the piece.
Nanna: That is kind of a difficult ting to answer.
Pernille: I hope that the audience will not try to, as one often tries to make sense so much where are we, where are we going and what is this about. The stuff you always want to know. But more like, being open to experiencing these different layers at the same time. Maybe that means missing a little bit of information somewhere, but it’s more important to experience the collaboration of the things.
Nanna: I just really hope that people take it for what it is, and not try to search for some meaning.
It seems like quite the collaborative process – are you thinking of working together again exploring a lot of the same themes in similar ways? Maybe another multimedia project?
Nanna: We thought a lot about it. It would be interesting to do this again, but maybe start out with the music. And then build some video or text from that, instead of starting out with the video material. That’s something we have been talking about as an interesting approach.
Pernille: So the very concrete follow-up is that we have another collaboration with a group called NEKO3, where we also are going to do music and video. And it will be a workshop in the fall, and a concert in December.
Nanna: So they have this concept of the micro-workshop. They have been doing it for a few years now – where they invite artists to do a micro workshop, and then the idea is to have this collaborative process with them. So that’s that next thing.
Pernille: So for me it’s going to be interesting to do the editing while other people are there trying to do music. I’ll be in the room with you guys playing music, I don’t know how it’s going to work.
Nanna: Me neither.
Pernille: Cut here or do this here. I always sit by myself when I do these things. It’s not a very social activity.
It does seem like there is the desire to shake up a lot of the traditional way of approaching these things. You would traditionally compose by yourself, and you would primarily be alone in the post-production.
Nanna: That is the feeling that they have this ensemble NEKO3. They wish to shake up the traditional approach.
Pernille: And I think we wish to explore inspiration, and push each other in different directions, when we work on the same thing at the same thing at the same time, but have different formats.
Bercy Bus Station will be premiered by K!ART on Saturday 20/05/2023 at KoncertKirken. The interview was conducted by Vanja Kobaslic.