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Anders Rönnlund 1951 Sweden

All cities have characteristic sounds that are so common we seldom notice them. They belong to the many different activities of everyday life, which come together to form a distinctive song about that specific city. But the sounds have of course changed over time. Each historic era has its own unique sounds.

If the sounds of bygone eras were audible, we would be able to actually hear them in a way we do not hear the entrenched and unnoticed sounds of our own era. This is what Anders Rönnlund intends with his machine sculpture/musical box Background Sound Machine. Interactive and moving sculptures have been around for a long time, but a new technique has made them highly sophisticated in comparison with, for example, one of the first combined exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum in Stockholm in the 1960s: Movement in Art.

Rönnlund’s fantastic machine is a small wonder, a marvel of engineering, with the structure of a music box that drums, strums and hums with peculiar sounds. It plays according to a pattern, a type of machine control that existed long before digital systems made use of it. There are five patterns which slowly shift in relation to each other to create a constant change in the sound image. And what sound image is this? Rönnlund has imagined a counter-sound to today’s heavy vehicle traffic. You hear steam whistles, shoe-punching machines and other mechanical sounds evocative of industrial-era Örebro.

The sculpture itself rises from the water, prominent and spectacular, like the ruins of some monument to machinery, its naked construction laying bare all its mechanical innards.  A tribute to a time that built the foundation for the city and the sounds that characterize today’s Örebro. Anders Rönnlund has had a long career as an artist and his CV is filled with thought-provoking, intelligent and characteristic works. His conceptual premises contain poetic glimpses about our history as well as about humankind and the flight of time.

Listen for a while, close your eyes and hear a different sound image than the one you didn’t even notice was just there.