Inside NOTAM (Norwegian Center for Technology in Music and the Arts)

NOTAM is housed on the top two floors of an industrial-looking brick building adjacent to the Akerselva River in the Grünerløkka neighborhood of Oslo. For over fifteen years, the organization has assisted artists and musicians working within the field of technology in the arts. Through growing support from the Norwegian government, NOTAM has been able to solidify itself as the largest independently run music and technology center in Norway.

Outside NOTAM

Stepping inside NOTAM, one is immediately struck by the large glass windows in the main atrium, which also doubles as a fully equipped, albeit cozy, concert space. I have been spending most of my time working in Lab Abel, a community workspace that houses a half-dozen computers equipped with all the essential audio and video software available. After nearly seven weeks here, I have staked claim to my own area of desktop space, with plenty of room to spread out my laptop, saxophones, and electronic gear.

Arriving on a typical morning, the smell of freshly brewed coffee usually lures me to the kitchen, where guests and employees tend to congregate. Some of my most interesting conversations and knowledge about Norwegian music have come from encounters in this break room. Up the spiral staircase, on the second floor is an array of interconnected workspaces for full-time employees at NOTAM.

Work spaces
The spacious Lab Abel (left) and a few second floor workspaces (right)

Two soundproof work studios, named after Norwegian electronic music pioneers’ Arne Nordheim and Knut Wiggen, are available offering a high-quality listening and mixing studio environment. Before gaining access to these studios, every new artist is strongly encouraged to take a short introduction to studio techniques class taught by Cato Langnes. There is also a spacious workshop area on the second floor, where someone is usually soldering, sawing, or hammering away on a new or antiquated piece of electronic gear.

Two studios
NOTAM’s studio Wiggen (left) and Nordheim (right)

NOTAM is also home to a wide variety of events, workshops, and other activities. Percussionist Kjell Samkopf and sound artist Floris van Manen recently held a release party for their new CD, Listening Ahead. Just last weekend, WintherStormer held a synthesizer workshop and jam session at the studios. Asbjørn Blokkum Flø is currently teaching a three-month course on Max/MSP along with an additional workshop on Max for Live.

Inside NOTAMs

While at NOTAM, I have been working with Hans Wilmer on adapting his Bowsense technology to the saxophone. He started this project in 2007, first collaborating with the Norwegian violinist Victoria Johnson and, more recently, with the Canadian recorder player and composer Terri Hron. The heart of Bowsense lies in a small module that utilizes several types of sensors to monitor movement in three-dimensional space. We have connected this module to a series of pressure sensitive sensors that are then attached to the keys of the saxophone.

Bionic Sax
Bowsense wirelessly transmits OSC data to the computer, which is then interpreted in Max/MSP

NOTAM’s influence outside of these studios is not only felt locally but around the world. Since arriving in September, I have seen them involved in the production of numerous concerts and sound installations as part of events like the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival. Artistic Director Jøran Rudi recently returned from a successful series of concerts produced by NOTAM at the Warsaw in Autumn Festival in Poland. They regularly present research papers and concerts at festivals like the International Computer Music Conference and will be co-hosting the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference in Oslo next spring.

NOTAM exists to help local and international artists who might lack the technical knowledge or resources needed to realize a project. It has also been a wonderful home away from home, where I have been able to collaborate with like-minded artists. We are definitely fortunate to have facilities like NOTAM scattered throughout the world.

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