Mikel R. Nieto



This project looks at the way language is lost in this Anthropocene period as a result of the absence of certain states and processes that occur naturally in the environment, such as the different states of water, snow and ice. Finnish employs over forty terms* to refer to these states. Taking these words as a starting point for its research, this project will collect in sound the greatest number of these natural processes, in order to draw attention to their absence or the impossibility of recording them because of their non-existence or extinction.

The sound material of the project will therefore be made up of snowflakes. In order to obtain this sound, as well as the possible sound differences between each snowflake, special and specific materials will be developed for such a special recording process. It is well known that in the Arctic Circle, people can see and hear things that are impossible to appreciate in other parts of the planet. These phenomena are caused by special atmospheric conditions and some people in these latitudes have described hearing sounds emitted enormous distances away and others of an extreme delicacy.

In 1985, Joseph Scrimger wanted to calculate the noise generated underwater by rain, hail and snow (Nature 318, 647). During his study, he found a constant and unexpected sound during snowfall, but was unable to identify its source. Lawrence Crum, from the University of Washington, Seattle, heard the recordings and suggested that this constant sound contained a vast quantity of micro-sounds from the tapping of individual flakes on the water surface. In other words, according to Crum’s theory, the snowflake makes the water sound, ring and even “strums” it.

This project has been developed with assistance from Kone Foundation, Etxepare, the Spanish embassy in Sweden and EMS Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm.


* Note: These are some of the words in Finnish used to refer to the different states of water, snow and ice: sataa lunta, lumi, pyri, myräkkä, rae, räntä, tuisku, laviini, hyhmä, loska, sohjo, ahto, ahtauma, jää, kide, kohva, paanne, railo, röpelö, tökkö, iljanne, hanki, huurre, härma, kinos, kaljama, kuura, nietos, nuoska, polanne, tykky, viti, avanto, jotos, latu, rannio, nirskua, narskua, kirskua, nitistä, narista, mora, banquisa…

Mikel Nieto. Commissioner, artist and investigator. He studied art in San Sebastian, Madrid and Barcelona. For some years he has been deeply involved in phonographic practice and the resulting theory. He has given workshops in a number of cultural centres and universities. He forms part of the team behind the sound map of the Basque Country, SOINUMAPA.NET, and Hots! Radio, as well as the Mediateletipos.net dissemination portal. With José Luis Espejo and Xabier Erkizia, he currently coordinates the Observatorio de la Escucha (Listening Observatory).

He has worked on numerous occasions in partnership with dancer and choreographer Jone San Martin in different dance projects for his sound design. His book ”Dark Sound” was recently launched by German publisher Gruenrekorder. It describes research he conducted in 2014 on the impact of the noise, direct or indirect, generated by the oil industry in its different phases of development among towns, the environment and wildlife in the Amazonian jungle in Ecuador.


Links: (recordings of snowflakes)