THEATRE AND DANCE PROJECTS

Peer Gynt (H. Ibsen) - 2018, The Croatian National Theatre

In this production I was hired as a sound designer and digital instruments designer, developing motion sensor technology for use on stage. Utilising four to five wireless motion sensors on the actors' arms, legs and head, I was able to transform their movements into meaningful sound. I named the resulting motion/sound-hybrids "sound costumes": The actors would put the sensors on, and have their bodies appear like they were made of stone, or slime or any imaginable auditory thing, just like with visual costumes. The sound costumes were mainly used within the play's dreamlike/mythological sequences, like the appearances of the Bøyg, a giant serpent creature from Norwegian folk tales, and the Mountain King, king of the trolls.

This production was part of the European Theatre Convention's project European Theatre Lab. A casebook, including a more indepth text of mine concerning the creative process working with motion sensors and sound design, can be found here

The play was very well received, being described at the time as bringing "a new digital era" to Croatian theatre. It was also nominated for Best Theatre Play in Croatia 2018. A slightly altered version was subsequently staged at The Norwegian Theatre in Oslo, and a film version is in progress.

Den siste kongsfesten (The King's Fair) - M. Krleza

The Norwegian Theatre, 2018

In Krleza's wild, expressionistic text from 1918, society is on the verge of collapse. Spiralling into an ever more frenzied celebration of the last King's fair, the characters - representing different social classes in Krleza's contemporary Croatia - can no longer relate to one another in any meaningful way. All that remains is this last big Feast, an inferno of cheap thrills and shallow entertainment, drinking, drinking, drinking, eating, singing-chanting-shouting-screaming, petty arguments and big fights, bulging muscles and tacky makeup, cheap fucks, bad orgies. Meanwhile, the inevitable collapse looms, darkness creeps closer.

For this production, directed by Ivica Buljan, I made sound design and digital instrument design. Utilising motion sensor technology, I amplified the already exaggerated charicatures that Krleza has conjured up: The muscle man Hercules got "virtual boxing gloves", so that when he punched something, even the air, it would have a big, fat cartoonish punch sound. One character got an invisible gun. Another could alter the pitch of her voice by waving her arms. The old fortune teller could make thunder with her hands and the story teller could light a little flame and gradually grow it to a huge inferno. All of this using only body movement. And the Kolo dance, a Balkan ring dance and an important metaphore in the play, was put into one of the characters, the actor functioning a bit like a turntable, swirling around his own axis to speed up the playback.

PAN (Knut Hamsun) - 2018, Rogaland Teater

PAN is a novel written by writer Knut Hamsun in the late 19th century. The story revolves around a socially awkward man who tries to adapt to life in a small village in the north of Norway. He finds comfort and freedom in the ragged northern nature, but struggles to understand and interact with its people. As he falls in love and grows increasingly weary of the hidden social structures, the line between fantasy and reality starts to blur.

For this production, I had the pleasure of making an elaborate sound design in 72 channel surround, plus digital instrument design, again based on movement sensor technology connected to both actors and scenography. The main idea was to create hyperrealistic natural environments and take the audience on a real journey, from the forest to the ocean to snowy mountain tops, from realistic landscapes to surreal dreamscapes seamlessly and quick. The precence of one of the most advanced surround setups in existance in any theatre worldwide, made this a very interesting job, enabling things like having a gust of wind fly through the room, waves suddenly rushing over the audience's heads engulfing them in swirling water, and then in a split second transporting everyone indoors with a little fireplace crackling and a grandfather clock ticking in the corner. The motion sensor technology was used on some of the scenography, and also on one of the female characters in a dreamlike sequence, where the actress' hands would sound like sensual female breath.

Pan, Rogaland Teater, Helga Guren, Anders Dale, Arne Nøst

WHY NOT BEFORE - HELØE/ULVESTAD

Nanjing, China - Tromsø, Norway

A boy suddenly gets out of the bed he has been in for the last year. He books a plane ticket and leaves everything he knows.

In the sound play Why not before, we experience the world through the boy's ears. We go with him on a beautiful, but dangerous journey to a foreign city 3000 kilometers away. We stumble and we search with him - as him - trying to find purpose, meaning, a place where he can be himself. Why did he leave so suddenly? What does he want, where will he end up?

In late 2017, writer Liv Heløe and I started the independent company Heløe/Ulvestad with plans for making a play based on her text Why not before. The result is a new form of theatre: A pure sound play, almost completely void of visual stimuli, where the audience experience the world through the ears of the main character. For this production, I have functioned as creative co-director and composer, creating a detailed electroacoustic composition, tightly connected both rythmically and dynamically to the text.

 

The text and music are treated as one coherent whole, where the music represents the boy's subjective experience of the world, and the text is his attempt to put the experience into words. Musically, this entails a blurring of the line between sensory experience (like the "objective" sound of a city) and feelings/thoughts (like joy, fear, curiosity). The sound of a road crossing can turn into tonal music and vice versa, seamlessly and without any perceived contrast. The sound universe is portrayed through 14 speakers in front of, behind and above the audience, who are sitting "inside" the boy's experience.

Blackbox Nanjing, China

Why not before premiered in Hålogaland Teater (The Arctic Theater) in january 2018, and has since been performed in Oslo, Norway and in the international theatre festival Moving Worlds in Nanjing, China. The play has also been invited to Beijing Gallery Week, and new shows are being prepared at Vega Scene in Oslo. The text has been translated into English, Chinese and German, and will be showcased as part of Frankfurt Buchmesse 2019. The production has received financial support by The Norwegian Arts Council and Notam.
 

Li Jialong Why not before Yu Si Amund Ulvestad
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Why not before programs
Hålogaland teater Arctic theatre
Karl Flyman Hvorfor kom du ikke før Why not before
Amund Ulvesta Karl Flyman Hvorfor kom du ikke før Why not before

Drammen Obscura (L. Heløe) - Brageteatret 2016

A philosophical, but unpretentious text by Liv Heløe about photography - these brief moments frozen in time. Three actors, two dancers, a violinist, a video artist, a scenographer and myself shaping, filling and surrounding the stage with movement, and in the end literally turning the whole room into a giant camera obscura. This was probably one of the most experimental plays to ever descend on Drammen.

The play was directed by Jon Tombre. I had the pleasure of writing the music and making the sound design.

  • Music from Drammen Obscura
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  • Amund Ulvestad
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© 2019 Amund Ulvestad mail@amundulvestad.no  +47 40220072