Name: Linn Elisabet
Occupation: Producer, composer
Recent release: Linn Elisabet teams up with Rå for the EP The Hills We’ve Chosen, out via Acts of Rebellion.
Recommendations: Book: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. Beautiful science fiction portrait taking place in a world where gender is fluid.
Music: Julianna Barwick. All her music. If you listen to her, you’ll understand what realm a lot of my inspiration comes from.
If you enjoyed this interview with Linn Elisabet and would like to find out more, visit their official website. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started singing and playing cello at an early age, classical schooling. Back then, musicking was related to a collective experience for sure, being part of a sounding whole.
It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I got into electronic music creation. It happened over night, literally: I went to my first rave and fell in love. I have had problems with dissociation from my body since I was 13 or 14 years old, but when entering that warehouse makeshift club and the bass just slammed me all over my body, I was kind of forced to be in it. Be present. I danced for 18 hours, completely sober, just being with my body for the longest amount of time I had in years. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of the community, and decided that I’d start DJing.
Production followed shortly after, because I had a clear picture of what I wanted to play. I couldn’t find enough music that sounded like that, so I realized I had to make It myself. That’s still what drives me: telling narratives that I feel haven’t been voiced enough in our culture, through my productions, and in my sets.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
When I listen to music I am inside of it. To me an arrangement or composition isn’t linear, it is a world through which I journey. I see the sounds around me. I relate a lot to sound through materials: is it dense or light, is it matte or glossy, transparent or not, paper, wood, metal, fabric? Warm or cold? Is it close enough for me to touch, or far away? Colours are also a part of the equation, but not as much as the texture and touch of a material.
I think this notion of experiencing music from inside of it comes from my background in choirs and orchestras, often performing in reverberant church spaces. I am used to the feeling of reflective immersion, which I feel translates a lot in my sound design.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Oh, so we are going to talk about voice ...! Voice has a really strong position in my practice, not only because I use my voice as an instrument in almost all my work, but also because I lost it once.
It was always difficult for me to relate to my voice, much because of my gender identity. As people expected me to “be a girl”, I kept forcing my voice into a higher register than it was made for, which eventually led to me not being able to speak nor sing properly anymore. Not that all girls speak with a higher pitch, but from the pressure of gender normativity I felt like my natural voice wasn’t desirable. With the help of a speech therapist, I learned that my fundamental frequency was indeed much lower than the register which I was speaking.
Around the same time, I was also learning a lot about myself and my gender identity. By health care, in combination with my musicianship, I was able to reclaim my voice over the years, and today I can even hit fairly high notes when singing without overstraining. It was a matter of me allowing myself ease; in voice, in gender expression and identity. I have music to thank for that, for sure. In that regard, my voice became the most precious tool of expression I could imagine, and how it came to be the main feature of most of my musical work.
Recently I have started to explore my own polyvocality too, acknowledging and expressing the possibilities of being not only one, but many beings assembled.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
To me, identity is an assemblage: highly flexible, constantly evolving, as well as influenced by the people and experiences that touch us. A borderless and ever expanding map, overlapping with others: the embodied sum of all bodies of which I have been touched.
For me, this journey has mostly been navigated in relation to gender identity. It influences everything I do creatively, as it is only within the moments of musicking that I feel fully liberated of the societal brainwash of binary gender. Through my musical practice, I can chase those moments of gender euphoria that gives me a space to breathe, and be at ease in my body.
This happens when I listen to music too, and when in the club, as I described previously.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Contrasts, drama, desire, transcendence. And definitely the liberation of voice. Nowadays, I rarely make any pieces without my vocals in them.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I am interested in neither. I am interested in the music of the moment, which can imply both innovation and timelessness.
It makes me sad when people speak of music of the future, in terms of searching for “the next big thing”. There are so many narratives and expressions there that have not yet been thoroughly accounted for, silenced by white-cis-het-male normativity.
Those who cry the loudest about the supposed “poor state” of current musical output, are often those who do not listen fully, and often those who judge non-normative expressions as less desirable. It seems easy for such people to ask of others to challenge the status-quo, but when someone really does, it isn’t acknowledged as such. It makes me feel like they don’t know what they are complaining about.
We have been here all the time. And we will not wait for your permission.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Again, easily, my voice. Beyond what I already shared in regards to it, it is an instrument I know I am alone to have. It gives me peace knowing that there is one thing that cannot be copied, an element that will always be part of a sound that no one else can replicate.
When I started producing with my vocals, I used to record them with my phone headset, drowning them in effects. Back then, it was hard to tell them apart from regular pads, but over the course of time I have dared to push them more and more to the front. I think fostering a loving relationship to it and my body has helped in that regard, allowing for that powerful yet intimate tool to take on a fuller expression.
I am excited to see where that work will take me in the future too, as it feels like we are still on a journey of discovery together.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I wake up at around 8:30, shower and have breakfast (Swedish, very ambitious sandwiches, often on hard bread, tea, juice, vitamins). My days look very different at the moment, as I am both freelancing and finishing my master’s degree. However, I really try and separate the “productive” work days from the creative ones. I also try not to do more than two-three big tasks per day. I find it easier to get stuff done if I stay within one mode each day, not trying to juggle too many, or too different tasks. I love meeting friends during the evenings of course, preferably over a beer or cooking dinner.
I am a serious planner, like my Google Cal is EVERYTHING, but I need to do stuff in my own tempo. As such I don’t schedule hours if I don’t have to, but gently navigate through the days in a manner that suits me each moment. Freelancing is lovely in that sense, allowing for a very flexible lifestyle. It makes me both more productive and creative too.