For the project The Aesthetic Ear, Ragnhild May takes her starting point in a Danish national icon – the mermaid – and her representation throughout history. May will research how the mermaid appears in various forms throughout our cultural history, from the ancient portrayal of the mermaid as an enticing, vicious, and dangerous fabulous animal over the Danish preacher N.F.S. Grundtvig’s popular poems about the mermaid as a rebellious and predictive figure to a study of the contemporary acts of vandalism against the Little Mermaid statue on Langelinie in Copenhagen. As a female representation and figure, the mermaid contains many references which tell us about a multifaceted female figure that serves new purposes for each generation.
Ragnhild May uses original sources to compose a sound-piece and sculptural work that examines how the historical interpretations use the mermaid figure to create different narratives. May will explore how folk songs and ballads contain harmonic abnormalities and spoken word. The sound part of the work will further borrow concepts from the ‘concrete music tradition’, where one utilizes acousmatic sounds as a compositional resource. This involves using sounds that do not necessarily originate from musical instruments or vocal voices, but rather uses sounds the origins of which are not readily perceived.