Third Stream Activities (2019)
Spatialised in the 29-channel speaker dome at KMH. The work consists of a recording of me reading a text that discusses the new campus at KMH, that was opened in 2016, and problematizes how the spaces of the building are left open to the public. This is layered with field recordings of Restaurang Oktav, the school’s restaurant, during different times of day.
Below you will find the full manuscript as well as a binaural version.
Third Stream Activities
I started studying electro acoustic composition at the Royal College of Music in the fall of 2016. This not only marked the first year of my higher studies, but also the first year of the school’s new campus being utilized. The decision to build a new campus was made in 2003, due to the old facilities being out-of-date and without good possibilities to host concerts open to the public.1
I was of course overwhelmed and incredibly impressed by the new campus. The music studios were all top notch, the realization of what technical equipment I as a student had access to was mind-blowing and I was of course in awe of the centerpiece of the electro acoustic music department – the 29.4 speaker dome Klangkupolen.
However, everything was not up to speed. I remember how the monitoring system for the state-of-the-art digitally connected 9.1 surround system in studio 1D118 was not fully working, and we had to use a small Mackie Mixer and two additional speakers to even work in there. I remember how for every rehearsal with the live electronics ensemble, we had to carry our own speakers from the storage room to Lilla Salen, just to look up in awe at Klangkupolen that might one day function properly.
And before we as students could even utilize the facilities properly, the school opened up to the public. The restaurant opened, filling the ground floor every day with people without the slightest affiliation to the school. Multiple times a week, the classroom doors would get opened mid-seminar by officials from the school giving tours of the new campus to people living in the area. This bothered me a great deal.
It is clear to me that the goal of the new campus, apart from obvious improvements in the quality of the facilities, technical equipment and ultimately the level of education, was to reach a degree of openness the school had not seen before.
I think that this is due to two things in particular. Firstly, we have in recent years been bearing witness to more and more women telling stories of themselves being victims of sexual harassment at multiple institutions and universities in the cultural sphere. One prevention to these atrocities is to make the space more open than before, so that the closed-off spaces, that make these acts of violence easier to perform, are fewer. This is seen in how every single room at KMH, apart from the toilets, have windows.
The second thing that I think made openness such an important aspect in the planning of the new building is the ever-so-present need of justification for any state-funded institution that in any way deals with something that is even slightly experimental. Questions like “Who is this music for?” and “Will anybody ever listen to it?” can be avoided by letting people into the rooms where this music occurs.
In the Higher Education act, it is described how a Swedish University has three main tasks. The first two are education and research, and the third one is the concept “samverkan”, which in English is usually described as “Third stream activities”. The aim of third stream activities is, as is stated in the law, for the University to:
…interact with the surrounding community and inform them about the Universities business as well as aim for that research results conceived at the University comes into use.2
This description of Third stream activities can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. On a technical University this could mean a connection between the students of the school and the private sector, providing the students with job opportunities after they graduate. On an artistic University, however, things tend to be a bit more sensitive. If the goal of third stream activities is to boost the level of education at an artistic University, it would be implemented as a connection with the surrounding community and a way for the students to contextualize their artistic practices – inter-disciplinary collaborations between universities and students getting opportunities to present their work in other spaces than KMH are two examples of how this could be implemented.
If the aim of third stream activities is to boost the level of research at the University, it is quite clear that this also means collaborations between universities – the school hosting conferences such as this year’s Between festival is an example of this.
What we are listening to right now is a recording from Restaurang Oktav at half past 9 on a Thursday morningw. This is one time of the day when the school actually belongs to and is meant for the students and the faculty. The space is then utilized by students, teachers, possible guest researchers and other members of the staff.
During this time of day I feel welcome. During this time of day, I believe in that the purpose of this institution is education, research and third stream activities. It bothers me that this is not always the case.
I think it was a Thursday afternoon, and I was working in studio 1D114 with my piece Alienated II, that would eventually end up becoming my exam piece for my bachelor’s degree in composition. I knew already that the ceremony for the Jan Wallander-award would be held that night, beginning at 6 PM in Kungasalen.
I had been working since that afternoon, but I was going to meet my friend Hanna Ljungh and discuss a collaboration at 7 PM – we were going to do a performance together in Uppsala the coming week. The last time we did the performance was two years earlier, so I was a little nervous that my computer system would be a bit shaky. Just before 6 PM I went up to Restaurang Oktav to ask them what the deal was with dinner that night – I asked them if they would be serving soup as usual, even though the ceremony for the Jan Wallander-award was taking place.
The answer I got was “yes, but the entire second floor will be shut down for students, so you’ll have to use some other ways to get around the school. If you want to go outside, you’ll have to walk through the first floor, pass the lockers, and out through house 4”. I realized then that this sounded pretty cumbersome, so I decided to eat soup then and there instead.
At 6 PM I’m back in the studio, so I don’t really see what’s going on at the floor above me. But right before 7 PM I exit the studio to meet Hanna upstairs. I then see, up the stairs from where I’m standing in the basement, that there are about four security guards present. I remember how I was instructed to exit the school, so I go via the basement and exit through house 4, after I’ve texted Hanna and instructed her to wait there.
The Jan Wallander award is given annually to a student at one of the music Universities in Sweden by Handelsbanken. The price includes, as is stated on their website, “the opportunity for the price winner to, in the beginning of their professional musical career, use an instrument of extremely high class”.3
This occurance, the ceremony for a student receiving the Jan Wallander-award, is mentioned in the financial report for the Royal College of Music 2018. It is listed under Examples of third stream activities. I don’t understand how this can be the considered third stream activities.
First of all, it nurtures an out-dated view on the virtouso musician. The virtouso musician in question then becomes a product of the school, something that the school uses to sit well in the eyes of the public, and again serves as a way of justifying the school’s existance. And the fact that the award has primarily been awarded to solo string musicians is just a laughable matter in terms of having out-dated views on musicianship.
Secondly, and most importantly, having something that alienates the students be considered a third stream activity must be considered an outrageous statement. During the award ceremony, I felt ashamed of how the school is handling third stream activities. During the Jan Wallander award ceremony, the space that is the Royal College of Music transformed from being a space private to the students of the school, to being a space private to Handelsbanken. We can discuss all we want how it is necessary due to budget constraints to rent out the building, but to call the activity of alienating students and making them feel not welcome at their own school “third stream activities” is close to a violation to the Academy.
What we’re listening to now, instead of the morning soundscape in Restaurang Oktav, is what the space sounds like during lunch hours.
At this point, the space is filled with a number of people with no connection to the school whatsoever. And when, at times, the line to the restaurant is so long that I don’t have time to eat and the seats are so filled that I can’t even find room to sit down, this obviously becomes an issue.
At this point, I don’t feel welcome. At this point, I don’t believe that this school is meant for me and that the main purpose of the institution is education, research and third stream activities. On the contrary, at this point it feels as though the main purpose of the school is to provide a nice space for office workers in nice suites to get a taste of high culture and ultimately increase their cultural capital. It pisses me off.
These situations makes me feel like an animal at a zoo. All of the sudden I am an “authentic student”, part of the experience package the school is selling to these people. You buy lunch, and maybe you’ll get to see an actual real-life musician.
It seems to me that when a school opens up to the public in this way, a certain type of commodification of the students is reached. In the case of KMH, all of the sudden I am a product of KMH rather than a student of KMH. I am now, instead of an individual claiming the space, part of the props in the ongoing documentary about the school. And if I was lucky enough to be a solo violinist, I might have gotten to be a product that the school would present at award ceremony.
Discussing these things I’m not at all saying that the school shouldn’t be available to the public. On the contrary: with the aim of students at the school being able to contextualize their artistic practice, the worst possible situation would be if the school was closed off the public. The work that is made at the Royal College of Music needs to be related to society in one way or another. Also, due to the school being state-funded it would be utterly selfish of me to promote completely shut doors, where only people who have studied enough music to get accepted as students would get to experience the facilities.
It just seems to me that inviting companies and regular people not related to the school to lunch is a cheap way of reaching the criterias of third stream activites.
Joakim Rådström (2017). Arkitektur som syns – och hörs. https://citymark.today/arkitektur-som-syns-och-hors-109087/nyhet.html. ↩
Sveriges Riksdag (1992:1434). Högskolelag. https://www.riksdagen.se/sv/dokument-lagar/dokument/svensk-forfattningssamling/hogskolelag-19921434_sfs-1992-1434. ↩
Kungl. Musikhögskolan (2021). The Jan Wallander Prize. https://www.kmh.se/in-english/about-kmh/collaboration-with-kmh/the-jan-wallander-prize.html. ↩