High Noon: Moddi: Threading the Musical Path Into the New North

The primary guest of the debate series High Noon on Wednesday: Pål Moddi Knutsen, musician. (Photo: Astri Edvardsen)

Harstad (High North News): "We are spreading out across Northern Norway to be more present in the places many of us write and sing about. To speak to the people that listen to our music. In a search to create something a bit more relevant and close to reality," says musician Pål Moddi Knutsen.

Norwegian version.

The High Noon debate series has been organized over several days during the True Northern Arts Festival in Harstad, Northern Norway – a collaboration between the festival and High North News.

The story of modern Northern Norway was the topic of Wednesday's debate:

Is Northern Norway heading full-speed into the future, or are we left at a sidetrack? Power shortages, giga factories, people moving away, green industry, and the fight for the right to land and sea areas. What is the future of Northern Norway, and what does modern life look like in the region?

Who: Musician Pål Moddi Knutsen from Senja, Northern Norway.

Of current interest: The Project Det nye nord [the New North, ed. translation] with the following subtitle: "What happens if you send eight songwriters to their own place in Northern Norway and let them write freely? Old clichès are ripped apart, and a new image of the region is drawn."

Pål Moddi Knutsen in conversation with High North News' Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm, who has been leading the debate series High Noon. Knutsen offered to play the guitar and sing in the motorhome and during the debate itself. (Photo: Astri Edvardsen)

Northern fieldwork

How does your art approach this theme?

"I am currently working on a major project called Det nye nord [the New North, ed. translation]. My album, which came out last year, Bråtebrann, was the first step of this project in a way. We are currently working on part two – which is part of the True Northern Arts Festival. This involves eight other songwriters who have been sent out on field trips around the region – to Træna and Sømna, Mo i Rana, Bø i Vesterålen, Narvik, Målselv, and Bardufoss, Senja, Kåfjord, Honningsvåg, and Kirkenes," says Moddi and continues:

"We are spreading out across Northern Norway be more present in the places many of us write and sing about. To speak to the people that listen to our music. In a search to create something a bit more relevant and close to reality."

Participants in the project are Ida Maria and Thomas Langvann (R.Ø.D. Jazzkvartett), Jon-Are Masternes (Klish), Ingvild Austgulen (Opphav),  Lars Bremnes, Emil Kàrlsen, Risten Anine Gaup, and Frode Larsen (Kantona).

Modern Northern Norway was approached from different perspectives during the debate, both from academia, art, and music, as well as journalism. (Photo: Astri Edvardsen)

The tangible

"I strongly and explicitly try to address the topic we have discussed today in my music. In this context, I find it important that it is not trite – which can easily happen. That can often be applied to discussions about Northern Norway as well. We regularly talk about the people that leave and little about what makes us want to stay here."

"I do not care about fleeting concepts, such as how the region has great "potential." I do, however, care about bands and ensembles, local festivals, and climbing clubs. The specific things that make me feel strongly anchored home in the north," he smiles. 

What can art, in particular, contribute to this debate?

"Music is everywhere in society. We who create it are part of shaping the image of Northern Norway and the identity of those who live here. To some extent, it also applies to those who have left. In all honesty, I do not think that it is far-fetched to believe that we contribute to affecting the state of mind of the entire region.

The message is clear

If you were to pull one main argument from the debate, what would it be?

"Come home! And stay home, you doofus!" laughs Moddi.

What should we discuss going forward within this context?

"We should talk about how we build good local communities. How do we ensure that the people who, despite all, live in the north have the opportunity to stay together here? To me, the local community is crucial to my well-being. Yes, well-being is a good word! We should discuss well-being. What is good about your home town and makes it a place worth living in?"

See the debate here (Norwegian only):

The panel

These also participated in the debate:

  • Jeanette Gundersen, leader of the Knowledge Bank of Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge 
  • Kjell Arne Røvik, a political science professor at Uit The Arctic University of Norway
  • Maja Wolland Blomberg, research assistant at the High North Center, Nord University
  • Carl Christian Lien Størmer, musician, film director, and producer

The debate series

High Noon also includes the following debates:

Also read

This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.