Diving deep with Luke Drozd

On an especially rainy day in Bergen, Luke Drozd opens the gate to Isotop Fellesatelier, where he has his work space on the top floor. Luke is an artist and cultural producer originally from the UK, now based in Bergen. His work explores historical, folkloric and speculative narratives, and starts off as a process of collecting and collaging, in one way or another.

Photo: Thor Brødreskift/Borealis

Taking silly serious

“I collect through field recordings, old cassettes or records, or by finding rocks or other objects on the street. I use this found material as collage, as if pulling out playing cards from a deck. If I don’t like an item I put it back in the deck to use for later. Things can get recycled and used in various ways. Although the found elements might have been processed to the point where it’s no longer recognisable, it is always still there in the final result.

Photo: Borealis

“Being an artist often feels like such a strange and silly profession, but I’m very serious about that silly profession” Luke reflects as he finds his way between various tools, materials and sculptures scattered on the floor, to sit down by his work desk. “I want there to be moments that will make people smile, but I want them to still know that I’ve been serious about creating those moments.” 

The road to composer-ville

Amidst all of his other projects, Luke is one out of four participants in the mentor programme Borealis Ung Komponist. The composers have so far met twice, together with ensemble YrrY and mentors Camille Norment and Øyvind Torvund, in workshops lasting three days each. The next workshop will happen in the beginning of December, together with mentor Lo Kristenson. 

“When I found out that I had been accepted to the programme there was about an hour of being super excited, and then it gave way to the feeling of utter fear. But once the process was underway and I realised how lovely the other people were, I could push that fear to the side and start to enjoy the ride. It’s such a fruitful and collaborative atmosphere between us four composers. It’s super intense but absolutely amazing.”

Photo: Borealis

Luke has been exploring sound in various forms throughout his life, and has slowly integrated sound in his artistic practice, often utilising spoken word elements and costumes in performances and recordings. “I’m normally both the composer and performer, you could say, so it’s been a bit of a leap to now compose a piece of work that is not at all being carried by my own voice within the performance.”

As part of Luke’s artistic practice he collaborates with Andy Abbott under their duo name Reef Maff’l. One of the duo’s most recent projects was an alternative audio guide to the historic fort site Bergenhus festning. “This project was what gave me the confidence to apply to Borealis Ung Komponist, because this was the first time I experienced collaborating with other musicians. I saw how much collaboration can help the final result in adding exciting textures to a piece.” The result was a part factual, part fictional tale about the site’s past. Together with spoken word the duo had weaved in recordings of three Bergen based musicians: fiddle player Benedicte Maurseth, jazz drummer Øyvind Skarbø and experimental musician Andreas Brandal. 

Ignored sounds

Luke has an ongoing fascination with vinyls, particularly those that have already had a life. Although they start off as mass produced items, Luke looks at used vinyls as having become one-off objects, completely unique with their pops and clicks, scratches and ticks, added over time. 

Borealis Ung Komponist ends in a concert, this year with ensemble YrrY, who will perform one piece from each composer in the programme. Luke is planning to create a piece embracing improvisation, and will be looking at smaller sounds surrounding the musicians: “Things like the clearing of a throat, background chatter or tiny creaks in the cello. Sounds that are normally ignored or masked over.

I’m very curious to see how much of the ‘flavour’ of Luke will stay with the piece. But so far it’s been incredibly interesting to see how quickly you could hear that the end result from each composer will be four very different, totally amazing pieces.”