NoUP / Rehearsal #



 Caroline Bergvall 

In Nattsong, the poet and interdisciplinary artist Caroline Bergvall explores the dark of the night as a site of loss and of unsuspected findings: “To go through the night and look for directions is what many of us are doing at this moment of human history.Nattsong is a performance work that combines vocal and verbal song, intense sonic landscapes, filmed visual patterns, and original texts including an adaptation of the Voluspå poem, the foundational Nordic creation and destruction myth spoken by the Völve, ancient foreteller and seeress. The multi-sensory stage work, from which the following texts are excerpted, is part of a longer cycle of site-specific live performance works called Sonic Atlas (it started in 2015 and is ongoing), which revisits ancient texts through contemporary concerns and collaborations.     

  1. Refugio

Seeking shelter roadstead refuge refugio
from this X thrown on to the route the rote the routte the course (ca. 1160) the path passageway (1170) with no end in sight > seeking refuge refugium a place or means of shelter, concealed chamber, protector, Latin rupta,
via rupta, broken way rumpere break refuge Anglo-Norman Middle French refuge protector often used of God (1150), means of obtaining shelter (1175) soutien, recours (12ès.) > Old French refuge, place of shelter, protection (1278) > excuse, evasion (1440) > sanctuary, retreat (15th C.) place of shelter for disadvantaged people (1663) > hostel (1718) > sanctuary, right of sanctuary (1000), Six Cities of Refuge, ville de refuge, a Hundred Thousand Welcome (2005), rebel cities (2012), cities of sanctuary, sanctuary cities (2017), solidarity cities > refuge (4th C.) action of avoiding punishment,
way out (5thC. Augustine) > seeking refuge Old Occitan refug,
refugi Catalan refugi (13th C.),Spanish refugio (mid 13th C.),
Portuguese refúgio (15th C.),
Italian refugio (1319) >
Old French refuite from trouble
or danger, used up every resource, refute Anglo-Norman refut,
refuit, refute, > compare refu refute > compare refugere refuir
to flee turn back flee run away
re- prefix Latin run b
ack wards back
from point reached back to or toward
starting point as in re-cēder, re-currer, re-dūcere, re + fugere flee
see fuge flee! as fast as you can flee!
> compare fugue counterpoint, French fugue Italian fuga flight
if roads ahead are blocked what follows
from today

2.   Listen Heare / The Volva’s prophecy

Listen heare me out, allar kindir kinds & kins
Völve am I, and I’ve seen it all!
Hear me,
meiri minnir minor major, from fungi to fur, bones to gills
        I tell of fjorn farthest reaches tides, how at time start
giants trained me, nine homes had I, nine moders wild wise markable
all firing up from the tree nedan below
Yet no sand no sea yet, no algae nor swelling svalar
no soil no himmel sky nor gasp at starry nights
        and nowhere green—I saw
Comes up earthland lifted from sol south moon star skein,
like skin taut for loud drumming ground
        fills universe with green—I saw
Islands refuge couplings, meadows and fruitfall
        gold green are showers—I saw
Conductor fields on bright spherical earth, ash-rooted
and alla kindir invited
        to the well of origins—I saw

Då kjem ulykka!
Da comes ill-being, failing days befall night.
First war is total earthwreck, burn Gullveig three times and three times
ho rises ho rises ho rises still to foretell a golden way
Humankind berserks all kinds, explode oceans, continental drifts of industry, frack out gleaming destruction, endless spills wastage
        wars storms and drakar—I saw
Listen heare, insides all around insides all around
Listen until bleeding from the ears
        to the trees to the soils to the cities
The sea the sea the saé rises up to the sunn at Ragnarok
        Listen heare for the submerged, the cut back, the poisoned,
the drowned, the left for dead, the voiceless despairing,
insides all around
        Listen heare to the bridges, the chromatic scale of the brave,
the etheric complex of the wise, the crystalline memory fields of the reappearing, insides
all around

Listen listen bleeding
from the heare
        Listen! for the galactic holistic anger, the cosmic vegetal,
the astral molluscs, oceanic minerals!
        Listen! for the osseous maps of all knowing, the wombed vital energy
of pain and all gestation inside you and all
        around inside me
and all around

In times of catastrophe all grounds escape
What are the stratas of encounter
—the holdings of care?
What are the keepers
        who sheltered shelters?
Who are you what are you what will you be?
Who am I what am I what will I be?

Threads all shot out
Beings uprooted from survival
Dragon gnaws at the Tree
Sink back Mani & Sol
Veit de no nok? know now enough?
I sink back too, for now

Insides all round
        listen heare listen heare
inside you and all around
        inside me and all around

Still from Bergvall’s algorithmic data-work Passengers Passages, a text for ongoing languages, streamed continuously as part of Nattsong. Commissioned by Rivers Institute for Art and Contemporary Thought, New Orleans (see here).

4.  Listening

I’m listening
now that everythings
into holding patterns

yet busy with voicings
heard through the cl
ear night

a micro flurry
of speakers sounds languages
like the glottal membranes
of a global earful
resonating under glass
on a cleared



A dislodged
of living-spaces

our flickering
caught us
by surprise


We’re working from the base
in the dark
Dig in the rote the rot deepeste root system
most undetected part of bandwidth
while pushed further into
the raw
all insides out
threatened on alert
or hide-in

dig dig dig dig
for a patch
of earth
Dig, said the noman’s poet
they were
still digging
for a patch
of earth
on earth
our own great

        oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my
        oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my


Coming in down the lines
voices spread out spor
adically tracked
in the room

proximity proximated
by long distance technologies
what passes for contact
draws up other types of geo-constellations


To lend an ear
tendre vers
        tend towards
tenderness ?
or pay attention
as in leaning
or sitting back
aain the listening

Ancient figures
with cupped hands
the invitation

figures overwhelmed with hearing
shoot electromagnetic lines
out of all ears

unfamiliar flowers
inscribed with sound-stems
float in deep language pools
scintillate like dew
in the all-

        *        *

A clearing within
a most
part of any
—must be
kept hollow
to sound


Not standing
not being cleared
nor clear
while pushing
further into
        waves of in
creased sensitivity
retrains all basic
building blocks
the impasse


Rodu an ancient
la clairiere luminates
a room at heart

There’s this urg
ent capacity
to imagine
to adapt to think to act
in long range extensible patterns
out ways
all comfort zones

Look for practical clues
applicable methods
guides accomplices
self-organised groups
in the outer fields
and take a long view closely
tents and beehives
a to k educate
unschool as fast as possible
groups and paradigms
from i to acquiesce

get past fear
just blows up bridges
rebuilds with hate
wants to prevent self-
wants to keep the future locked
into the wars
wants to maintain
only from i
to isolates
only from i
to times
of catastrophe

They say NO is another way!
I say yes to no!
They say NO is another door!
I say yes to no!

Is this Not's work, is this the Volve’s dark alert,
crash course awakening, it’s now
Unhides unhinges
Loud louder loudeste
Is this Night’s work, is this her crash course,
is this her Waters’ broke!
What wisdom rip tide, or what!
vitud er enn, eda hvat!
Loud louder loudeste

oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my
        oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my

passages we are for passengers around
passengers we are for passages to come
passages we are for passengers to come
passangers we are for passages around


Caroline Bergvall is an award-winning poet and interdisciplinary artist of French-Norwegian origins based in London. She works across media, forms and languages. Her work includes performances, books, installations, sound-works, drawings. Often works collaboratively. The recipient of many international commissions and fellowships, Caroline is an exponent of writing and performance methods adapted to contemporary literacies. Noted works inclusde such books and projects as Meddle English (2011), Drift (2014), the installation Say Parsley (2001-2020), the sunrise performance Ragadawn (2018-), and the ongoing conversation-performance Conference of the Birds (2018-). As a facilitator, she leads projects, runs workshops and provides individual mentoring with a special focus on radical forms, cross-cultural and multilingual contexts. Currently Bergvall is a Global Professor Fellow, Queen Mary University, London.

Image Credits

© Issy Oakes, 2021 
© Issy Oakes, 2021
© Andy Delaney, 2021
© Andy Delaney, 2021


Caroline Bergvall, ‘Passengers passages’ (2021)

Caroline Bergvall
Concept, research, & source material
John Cayley
Javascript coding, animated letteral display
Orange / Revebla
Styling & adjustments

Caroline Bergvall, ‘Refugio 2’ (2021)

Caroline Bergvall,
concept, text & voice  
Andrew Delaney,
camera & editing  
Jamie Hamilton,

With thanks to Daniel Kramb, in all quarters ...