Kajsa Magnarsson is a musician, sound artist and composer. Her oeuvre is characterised by the creation of evocative music and sound art. Operating at the intersection of humour and seriousness, as well as the border between reality and fiction, her work embodies a discerning balance that resonates with a wide audience. A proponent of collaborative endeavours, Kajsa actively engages with other artists and various art forms.
Can you talk about your background and how you got into music?
My parents are musicians, so I got into music very early. That was both good and bad. I felt a lot of pressure, but I also had opportunities other kids didn’t have.
My musical path has not been straight. I never had a goal, really. I studied singing and that led me to writing songs, which led me to composing, and that led me to sound art. Maybe I am a bit addicted to the feeling of new worlds opening.
“I make playful music and sound art that reflects on the present, often on the border between humour and seriousness or reality and fiction” is how you have described your work. Can you talk about these dichotomies – the humour versus seriousness, reality versus fiction, and how they manifest themselves in your work?
I did this piece called “Strap-on and Electric Guitar”. Just the title makes people laugh, and of course I see the humour in a title like that. People think it will be violent and loud, “slap-sticky”. But that is not the feeling in the room when it is being performed. Is the piece funny, or is it really sad and serious? Maybe both.
A good thing about art and music is that you can explore the “in-betweens” without worrying too much about meaning, intention or truth. I feel that a lot of the art I like is a joke that has gone too far.
You’ve released an album called New Age Sound Aesthetics, which explores the themes of both the New Age movement and sound aesthetics. What fascinates you about these, and what are the connections between sound and New Age that interest you?
When I was still new to motherhood, I felt lost and sad. The material I was working with before didn’t feel inspiring. Using these kinds of sounds was both fun and calming. For me, New Age sounds like dolphins, and wind chimes are kind of kitschy fun, but they also have an undeniable timeless beauty.
What do you see as the healing potential of sound? Is this aspect of sound something that you would like to work with in the future?
Cats heal themselves when they purr. I would like to build an installation with transducers that admit the sound of purring so it reverberates in the bodies of the visitors.
Music therapy and sound therapy are very real, but I am not a doctor or a nurse. I am an artist, and although that involves some magic and alchemy, I do not consider myself a healer.
Can you talk about your compositional process and how you create your sound works? Do you work mostly in the studio, or also elsewhere?
It is a mixture of concept and practice. I have an idea that I try to realise, and then I fail, but maybe I still end up somewhere interesting. I don’t have that much time, so I just keep kneading the sound and the music until I am somewhat satisfied, and then I start asking people around me what they think. Then I work on it a bit more, and finally I decide that I am done. When I am in the process of making something, it is with me all the time and I lowkey think about it throughout the day.
In 2021, you scored a short film about surviving breast cancer. Can you talk about this project?
A friend of mine, Astrid Askberger, is a documentary filmmaker and she helped the director, Åsa Jansson, with the editing. I had just played Astrid some of the music I was working on, and she thought of me when she saw the raw footage of the film. When she asked me if they could use the music, I said yes, of course. It is an important topic, and I was very honoured to be a part of that project.
You have also run sound-art and contemporary music workshops. Can you talk about this part of your practice?
I love sharing what I have learned over the years. It is amazing to do a soundwalk with people who have never thought that the environment around them could be musical. I just want people to know what is possible so they can go out and do things themselves.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am working on many different things.
Last week, I released the music that I wrote and recorded for a new short film by Astrid Askberger. It’s a musical about a dinner lady.
My band, KC BABY, is also working on some new music. Hopefully we will finish our second album early next year.
I also have a project with the artist and architect Pierre Mosser called Audio Obscura. We got money from Kulturbryggan, which is part of the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, so we can dive deep into psychoacoustics and build modular mechanical structures.
My dear, dear friend Marta Forsberg and I are also slowly brewing up some new stuff. Last year, we released our first album together, Kompisitioner, and we would like to continue working on this concept.
I am also studying music and sound design for games, so there is a lot going on. Everything is fun and interesting, and I am really grateful for all the opportunities that are coming my way.
Interview Lucia Udvardyova