We catch up with Jens L Thomsen, a Faroese artist who has produced an original composition for the island’s breathtaking Eysturoy Tunnel

“The Eysturoy Tunnel – or Eysturoyartunnilin – opened on the Faroe Islands in 2020,” says Faroese musician Jens L Thomsen. “It’s a three-branch, 11 kilometre-long tunnel with a roundabout at its centre – the only subsea roundabout in the world. Where it used to take me an hour to drive from my home to Tórshavn, the capital, it now takes 15 minutes. These subsea tunnels drilled through the basalt are springing up all over the islands, and ordinarily, people are invited to enter on the day they open without any traffic.

“I was commissioned to compose a soundscape for it. At first, I hoped to play it throughout the entire tunnel network, but I realised that you’d have to put speakers up everywhere, which would be impossible. Then I remembered they have copper wire for the radio running through, and when I called up to suggest it, luckily they had one left!

“The track I made – ‘ÆÐR’, meaning ‘Vein’ – is eight minutes long, which is the time it takes to traverse the tunnel by car, and it broadcasts on FM radio continuously, meaning you can always tune in.

“As a musician, I’ve always used the resources around me. I made all of the instruments for my band ORKA from things found on my father’s farm, and then I became more interested in my environment, using the whole country as a studio, recording seismic background noise with geophones.

“We have a very strong singing culture on the isles – it wasn’t until 100 years ago that the first instrument came to the Faroes. The whole basis of what we do started with chain dancing and microtonal psalm singing. Every year, 20,000 people actually have a chain dance for the national holiday, and it’s completely nuts. Imagine 90-verse Viking sagas being chanted by 20,000 people! It’s ridiculous…

“My objective was to give the tunnel a voice. If I created the voice, Tróndur Patursson – the famous Faroese sculptor and painter – created its heart, with the steel dancing figures that surround what’s become known as the ‘jellyfish roundabout’.

“To make the track, I used chance operation to control the pitch and put the samples through a band-pass EQ, so every note triggers a very small spectrum of the sound, taken from men digging and drilling. 

“There’s a theme of moving forwards, and the sounds work in tandem with the lights as you pass through the tunnel. Still, I wanted to reduce the tempo somehow – everything is always faster, faster, faster – and I wanted to do something that actually slows us down.

“You’ll notice a crackle from the signal as you pass through the tunnel. At first I tried to get them to remove it, but later I started reading Mark Fisher’s ‘Ghosts Of My Life’, and there’s a passage about how noise creates cracks in late capitalism. After that, I became contented with this ghost in the machine. Not everything adds up, which is why there’s an augmented  fifth that creates dissonance in the final passage. 

Trip made possible by Atlantic Airways.
For other info on Faroe Islands visitfaroeislands.com

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