Elvesang (eng.: Riversong) is the name of my solo double bass album released in January 2018. This website is dedicated to my solo work and my efforts to make a green transition as a touring musician.
The central, underlying inspiration of Elvesang is the relationship between human kind and nature. Human made climate change, and the destruction of ecological systems and extinction of species caused by human activity, are all deeply alarming aspects of this relationship. Despite our technological achievements, our social orders and our political systems, we are, after all, an inseparable part of nature. What harm we do to nature, we ultimately also do to ourselves.
Our moment in time is perhaps the most defining moment in the history of human civilisation. If we look at the history of planet earth, whose scientifically determined age is 4,54 billion years (with an error margin of about 50 million years), this moment in time passes by in the blink of an eye. Still the consequences of our actions will affect our common home forever. In the worst case scenario – dystopic as it may seem – how we choose move forward might very well mean the beginning of the end to most life on earth as we know it.
Such consequences are hard to grasp. To me, the only logical response is to do all that I can to help the situation. I have therefore put the transition to a more green way of living on top of my agenda, both in my personal life and as a touring musician. As part of the process, I decided to make this website to share my experiences. Both because I hope my actions might inspire others, and because I believe it is of the utmost importance that we, as a society, talk together about climate change as much as we possibly can. That we share our concerns, thoughts, experiences and ideas. That we put pressure on politicians to take serious action on climate change. Together, we can make an impact. Together, we can change our ways and build a sustainable and just future for all.
I would like to share some words by the amazing scientist and human being Stephen Hawking – one of the truly great minds of our time (the paragraph below is a short excerpt from his book “Brief answers to big questions” – published in 2018 after his death) :
“When we see planet earth from space, we see ourselves as a whole. We see the unity, and not the divisions. It is such a simple image with a compelling message; one planet, one human race. I want to add my voice to those who demand immediate action on the key challenges for our global community. I hope that going forward, even when I am no longer here, people with power can show creativity, courage and leadership. Let them rise to the challenge of the sustainable development goals, and act, not out of self-interest, but out of common interest. I am very aware of the preciousness of time. Seize the moment. Act now.” – Stephen Hawking
Travelling non-stop from Amsterdam to Kristiansand via Oslo is bit a challenging – but fully doable. It took me around 22 hours to get to Oslo. After a short stop home for breakfast with my family the train to Kristiansand was just 4,5 hours – easy. The first part of the journey was as follows: departure Amsterdam Central 0700, change in Osnabruck, change in Hamburg, change in Kolding, change to night-bus in Copenhagen, arriving Oslo approx 0530 in the morning. The plus section of Bus4you from Copenhagen to Oslo is actually quite comfortable. Witt only three seats per row, general space and leg room is much better than normal bus seats and every seat has its own power plug. The seat fold down to make a pretty good sleeping position. I have used this bus also for day travel, the same comfort level applies most busses here.
The trip started off somewhat bad, as the German IC-train from Amsterdam to Berlin was delayed into Osnabrück. Thankfully, so was my connecting train onward to Hamburg. The delays anyhow resulted in a missed connection in Hamburg by a couple of minutes and I had to wait for the next train to Kolding. This was a calculated risk, and I still had time to make it to the bus in Copenhagen. But I HAD to make the short layover in Kolding, only 6 minutes. DSB delivered, and I made it.
In Copenhagen I would normally have had around 2,5 hours before the night bus to Oslo. With the delay I had only 30 minutes. What in Google maps seemed to be a 3 minute walk from Hovedbanegården to Ingerslevsgade where the long distance coaches depart, turned into close to 20 minutes of “running” (like you can really run with a double bass flight case…) around three-four blocks because of construction work around Hovedbanegården. As I spent 10 minutes picking up some food first, this was by far the most stressful part of the whole tour. I barely made the bus, and it sure felt good to be seated for the final leg of the non-stop train / bus journey from Amsterdam to Oslo.
This journey was, by far, the most extreme slow-travel experience of the tour. I did it both because I wanted to travel as green as I possibly could, and also because I was curious on what it would feel like to travel like this. To be on the road for almost 24 hours non-stop is in many ways exhausting, but at the same time it is quite refreshing. And hey – who said covering great distances should be a walk in the park? Travelling like we do to today is a privilege human kind has had only since the rapid growth of commercial aviation after World War II, around 75 years ago. For the other 315000 years of homo sapiens existence, covering huge distances has been a huge challenge. I am not saying we should move back to stone age level of transportation, I am simply saying that maybe what we have grown up to take for granted is actually a little far fetched, at least to the extent of what we see today in regards of people moving as fast as possible around the world, covering huge distances in the blink of an eye at the expense of the environment. Maybe we should slow down a bit. Take the train instead of flying, even if it means staying on the road for quite long non stop – or add an extra night of sleeping in a cosy hotel along the way in order to get to our final destination. Travelling like this actually feels quite good, and I am glad I took the time to find out.
For the rest of the Dutch part of my tour, including a short trip to Osnabrück, Germany, all journeys were too short to even be considered for air travel. Still, as I will try and calculate the total carbon footprint from the tour, I will do a CO2 calculation for these three concerts as well.
Sunday April 7th I played at De Ruimte in Amsterdam, as part of the Nieuwe Noten concert series curated by bass clarinetist Fie Shouten. Travelling from Eindhoven by train, then a short boat ride to Amsterdam Noord just behind the central station, followed by a short bus ride to the venue. Total travel time approx 2,5 hours, CO2 5,1 kg.
After the concert at De Ruimte I caught the 19:00 direct train to Osnabrück, in order to be there for the morning concert and masterclass starting 10:00 the next day at Institut für Musik, Osnabrück Hochschule. Total travel time to Osnabrück is little more than 3 hours fro Amsterdam Centraal. CO2 10,8 kg.
That same evening I had scheduled a similar concert / masterclass session at Music Conservatory ArtEZ in Arnhem. So, directly after finishing the masterclass, I found myself travelling back from Osnabrück to the Netherlands on the 1:53 train. Changeover in Deventer, missed my 4 min connection, new train in 30 minutes. Total travel time approx 3 hours, CO2 8,3.
After finishing in Arnhem I went back to Amsterdam to spend the night there, in order to be ready to start my long journey home to Norway early next morning. Travel time Arnhem – Amsterdam 1 hour, CO2 4,2.
Total CO2 for concerts #6, 7 and 8 (including the short boat / bus in Amsterdam and bus/taxi in Osnabrück): approx 35 kg.
The fifth concert of my ECO tour brought me to the Netherlands and Eindhoven, travelling by train from Berlin. Paviljoen Ongehoorde Muziek is a quite new establishment focusing on different kinds of improvised music. The place is run by Dutch pianist and composer Bart Van Dongen. I had a great time performing for a small but very attentive audience, hope to be back here for future tours!
Travelling Germany and the Netherlands by train with a double bass is very convenient (meaning it is definitely convenient withouta double bass). Most German train except the ICE (Intercity Express) has large bicycle compartment. Most Dutch trains have smaller bicycle compartments that the German ones – however there are often more compartments per train. As the Dutch are eager bicycle riders I often had to share the space, but it never offered any real problems in bringing my bass on the trains. All train personal I have encountered in both Germany and the Netherlands, and also in Norway, Sweden and (for the most part) Denmark have been very helpful in accommodating my bass onboard. Thanks!
Travelling from Berlin to Eindhoven via Amsterdam is really convenient as there is a direct IC train from Berlin – Amsterdam. Let´s see how my journey compares to flying from Berlin Tegel – Amsterdam Schiphol (the below figures are for travelling from Berlin Hpf to Amsterdam Centraal).
TRAIN total travel time: 6:24 hours (Leaving Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 06:34 arriving Amsterdam Centraal 13:00). I missed my 5 minute connection for the train to Eindhoven but there was another train leaving in 10 minutes so the delay was minimal – and tickets are valid all day. I arrived my final destination Eindhoven at 14:45).
PLANE total travel time: approx 4,5 hours (Leaving Berlin Hpf 2 hours before takeoff, 1h 30 min flight, 30 min to get out of the plane and get your luggage, 40 min to find the train and travel to Amsterdam Centraal).
TRAIN total CO2 emissions including (650 km): 27,7 kg
PLANE total CO2 emissions train to/from airports (575 km): 169,9 kg
TRAIN total cost: 315 NOK / 32,65 EUR (price from Deutsche Bahn´s online ticket service, with BahnCard 25)
PLANE ticket EasyJey: 530 NOK / 55 EUR, pluss about 18 EUR train travel x 2 to get between city center train stations and airports Total: 880 NOK / 91 EUR
(Prices for both train and plane tickets if booking about 1 – 1,5 months in advance, using the best prices for similar dates of travel)
Conclusion: CO2 emissions reduced by 84%, only 2 hours difference, cost less than half (my calculations did not include luggage on EasyJet, which would make the difference in cost even bigger). Train beats plane again.
Thursday I had the pleasure of performing in a quite spectacular venue outside Hamburg – Burg Henneberg. The small castle (supposedly one of the smallest castles in the whole world) is situated some 12 km outside of Hamburg city center, close to Pommenbüttel station. The concert hall has a max capacity of only 50 people – spread over two floors – and it is safe to say it is one of the most intimate venues I have ever played. Accompanied by the sound of firewood, the outside singing of birds and the soft river stream it was a perfect setting for my solo project. Hope to be back here one day!
In Berlin I performed at Petersburg Art Space by the river Spree. The venue is one of the many places that fit under the echtzeitmusik umbrella of the Berlin music scene. My concert was part of a 4-act minifestival, lots of nice music and a really enjoyable evening both as a performer and as a listener.
TIME / CO2 / COST
As my work in Malmö was during daytime, I took the afternoon train 15:16 from Malmö Triangelen station towards Hamburg with changeover in Köpenhavn Hovedbanegård and Kolding. Öresundståg for the first leg to Köbenhavn, so no problem with the bass. It is worth noting that this train is really packed during rush hour starting around 16. I could have travelled all the way to Hamburg that same night, however, as I was not in a hurry, I decided to spend the night in Kolding. Kolding is sort of an intersection in Denmark where the trains to Germany either starts or passes by. In Kolding there is also a nice hotel less than 100 meters from the train station, and a huge public bath – both of which I took advantage.
The train from Köbenhavn to Kolding is not the most double bass friendly I have encountered, but it worked out somehow:
On the train from Kolding to Hamburg the next day it was way more space, but: I met a conductor who was really mad at me for daring to travel with my bass, threatening to throw me of the train. It was kind of funny, she said the bass was taking up space from other passengers (1 seat, as you may see in the picture below. And it does not take up more space than a normal bike, which is allowed in the train…). As there was almost no one on the train, I managed to cut a deal saying that I would get out if the train became so full that my bass would be a problem. Which I guess never happens… Anyway, she accepted that, saying “OK for now, but next time, you will NOT get on my train”.
I do realize I am carrying a rather unusual and rather big piece of luggage. If everyone carried a double bass we would have to completely rethink rail traffic, making HUGE trains. However, there is literally no one carrying a double bass compared to the vast majority of people carrying a normal suitcase or backpack. So this really is not a problem at all in real life. Unless this 90 double bass orchestra from Korea goes on tour by train to Kolding anytime soon, our angry conductor may take a deep breath and say to herself in a calm and quiet way: “ah well, it is not THAT many bass players riding my train after all – I´ll let the nice Norwegian fellow back on my train again if he shows up. And come to think of it, I´ll also let other bass players ride my train. As long as there is enough room for everyone, what´s the big deal?”.
Below is the train travel time, CO2 and cost for a direct Malmö Central – Hamburg Hbf train journey, compared to flying Copenhagen – Hamburg (Hamburg – Berlin is so short by train, only two hours, that flying makes no sense at all. Later in the blog I will instead compare the train and plane facts for the complete journey from Oslo to Berlin).
TRAIN total travel time 6,5 hours(leaving Malmö Central at 11:33, arriving Hamburg Hbf at 18:02. Changeovers in Köbenhavn and Kolding)
PLANE total travel time approx 4 hours(let´s say you take the 12:00 flight from Copenhagen to Hamburg. This means leaving Malmö Central approx. 0950 in order to be at Kastrup 1,5 hours ahead of departure. 50 min flight, minimum 30 min spent at Hamburg to get off the plane and get luggage, 40 min to find train and travel to Hamburg Hpf, arriving approx. 14:00)
Like for the Oslo – Malmö journey, air travel seems to be about 2,5 hours more efficient than train.
TRAIN total CO2 emissions (500 km): 25,2 kg (via Kolding, the graph below is via Rödby, involving bus and boat travel. It´s shorter, but I did not risk this route in case it would be bothersome to get my bass on the buss)
PLANE total CO2 emissions (300 km): 106,3 kg
TRAIN total cost: 386 NOK / 40 EUR (price from Deutsche Bahn´s online ticket service, with Bahn card 25)
PLANE ticket SAS economy class: 1213 NOK / 125 EUR,pluss about 18 EUR train travel x 2 to get between city center train stations and airports in Köbenhavn and Hamburg: 350 NOK / 36 EUR. Total: approx 1550 NOK / 160 EUR
(Prices for both train and plane tickets if booking about 1 – 1,5 months in advance, and finding the cheapest prices within the approx. similar time schedule)
Conclusion: CO2 emissions reduced by 76%, only 2,5 hours “lost” (or gained, in peaceful train travel reading a book or doing office work), cost 1/3. Train beats plane easily for travelling from Malmö to Hamburg – at least in my opinion.
Travel to Malmö yesterday was not as smooth as last time.. This time I got on the 13:01 train from Oslo, with a one hour changeover in Göteborg. However, it turned out there had just been an incident north of Varberg station (a bit south of Göteborg). Some guy involved in a traffic accident north of Varberg station had “breaked bad”, pulling out a hunting rifle and started shooting at the police, before running along the railroad tracks north of Varberg station. The whole thing ended with a shootout between the police and this guy, and he was shot in the arm and then taken to hospital. A quite dramatic, frightening – and tragic incident. Because of this, my scheduled Öresundståg at 17:57 was cancelled (or so I thought, at least), and a rather confusing onward journey thus started to unfold. At the information counter I was recommended to get on Västtrafik´s 17:10 train from Göteborg to Varberg, which was for some reason not cancelled – eventually arriving at Varberg station at 1830. There I had to wait for approx. 1,5 hours before what must have been my original Öresundståg from Göteborg actually made it to Varberg at 20:00. But instead of going all the way to Malmö like intended, this train terminated at Helsingborg because it was waaay behind schedule and I had to make one last change to Pågatågen. I finally arrived Malmö almost two hours delayed. Total travel time: approx. 9 hours…
On the bright side, I found out that both Västtrafik´s and Pågantågen´s trains are pretty well suited for double bass travels – might be tight during rush hour but even though Västtrafik´s train was pretty full it was no real problem to get the bass on the train – and both train personell and travellers are very helpful. Thanks! 🙂
Today I have had a superb time both performing a solo lunch concert in the lovely chamber music hall at Musikhögskolan i Malmö, and doing a Q/A in front of the student audience after the concert about my work – lead by head of the jazz department, Mattias Hjort.
Once we finished, Mattias dropped me off at Malmö Triangelen station, where I got on the 15:16 train to Köbenhavn Hovedbanegård. After a two hours layover I am now on the 18:00 train to Kolding where I will spend the night before the 3 hours train ride to Hamburg tomorrow.
On Friday I will share the complete time / CO2 / cost for my journeys from Oslo through Malmö to Hamburg by train as compared to flying.
“Today, a small group of us is launching a campaign for natural climate solutions to receive the commitment and funding they deserve. At the moment, though their potential is huge, they have been marginalised in favour of projects that may be worse than useless, but which are profitable for corporations. Governments discuss the climate crisis and the ecological crisis in separate meetings when both disasters could be addressed together. We have set up a dedicated website, produced an animation and written a letter to governments and international bodies signed by prominent activists, scientists and artists.
We don’t want natural climate solutions to be used as a substitute for the rapid and comprehensive decarbonisation of our economies. The science tells us both are needed: the age of carbon offsets is over. But what this thrilling field of study shows is that protecting and rewilding the world’s living systems is not just an aesthetically pleasing thing to do. It is an essential survival strategy.”
( this concert marked the start of my “Elvesang ECO tour – spring 2019”. Jazzinorge.no published this article about my tour today: https://jazzinorge.no/2019/04/02/sigurd-hole-pa-gronn-turne/ )
First, a little about the concert itself. The main concert hall in Malmö Konserthus must be one of the best – if not the best – rooms in which I have ever performed. To be able to fill the entire space alone with my double bass playing without any amplification, feeling the immediate, well-balanced response from the huge 1700 seat concert hall in even the softest of dynamics was a truly fantastic experience. Philip Glass supposedly said, upon performing here, that he would like to move to Malmö and play all his concerts in this hall – having audiences travel here to listen to him. I would gladly join in! (both to listen, and to perform)
Getting from Oslo to Malmö by train is pretty smooth – also with a double bass. 07:00 from Oslo S, changeover in Göteborg, arriving Malmö Central Station 13:51. Note to bassists and others carrying LARGE instruments/items: make sure you take the Öresundståg from Göteborg to Malmö, they have a large luggage/bicycle/stroller compartment (see picture below) that easily fit my double bass with lots of room to other passengers and goods. The other option, SJ snabbtog does not (at least to my knowledge) have luggage compartments similar to this one, and I know bass playing colleagues that have experienced difficulties in bringing even a travel bass on SJ snabbtog (mine is full size and would most likely have been rejected…)
You may book tickets for Öresundståg at both Öresundstog´s and SJ´s homepage. However, booking at Öresundståg´s homepage gives the option to make a seat reservation close to the big luggage compartment so you can keep an eye on the bass 😉
TIME / CO2 / COST
Travelling from Oslo to Malmö could also easily have been done my plane via Copenhagen/Kastrup. How does plane and train travel look compared to each other for this journey in regards of carbon emissions, time consumption and costs?
TRAIN total travel time 7,5 hours (left home at 06:30, arrived my hotel in Malmö 14:00).
PLANE total travel time approx 5 hours(let´s say I take the 10:00 flight from Oslo to Copenhagen. This means leaving home 07:30 in order to be at the airport 1,5 hours ahead of departure. 1:10 min flight, minimum 30 min spent at Kastrup to get off the plane and get luggage, 40 min to find train and travel to Malmö, arriving at hotell approx 12:30)
TRAIN total cost (first class from Oslo – Göteborg): 723 NOK / approx 75 EUR
PLANE ticket SAS economy class: 869 NOK / approx 90 EUR, pluss about 18 EUR train travel x 4 to get between city centre train stations and airports in Oslo and Malmø: 72 EUR / approx 700 NOK. Total: approx 1600 NOK / 165 EUR
(Prices for both train and plane tickets if booking about 1 – 1,5 months in advance)
Travel time for this distance is shorter by plane. However, it is also much more hectic. On the train I only had one changeover, meaning 3,5 + 3,5 hours of effective office work, reading a book, composing or whatever. Travelling by plane, the longest time you stay in one place is the 1:10 minute flight, the rest of the journey consists of shorter periods of time spent in airport trains, check-in, security, walking around airports, waiting for luggage, etc. To me, the extra 2,5 hours spent going by train easily outweighs the stress of air travel and is by far compensated by the huge amount of office work I got done while on the train.
Also considering that train travel for this distance means both an approx 98% reduction in CO2 emissions and half the cost, train is by far the better option in my opinion.