On Landscape, Cycles and Voice

The first meeting with Janneke is immediately characteristic of our next encounters. She comes to the State Gallery that we visit with all the fellows, her hair still full from the wind of the bike ride, and while talking, she greets everyone. Outspoken and curious, she’s not afraid to say anything or ask questions, something that I notice repeatedly during our meetings. We talk regularly about her thoughts, about our view of the world and the process she is in. She is keen to involve people in her work – like her father, Ed, who plays a strong role as a sounding board. She tells me a lot about her interest in the voice, and although she has a background in textiles, she has picked up the thread of the vocal art. »I was always singing. I was an intern with Maria Blaisse, who gave me a lot of freedom and space. Here it emerged that it was my dream to become a singer. When that was said spontaneously during our lunch, Maria reacted by giving me a microphone. ›Sing for us,‹ she said. I started making voice sounds while Maria listened from the kitchen. I was hiding behind a wall. From that moment on I decided to focus on the voice. That was the end of 2007.«




»The voice is also a material, almost a substance with which you can create different layers,« she says. When I ask Janneke whether she also sees the voice as a kind of textile, she explains that she sees it more as a texture. »My study in textiles had a rather conceptual focus; I also graduated with a sound installation, in which I had interwoven sounds. I would like to go back to working with textile now, because I like the process of the craft and the colors. The voice used to be a carrier of information and that was later recorded in textiles. I don’t like to see myself as a carrier of information, but rather as a carrier of experience.«

Textile residue from the workshop »Textile and Voice in the Landscape« by Janneke van der Putten
Studio Janneke van der Putten, »Behind that Mountain is a Goldmine«
Studio Janneke van der Putten, Photos of textile research, Amazone Jungle, Peru
Studio Janneke van der Putten, Graphic from the Installation Paysage Fusillé

During her residency, Janneke expands her vocal art practice by studying with Christie Finn, an opera singer from Stuttgart, who introduces her to the Western singing tradition. »Christie says I need to speak with a higher voice,« Janneke says during one of our first walks in the forest. She is not looking for conventional sounds and forms of vocal use, but rather for the possible boundaries and the voice’s versatile nuances. She wants to discover the voice in relation to the space around her and her physical movements that come with it. She advises me to read the book Songlines by Bruce Chatwin about the invisible paths in Australia that were sung by the Aboriginals for centuries. [1] When I read it, I realize why Janneke pointed this book out to me.

»The Trade route is the Songline. Because songs, not things, are the principal medium of exchange. « – from the book Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Janneke’s work breathes a continuous process of creation, in which specific places and moments are acknowledged with our actions. The repetitive movement of walking, breathing cycles, and signing forms a connection with our environment. Just as in the ancient Songlines, Janneke’s work shapes a strong connection with our environment, a connection that is created through action and movement. Every stone, mountain, water, and nature are described in a Songline. Janneke’s work also shows that she does not so much convey a message but rather hints at our connection with nature, in which the cycle of life is most strongly expressed. By participating in some of her workshops it becomes clear that the experience in her work throws us back to a cyclical perception of time. The link visible in Janneke’s work between voice and landscape is that of enticing a feeling, a thought, or an emotion. With this she makes the invisible visible, in which she uses the voice as a medium to share narratives. Narratives of the landscape, of our existence, of our cycle of sunrise and sunset.

This can also be seen in the work When Echo was Changed into a Stone, which Janneke presented at the Sommerfest at Akademie Schloss Solitude in June 2019. The work integrates drawing, voice, choreography, the architecture, sunlight, and the wind entering through the open window. It presents a continuous recreation of the world, where the drawing is viewed in the instant of a movement, repeatedly and a yet differently returning cycle. The drawing shows the river-siren Lorelei giving birth to a river. Meeting the volcano’s lava, a breath is created, and a new song. In combination with the wind blowing through the open window, her movements’ shadows on the wall and her body’s circumambulation turns the drawing into a recurring movement. The performance is inspired by the story of the Lorelei, the nymph who changed into a rock, and tells of a continuous genesis in which elements such as water and fire meet and transform into air. In combination with the shadows on the walls and the body’s circumambulation, the drawing comes into a recurring flow. [2]

The legend of the Lorelei contextualizes Janneke’s collaboration with the Peruvian composer and artist Chrs Galarreta in their project Invisible Architecture (2013 – present). In this project, Chrs brought forward the reference of the singing sirens, and how the acoustics of spaces and landscapes can stimulate the imagination and influence physical perception and orientation from which myths and stories can emerge. There are many examples of stories in which women are represented as water creatures; singing, seductive, in relation to the earth, death, often also connected with the snake. These are examples of a worldview in which sound and geography are closely connected and that also becomes visible in When Echo was Changed into a Stone.

In the drawing, Janneke presents Lorelei depicted on a rock from which a red tide flows; as if she were giving birth to a river. Next to the rock is a mountain with a volcano that spits blood of fire that eventually flows into the river. The air, the water, and the earth emerge in which the nonduality of the different elements become clearly visible. »Everything is in motion, and just as our body vibrates while singing, so does our environment. Chrs always touches upon this: in his compositions he uses architecture as an instrument, in which the source of the sound no longer needs to be recognizable, by paying attention to the resonances and echoes«, Janneke says.



Instead of presenting the drawing on the wall, Janneke chooses to hold the drawing in her hands during her performance. »I questioned how the paper drawing could be integrated in the performance. How could it be carried away by the wind, and by my movement? This is a thought I regularly play with.« By carrying it, she transformed the drawing into a sound wall that simultaneously forms a mask between her and the listener, through which she doesn’t show her face directly to the listener. In slow turning movements, she shows the drawing as part of a fragment, that, like the resonance of space, remains connected to her body movement. The performance has no formal beginning, and the audience hears the singing in the corridors before even entering the room. The sound of [A], which Janneke holds for a few long seconds, is followed by the sound of [O], [E], and then again [O]. With each variation she makes a turn of 45 degrees, so that she eventually returns to [A]. The voice resonates a different sound in every movement, the wall mutes her voice, the window reflects and magnifies. The movements form a choreographic representation of a cycle, the starry sky, of day and night.

Janneke tells me about the work of the artist Toine Horvers, who is inspired by the Sufi Whirling Dervishes. Rotation of the dervishes is the ultimate form of spatiality for Toine. He works mainly with text, in which he uses the directions of the wind as choreographic anchors. Janneke shares this fascination for rotation and remembers the first time she saw his performances in 2009. In her singing, Janneke also slowly moves and often activates the spatial resonances. At the same time, the listeners can also play with their perception of sound in space by moving themselves.

During one of our first conversations, Janneke said that she wants to develop a workshop with textile and landscape and voice, in which she can integrate her voice practice with her environment and materials such as objects and textiles. When I take part in the workshop along with six others in September, we explore some of the unique sites around Schloss Solitude, such as the centuries-old tree that Janneke invites us to lie against; then the lawn next to the forest with a view of the sunset. We individually walk through the land with a wire we hold, connected to a person walking a great distance in front of us but also the people following us, eventually forming a circle. The workshop questions the perception of time and presence in space through the use of voice, movement, and textiles. I become aware of my movements and the distance to my next neighbor, the rhythm is determined by the person in front of me, the distance increases and the time we spend wandering around creates a great sense of awareness and connection. As the sun slowly sets, we are still forming our circle, step by step, and the urge to immerse myself in nothingness overwhelms me. Yet I feel carried here, each step brings me closer to the earth below my feet, and in connection with the group.

I am fascinated by Janneke’s decisions on the use of voice and geography. She illuminates the power of the cycle in an aesthetic way, with minimal means. When she shows one of her singing techniques during the performance, the stratification of her voice appears. The quality of her voice and the resonances she can produce develop a sense of harmony, in which voice, space, and body come together.




From 2009 to 2014 Janneke learned the Dhrupad singing from Amelia Cuni and Marianne Svašek – a centuries-old style of music originally from North-India. In addition, she has always used experimental vocal techniques in her performances, installations, and sound works. In her collaboration with Chrs Galarreta she has been encouraged to step out of her comfort zone, and to try other sound intensities that may not fit in the Dhrupad tradition. »It started when I lived on the island of Vassivière (France) for a winter, and every morning at sunrise I walked along the island, and then Chrs asked me to call out to the other side of the lake. I discovered that every place I was standing had a different echo. It started with the scream, where I learned to appreciate the volume not only as a strong physical experience, but also as a rich sound.«

The Dhrupad training has strengthened her voice and through regular experimentation and practice she discovered how to use it. »Dhrupad is an oral tradition, you learn it by doing. The first exercise I learned is to sing the vowel [A] during the transition from night to day for at least half an hour, on low sustained tones. That exercise has shaped my life and practice.«

»It’s about training your muscle memory and developing your consciousness.« Janneke taught herself different techniques; sounds you wouldn’t expect to come from one person. She has mastered overtone singing, in which you can hear several tones at the same time. [3] When Janneke lets me hear an overtone, I am amazed at the power that emerges from it, the layering of the tones and also the confusion about where the sound emanates from. As I listen, her voice grows into a powerful instrument that ultimately, turns the sound into an echo through the stratification of the tone.

Our forest walks are philosophical conversations, especially if Ed accompanies us. I ask Janneke if she has become more involved with nature by being at the Akademie Schloss Solitude. She explains that she loves nature and has always found a connection in nature. She enjoys walking in the woods, especially at night, even though she has not yet overcome her fear of darkness. »These walks give a greater sense of the new place where I now live temporarily.« Through our conversations and walks it becomes clearer to me that Janneke’s voice is a continuous discovery of our places, the resonance with our environment, in this case the Solitude forest, but also the versatility of sound, a constant evolution in which landscape, cycle, and voice coalesce.

This series of conversations took place in 2019 between Janneke van der Putten and Sarie Nijboer.


  1. Jump Up The lines or paths of the Aborigines were transmitted through the Songlines, the existence of the land and the secrets of the past are all hidden in the Songline. In the book, Chatwin travels to Australia to get in touch with Aborigines and the ancient Songlines, to discover the secrets of their stories. It is fascinating to read that a piece of land can be transmitted through the Songline. It then depends on the next generation to be able to continue to exist.
  2. Jump Up The poet Clemens Brentano was the first to build the story of the rock on beauty. In all probability he associated the echo rock with the ancient myth of the nymph Echo, who, saddened by the loss of her beloved, froze into a rock from which her voice resonated like an echo. In his novel Godwi oder Das steinerne Bild der Mutter, 1801–02. Brentano writes a ballad about Lore Lay, a woman of the same name as the rock Lorelei, who is considered a witch because of her attraction to men. Brentano’s Lore Lay attracts every man with her beauty and kills him.
  3. Jump Up Overtone singing originated in Central or North Asia, Tibet, South Africa, with the Xhosa, and Sardinia. Especially Mongolia and the Russian Republic of Toeva are known for their overtone singing, which is called throat singing. Mongolian: chuumi, Javanese: chööömei, but also other Turkic peoples, like the Altai, Chakassen, and Basques, have long practiced this singing technique in which they let several tones flow into each other.