Gabriel Freitas and Kyra Spaan were selected for the Baltic Sea Festival Science Lab. Photos: Private

PhD students Kyra Spaan and Gabriel Freitas from the Department of Environmental Science are among the 9 young researchers selected to participate in the Baltic Sea Festival Science Lab, where the researchers will team up with 9 composers to transform their research results into original musical works.

Kyra Spaan’s research focuses on finding known and unknown environmental contaminants in samples from waste water treatment plants, while Gabriel Freitas studies sea spray particles and their role in climate.

While Spaan applied because she was curious to explore how the “different words” of science and art can be combined, Freitas, who is an amateur musician as well, considers art and science to be a natural match and hopes to communicate his research in a way he had never “dared” to. Both agree, though, that the task ahead will be a challenging one.

“The process of translating science into music will have both the researchers and the composers at opposite ends, requiring that we work closely in understanding each other to get our messages across. It will be as rewarding as it will be challenging,” admits Gabriel Freitas.

A unique experience for the listener

Programme Director Elisabet Ljungar, who will work with the nine researcher-composer pairs, is eager to explore the interplay between newly written music and new research on the state of the Baltic Sea even if it may appear at first as a “collision between different planets.”

”For me, this is an exciting and important experiment. I am incredibly curious about how the units affect each other and what the fusion between them can create in the listener,” explains Elisabet Ljungar.

Head of Department Prof. Anna Sobek agrees with Elisabet Ljungar in that going that extra mile will be key in ensuring a unique listener experience.

“We were looking for researchers who work with questions that are relevant to the Baltic Sea region and who can also express solutions and hope for the future,” says Sobek. She continues: “It is of course great fun that two PhD students of ours are among the nine selected to communicate their research in completely new ways.”

Professor Sobek and Associate Professor Torsten Blenckner at the Stockholm Resilience Centre are members of the organiser group for the Baltic Sea Festival Science Lab, which is a new initiative by the Baltic Sea Festival in Sveriges Radio’s concert hall Berwaldhallen, Stockholm University and Voksenåsen Music Academies. Ensembles from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform the musical works during the Baltic Sea Festival 2023 which will take place between 27 August – 2 September.

How to you imagine your research to sound like?

“I imagine my research to sound quite dramatic. As the title of my research is ‘Chemical Iceberg,’ I imagine some Titanic-vibe. I think it could start off with some dark/heavy music that becomes more joyful towards the end,” replies Kyra Spaan.

“If I had to venture a guess I’d say it would have a repetitive and cyclical tone background, following the daily cycles of the ocean and water mass dynamics with sounds reminiscing the red noise nature of it. Sudden sparks of metallic/bright strings notes would signal the emission of particles, like the conjuring of fairies. With time, these sounds become softer and duller, as the particles now participate in cloud formation. It rains, and the sound becomes noisier as it fades,” replies Gabriel Freitas.

About the Baltic Sea Festival

The Baltic Sea Festival is organized by Swedish Radio Concert Hall Berwaldhallen and is one of Europe’s leading classical music festivals, featuring top artists, orchestras and conductors. Over the past twenty years, the Festival has served as a meeting place for outstanding concerts and initiatives that contribute to a sustainable Baltic Sea region.

Contact information

Visiting addresses:

Geovetenskapens Hus,
Svante Arrhenius väg 8, Stockholm

Arrheniuslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16, Stockholm (Unit for Toxicological Chemistry)

Mailing address:
Department of Environmental Science
Stockholm University
106 91 Stockholm

Press enquiries should be directed to:

Stella Papadopoulou
Science Communicator
Phone +46 (0)8 674 70 11