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A special music video ends the Nobel lecture given by May-Britt Moser on grid cells. Photo: NTNU

A “wow” ending of fog, jazz poetry and a tuba

2014 NOBEL PRIZE: Edvard and May-Britt Moser finished their Nobel lecture with a music video where NTNU music professors improvised over a Norwegian folk tune. The video was filmed in a dense fog where viewers see the faces of the musicians as they play.

“Whenever I have given lectures to a large audience before, I have always looked for an ending that gives a ‘wow’ feeling. I hope we have managed to create exactly that kind of ending,” said NTNU Professor and Nobel laureate May-Britt Moser to Gemini.no few days ago.

Today she and her co-laureates, husband Edvard Moser and former mentor John O’Keefe, each held a 45-minute Nobel lecture. The lectures ended with a video where professors from the Department of Music at NTNU improvised over a Norwegian folk tune.

“It was surprising, inspiring, provocative, disturbing and a cause for sleep deprivation to be asked to create an ending for the Nobel lecture. Even though we improvise over a Norwegian folk tune, any improvisation must be prepared well, paradoxically,” says NTNU Professor John Pål Inderberg. Photo: NTNU

“It was surprising, inspiring, provocative, disturbing and a cause for sleep deprivation to be asked to create an ending for the Nobel lecture. Even though we improvise over a Norwegian folk tune, any improvisation must be prepared well, paradoxically,” says NTNU Professor John Pål Inderberg. Photo: NTNU

Barking and a birthday concert

Musician John Pål Inderberg plays soprano saxophone in the video and wrote the jazz poetry based on words and phrases from the Mosers’ research. Bjørn Alterhaug plays bass. Composer Henning Sommero plays accordion and barks like a dog, while Kristoffer Lo plays the tuba.

Lo has played for the Mosers on a number of occasions. As a member of a band called PELbO, Lo played in the Mosers’ living room as a surprise birthday gift that Edvard Moser gave to May-Britt when she turned 50.

Shared ideas on improvisation

Kristoffer Lo think it is both an honour and amazing that Moser will use some of her precious Nobel lecture time on music.

“But after talking to May-Britt, I found out that we share a lot of the same ideas about improvisation and openness. I find it fascinating that a neuroscientist and musician can share this same way of thinking,” says Lo.

The video, made by a Trondheim production company called Helmet, was filmed in black and white and in dense fog. Helmet CEO Øystein Moe says the company got the idea to film inside a mist tent after a tour of the Kavli Institute.

Got the idea at a party

“Only small bits of the brain are in focus in the research images that the Mosers take – everything else is out of focus. We wanted to recreate this feeling in the video,” says Moe. Four Helmet employees worked 18 hours a day during the last three weeks to make the video.

John Pål Inderberg (right) reads "jazz poetry" in an improvisational performance. Photo: Nancy Bazilchuk, NTNU

NTNU held a celebration for newly named Nobel Laureates May-Britt and Edvard Moser in October. Here, May-Britt listens with delight as NTNU musicians Henning Sommero (left) and John Pål Inderberg perform. The performance was what inspired the music video. Photo: Nancy Bazilchuk, NTNU

May-Britt and Edvard Moser got the idea to end their lecture with a music video after a party that NTNU held in their honour the day after it was announced that they had been awarded the Nobel Prize. Several of the musicians who are now in the Nobel music video performed at the party.

“The party and the music were both such a wonderful experience. I got goosebumps because it was so incredibly beautiful, and thought that this is something we should try to use later,” said May-Britt Moser.