UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Music Conservatory, 1988

The two artworks at the Music Conservatory in Tromsø are monumental in scale and were created with laborious handcraft techniques. Both also provoked debate during the 1980s.

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  • Tonesøyle, Harald Wårvik. Photographer: Kjell Ove Storvik
  • Tonesøyle, Harald Wårvik. Photographer: Kjell Ove Storvik
  • Tonesøyle, Harald Wårvik. Photographer: Kjell Ove Storvik
  • Tonesøyle, Harald Wårvik. Photographer: Statsbygg
  • Tonesøyle, Harald Wårvik. Photographer: Kjell Ove Storvik
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About the project

About the project

The Music Conservatory in Tromsø was completed in 1985. The conservatory is part of UiT, but is located on a separate site at the southern end of Tromsøya island, close to the regional studios of the national TV and radio station NRK. The story of the two artworks, which were both specially commissioned for the Music Conservatory, reveals the tensions and controversies that permeated artistic life in Norway during the 1980s.

Åse Frøyshov’s textile work Fanfare (1986) was commissioned first, and was the subject of enormous disagreement amongst the members of the art committee. You can read more about this disagreement here.

The sculptor Harald Wårvik was commissioned to create the second work, a sculpture for the main entrance. Standing nearly seven metres tall, Wårvik’s Sound Column (1988) is the first thing one notices when arriving at the conservatory from the road. The sculpture towers over the terrain in front of the low brick building. It is carved from dolorite, a fine-grained black granite from Sweden, which has been polished to a shiny finish. The sculpture may remind one of either a flute or an array of loudspeakers, but Wårvik was also inspired by very ancient music, from a time when music notation was in its infancy. Around the circumference of the column, there are rows of small convex half-globes, which resemble rows of pearls, and rows of larger concave dish shapes.

Both the art consultants and the users of the building were happy with Wårvik’s sculpture. A number of obstacles had to be overcome, however, before the project was finally completed. This time it was local politicians who opposed the sculpture. Some months before it was completed, there were heated debates in Tromsø’s municipal executive committee. According to the original agreement, the costs of the sculpture were to be split between Tromsø municipality and the agency that would later become Public Art Norway. When this cost-sharing arrangement became public knowledge, however, several politicians demanded that the municipality should withdraw its support. After a heated debate, the funding was approved and today Wårvik’s Sound Column forms a monumental and distinctive landmark outside the Music Conservatory.




Krognessvegen 33, 9006 Tromsø

Date completed


Project manager

Egil Sinding-Larsen

Art consultant/Art Committee

Per Kleiva
Hilde Hauan Johnsen


Arkitektplan A/S

Building owner/developer





Tilgjengelig for publikum


Art scheme for new government-owned buildings



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