Homeless Balloon is the ambient chill out music project of Norwegian composer and artist Helge Krabye. He has composed music for television documentaries, radio plays, fantasy stories and art projects as well as signature melodies and musical jingles since the late 80's. In his music, he is known for combining acoustic instruments with experimental, electronic sounds in a variety of music genres. Some will say his music is ambient, acoustic & electronic chill out.
Helge Krabye's first instrument was a small, wooden zither that his grandmother gave him when he was four years old. At six, he started taking violin lessons and later began playing first violin in Nordtvet Skoles Strykeorkester in Oslo. His teacher Peter Hindar (well known for his performances with Hindarkvartetten) encouraged him to practice more, but he didn't have the patience. One day Peter Hindar caught him cheating; he really didn't read music, he played it by memory and by ear... That was the end of one era, but the beginning of another.
When Helge was 15, big boys were supposed to play guitar, not violin - and he quit the school orchestra. His grandmother gave him a violin, so he never really got rid of it... He took up the violin again after high school, and since then, he has often used violin in his recordings. (Practicing violin playing takes time and require patience, two things that are hard to achieve in these Internet times...)
With the Tandberg 1200X tape recorder he bought for the money he received at my Confirmation, Helge started composing music and creating new sounds as a teenager. Very much inspired by Karlheinz Stockhausen and the Beatles, he developed an ear for sound. He was able to dub his guitar with noises and voices from the radio. One of the first compositions was "Song of the world", a montage of acoustic guitar, radio tuning and voice samples like Mr. Richard Nixon announcing the end of the Vietnam War and an overexcited radio dj announcing the (terrible) movie "Song of Norway".
Music meant a lot to Helge as a teenager and a young man, and he bought a lot of LP's and even made his own listening charts every week. He discovered "Astral Weeks" by Van Morrison, "Inner Mounting Flame" by John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, "What's going on" by Marvin Gaye, the experimental music of Karheinz Stockhausen and Terry Riley, as well as Mozart's "Symphony No. 40" with the great conductor Carlo Maria Giulini.
After high school, Helge went to technical school in NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation) to become a sound engineer. Here he was able to use professional recording studios and instruments, and he played guitar with his classmates. With a class mate, he was responsible for the innovative radio program "Lydbåndmix" ("Music Tapes") where amateur musicians were invited to send in their own musical compositions. Several later to be well known, musicians and singers were among the artists who were discovered through this radio show.
Later, Helge met Arnfinn Christensen, who became a close friend, and who jumped in as program host with me in the next series of "Lydbåndmix". Arnfinn also played instruments and made his own music. He owned a Tascam Portastudio, and he and Helge made several songs and instrumental tunes together. (The cassette "Spillopper" is still available). Arnfinn has contributed by playing recorder on many of Helge's pieces during the years, and the compositions "Order and Chaos" (fantasy story for radio) and "Beatie Bow" (a popular Radio Play) were highlights.
When MIDI arrived in the late eighties, Helge purchased his first Macintosh SE (in 1987) with the MasterTracksPro MIDI sequencer and a Roland S-10 sampling keyboard, as well as the first multitimbral synthesizer: the Roland MT-32. He was working close with radio pioneer Lars Lønne who was program host in the successful youth program "AB 8-12" in NRK, and he encouraged Helge to make jingles for the radio show. He also composed illustrative music for the show, and when he started receiving royalties from airplay, he was able to upgrade his studio and instruments and purchased the very first hard disk recording system for a personal computer, "SoundTools" from Digidesign (later to be named ProTools). He used his equipment for composing jingles and creating original sound landscapes when he became responsible for the next youth radio program in NRK: "ABRS". In this radio show, which was broadcast every working day in the afternoon, he also programmed various interactive games in HyperCard, with sound effects and musical pieces built into the applications and the Macintosh computer connected to the radio mixer in order to create a rich sound design live on air. While sitting on the broadcast mixer with all the audio sources like studio mikes, record players and tape recorders, he pushed the virtual buttons on the Mac to trigger sound effect and musical pieces. He remember being quite exausted after those daily radio shows!
Helge first started to work as a technician in the Radio Drama department in NRK in 1986, and director Kyrre Haugen Bakke allowed him to compose music for the play "The Magician's Nephew", one of the great fantasy books in the "Narnia Chronicles" by C. S. Lewis. Being in control of both music and sound design, was a nice responsibility! Later, he wrote his own story with music and sound effects for children, "Herr C og bestevennen som ble borte". Arnfinn Christensen also worked in the Children’s Department in radio at that time, and Helge composed music to several of his great fantasy stories.
In 1997, Helge discovered that the budgets for the radio got lower every year, and he realized that it was time for him to move on. He started to work with post production (sound) in NRK Fjernsynet (television). A couple of years later, he was responsible for doing the sound design for the documentary journalists in "Brennpunkt", and they invited him to compose music as well. Since then, he has composed original music for more than sixty television documentaries, both within and outside NRK.
Helge also has a great interest in interactive media, and he programmed a special interactive HyperCard game called "Nysgjerrigper" for Norges Forskningsråd in 1990, teaching himself HyperTalk in the evenings. He also programmed the "Midt i Planeten" ("Worlds apart") with Arnfinn Christensen - a computer game where the alien Gorx is guiding us through our solar system. The game was included with the new Macintosh Centris multimedia computers that Apple started selling in Norway in 1993. By this time, the great VideoWorks software for Mac had developed into MacroMedia Director, and Helge taught himself to program scrips with Lingo, the script language MacroMedia developed further and later used in their innovative Flash technology. (By the time this happened, his interest and skills in programming had started to fade...)
2001 was in a way a highlight in Helge Krabye's career as a composer for television, since the five part documentary series "Det gåtefulle Kina" (Mysterious China) was a success and was shown in several countries around the world the following years. Again, he worked close with Arnfinn Christensen who edited the whole documentary series on a small Macintosh (and created some stunning animations in Flash). A remix of the best music pieces from this series was finally released on the CD "Mysterious China" by Helge's music project Homeless Balloon in August 2007.
In 2004, Helge composed original music for nature documentarist and fotograhper Arne Nævra and his nine part television series "Villdyr og Villmark" ("Global Safari"), an adventure and wildlife series shot in Russia (Wrangel island and Kamchatka), Rwanda, India, Borneo and Alaska. Some of the music from this series is available as a remix on the Homeless Balloon album "Oriental Spaces".
Helge has also contributed to other artist's projects as a performer. He played acoustic guitar on the song "Fabel" on the Amethystium 2004 CD "Evermind" (2004), an album that climbed high in the ambient and new age charts around the world. He also played djembe, electric guitar (with Ebow) and Alembiq electric bass on the track "Moths Drink the Tears of Sleeping Birds" from the American ambient artist Kit Watkins' 2006 CD "SkyZone".
In 2005, Helge began working as a video editor (in NRK), a profession that made it possible to combine all his experience from drama, storytelling, sound design and graphic design. He is a big fan of Eric Wenger (U&I Software) and his software tools ArtMaticPro, ArtMaticVoyager and MetaSynth, and he has created several futuristic animations and graphics, which he is using in his video and music compositions.
Even if Helge was very eager to start using MIDI and compose with samplers, his heart is beating stronger for using real instruments when composing and recording music. His strong love of jazz and improvisational music has grown during the years. He has invested in quality instruments like acoustic and electric guitars, a Rhodes electric piano as well as various percussion instruments and a real, MiniMoog Voyager synthesizer. He slowed down composing for television from 2006 and instead started concentrating on remixing his best music as well as composing new, independent pieces. In 2008, he sold most of his musical gear, except his real instruments. With his two, strong Mac's, LogicPro, Ableton Live and ProToolsLE and a Korg Z-1 keyboard, he is feeling much more free and still has all the need tools to create whatever sound or musical expression his mind can make up :)
In 2007, Helge released his first two commercial CD's, "Travel in Silence" and "Mysterious China", the very year he also celebrated his first twenty years as a composer. In August 2008, he released the rest of the best of my compositions on four new audio CD's, "Ancient City", "Oriental Spaces", "Electronova" and "Hurry Slowly".
In the spring of 2009, Helge started to compose new music again, and in contrast to what he had believed, his fascination for electronic music was not dead, and he thinks his next album (spring 2010) will be a downtempo electronic chillout album inspired by jazz and electronica.