Voice of Edmonton's artistic polymath Abøn is literally flying to the moon

A singer, lifelong dancer, composer, fitness instructor, actor, therapist and more, the accomplishments of Danish-Canadian Lauren Pedersen are staggering

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The result of years of contemplation and creation, Abøn’s recently released pop-infused album Talon is a swirling, electro-beat-driven work of art and beauty.

A singer, lifelong dancer, composer, fitness instructor and all-around polymath, Abøn is the artist name of Edmonton-born and raised Danish-Canadian Lauren Pedersen, whose accomplishments in her 36 years are staggering.

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These include Pedersen guest-performing as a jazz singer in the Danish TV show Carmen Curlers, getting her compositions in three Hallmark movies in the U.S. and the Danish feature film Tag Min Hånd (Hold My Hand), and having one of the songs off Talon be the feature music in municipal planetarium shows in Edmonton and Calgary.

You may also remember her in the local trio, The Willows, where her classical piano training and singing shone. She’s a singalong fan of Kate Bush and it shows.

Backing all this up, Pedersen holds a BFA in dance performance from Ryerson University, a master’s in music from Berklee College of Music and a BSc from the University of Alberta — she was aiming to be a veterinarian before other passions called to her, including music, dancing and sound therapy.

“My first, biggest love was animals,” Pedersen explains on the phone from Costa Rica, one of many places she’s called home over the years, walking her dog Gus in the sudden rain.

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Abøn’s music is heading for the moon. Photo by Hanna Siwitza /supplied

“For many animals in the world, I wanted to do something big, which is why I ended up working with sound,” she says. “For me, my biggest truth is that I can do big things through vibration.”

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Some of Pedersen’s vibrations, in fact, are heading out further than any of us will ever go.

A couple of years back, she collaborated with two other artists singing eons-old historical music (including an ancient Nordic song carved in runes) as part of a California-based, SETI Institute Air Program artist residency.

Conceived by Felipe Pérez Santiago, it’s called The Earthling Project, sending some 10,000 voices literally to the moon on a nanodisc, which — not to be grim — may well outlast the human species in the airless vacuum of space.

“I felt like people would think I was crazy when I first wrote this project proposal,” Pedersen says about her contribution. “I just had this idea that ancient songs were not just face-value songs, that there is so much code underneath the words, so much deeper meaning.

“That’s what these songs were kind of meant to do — people would sing them together to create this vibration of peace and harmony.”

Inspired by a documentary called Sound Alchemy made by Ani Williams, Pedersen asked its musician-filmmaker to join her with Danish singer Sara Grabow in this terrestrial-to-cosmic artistic endeavour.

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“We went to all these ancient sites in south of France and Troubadour Castle and recorded 12 songs from around the globe. I just brought my field recorder and we just set it up.

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“We had never sung before together and I was just trusting deeply that the three of us would be able to sing in harmony,” she laughs. “It was such a big risk, but it ended up working and it was just such a joy.”

There won’t be speakers playing the songs in outer space, of course — no air to pick up the sound vibrations, anyway.

“But the essence is there. It’s still sending out ripples of peace,” says Pedersen. “And then, with the version of the music produced and played on Earth, there’s a vertical ley line of harmony.”

With the help of the Arch Mission Foundation, the recordings are set to launch this month.

This brings us back to Abøn’s soaring, electro-pop song Orion, one of Talon’s standouts.

“I wrote that in Spain when it was the beginning of everything being locked down, and looking up at the sky at night I just felt this celestial presence,” she says. “I felt like Orion came to life and the stars were singing through me.”

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How Orion ended up in a show at Telus World of Science is a sweet story.

“Growing up, my grandfather had a lot to do with the space and science centre,” Pedersen explains of Harry Hole, Edmonton businessman and prominent philanthropist, who also massively supported the Citadel Theatre, Concordia University and many other institutions.

“So it was actually my dad’s idea when I was doing my PR plan for releasing Orion. He said the song should be in a starry place like the planetarium.”

Pedersen reached out, sent the song over, and the stars aligned in a sort of three-generation line back to her grandpa.

“They were like, this couldn’t be more perfect timing because they had the One Sky show premiering in a few weeks, all about the different mythologies around Orion.”

Speaking of stars and good vibrations, with a keen ear for composition and a gentle yet dynamic voice, Abøn has worked and recorded in various collaborations with The Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn, American singer-songwriter Justin Nozuka and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ David Clayton Thomas.

Her various wanderings even found her jamming in the Beach Boys studio early on.

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“That was probably my first recording studio experience,” Pedersen explains. “I just loved the Beach Boys for their harmony, and I went to one of their shows with a friend of mine when I was 19 or 20 and I was like, ‘We’re going to get backstage!’”

Trying to sneak around the side, a security guard approached them. “The Beach Boys asked us up onstage and we ended up going to dinner with them, nothing weird, just a really nice time.”

They made friends with the band and visited them in California, hanging out during a recording session.

“This is my idea of a good time,” she says, “recording audio and making art.”

Besides the fun of making it, Pedersen has dedicated countless hours to the healing power of sound, including getting sound therapy certification in Toronto a decade back.

“How can I know anything in this world?” she asks. “It’s all a mystery to me.

“But sound is the one thing that I feel like I can feel and know. So I went into sound therapeutics to be able to understand it in a deeper way.”

Pedersen has run experiments playing crystal bowls with her fingers where she attempts to transmit specific emotions — joy, for example.

“Without fail,” she says, “everyone had some kind of experience of something light and joyful.”

Of course, this idea will not surprise anyone ever moved by music in ways impossible to precisely put into words.

“You can feel it recording in the studio,” says Pedersen of her work as Abøn, “and I’m really deeply feeling what I’m doing.

“And whoever is on the other side of the glass feels it, too, and they’re like, ‘That’s the take.’ And you both know it.”

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The most magnetic, alluring and bittersweet song on Talon is Stone, which Pedersen says is inspired by the oneness — again, the harmony — of nature.

“It really came from this feeling I always had walking in the ravine by my house,” she explains. “I felt like I was always high-fiving the trees, like, I’m here for you, I’m on your team.”

The massive, rolling wave of piano was recorded on a Steinway grand in 3D sound in the Banff Centre’s Rolston Recital Hall. “It was probably the nicest piano I ever played on. I was in a portal, you know?”

Pedersen gets back to the meaning of the song, and her work in general.

“I feel like the earth is a stone and she is always holding us and never really asking us for anything in return except to be as harmonious as we can.

“My message is standing up for those silent voices that are so surely loved, but are quieter.”

Of all the things mentioned here, I ask Pedersen of which she’s the most proud, and — spoilers — it’s not the moon launch.

“I wasn’t searching for my sound, but it came to be something that really is true to me,” she says. “It’s fully authentic and it is my soul.

“I have a lot of perfectionist issues,” the singer laughs. “So that being hard on yourself going all the way back to ballet when I was younger, I’ve got to keep going and keep creating and keep making something better.

“Because,” she promises, “I haven’t made my best work yet.”

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