Chiming in on Composers’ Anvils at Sävellyspaja 2016

(written by Tuomas Kettunen)

At the end of June, a group of composers gathered in the summery Porvoo to attend a master class known as “Sävellyspaja”, with teachers Jukka Tiensuu and Tomi Räisänen. During the week, participants got to work with the fantastic musicians of Avanti! conducted by Andres Kaljuste. The master class has been part of chamber orchestra Avanti!’s Summer Sounds festival for over 30 years and it has become a highly international event, even though “we never send any commercials abroad but somehow we are getting more and more applications all over the world”, as teacher Tomi Räisänen said in the final concert.

For this post, I interviewed two of my fellow composers attending the course. Paolo Griffin is a Canadian composer currently living in The Netherlands, where he studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Eden Rayz is a young US-American composer and cellist living in Boston.

Participants were asked to compose a miniature according to a given task. This year, the task was to write a mourning dance, “which without any verbal explanation makes both sorrow and the dance obvious to the players and the listeners”. In modern world with such a large scale of different styles and approaches, this challenges the composer; how to make those things obvious without falling too much into clichés or banal solutions and at the same time staying devoted to your own expression and stylistical ideas?

PG: It took me a while to wrap my head around the assignment given. Working with restraints is the only way I work, wherein I create abstract parameters and then begin to create within those parameters. It was the same for this piece; I set out some guidelines and begin working towards a product with those rules in mind.

ER: I struggled for months trying to wrap myself around it in a way that was both honest and cathartic. I remembered this awesome song that was popular a couple years before I was born called Lambada by a Brazillian pop band called Kaoma. It clicked then, as this song is a painfully bittersweet mourning dance. As I normally do, I dreamed about the song for many nights until it melted into a waxy pile of almost unrecognizable fragments that I later sculpted together to find a new structure. Limitation helped bring new structure to a process that I often find boundless and unruly. It was a very welcome challenge!

So, what do you mean when you say you dreamed about it?

ER: To generate all of my material, I “hear” it during brief sessions of half-sleep. I do this in a very regimented manner. It seems romantic and idealistic, but really it’s quite a bother and is rather impractical much of the time. I’ve learned much from my colleagues’ processes and maybe someday I’ll be able to generate honest material in healthier ways.

It was again delightful to see how every piece was so different from each other although composed from the same task. And that is maybe the most beneficial aspect of these workshops for participants; get to know other colleagues and their ideas about aesthetics, art and world. Still, composing music is traditionally rather lonely work, why do you think it is so important for young composer to network internationally?

PG: My answer comes from two points: the first is that I attend an international conservatory, where 100% of my classmates are from countries different from my own, and a healthy chunk of those come from countries outside the Western world. The second is that, as a Canadian, and thus, an ocean removed from Europe and Asia, our contact with international composers important to the western style we operate in (excluding the USA) is limited. So networking with other young composers on an international level opens up a huge amount of opportunities; for travel, for experiences, to see new music, try new things, and find new inspirations.

ER: For just that reason! I canʼt imagine the Emily Dickinson approach to creativity. Composing for me can become a nasty habit if left unchecked. Maybe workshops like these for me are less about academic or career pursuits and become little group therapy retreats. Commissions are nice but so is sanity.

How do you consider the meaning of ‘style’ in composing?

PG: I think a composer should feel happy to work in as many styles as they feel the need or desire to. Personally, I feel the need to refine my own musical language in a specific direction, however stylistically, my pieces come down from all corners of the spectrum; folk music, minimalism, electro-acoustic, melodic, etc…

ER: What a life it would be to define yourself at 25 and crawl around in an industrial packing box looking casually for windows or little fragments of light until you turn about 45 and realize, “holy shit, Iʼm bored!”

PG: It was good to attend the workshop. When an artist of any kind stays in one place for so long, and is exposed primarily to the art of that location, the danger is that one begins to lose perspective, and while the lessons and rehearsals at the festival were valuable, I think the most valuable thing was meeting other young composers, listening to their music, learning about their artistic, aesthetic, and philosophical views, and broadening one’s mind to the world around us.

Front row left: Eden Rayz; second-front row right: Paolo Griffin, next to Tuomas Kettunen. Another Ears Open member Sebastian Dumitrescu also participated this course, as do many of our members annually. The rest of the workshop participants were Eugene Birman, Timo Kittilä, Ulf Långbacka, Lin Mu-Xuan, Kaito Nakahori, and Tomoya Yokokawa.



treasurer for Korvat auki

Osittainen kooste Viitasaaren Musiikin aika -festivaalilta 2016

A partial summary of the Viitasaari Time of Music Festival 2016
Osittainen kooste Viitasaaren Musiikin aika -festivaalilta 2016

(kirjoittanut Juhani Vesikkala)


When two boats and the people on them become a performance.






Noise performance by Lauri Hyvärinen & Tuukka Haapakorpi, at the Viitasaari S-market.










Composers bothering percussionist Christian Dierstein about various sounds after the concert.











The finalists (apart from winner Patiparn Jaikampan) visited by members of the jury after the results were announced. From left to right: Diana Soh, Matilda Seppälä, Eugene Birman, Raphaël Languillat.











When two boats and the people on them become a performance. For this year’s festival, the Ears Open Society had formed a specific inter-artistic team. Its eight members worked around the city, both stationary and in movement, repeatedly and on a pop-up basis, on the side of other excellent music given in concerts of the festival. The program provided by the team included Silence Walks, a Path of Experiences, Piano on the road, unique performances on a conveyor belt in the S-market, as well as a Brexit-inspired boat performance. Soili Huhtakallio interviewed local people, exemplifying our approach to demystification between the festival people and locals.

The team intends to approach the second year of this two-year project on the basis of the material gathered during this festival.

In addition, many of the members participated on courses or performed at concerts during the week. I held a dual role: this time in Helsinki Chamber choir and in the Ears Open team.

Tämänvuotista festivaalia varten Korvat auki -yhdistys oli muodostanut poikkitaiteellisen työryhmän, joka toimi kahdeksanjäsenisenä ympäri kaupunkia, paikallaan ja liikkuen, toistuvasti ja pop-up -periaatteella, festivaalin muun erinomaisen konserttimusiikin ohessa. Työryhmän ohjelmassa olivat Hiljaisuuskävely, Kokemuspolku, Piano tien päällä, ainutkertaiset liukuhihnaperformanssit S-marketissa sekä Brexit-vaikutteinen veneperformanssi. Soili Huhtakallio haastatteli paikkakuntalaisia esimerkkinä tarkkailukulmastamme, jossa arkistetaan festivaaliväen ja paikkakuntalaisten yhteiseloa.

Viikon aikana kerätyn materiaalin pohjalta työryhmä aikoo lähestyä myös kaksivuotisen projektinsa seuraavaa vuotta.

Tämän lisäksi monet jäsenet osallistuivat viikon aikana kursseille tai esiintyivät konserteissa. Olin itse kaksoisroolissa: tällä kertaa Helsingin kamarikuoron riveissä ja Korvat auki -työryhmässä.

Ryhmäläisemme Soili Huhtakallion mielestä on kaksi radikaalisti erilaista tapaa tulla taiteen äärelle. “Voi tulla kokemaan itse tai odottaa, että maailma on koettu valmiiksi sinulle. Opimme ja muutumme voimakkaimmin silloin, kun jokin asia suhteutuu meihin tai kun me suhteutamme sen itseemme. Yritäpä opetella ulkoa tietoa, joka ei kosketa sinua mitenkään – olet pulassa. Mutta heti kun se nivoutuu tietoon tai kokemukseen joka sinulla jo on, pystyt muistamaan sen paremmin, ymmärrät omaa suhdettasi siihen paremmin ja pystyt muodostamaan siitä selkeämmän käsityksen.”

Tällaisia suhtautumisten ja suhteiden eroja Soili pohti ryhmässä paljon, kun projektin ensimmäisen kesän tutkimussuunnitelmaa tehtiin. Jo pelkästään projektin tekijöiden keskuudessa oli paljon erilaisia mielenkiinnon kohteita ja ajattelun tapoja. “Osin tästä syystä päädyimme toteuttamaan useita pienempiä hankkeita erilaisilla kokoonpanoilla, ja näiden perusteella lähdetään rakentamaan kohti ensi kesää 2017”, Soili tarkentaa.

“Koreografina minua kiinnostivat käsitykset tanssista. Postmoderni vaihe tanssitaiteessa 1960-­luvun Yhdysvalloissa toi näyttämölle arkiliikkeen ja epäspektaakkelin. Edelleen 2010-­luvun Suomessa kuitenkin käsitys tanssista on kohtuullisen esihistoriallinen: se pitää sisällään enimmäkseen mielikuvia sosiaalisista kansantansseista ja baletinomaisesta taituruuteen rajoittuvasta tanssista. Tanssitaide on kuitenkin jo vuosikymmeniä tehnyt aikuistumisen prosessia, jossa taiteenlaji on alkanut tarkastella laajemmin maailman ja yhteiskunnan ruumiillisuutta tai etäisyyttä siitä. Tällöin tanssi ei enää rajaudu kaunoliikkeiksi, vaan se pitää sisällään kaikenlaisen liikkeen mahdollisena teoksen materiaalina.” Samankaltaisen ilmiön Soili havaitsee myös musiikin piirissä, kun John Cage pioneerina etunenässä alkoi käyttää kaikenlaisia ääniä sävellystensä materiaalina.

“Pohdin miten tätä voisi tuoda esiin tämän produktion myötä ja päädyin tekemään haastatteluja, joissa kyselin paikallisilta ja kunnan kesävierailta heidän työnsä ruumiillisuudesta ja varhaisista tanssimuistoistaan. Menetin yhden päivän sairastaessa, mutta sain kuitenkin joitain haastatteluja tehdyksi ja olen niistä erittäin iloinen. Tämä tuntuu kuitenkin vasta alkusoitolta (tai ehkä nurkkatanssilta, josta kuulin ensimmäistä kertaa haastateltavilta). Toivon että saan kerätyksi lisää materiaalia ennen ensi kesän teoksen harjoitusten alkua. Tavoitteena on käyttää teoksen materiaalina näiden haastattelujen informaatiota ja sitä kehollista kieltä jota videoilla näkyy. Näin haluan tuoda näkyväksi sitä, kuinka maailma ja sen ihmiset voivat suoraan olla tanssin ainesta ja avata sitä kautta postmodernin tanssin yhtä aspektia, entistä laajempaa käsitystä tanssista liikkeinä, joita emme arvota niiden kauneuden takia, vaan joiden kautta toivomme avautuvan jotain uutta ajateltavaa. Ja ajattelun piiriin sulkeutuvat niin ruumiillinen kokemuksellinen ajattelu kuin mielen liikkeetkin.”


Composers bothering percussionist Christian Dierstein about various sounds after the concert.
Finalists of the 2nd Einojuhani Rautavaara composition competition interviewed before and right after the concert.
Toisen Einojuhani Rautavaara -sävellyskilpailun finalistit haastateltuna ennen ja juuri konsertin jälkeen.

Where did you find out about the competition and why did you choose to apply?

Mistä kuulit kilpailusta ja miksi päätit osallistua?

What did you learn about choral composing between the November 2015 workshop and the July 2016 general rehearsal?

Mitä opit kuorosäveltämisestä marraskuun 2015 workshopin ja heinäkuun 2016 kenraaliharjoituksen välillä?

Composers’ answers, in descending order of age
Säveltäjien vastaukset pienenevässä ikäjärjestyksessä

Diana Soh


It’s rare to have such singers on stage, so yeah. [laughs]

Why did you choose this competition instead of some other competition?

I rarely do competitions – almost never. But I think what was really good that there was a workshop, and it’s also very rare that when you work you get a chance to workshop the piece and then have the premiere.


I learned to be more practical, in the sense that if you calculate how much rehearsal time the ensemble has then you tailor the piece so that they have a successful concert within that rehearsal time instead of being really idealistic and impractical.

Ideally you guys should rehearse the piece like ten hours…[laughs]… I’m kidding.


Tällaisia laulajia näkee harvoin lavalla. [nauraa]

En juuri osallistu kilpailuihin. Pidin siitä, että tähän sisältyi työpaja ja että teosta voi työstää ennen kantaesitystä.


Opin käytännöllisyyttä siinä mielessä, että jos lasken kuinka paljon harjoitusaikaa yhtyeellä on, räätälöin sävellyksen niin, että he saavat aikaan onnistuneen konsertin sen harjoitusajan puitteissa, sen sijaan että olisin kovin idealistinen ja epäkäytännöllinen.

Ihannetapauksessahan teidän pitäisi harjoitella kappaletta suunnilleen kymmenen tuntia … [nauraa] … leikki leikkinä.

Eugene Birman


The power of Google.


Well, I met Nils [Schweckendiek] three years ago in Marseille. I don’t think he even mentioned the workshop but because I had a nice relationship with the choir already I thought actually if I apply for this I should never get in because I had already written for this choir – probably they shouldn’t take me. I sent Nils an email before I sent the application.

We know each other so there’s probably no chance for me to get into the workshop but I asked permission because I wasn’t sure if this was okay, even though it was anonymous.


That workshop was very useful for the piece I brought to the workshop, The State of the Union, so that I could get some feedback about so many things in that score. I tried to put as much in the two first movements that I brought to the workshop as possible to see… it’s like if you throw something at the wall, whatever sticks you keep and whatever falls down you start work on it.

That was very educational and nice and it definitely affected the rest of that piece.

And in terms of the piece that I wrote for the competition, that was quite a reaction to that earlier piece.

I think I wanted to write something rather different, rather sensitive, fragile, and kind of held back. I think I wanted to write something where the choir actually sang, some nice notes that communicated to the audience. I already knew that later on I would have a piece that’s completely crazy so this was a chance to do something more simple and elegant.

Something else about the whole experience you want to share with us?

Where is the rest, it’s just us? [laughs]

The blog, I mean.

I haven’t read the blog because I don’t read Finnish yet. I think working with the choir has been great, all the singers are good.



Internetistä. Tapasin kolme vuotta sitten Nils Schweckendiekin [HKK:n taiteellinen johtaja] Marseillessa, ja kuoro tuli esittäneeksi musiikkiani. Kilpailusta kuultuani kysyin häneltä varta vasten, saanko osallistua.


Kilpailuteokseni on hyvin erityyppinen ja asiallisempi verrattuna workshopin musiikkiini.

Raphaël Languillat


I heard about the competition on the internet. It seemed special because of its quality and structure. Finland struck me as exotic and I only was familiar with Sibelius.


My style has not changed during this time but I took another way into the competition piece. I finished the workshop piece later and started to study its elements. In other places this kind of piece would not have been possible. Compared to the opportunities around Frankfurt/Main where I study, this is luxurious because there you would mostly get operatic singers.


Kuulin kilpailusta internetistä. Se vaikutti laatunsa ja rakenteensa vuoksi erityiseltä. Suomi vaikutti minusta eksoottiselta, ja tunsin vain Sibeliusta.


Tyylini ei ole tänä aikana muuttunut, mutta omaksuin toisen reitin kilpailuteokseen. Päätin työpajan teoksen myöhemmin ja rupesin tutkimaan sen osasia. Muualla ei tällainen kappale olisi ollut mahdollinen. Verrattuna mahdollisuuksiin Frankfurt/Mainin seudulla, missä opiskelen, tämä on ylellisyyttä, koska siellä saisin käyttööni lähinnä oopperalaulajia.

Patiparn Jaikampan

Patiparn Jaikampan
I found this interesting – not just a competition but you have a chance to work with a choir. In my country [Thailand] there is not much of an opportunity to work like this. I have found calls for competitions in Europe and in the past I had to cancel my participation because of visa problems and felt sorry about that.

I have learned from the other participants and after the workshop I changed my vision about composing a lot, because in my country there isn’t anything…no good teachers. Here I learned a lot from the choir, the master composer [O.Adamek], friends, and also the conductor [N. Schweckendiek]

Kiinnostuin tästä – kyseessä ei ole vain kilpailu vaan on mahdollisuus työskennellä kuoron kanssa. Kotimaassani [Thaimaassa] ei ole paljon mahdollisuuksia tällaiseen. Olen törmännyt kilpailukutsuihin Euroopasta ja aiemmin jouduin peruuttamaan osallistumiseni viisumiongelmien myötä, mikä ei ollut miellyttävää.

Olen oppinut muilta osallistujilta ja työpajan jälkeen muutin paljonkin katsantoani säveltämiseen, koska kotimaassani ei ole mitään… ei hyviä opettajia. Täällä opin paljon kuorolta, sävellysten ohjaajalta [O.Adamek], ystäviltä ja myös johtajalta [N. Schweckendiek].

Matilda Seppälä


I got the information on the internet. I was living in Latvia at the time, studying with a choir-oriented teacher and wanted to compose for choir. I still had fond memories of Beat Furrer’s course (in July 2012).


I have learned about the flexibility of the voice. I also spent a lot of time pondering about choral textures. Complex harmonies are something preferrable and yet maintaining linearity – this is so different compared to instruments. Life is short and there are many sounds to write down.


Internetistä. Asuin Latviassa, opiskelin kuoroon erikoistuneella opettajalla ja halusin säveltää kuorolle. Beat Furrerin kurssi (heinäkuussa 2012) oli edelleen vahvasti muistissani.


Olen oppinut äänen fleksibiliteetistä. Käytin myös paljon aikaa kuorotekstuurien miettimiseen. Kompleksit harmoniat olisi hyvä olla ja silti lineaarista – se on niin erilaista kuin soittimilla. Elämä on lyhyt ja paljon ääniä kirjoitettavana.

The concert was held in the Viitasaari church on July 6th by the Helsinki Chamber Choir with a group of 16 singers led by conductor Nils Schweckendiek, and the results were announced immediately thereafter.

The audience prize was given to Raphaël Languillat. The first prize, along with a future composition commission, was given to Patiparn Jaikampan.

Final concert recording in Yle Areena (Finnish National Radio) until 5th of August

Konsertti pidettiin Viitasaaren kirkossa 6. heinäkuuta, esittäjänä Helsingin kamarikuoro 16 laulajalla ja Nils Schweckendiekin johtamana. Tulokset julkistettiin välittömästi esityksen jälkeen.

Yleisöpalkinto myönnettiin Raphaël Languillat’lle. Ensimmäisen sijan, sekä sävellystilauksen tulevaisuudessa, sai Patiparn Jaikampan.

Finaalikonsertin äänite kuunneltavissa Yle Areenassa 5. elokuuta saakka

Edit 24.8.2016: Lisätty jutun alkuun Soili Huhtakallion ajatuksia projektiviikolta. Lue Soilin taustoitusta myös alta.

“Olen osa projektia nimeltä Viitasaari De­mystification. Teen kaksivuotista hanketta yhteistyössä Korvat Auki -yhdistyksen ja muiden kanssataiteilijoiden kanssa tavoitteena jollain tavalla tavoittaa Viitasaarta ja antaa Viitasaaren tavoittaa meidät. Pyrkimys on purkaa taiteen mystisyyttä ja avata sen toimintatapoja ja historiaa, jotta taide ei tuntuisi etäiseltä tai kuppikuntaiselta, jotta sitä uskaltaisi tulla ihmettelemään, vaikkei siitä niin sanotusti mitään tietäisikään.

Kuulostaa erittäin hyvältä.

Ihmisillä on läpi olemassaolonsa ollut erilaisia tapoja käsitellä tuntemattomia ilmiöitä. Toisinaan vaikuttaa siltä, että tuntematonta halutaan selittää pois luomalla uutta tuntematonta, kuten esimerkiksi erilaisia uskomuksia siitä miten maailma on syntynyt. Tästä esimerkkinä ovat hiisitarinat, kristinusko tai vaikkapa Kalevala. Taiteella on vastaavanlainen tuntemattomuuksien kartoittamisen tehtävä yhteiskunnassa.

Taiteilija kouluttautuu ja harjoittautuu toimimaan tutun ja tuntemattoman välillä. Mutta kuten minkä tahansa muunkin ammatin harjoittaja, lähtee taiteilijakin perehtymään omaan alaansa yhä syvemmälle ja tulee tuntemaan perin pohjin oman alansa historian ja sen erilaiset tyylit ja tavat toimia. Tällöin se, mikä hänelle on tuttua tämän alan tavoissa järjestää maailmaa, ei enää välttämättä ole se sama yhteinen tuttu tapa esittää maailma, josta tiet peruskoulun jälkeen erosivat. Toinen lähti taiteen viitan suuntaan ja toinen äidinkielen ja sairaanhoidon, kolmas lain suuntaan. Ja vaikka palaisimme tuohon risteykseen vaihtamaan kuulumisia siitä millainen maailma on eri teiden varsilla, tulkitsisimme toistemme kertomuksia kuitenkin aina omien kokemuksiemme valossa. Ja koska taide muiden elämänalueiden tavoin pysyy itselleen ajankohtaisena vain edeten omasta historiastaan käsin kohti uusia teoksia ja keksintöjä, voi olla todella vaikea ymmärtää vuoden 2016 sävellystä tai koreografiaa, jos viettää koko elämänsä kuunnellen 200 vuotta sitten sävellettyä musiikkia tai katsellen koreografioitua tanssia. Toinen tapa jäädä etäälle taiteesta on pysyä taiteesta ylipäänsä kaukana ja pysyttäytyä kulttuurin niillä alueilla, jotka eivät varsinaisesti kysele päivänpolttavia aiheita tai pyri ravistelemaan ihmistä, vaan keskittyvät viihdyttävään ja joskus jopa turruttavaan vaikutukseen. Kummallakin on kiistaton paikkansa ihmisen elämässä – mutta ei pidä olettaa, jos itse viihtyy vain toisella alueella, että kaikki tekisivät samoin. Kuplia muodostuu aivan yhtä paljon sisäänpäin kääntymällä kuin ulos sulkemalla.”


Compiled and interviewed by Juhani VESIKKALA (also a member of Helsinki Chamber Choir performing the finalists’ works)

Koostanut ja haastatellut Juhani VESIKKALA (Helsingin kamarikuoron jäsen ja esittämässä finalistien teokset)

Ending the Autonomy of Musical Authorship

As a composer, artist, and writer I often dwell on the dissimilarity between these three seemingly connected fields. As it stands, there is one such difference which puzzles me more than any other; the composer’s relation to his or her own authorship. In comparison to our contemporaries in literature and art, composers seem hardwired to the belief that we should create work independently. Furthermore, many colleagues often express the same sentiment: being a composer is lonely! Following many isolated hours of working on a project alone, we take pride in seeing its title page bear our name.


But why is this the accepted norm of practice in our field?


It mostly has to do with its history and the development of compositional pedagogy. As the ‘virtuoso concert musician’ emerged in the 19th century, the disparity between the role of the composer and musician widened. Structurally the academy changed – there were those who performed and those who composed. Author and composer Charles Wuorinen reminds us in his book Simple Composition, that the aesthetic decisions and demands of a composer increased dramatically in the twentieth century. Following suit, the act of teaching composition became more independent than had been seen previously, and for the young pupil, this meant a self contained practice. As a violinist must practice hours each day, so too must a composer to develop his or her own artistic voice. In this way, it has become the norm to measure the worth of composer by their individual contributions.

Now I find myself questioning the importance of ‘my voice’ as it relates to the whole, the audience, and to the musical experience.

Currently, there is an increasing popularity with ergodic literature and cyber text for poets, playwrights, and novelists to revel in the freedom of limited control. Many have started groups to co-author whole works; each member being of equal importance to its outcome. In the field of Live Art, collaboration and codependency are cornerstones in its evolution as an academia. Ephemerality and body are inherently limiting, so then, such artist seek collaborators for the development of one coherent work. In composition, we are often eager to collaborate in interdisciplinary situations – for instance working with graphic artists, choreographers, or film directors. Yet few examples exist of compositional works which have uniquely blended two or more composers. Of the collaborative works that do exist, they are usually segmented with defined roles for each; “I’ll write the music if you orchestrate it”… “Let us write an opera – I’ll do the first and third acts if you can manage the second and the overture.”


Why is it that we as composers do not explore the possibility of working together?


Imagine this – you sit down to write and only hold yourself accountable for one singular musical phrase. You hum it. You notate it. Give it a quick mediation and then send it on its way. Your colleague receiving this plays it and without fixating proceeds with the next musical gesture. And so it goes, to and fro, until the work arrives at some mutually agreeable ending. Meeting for coffee you both edit, arguing terribly about how the work develops all wrong, and that the line on page five is just terrible. With an open mind you find common ground, the work synthesizes, and on the night of its premier two unique minds bow together without concern for individuality. United, you have done something we rarely see in composition; created a work from which emerges an entirely new voice.

Stephen WEBB (USA)

Chicago based composer, sound artist and writer having his exchange period in the Music Technology department at Sibelius Academy, Helsinki. Since spring 2016 a Korvat auki member.

Korvapuustis in Chicago

What is it like studying composition in the United States?

(written by Dante Thelestam)


Korvat auki member Dante Thelestam interviews two
of his colleagues at Chicago College of Arts, Michelle Isaac and Jordan Jenkins, to offer one view into the daily life of student composers in the USA. Accompanying the interview Dante, Michelle and Jordan
enjoy korvapuustis baked out of
strange Finlandia butter found in Chicago’s grocery stores.


You both started your graduate studies at CCPA this fall. What is it like being a composition student in Chicago?

Michelle: In general, it is a big change. I went to college in a small town in Minnesota where I was one of only two composition majors. I was a big fish in a small pond. Here I am a very, very tiny fish in a big ocean of opportunities and other composers. The first couple of weeks I was just overwhelmed: by what the standard was, what I was supposed to be doing, and everything… I was freaking out a little bit.

But now, day-to-day it’s mostly just: go to class, try to get all the work done for class, try to hit the deadlines for recitals, and find performers. That’s just life within school.

Jordan: I also went to a smaller school for college – it was in Wisconsin. This summer, after I graduated, I went to a big music festival – the Atlantic Music Festival – with something like forty composers. So coming here to CCPA, it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s bigger than my school, but smaller than what I experienced during the summer. I find it very cozy. It’s a very supportive network, I think.

As far as my daily life goes – I perform a lot less than when I was an undergrad. When I was in college I played in orchestra, and jazz band, and I played around town a lot, and I did a solo piano recital… Now I’ve virtually played nothing. Generally I just write.


There are a lot of different music universities in the US. How do you choose schools?

Michelle: I went far enough away for college that I knew I wanted to be a little closer to where I grew up for graduate-school. I basically applied to schools within the Midwest: UW-Madison, University of Minnesota and CCPA. I knew that during graduate studies you will be networking more and start establishing yourself as a professional. Chicago just seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Jordan: My situation was different because I went to college closer to home. For grad-school I knew I wanted to go somewhere farther away – a bigger city – with a larger music community.

I applied to a number of schools – and I got into Manhattan, Peabody and CCPA. My first choice was Peabody because I really liked the teachers there. I really wanted to go there, but they didn’t get me any money.

So the reason I went to CCPA was that I got a music theory assistantship which pays for a bunch of school. That is a big consideration when choosing schools – because you have to pay for school, and you have to take on all this debt. It’s virtually impossible to pay for all of it working on your own.

Michelle: I think unfortunately there’s just a general understanding in the US among young people that they will have student loans to pay off for years after their studies. You just have to accept it. And I know I will have to come to terms with that I’m not in an engineering program that guarantees a big pay check when I get out.

Jordan: If you think about the Unites States, with its heavy emphasis on individuality, entrepreneurship and the American dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, that applies across the whole culture, including music. There is not a lot of state support. You’re expected to be an entrepreneur, and we get a lot of that in our program. The business of composition. And all this corporate crap which has flown into almost every aspect of American life, including music and art. Which I’m not saying is a bad thing necessarily – but that’s how it is.


I get the impression that the schools are also very different – you have “top schools” and “small schools” etc. Do you recognize different types of schools?

Michelle: Definitely! In terms of top schools: those are the names that you recognize – like University of Michigan, Yale or Eastman. And I don’t know if this is true, but I get the impression that if you go there, the teachers have their own steady careers in composing, and: A) they will not be present enough for you to learn from them, or B) you will have to write in their style or else you are just wrong.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have these small schools which no-one’s ever heard of. And you’re thinking: “Are these even legitimate?” or “Is anyone going to care if I went to this school?”

CCPA to me was extremely appealing, because I did my research on Dr. Garrop and Dr. Choi, and I saw that their styles are very different. So I think researching the faculty is extremely important.

Jordan: My impression, from applying to some of those top schools, is that it isn’t really that you have to write in a certain style. I think though, that some of those schools favor a more academic style of composition, or are more receptive to whatever the main popular style is. It really depends on the specific institution, though.

Michelle: I don’t want to make any big general statements about this, but it was personally important for me that CCPA had female composers on their faculty – because it does a lot of times seem like a big boys’ club – and just knowing that these people are successful and they’ve found a way of navigating the system. That was important for me.


What is the future for you as a composer? What will happen after you graduate? Or what is your dream?

Jordan: Right after school I’m probably going to take a few years off, and think about doing a doctorate. Or maybe do a performance diploma. But I’ll definitely need take some time off first.

The goal is to support myself with composition. To be able to live. Not necessarily to be famous.

If I think about my career… My dream is to write concert music. The people that I like to emulate are composers like Ted Hearne or Kevin Puts – people who kind of challenge norms of contemporary music, or the classical canon, or whatever.

Sometimes when we are talking about the economics it can sound kind of bleak. But at the same time there are also a lot of musicians going through school that are in the same position as us. The institutional jobs of being in an orchestra are becoming very scarce. And that creates this need for them to find to find their own way. So there is actually quite a lot of opportunity.

Michelle: The dream is to have some sort of steady income. And while I’m doing that, continue to learn about different aspects of composing. I’m really interested in video game composing, or composing for indie films. And I’m also interested in the wind ensemble world in schools. And then I’m also interested in the music publishing world, and how that works. But ideally, I will be supporting myself by writing music, whether that is for games, or films, or schools.




A long-time Korvat member,

is studying for a Master’s degree in composition at the Sibelius-Academy. He is currently living in Chicago as an exchange student at Roosevelt University, CCPA.

Four Ways in Which the Robot is Surpassing the Human Composer

Music caters to people. Yet, does it also have to be created by people?

1. Humans are inclined to listen to human or even machine performers, less to connect with whoever organised the music

Listeners who are willing to hear current music should be motivated to listen because of the qualities that make it interesting and functioning music, not for the fact that it was made by a living composer, a person you know, or even by a human. Recent technological advances in artificial intelligence might find their way into several previously human enterprises, and perhaps music will not be spared from this. We all enjoy performing or listening to musicians perform, although we have in a sense delegated performance to machines already – I for one prefer hearing recordings to live performances. It happens with both that I sometimes listen inattentively, or miss details due to extraneous noise, yet with high quality recordings I can immerse in the moments I want.

What I see for the future is the next step of this automatisation tendency. If an audience is to appreciate music at all, it will not feel entitled to seeing a composer-demigod as part of the concert etiquette, but only to hearing good music. This is where composition machinery steps on stage, or rather, on the backstage. Different than a robotic vehicle lacking a network of crucial and complex human reflexes, when this machinery gets enough time to do its job and learns from feedback to its mistakes, the resulting compositions will become convincing. Since nobody can credibly claim ownership of machine-created compositions, the exchange of musical material will not be hindered by posthumous copyright or other bizarre considerations of possession or consumption. Likewise, the artificial distinction between folk and art music shows us that during tens of thousands of years of music making, humans have dealt comfortably with a blurred authorship.

2. Automation has kicked off long ago and might flood us with new compositions faster than ever

In many ongoing branches of automation and robotisation, development of artificial intelligence relies on the assumption that each creative algorithm in the human brain can be located, broken down and emulated inside circuits. Such early automation in notation software is already complementing human errors and deficiencies, even if a human has to be steering the computer’s actions and thus workforce is not completely freed.

Something to look for in the next generation of notation and composition software is a feature that learns and intelligently continues the music already typed in by the composer. This is based on the notion that new computer intelligence is capable of learning from mistakes and monitoring highly individualised rules and preferences of notation in supervised environments, much like an apprentice of a busy composer in the olden days.

If and when computer-generated music can no more be discerned from the best of human composers’ works, and when this quality and activity starts to surge, the costs of composing will drop, as will the amount of available grants. New high-quality works can be churned out at musicians at an alarming rate. That might counterintuitively soon account for an unwarranted inflation of and disengagement with any new music.
With immersion in psychoacoustics and brain scanning, perhaps even personally tailored listening experiences could save music from becoming omnipresent and thus impersonal. If new music fails to implement personalisation at such a stage, composed music (by humans or machines alike) had better disappear completely.

3. Within the revolution of employment in the arts, music will come out more diverse

During the next two decades as many as 35 percent of jobs, estimates vary, might vanish in favour of robotisation. [] Jobs that more directly address issues peculiariar to humanity will prevail; also humans in jobs in which communication skills and a mindset of consultation, sharing, as well as originality of thinking are needed. Only some of these apply to conventional human composing. Knowing the age-old myth of composers equaling male hermits, all of these traits also interestingly happen to lie decisively outside what has been called hegemonic masculinity. To comprehend this, one need only think how relatively few human composers from any minority group have been and will be given the early opportunities and representation to develop to be good composers. During a stage of human–machine transition, such monolithic concepts of composer geniuses will crumble while composers other than light-skinned middle-aged cis-males are gradually being presented and taken more seriously. Machines are a threat to composers’ identity politics, since machines don’t buy into notions of fixed compositional style, nationality or gender.

In short, depersonalisation of composition is a cause for everyone who wishes the most surprising and positive results for music and not necessarily for the continuity of composership as it is known today. We living composers have to prepare for this distant but possible scenario.

4 a. It is cost-efficient to have robots compose for us and refine themselves while at it

The conventional route of bringing a composer through intense education or trial-and-error to artistic maturity and social significance is a costly enterprise. The limitations of a composer’s brain can be overcome in more traditional ways, not just with computer-aided composition. Just like the early works in the Western(ised) classical tradition were created and refined in simple collectives of chorister-composers, more and more composers seem to have access to such fruitful collaboration – even though they seldom have previous hands-on expertise on even all common instruments, of which there now are simply too many to master. Is any number of hours of musical experience worth paying for if there were a miraculous way to teach all of it to a composer robot in a minute?

….on the other hand… 4 b. There’s still hope for human composers at least as maintenance staff for composer robots

Future people deserve the music that helps their lives in the best possible way. To create an enjoyable, functional or effective piece of music, one should no more rely on just one brain, however genius it may seem. The interpretation and delivery of that work is still best left to human musicians, though. Attempts at entire computer-generated compositions have thus far been either uninteresting or disturbing to hear for that reason, especially in the absence of human performers. We will perhaps never know even how to bridge the perceptual gap between electronic music and the acoustic one.

Despite point 1, humans are looking for at least a tiny fingerprint of humanity speaking back to them, even if the mediating score was created by a machine. If the machine cannot feign that, audiences will revert to human composers.

I clearly don’t encourage robotisation of composition at the cost of more relevant fields such as surgery, genetics, environment, rescue, interconnectivity, transport, or food production. Evolution has made human brains quite the optimal apparatus for creating art (and teaching it to robots), after all. By any account, entire or partial robotisation in the field of the arts will happen in the distant future, if at all.

Meanwhile, all fellow composers should keep up the good work surpassing computer-created music – we might be living the last of viable times.

Juhani VESIKKALA (Helsinki, FI)

Composer etc., secretary of Ears Open.

A Composer’s Self-Help Manual For Inclusion

(written by Lauri Supponen)

Today is a good day to think about the worth of composers’ work.

It’s vappu, the Nordic festival for higher education at universities and vocational schools and a celebration of work. Worth celebrating is also the fact that Helsinki University has employed a composer at the Musicology department for 376 years. Last Thursday, their work was no longer required. The longest standing incubator of composers in this country has gone cold [1]. By rummaging through the lively Facebook discussion of Lyytikäinen’s poignant statement, you may find an English translation. I apologize that I cannot present translations of all the citations in this text.

I would also propose a toast for the artists that have occupied official events with speeches that create pressure on the ruling classes, notably the writer Laura Lindstedt and composer Kalevi Aho. They have extended their working desk to include their larger environment, and have been noticed. I hope there will be many more.

Let me attempt to join them. Not to be noticed. I get enough attention by dressing up in stripy tights even when it isn’t vappu. But to provoke thought.

While studying composition in London, a subject that we discussed among teachers and colleagues was the notion that composers have a social function in the world. Other than as contributors to musical creation or to the contemporaneity of the arts. The notion was very simply based in advocating listening.

A key looming figure behind this topic (apart from Cage) is Pauline Oliveros. In her recent presentation of the concept of deep listening, she sends out a striking invitation: ’To take a moment, now, to notice what you are hearing and to expand your listening to continually include more’. To continually include more. I find the juxtaposition of the acts of listening and inclusion beautiful. In the same speech, she also brought together ’listening’ and ’happiness’ [2].

I’m going to follow a tangent here. Oliveros’ concern is primarily with the sonic environment and the enhanced connection that the listener can have with it. I would like to build on that to seek how this connection could be applied to other areas. For instance, I find somewhat dreamlike comfort in the aspiration, that listening could be a carrier of inclusion and happiness. And that as a composer, I may have the possibility to be part in its realization.

What are the possibilities here? How can composers deal with the concept of inclusion in their writing? Could there be compositional applications? What good would it do?

I would argue that inclusion, at best, works to neutralize fear of difference. When someone or something comes across as being fundamentally different to you, digging deeper to find a common ground, a common fundamental, works to neutralize intimidation that might ensue.

There are substantial social issues at hand that require solutions. Underlying many of them is an irrational fear of difference.

Even within the welfare-state bubble that is Finland, the practice of inclusion is faltering. Finns strike to me as a quiet people with a great capacity to listen. Yet when they are faced with something or someone different, they never fail to point it out loud, and will only reluctantly give an ear to reasons not to be intimidated. Sometimes this takes on the cloak of humour, and goes unnoticed. Many are afraid, and tabloid newspapers feast on their guts and wallets. The world is overtly divided into the homeland and foreign lands.

Why am I so concerned about what a composer can do about this?

Fighting to overcome the fear of difference is one that one cannot delegate. By voting in a tolerant member of parliament, you are not yourself tolerant. Consequently voting a racist into power doesn’t necessarily make you racist. The responsibility to join the fight to neutralize fear of difference, and turn it into empathy and love, remains with you personally.

Writing music and advocating listening are interchangeable activities. They are close enough to be called the same. They project differently though. In advocating listening, a composer is by definition opening up to others, whereas writing music can be a solitary activity.

Perhaps this attitude could add to our work. The desk stays the same. I’m happy with my red lamp from Kierrätyskeskus, I don’t need to change that. I can still keep modeling my formal design with kids’ building blocks and work with five lines to the stave. But I could call my activity advocating listening. I expect interesting things to follow from this change.


You have now done your days work. Or maybe you are having an extended lunch-hour. If your avant-garde composition still can’t express your version of your involvement in the fight for inclusion, make it a daily routine to write, speak, show your solidarity, go to a demonstration, occupy a racist or callous space and make it embracing and warm.

In short, participate.


composer and founding member of Korvat auki ensemble. Korvat activist since 2011. Chairperson of Ung Nordisk Musik Finland.


Pauline Oliveros on the Difference Between Hearing and Listening


[1] After the blog text of composer Pasi Lyytikäinen Avoin kiitoskirje Helsingin yliopistolle, published on 28th April 2016.
[2] After Pauline Oliveros On The Difference Between Hearing And Listening, a talk organized by TEDx Indianapolis, October 20th 2015

ISCM World Music Days –festivaalilla koettua

(kirjoittanut Jouni Hirvelä)

Reporting from the recent ISCM festival in Tongyeong, KOR

Useimmille kollegoille kirjainyhdistelmä ISCM – eli International Society of Contemporary Music – lienee tuttu ainakin jokavuotisesta teoshausta, joka Suomen Säveltäjien postituslistan kautta kolahtaa sähköpostilaatikkoon. Muuten ISCM World Music Days – festivaalin tunnettuus taitaa olla aika heikkoa, ja syy tähän on ilmeinen: sen luonteesta johtuva juurettomuus. Joka vuosi eri maassa järjestettävän festivaalin konsepti on samankaltainen kuin Pohjoismaisilla Musiikkipäivillä tai Ung Nordisk Musikissa sillä erotuksella, että osallistujamaita on huomattava määrä ja otanta paljon kansainvälisempi. Musiikkia esitetään yhteensä yli 50 maasta.

Tämänvuotinen World Music Days järjestettiin 28.3. – ­1.4. Tongyeongissa Etelä­–Koreassa, jonne lennähdin muutamiksi päiviksi lähes suoraan hiihtolomalta. Tongyeong on maan eteläkärjen pieni satamakaupunki, jonka rantaravintolat tarjoavat eksoottisia antimia, mutta jossa ei kuvittelisi järjestettävän laajaa nykymusiikkifestivaalia. Kaupungissa on kuitenkin yllättävän hyvä konserttisali – ­ja näköjään myös yleisöpohja. Tähän vaikuttaa varmasti tausta maailmalla arvostetuimman korealaissäveltäjä Isang Yunin kotikaupunkina sekä Tongyeong International Music Festival (TIMF), jonka kylkeen ISCM oli tänä vuonna järjestetty.

Festivaalin yleisilmettä rasitti hieman yksipuolisuus kaikkien konserttien keskittyessä saman rakennuksen kahteen saliin, mikä yhdistettynä pienemmän salin tunkkaiseen kamarimusiikille sopimattomaan akustiikkaan alkoi muutaman päivän jälkeen puuduttaa. Nykyään lähes jokaiseen festariin kuuluvia myöhäisillan underground-­tapahtumia ei ollut lainkaan. Ei myöskään voinut havaita sellaista kaupungin ja festivaalin yhdessä hengittämistä kuin vastikään Tampere Biennalessa, jossa tapahtuma hienosti jalkautui kaupungin kollektiiviseen tietoisuuteen. Tätä hieman sisäänpäinkääntynyttä asetelmaa kuitenkin korvasivat säveltäjien hyvä yhteishenki ja monet keskustelut – joita ehkä virikkeiden rajoittuneisuus oli omiaan vahvistamaan. Sosiaalinen aspekti, eri puolilta maailmaa tulleiden omanikäisten säveltäjien sekä kokeneiden kehäkettujen ja musiikkimaailman vaikuttajien tapaaminen olikin itselleni ehkä tapahtuman parhainta antia.

Avajaiskonsertissa, jonka ohjelmassa oma orkesterikappaleeni Vuolle oli, ilahdutti muusikoiden omistautuminen. Japanilaisen Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawan ja Christopher Leen energiaa, muusikkoutta, ja kiitettävää tarkkuutta oli huojentavaa seurata vaikka sain kuulla vain kenraaliharjoituksen ennen konserttia. Myös hyvin soiva, vaikkakin tyylillisesti turvallisen perinteinen kuorokonsertti vakuutti korealaisen kuorotradition elinvoimaisuudesta.

Innostavia olivat myös Hong Kong New Music Ensemblen kaksi konserttia ilmeikkään Sharon Andrea Choan johtamina. Vaikutuksen teki unkarilaisen Balázs Horváthin kamariorkesteriteos Fragmenti v “Ja gulyala veselo”, jossa venäläisen kansanlaulun hauraat fragmentit oli kiedottu kiehtoviin soinnillisiin pysäytyskuviin ja kontrapunktisiin kudelmiin. Mieleen jäi myös Annie Hui­-Hsin Hsiehin herkkä ja intensiivinen Into the Outer,jossa jousten narahdukset ja kilinät hengittivät kvartetin ja sitä ympäröivän jousiensemblen välillä. Konsepteiltaan melko perinteisessä tarjonnassa persoonallisuudellaan erottui irlantilaisen Nick Rothin ekologisesti virittynyt Woodland Heights, joka festivaalin ainoana teoksena hyödynsi performatiivisia elementtejä. Jousisoitinten scordaturien paikoin hyvin korkeista luonnollisista huiluäänistä ja lehtien rapistelusta koostuva teos päättyi multaa kuopsuttaviin lapion ääniin alttoviulistin istuttaessa pienen puun lavan edessä olevaan ruukkuun.

Changwonin filharmonian konsertti puolestaan ei onnistunut täysin sytyttämään minua. Omiin korviini turhan prosessiivinen korealaisen Yejune Synnin Zoetrope kuitenkin vakuutti juryn, ja säveltäjä pokkasi ISCM:n nuorten säveltäjien palkinnon. Positiivisista kokemuksista mainittakoon vielä viime vuonna Jean Sibelius ­-sävellyskilpailussakin pärjänneen argentiinalaisen Francisco del Pinon kaunis ja monitasoinen sooloselloteos Lágrimas, joka oli valopilkku muuten melko väsähtäneessä TIMF ensemblen konsertissa.

Tarjontaan kuului myös kolme ääni-­ ja videoinstallaatiota, joista erityisen vaikutuksen teki kiinalaisen Hui Yen pieni ääniveistos. Pieneen lasipurkkiin moottorin ja magneettien avulla putoilevat neulat muodostivat hiljaisen ja ihastuttavan tihkusateen. Matka-aikataulujen vuoksi missasin harmikseni muun muassa elektronisen musiikin konsertin ja ranskalaisen 2e2m ­ensemblen esiintymisen, jotka kenties olisivat tuoneet lisää tyylillistä varianssia kokonaisuuteen.

Sain myös tilaisuuden kurkistaa kulissien taakse, sillä edustin Suomen Säveltäjiä aamupäivisin pidetyissä ISCM:in pitkissä kokoussessioissa. ISCM:a siivittävät sellaiset eurooppalaiset arvot kuten tasa-­arvo ja avoimuus: jäsenjärjestöjä on jo yli 60, mutta silti missiona on yhä laajentua ja saada entistä kattavampi otos maailman taidemusiikista. Sinänsä sympaattisen ideologian hintana ovat tietysti organisaation jäykistyminen ja kulujen kasvu. Festivaali onkin järjestäjämaalta iso taloudellinen panostus, ja on pieni ihme, että se joka vuosi onnistuu. Ensi vuonna vastuun ottaa Kanadan Montreal, sen jälkeen vuorossa on Peking ja vuonna 2019 suomalaisittain kiinnostavasti Tallinna. Suomessa festivaali on viimeksi ollut ainoastaan vuonna 1978, jolloin se järjestettiin yhdessä Tukholman kanssa.

Ilmassa oli myös toivetta siitä, että ISCM olisi myös muuta kuin World Music Days. Siis että jäsenjärjestöt käyttäisivät verkostoa hyväkseen kulttuurivaihdon edistämiseksi. Jotkin maat ovatkin toteuttaneet kahdenvälisiä yhteistyöprojekteja kuten konsertteja, joissa säveltäjien teoksia esitetään vastavuoroisesti kummassakin maassa. Kenties nämä tuulet vielä rantautuvat Suomenkin musiikkielämää rikastuttamaan.


Viime vuosina luottamustehtävissä mm. Korvat auki –hallituksessa ja UNM Helsinki 2015 –toimikunnassa.

Tampere Biennale innosti ja raotti äänirajoja

Korvat auki ensemble koskikeskuksessa.







Ääni-installaatio keskustorin puissa.










(kirjoittanut Niilo Tarnanen)


A reportage from the recent Tampere Biennale festival

Kokemukseni 13.4.–17.4.2016 teemalla Äänirajoilla järjestetystä Tampere Biennale -festivaalista oli hyvin inspiroiva. Sami Klemolan ensimmäinen kausi nyt 30 vuotta täyttäneen festivaalin taiteellisena johtajana kantoi satoa avoimuutena paitsi äänelle yli totunnaisesti musiikkina pidetyn, myös muiden taiteiden suuntaan. Mukana oli äänitaidetta, performanssia, sirkusta, elokuvaa – yhdistyksemme hengen mukaista usea-alaista toimintaa siis!

Katsaukseni festivaaliin on voimakkaan subjektiivinen ja sattumanvaraisesti valikoitunut. Viidestä päivästä olin läsnä vain kolmena ja niinäkin osallisuuteni sisällöntuotantoon rajoitti yleisössä oloani.

Sain kunnian olla yksi festivaalin kahdesta tilaussäveltäjästä elektronimuusikko-kuvataiteilija Jan Anderzénin alias Tomutontun ohella. Teokseni Holliday Junction (2015) käyrätorvelle, harpulle, kitaralle ja sampler keyboardille korkkasi keskiviikkona festivaalin avajaiskonsertin, johon Rank Ensemble oli koonnut elektroniikan ja improvisaation hyödyntämiseen painottuvan ohjelman.

Avajaiskonsertin virkistävimpään hämmennykseen minut saattoi kuitenkin Tim Pagen varsin näyttämöllinen Toipilas (2016), jossa elektroniikka ei ollut läsnä lainkaan, vaan ääntä tuotettiin muun muassa siirtelemällä vettä ruiskulla lasista toiseen, raahaamalla pilleripurkkia harpun sisällä, puhaltamalla ilmapalloja käyrätorven suukappaleella ja vemputtamalla täysiä ilmapalloja vatsaa vasten. Iltayhdeksältä kävin kadottamassa ajantajuni Vanhassa kirkossa, jossa Pink Twins ja Antti Tolvi amalgamoivat elektroniikkaa ja urkuja vavisuttavasti, ennen kuin suuntasin juhlimaan kantaesitystäni.

Perjantaina ja lauantaina olin puolestaan maisemissa Korvat auki ensemblen laulaja-fagotistina ja pienoiskeikkabussin kuskina. Olimme nähneet vaivaa kaupallisiin sisätiloihin ympäri Tampereen keskustaa levittäytyvien flash mob -henkisten nykymusiikki-iskujemme aikatauluttamisessa niin, että ehtisimme nauttia mahdollisimman paljon muusta ohjelmasta. Silti pitkittynyt parkkipaikan etsiminen vei minulta puolet Ensemble Adapterin ja defunensemblen yhteiskonsertista, jota olin kovasti odottanut, ja muitakin osittaismissauksia sattui.

Siitä, mitä ehdin kuulla, jäi päällimmäiseksi vakuuttuneisuus tiukan autonomiaestetiikan kuolemasta. Jotakuinkin kaikki, mikä puhutteli riittävästi kohotakseen muun ylle aamusta iltaan jatkuvassa musiikillisessa vyöryssä, oli paitsi aistillisesti myös käsitteellisesti kiehtovaa. Useissa tapauksissa käsitteellisyys oli jollain tapaa yhteiskunnallista.

Olen viime vuosina käynyt skeptiseksi sen suhteen, voiko teollis-militaristis-kapitalistis-populistis-monarkistis-totalitaristista suurta sinfoniaorkesteria enää käyttää minkään ajankohtaisen välineenä. Tähän epäilyyni Antti Auvinen löi nyt Tampere Filharmonian kantaesittämällä Himmel Punkillaan vielä suuremman lommon kuin viimevuotisella Junker’s Twistillään. Himmel Punk (2016) oli provokatiivisen rujo mutta samalla ihanan kaunis kuin kellotapuliksi naamioitu pystyssä sojottava keskisormi, jonka kynteen on huolella lakattu muutama raipanisku ja avemaria. Mihin keskisormi tarkalleen osoittaa, se jäi konserttikuulijan itse pääteltäväksi, mutta juuri tämä on aikamme yhteiskunnallisesti kantaa ottavan musiikin vahvuuksia. Hyvä musiikki herättää ajattelemaan, sanelemaan se ei sorru.

Ajatuksia herätti myös Perttu Haapasen kantaesitys Lost Boys (2016) viululle, elektroniikalle ja videolle, joka oli osa performatiivisesti hienoa Maria Puusaaren sooloviuluresitaalikonserttia runonlausuntoineen ja ritualistisine lavallesaapumisineen. Videokuva veitsen nitkuttelusta eläinfiguurien päällä olisi itselleni yleensä täysin luotaantyöntävää, mutta asettui nyt onnistuneen annostelun vuoksi osaksi esteettisesti ja narratiivisesti kutkuttavaa kudosta.

Annostelu ja rytmitys eivät sen sijaan täysin toimineet Stefan Prinsin sinänsä jännässä teoksessa Generation Kill -offspring 1 (2012) konsolipeliohjaimin ohjatulle videolle ja elektroniikalle, sekä sellolle ja lyömäsoittimille. Mainitun päätösteoksen pitkänpuoleiseksi demonstraatioksi äitymisestä huolimatta belgialaisen Nadar Ensemblen koreografisoitu konsertti oli uskomattoman hieno audiovisuaalinen kokonaiskokemus, yhtä aivonkääntötemppua alusta loppuun. Erityisesti sekä näyttämöllisesti että äänellisesti palindromin muotoinen Michael Beilin Mach Sieben (2000) mykisti minut geneerisen tummasta yleiskarakteristaan huolimatta. Elisa Medinilla soitti yhtaikaa peilimäisesti asetetulla valkokankaalla näkyvän nauhoitetun rapukäännöksensä kanssa! En aina innostu formalismista, mutta kun innostun…

Lopuksi haluan vielä todeta, että jos olitte Tampereella tuolla viikolla mutta ette käyneet katsomassa säveltäjä-kuvataiteilija Kalle Aution ja hänen pianonvirittäjäopiskelutoveriensa riemastuttavaa pianonpurkuinstallaatiota Tampereen Taidemuseossa – voi teitä!


Kirjoittaja on säveltäjä ja Korvat auki ry:n puheenjohtaja.

Composers’ networking and fandom – Japanese style

(written by Mioko Yokoyama)

Hello everyone, I’m Mioko. I moved from Tokyo, Japan to Helsinki last autumn. I have to confess that I don’t know very much about Korvat auki, but while Japan is still very fresh in my mind, I would like to compare Finnish composers with Japanese ones in terms of how they organize themselves professionally.

Firstly, I have a quite good impression of Korvat auki. Since there is no association like this in Japan, young composers hold that they are still children who are being protected by “adult” composers, and so, do not acquire much experience in working independently or promoting their own music.

In my opinion, it would be difficult to establish even a single composers’ association in Tokyo despite it having nearly ten schools of art or music. This is partly because of the shyness of us Japanese. I was a typical student, I focused on my studying without thinking of setting up an association like Korvat auki.

Adult composers, however, enjoy wide social networks, many of which overlap although these, too, can be quite limited insofar as that these groups sometimes consist solely of students of a single teacher; for example, Apsaras, 21th Century Music Association, Avance, etc. These groups have their own concerts at least once a year, it seems the main difference is the teacher who the members in these groups studied with.

Three possible reasons for Japan’s lack of young composers’ associations are:

Japan has 20 times the population than Finland’s (120,000,000 inhabitants). This means that there are a lot of people who have different opinions, so it is difficult to meet and reach a single consensus.
In Japanese culture, it is expected that young people respect their elders. I never imagined calling teachers by their first names before coming to Finland. In school, we use respectful expressions for those who are even only one year older. Conversely, we use casual expressions with those who are even slightly younger. This culture derives from Confucianism. So because of this, young people (not limited only to composers) tend to be strongly influenced by their teachers.
If you are a fan of one composer, you should go to their compositional concerts so as to “connect” with their social network, and perhaps hear some music that matches your aesthetic values! Although, sometimes, these associations organise only one single concert a year.
This is the case in Japan, yet I really like Korvat auki’s approach – that young composers actively organize concerts, with the support of older composers.

Special thanks to my composer friends in Japan, and Criostóir Ó Loingsiġ, who helped me with my English!

Mioko YOKOYAMA (Helsinki FI / JP)

Composer, since autumn 2015 a Korvat auki member

How Finnish music sounds to a foreigner

(written by Matei Gheorghiu)

Many might know that I came to Finland eight and a half years ago. Even though I got used to contemporary and classical Finnish music, I can still recall very well the first impressions I had on it when I came here back in 2007. Before I came, I had heard music by Lindberg, Aho and Kokkonen and of course, Sibelius. But what made it sound ”Finnish”? After only one year, I had already discovered some aspects of Finnish music that, to me, make it sound authentic and ”endemic”. Of course, by then and even more afterwards, my knowledge on Finnish music has expanded.

Here I will try briefly to point out 5 aspects of Finnish contemporary music that make it Finnish from the eyes of a foreigner from Romania. There are clearly lots of other features that could be mentioned, but I will point out the ones that seem the most interesting from my point of view. Of course, not all pieces have all these features. However, most Finnish pieces tend to have 2–3 of them.

Here they are:

1) Music must flow like water

No matter what, Finnish composers don’t like to stop much. You will not see Messiaen or Stravinsky–like pieces made of blocks or unrelated sections. There are rarely any fermatas that end sections followed by new beginnings. And of course, the music is always related to the previous material. Clear continuity is the key.

2) Processualism = good music

An extension of the previous section, the idea that a composer has the craft to make very smooth changes from one material to another is very catchy and considered appealing by both composers and listeners. Ligeti would have been happy to have been a Finn.

3) Music rarely truly rests

Finnish people might be shy, or might not talk much, but when they compose they like their music to be restless. For example, even if the piece is slow, with low dynamics, and static, there are still some 16-notes lurking somewhere in the background. I would actually say that often Finnish music is more fiery than cold from this point of view.

4) Finns love the low register

I remember a teacher of mine saying back home that a good composer knows when to take the heavy bass instruments out and give space to the middle and higher registers. However, many Finnish pieces rely heavily on bass and much less on the higher register. Of course, this is not a general rule, but I find it quite common. Might this be related to the love for heavy metal here in the North? When I first heard Sampo Haapamäki’s bass clarinet concerto, I was shocked that the low register was used without a break for over 20 minutes. I told him that. Later, I realized he’s not alone.

5) Even when emotional, keep distance

One thing that fascinated me about Sibelius as a teenager was that, unlike many romantic composers, he manages to bring powerful and moving moments without you feeling that he’s telling you too much about himself. I feel this is what mostly the rest of the music by Finnish composers sounds like as well; deep, profound, but keeping a lot of dignifying mystery is preferred.

If I didn’t convince you, I hope at least I made you think, or smile.


Matei GHEORGHIU ( Helsinki FI / RO)

Composer, vice chairperson for Ears Open