About my sound installation Lintukoto (Isle of Bliss) 2018

Lintukoto (Isle of Bliss) 2018, kindly commissioned by the Tampere Biennale contemporary music festival, Finland is my 14th sound installation. It was premiered in an exhibition at the Art Gallery Borderline (Rajatila), Tampere, Finland between March 31st and April 17th 2018.

An installation is a site-specific art work, built for example into an art gallery or a public space, which takes into account the unique circumstances of that certain space. An installation can consist of items, structures and media elements such as videos, sound and light.

Sound installations are often innovative works from the borderline between music, sound art and the visual arts, thus belonging to the diverse field of experimental art and music. Sound installations can often involve elements from the other arts, most typically perhaps from the visual arts.

Wy am I interested in making sound installations? Well, perhaps I could take the easy road and say: “Well, because I’ve been commissioned to!”, but the more essential answers are that I’ve been for a long time intriqued by the concept of a sound installation and that my mind tends to produce ideas for different sound installations. What is then the basic concept of a sound installation? For me it’s the virtual acoustic space created by loudspeakers. It’s somehow immensely exciting and fascinating when loudspeakers are put into a space to emit sound which has been designed, compiled or composed for that specific space. The reality changes! The sound work coming out from the loudspeakers creates its own artificial acoustic space, within and in between the real acoustics of that space; these blend together in an unique way, which can be enjoyed only by actually going there, by being there. The experience of the uniqueness and momentariness of existence is densified.

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My sound installation Lintukoto (Isle of Bliss) on the dark, stark lower ground floor of the Art Gallery Borderline (see above) consists of two active loudspeakers placed on sculpture podium stands fed by a media player looping the 11-minute stereo sound track composed by me. There is a sofa in front of the loudspeakers, on which the visitor can listen to the work as long as she or he pleases. In the otherwise darkened room, the sofa and the loudspeaker podiums are illumenated with spotlights. I’ve written a kind of a program note for the visitors (in Finnish), in form of graphic poetry. More than that I choose not to explain the content of the work, because I wish to allow the joy of discovery to the visitors – an important element of sound installations and in contemporary art in general.

Listen to the soundtrack of Lintukoto.

See the program note of Lintukoto (in Finnish).

My earlier sound installations include:

  • Virralla (On the River) 1991, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Art Gallery Laterna Magica, Helsinki, Finland
  • La Peau – La Peu (The Skin) 1994, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Art Gallery Laterna Magica, Helsinki, Finland
  • Ylös vai alas? (Up or Down?) 1996 for the elevator of the Sibelius Academy R-building, Helsinki, Finland
  • Sisään vai ulos? (In or Out?) 1996 for the entrance of Den Anden Opera, Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of Ung Nordisk Musik festival
  • Poissa/Läsnä (Absent/Present) 1997, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Joensuu City Art Museum, Finland
  • Estetty katse (Forbidden Gaze) 1998 sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the South Karelian Art Museum, Lappeenranta, Finland
  • Being Misplaced 2002, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the The Finnish Museum of Photography, Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland
  • Vasara, alasin, jalustin (Hammer, anvil, stirrup) 2005 at Iiris, centre for the visually impaired, Helsinki
  • Katoamisia (Disappearances) 2006, 8-speaker sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Hyvinkää City Art Museum, Finland
  • Råtta (The Rat) 2006, co-composed with Kalev Tiits, sound landscape for sculpture made of cane, designed by architect Mia Bungers and built by the Sokeva artisans at the Helsinki Design Week -event at the Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland
  • Janne (2006) at the Järvenpää city center promenade 70-meter canope sound system, Finland
  • Okeanos (2014), collaboration with the IC-98 -artists group for the Turku Vartiovuori Historical Observatory, Finland
  • Suokukon paluu (Return of the Ruff) 2017, sound landscape for a video installation by Tuula Ahvenvaara at the Art Gallery AVA, Helsinki.
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About the Site-Specific Sound and Light Installation Okeanos (2014)

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The site-specific sound and light installation Okeanos (2014) was made for Vartiovuori Observatory, built in Turku, Finland, in 1819, which later served as a Naval Academy (1836–1967). In the building, navigation is intertwined with the cosmos, scientific and political power with mythology. The work treats the observatory as a Northern watchtower, as well as a lighthouse, with their undertones of colonialism and of the current flows of migration.

The installation occupied the top-floor rotunda, along with a polyphonic soundscape, an adaptation of a Finnish folk song Kun minä kotoani läksin (When I forsook my home). In the darkened space the zodiac sign for Scorpio – one of the twelve signs depicted in the circular frieze – was illuminated.

The sound landscape of Okeanos is presenting the following theme and atmosphere: on the Mediterranean Sea, on a sinking boat with a broken engine, there is a group of refugees having been trying to get to Europe. They have realized that they will soon die, either by drowning or by shark attacks. The sound landscape consists of sounds recorded and gathered by me such as wooden creaks of the boat, turbulences and splashes of the water having leaked into the boat, noises and rumbles of the high sea waves, humming and whining of the wind against the boat’s structures  – and of recorded vocal materials, either whispered, spoken, cried or sung.

The mentioned folk song is heard every now and then as such, but I also deconstructed its melody and lyrics into their bare elements and derived from these new syllables, new four-note chord glissando successions and new simple melodic motifs and composed with them. The density of events is slow and the mood is desperate, however on the other hand somewhat spiritual.

No special sound processing was used in mixing the sound landscape, to gain an illusion of a natural sound image, which is then hugely echoed by ca 4 second reverb in the unique acoustics of the big 15-meter-diameter and 6-meter-high observatory dome. Two loudspeakers and the light projector (actually a video projector playing a fluctuating white screen video file to mimic a dynamic light spot) were installed in the middle of the dome two thirds up to the elegant steel spiral stairway.

The work is related to Oikoumene (Greek: οἰκουμένη, oikouménē, lit. “inhabited”), in which a fortress surrounded by an ocean stands for Europe. In ancient Greek it referred to the known world, the inhabited world, or the habitable world. Under the Roman Empire, it came to refer to civilization and the secular and religious imperial administration. Our installation Okeanos focuses attention on the individual tragedies taking place now on the Mediterranean.

First presentation took place between December 12th 2014 and January 11th 2015 as part of a group exhibition entitled On the Blue Planet, produced by The Artists’ Association of Finland and curated by Marketta Haila .

Concept and visualisation: IC-98
Music and sound design: Max Savikangas
Choral conducting: Nils Schweckendiek
Singers of The Helsinki Chamber Choir:
Heta Kokkomäki, soprano, Nairi Azezian, mezzosoprano, Martti Anttila, tenor and Jouni Rissanen, bass
Recording: Pekka Mikael Laine

Listen to the recording of Okeanos

 

 

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Max Savikangas, composer

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I enjoy contemporary music with its constantly renewing challenges, improvising, listening to the world, experimenting with sounds—and composing. As a composer-musician I have wanted to expand the means of expression of my own instrument Viola with new playing techniques and experimental live-electronics, which has led to studying these possibilities of other instruments as well. The seeds of my compositions often emerge as a result of (instru)mental improvisation, of savouring all kinds of sound events of the world and of tentative computer sound processing experiments. As a rule, some of these spontaneous ideas thus found begin to lead a life of their own in my mind, ending up as the points of departure for my written-out and/or media compositions.

I believe that timbre in contemporary music is equal to melody, harmony and rhythm and it should be understood as an umbrella term, covering all components of a sound event. At best, different hoots, wails, hisses, gushes, whispers, crackles and buzzes are by no means effects or seasoning added afterwards to the music, but they are an organic and sensual part of expression, which is further expanded by the virtual acoustic space created by means of sound processing and amplification.

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