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 my composition Azonal for viola and ensemble (2015-16)

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My composition Azonal for viola and 12-member ensemble (2015-16) was premiered in the Klang Concert Series in 8th of April 2016 at the Helsinki Music Centre, Sonore Hall by Uusinta Ensemble , conducted by József Hárs and me as the Viola soloist.

The title Azonal (without zones) refers to the type of musical form of the piece; transitions between different musical materials occur without clear boundaries or cuts between them.

The solo part utilizes extended playing techniques and sounds resulting, such as circular bowing, whisked whistle, glissando repetition and rumble, which the 12-member ensemble reflects – not as effects added afterward, but as an integral part of musical expression.

By the end of the piece there is a solo cadenza, which can be also performed as a separate solo viola piece under the title Azonal Advice (which is actually an anagram with the letters in the words Viola Cadenza). I composed this piece already in 2009 with the intention that it would be later integrated into as a cadenza of a concertante work for viola and ensemble. The cadenza is not fully written out, but utilizes the Directed Modular-Transformative Improvisation Technique developed by me. Including improvisation means, I hope, that each performance will be somewhat different, which might help the piece to stay fresh and interesting over several performances.

Azonal brings the Viola into the spotlight in a new way, as a vital and potent solo instrument of its own right. I dare to claim that the solo part is absolutely idiomatically written for the Viola – it is not at all as difficult to play as it may sound! I also hoped that Azonal would give the listeners a novel, imaginative, energizising and positive musical experience. And indeed, the premiere was welcomed very warmly and enthusiastically by the audience and it also received a positive review in the Finnish press.

The second performance of Azonal took place in 1st of April 2017 at the Annual General Meeting event of the Finnish Viola Society at the Sigyn Hall of the Turku Conservatory, Finland, with a student orchestra, conducted by accordionist Mikko Luoma and me again as the Viola soloist. The second performance went also very well and was cheered enthusiastically by peer violists in the audience.

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Because many told me after these two performances that Azonal might be my best composition so far, I’m hoping that some other viola soloist would take her/his courage in both hands and try it out – You might be surprised!

Recording, score, solo part etc.

 

 

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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