About my Sound Installations 1991–2020

I have made 15 sound installations so far. 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. But they can also present just sound in a space.

Wy am I interested in making sound installations? 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 intrigued 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.

More coming up!

List of my 15 sound installations


Rope Variations/ Theses on the Body Politic (Bind) 2020. Artists group IC-98 (dir. Patrik Söderlund) invited me to compose music for their new media installation entitled Theses on the Body Politic (Bind). I decided to entitle the music Rope Variations, which was actually the working title for the installation. Commissioned for the art collection of the Saastamoinen Foundation, the installation was premiered between 4 August and 27 September 2020 in EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art at their Touch exhibition, which displays the foundation’s art collection.

Lintukoto (Isle of Bliss) 2018, commissioned by the Tampere Biennale contemporary music festival, Finland. Art Gallery Borderline (Rajatila), Tampere, Finland, March 31st – April 17th 2018.

Suokukon paluu (Return of the Ruff) 2017, sound landscape for a video installation by Tuula Ahvenvaara at the Art Gallery AVA, Helsinki.

Okeanos (2014), collaboration with the IC-98 -artists group for the Turku Vartiovuori Historical Observatory, Finland

Janne (2006) at the Järvenpää city center promenade 70-meter canope sound system, 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

Katoamisia (Disappearances) 2006, 8-speaker sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Hyvinkää City Art Museum, Finland

Vasara, alasin, jalustin (Hammer, anvil, stirrup) 2005 at Iiris, centre for the visually impaired, Helsinki

Being Misplaced 2002, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the The Finnish Museum of Photography, Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland

Estetty katse (Forbidden Gaze) 1998 sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the South Karelian Art Museum, Lappeenranta, Finland

Poissa/Läsnä (Absent/Present) 1997, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Joensuu City Art Museum, Finland

Sisään vai ulos? (In or Out?) 1996 for the entrance of Den Anden Opera, Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of Ung Nordisk Musik festival

Ylös vai alas? (Up or Down?) 1996 for the elevator of the Sibelius Academy R-building, 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

Virralla (On the River) 1991, sound landscape for a photo installation by Catarina Ryöppy at the Art Gallery Laterna Magica, Helsinki, Finland

About the Site-Specific Sound and Light Installation Okeanos (2014)

Okeanos_teoskuva

The rotunda on the third floor of the Turku Academy’s observatory, completed in 1819, is circular. As it were, the ‘cartographers’ of antiquity imagined an inhabited world, the Oikoumene. The known world was surrounded by the great Okeanos stream, the source of all the water in the world. Okeanos is also the name of the new sound and light installation by IC-98, i.e. Patrik Söderlund and Visa Suonpää, in a darkened rotunda. The dark space itself is impressive.

Fine is also the space-filling composer Max Savikangas’ collage of sounds, at the heart of which is Savikangas’ arrangement of the Finnish folk song When I forsook my home, performed by the singers of the Helsinki Chamber Choir…

The darkness of the rotunda is broken by a lone light spot that illuminates the stucco decorations of the roof with the zodiac sign for Scorpio. In Christian iconography, Scorpio refers to Judas, the betrayer of Christ. In antiquity, Scorpio symbolized Africa, one of the four continents. Connected to Scorpio, the wistful Finnish folk song becomes an universal allegory of departure, referring to boat refugees who lay their lives at the mercy of the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life.

Despite its symbolic openness – or perhaps precisely because of it – Okeanos becomes an artwork of international level, with a subtext that criticizes the fortress of Europe – Oikoumene – beneath its poetic surface.

Lars Saari, Turun Sanomat 17.12.2015

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