Is sound at times too ephemeral to be taken as an art form? Our modern recordings of pop songs and performances have led us to take sound for granted – rhythms and melodies that never change. We forget that sound, including music, can also be art. Sound and composition can be representational, and it can contain the same abstractions that you expect in representational art.
A live performance of any composition, even the most well-known classics, is always different. Contemporary music takes that a step further. The composer Antti Auvinen’s’s Campiogesang scores the instrumentation, rhythm and volume, but since the musician chooses pitch and timbre, each performance will be different – in other words, you have to be there.
Watch Auvinen’s Turbo Aria as a video. Don’t just listen. The performance must be experienced, at times closely. Turbo Aria follows the refugee experience from an unstable boat in a raging storm until despair and darkness. I can tell you that the sounds seem to come from underwater, about the instrumentalized chaos and new bowing techniques that depict pain, the tremendous peace that rises from the 100-year-old recordings of Finnish sopranos and the use of Tibetan bowls at the end. But you don’t know until you both see and hear it.
Creative instrumentation is used to create the sound of emotional chaos with alternative bowing techniques and a focus on strong and syncopated rhythms. The sound is built from these to the creative percussion section, which uses new ideas such as two water bottles hit together and a burlap sack filled with soda cans and hit by a shovel. The only unreal sounds come from the synthesizer, which has prerecorded short bites, a stark contrast to the real and solid tones of the piano. All of it together make up an entity that moves you and creates a new relationship between you and the references: the refugees, the flight, despair, lost souls.
Think of the composition as an abstraction that tells one version of a reality. It can capture a feeling, or even tell a story. But like art, it is always one step removed from the story it tells. The viewer, or listener, fills in the rest of the tale.
More works from Eeva-Riitta Eerola at www.helsinkicontemporary.com