Debatable music

Happy first birthday to the concert series Tulkinnanvaraista ! This strange Finnish word is a juridical term meaning both “Open to interpretation” and “debatable”. A meaningful start for a new music season dedicated to experimentation, improvisation and electronics, born in autumn 2011 on the initiavive of the composers Juho Laitinen (cello & composition) Kimmo Hakola and Juhani Nuorvala, founders of Curious Musicians

Curious musicians

Open to Interpretation holds one concert a month at G18, an elegant hall in one of the Swedish minority clubs of the capital. The atmosphere of the concerts contrasts nicely with the fairly classical location, a building more than a century old.


As Juho Laitinen puts it: “I want people to hear the thrilling and profound   music that wells forth from the springhead of experiment, improvisation and the composer-cum-performer (…) There exist alternatives to the composer-work-performer-audience model, more equal ways of sharing music“. Juho is a manifold performer, committed to research about his instrument and its never ending extensible techniques. He is also the inventor of Kallio New Music Days, independent new music weekend, on January 25th-27th 2013. ” I personally am extremely interested in the performer’s personality, memory, psychophysical make-up and so on, and I want to bring out this subjectivity instead of the more objective interpretation of works. I have a quite concrete interest in the performer’s own voice“.

This was particulary evident in this autumn first concert, featuring the soprano Piia Komsi and the electronic music composer & performer Robert Piotrowicz. Piia is a well-known musician, being in the peculiar position of a singer with a cellist´s background; and sharing her talent and voice with her twin sister Anu: both unforgettable in Kaija Saariaho´s beautiful duo From the Grammar of Dreams, on texts by Sylvia Plath . Both sisters´s personalities are outstanding and enthralling, each in her own way. The concert began in a startling way, with John Cage´s Solos for Voice No. 47 & 13: short imaginative works, in which the composer explores human voice´s possibilities and plays freely with words from a mixture of languages. Piia´s wide coloratura voice and personality was at once displayed.


But in the second piece she gave proof of all her skills, with the first performance of Sky Shopping – Hommage à Brahms, by Jovanka Trbojevic. There she needed her cello too: it was interesting to listen to both her real and her instrumental voices melting together. I often wondered what is the relation between a string instrument´s player voice and his/her sound: I believe there is a close connection, as in playing a string instrument all the person´s motricity, personal way of moving and so on, are deeply involved; everyone has a different one, a peculiar rhythm of the gestures and own way of speaking, pausing and so on. Jovanka´s work was written for Piia and fit her nicely. It was a tasty combination of comic motives and imaginative ideas: all started from a conversation Jovanka had with Anu Komsi, listening to a concert of Brahms´ 2nd Piano Concerto. Not exactly a cultivated one, soon turning to something much funnier, from dresses to Brahms´sentimental life: ” I wrote a kind of nonsense text, with romantic connotations and sarcasm towards contemporary values. I wrote names of clothing items, with exaggerated excitement of shopping, and scientific names of cloud types in Latin, with descriptions of their heights and shapes, and of consistency of different cloud classes.”

The first part of the concert closed in a total different way, with Heinz-Juhani Hofmann´s Two Memory Traces for soprano and cello. The composer is the author of the text as well, but an utterly tragic one: a detailed description of his father´s death, in a German hospital. The voice expressed the unfathomable moment with uncompromising crudeness and anguish.


Following the Tulkinnanvaraista formula, the second part of the evening featured a guest from abroad working with electronics, this time the modular synthesizer composer & player Robert Piotrowicz: as he explained the following day at the Sibelius Academy, his instrument is “something between a pitch shifter, a ringmodulator and a kind of phase modulator”. He played two works from 2011, Formations and Pneuma: in both there was a well-balanced combination between sense of form and improvisation, a gradually enriching soundscape resulting from the superimposition of the transformation techniques the modulator allows. The two large loudspeakers in the front provided a good sound, probably better for people sitting near, a bit too loud for the others (often a tricky thing to find the right balance in new spaces!) As in other soirées of the series, it was nice to listen to analog, a bit rétro electronics, in this all-digital world. And it was interesting to observe the hall change as the music went on (both pieces were fairly long). See the crystal lamps glitter in the dark, while this multilayered music filled in the space more and more.

Concert and demonstration are available on YouTube @:


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