Music for the Pan Sonic Tribute Concert (2019) – composition and performance for the Musica nova Helsinki festival (with Petteri Mäkiniemi and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)

From left to right: Petteri Mäkiniemi, Jaani Helander, Ilpo Jauhiainen, Heikki Nikula. Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Encounters – Tribute to Pan Sonic was the opening club for the Musica nova Helsinki 2019 festival – Finland’s biggest festival of contemporary music – held in February 2019. It was organized by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Korvat auki ry. For the concert, four composer duos were selected to create and perform new work that would pay tribute to the pioneering Finnish electronic music duo Pan Sonic and to its late member Mika Vainio. My colleague Petteri Mäkiniemi and I were one of the selected pairs.

Our idea was to develop a new kind of musical expression in which the aesthetics similar to Arvo Pärt and Olivier Messiaen met those of West African musics, through the minimalist and sometimes brutalist aesthetics of Pan Sonic.

The final result is a 16-minute composition (the maximum length for each duo) consisting of three different parts. Petteri plays his self-designed and -built instrument Ginette while I play my “Afrorithmic synthesizer” (a granular synthesizer built in Pure Data, linked to a Kaoss Pad and a mixer). We are joined by Jaani Helander and Heikki Nikula from the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra on cello and bass clarinet, respectively.

“In the Tribute to Pan Sonic concert the composer, music producer and sound artist Ilpo Jauhiainen and the musician, composer and instrument maker Petteri Mäkiniemi will present a partially improvised new work in which electroacoustic composition, minimalism and experimental electronic music meet West African musical influences, in a form inspired by Pan Sonic’s abstract, subdued and uncompromising aesthetic.” (from the festival’s programme)

The performance included also live visuals created by me. They were similarly a tribute to the two vertical sine waves used by Pan Sonic albeit in a more indistinct way: the complex, changing and colourful patterns (as seen in the video below) were to present our musical aesthetic and aspirations more. As a source material I used a video of a landscape that I had filmed from a train window in Morocco in 2014. All the abstract forms and colours are generated from this footage.

The mastered live recording is also available as a release on Bandcamp.

Read more about Petteri’s Ginette and my “afrorithmic” concept in this brief interview we did for the festival.

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