Petals

‘Petals’ from the new album Interspaces, featuring Petteri Mäkiniemi on Ginette. A proper music video/short film for the track is currently being developed with this internationally acclaimed media artist, and it will be released sometime next Spring (due to time and budget constraints). I wanted to try some visual experiment for the piece now, however, while the album is still fresh…

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Petals has been 24 years in the making. The ambient background was created during a summer night in 1998 in Suonenjoki, Finland: I had my studio and rehearsal space in this wooden cabin by a pond, surrounded by forests and fields on an organic farm where I spent that summer working, and while I was recording, I could see through my window nocturnal mist hovering above the still surface of the water, interrupted only by two swans gliding quietly together. The landscape was illuminated by a full moon and the reflection of a midnight sun. A couple of years later in London a friend of mine wanted to use the track as background music for his painting exhibition, and for the purposes of the show I added a voice of this Finnish girl reading a poem of mine (in Finnish), timestretched into a more abstract and ethereal layer.

For the next 20 years the piece remained unchanged – and unreleased, despite my efforts to find a suitable context and form for it – until one Spring morning in Paris I finally realised how to continue with the music. Petals was finally finished during a summer night in 2021 at my Cité des arts studio in Paris: going through a heartbreak caused by this artist (coincidentally from Finland), I felt the piece was still missing something until I stumbled upon a lone Ginette recording Petteri had made and sent me the year before; Ginette’s expressive power and harmonic progression matched both the existing composition and, with some added raw distortion, my emotive state perfectly, as if recorded specifically for this piece, and brought the composition and my broken heart finally to a close. There were no swans gliding on a moonlit pond outside my window that night but a soft hum of the Parisian traffic, a couple of nocturnal birds singing, and a sense of a new dawn.

Algerian desert music

Recording with this Algerian guitarist, Nazim Bakour, for the upcoming album Earth Variations. We are deep in the Algerian Desert, an evening is setting in over the endless variations of sand dunes and rock forests and an oasis town down below teeming with people, animals, vegetations and agricultural soft robots. From my vantage point high on our dune I can see the rooftops of Paris through a giant window that has mysteriously appeared floating against the burning sunset sky.

The previous day Nazim had invited me to a jam session at his Cité des arts studio in Paris. There were musicians from Algeria, Benin, Brazil, China, Finland, France, Ghana, Germany and some others (whom I didn’t manage to meet properly). While sitting in the middle of the room and listening to this intercultural, borderless new music serendipitously emerging – what the late trumpeter Jon Hassell might have dubbed Fourth world music, “a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques” – I began to hear a beautiful yet subtle male voice singing quietly during the calmer passages in the music. The voice was exactly what I’d had in mind for Earth Variations for some years now, and naturally I presumed it was just me imagining and projecting this voice onto the music once again. But then it grew louder, took on new variations – until I eventually realised it was this tall and handsome Ghanaian man, sitting serenely lotus-like, eyes closed and his mouth barely moving, who was producing the voice. I felt elated: in that global space in the middle of the room, I had not only found the missing guitarist but also the missing singer for my album.

Earth Variations will be out later this Autumn or early next year (depending on the forthcoming recordings).

Serene noise

Listening to the final version of the Interspaces album (before mastering) in the heat and bustle of Paris, after having finished everything in the tranquility and bloom of Finland. It strikes me that the record exists exactly between these two worlds and landscapes: there’s a refreshing heat, bustling tranquility, serene noise, horizontal and vertical variations; a certain timelessness of something with a long history; celebration, contemplation and complexity of all things life. (yet I wish I could take a dip in that still, fresh lake while enjoying the heat and sounds of the city) Can’t wait to share this record with the world X

Spring Makes Noise: Paris

Update from Paris after a lengthy silence (you can follow my more frequent snapshots of Paris and abstract visual “musics” on Instagram @ilpojauhiainen).

Time flies, and the noise the spring keeps making is mostly inspiring: an exhilarating mix of new music, ideas, encounters, conversations, collaborations, doubts, dead ends, openings, failures, idiot glee, love as well as writing, reading, cycling, “working it harder, making it better”.

Currently I have four to five albums’ worth of material floating around – and every one of these compositions works rather well with everything else. For a while I was playing with the idea of releasing just one album: every time you’d play it, it would choose a different set of tracks from these 40+ compositions, depending on the first couple of tracks and the time of the day. A generative and modular record, in a way. But since it’s not financially possible to finish so many tracks – unless I have a record label backing me (finding a record label that’d understand the territory I’m cultivating has become next to impossible) – I’ve decided to focus on two albums only. Naturally this has presented a new challenge: which tracks to pursue further and to include on these records when everything seems to suggest a fertile new direction.

Both albums are inspired by the sort of global multiplicity and potential that we’re living in – creolization of ideas, if you will. Where Earth Variations I moves through denser geologies with more classical, traditional and experimental musical influences, Interspaces travels through more open landscapes and vistas, drawing from electronic, popular and possible musics; the keywords connecting their desired production criteria read “soulful”, ”purposeful” and “timeless”. Paris has influenced the music enormously, as have my friend’s abstract expressionistic paintings that she’s been creating here during the past year (soon to be shown in her solo exhibition in Helsinki): their vivacity, multilayeredness, delicateness, movement, rhythm and pulse, beauty and sensuality emerging from chaos, turbulence and randomness…have resulted in a kind of evolved richness, clarity and maturity in my music that I haven’t heard before. Both albums will be out in the fall.

Paris is also rather fitting a place to be working on these albums in: it was here that I first got the idea for this kind of “global” music (for lack of a better word) when I first came here as an adolescent in 1995. I was listening to these two Malian musicians on the Pont des Arts, one playing kora, the other electric guitar and singing. I had never heard such music before, and everything about that moment felt so novel and exciting, full of future potential: the electrifying West African sounds, midnight in Paris, being in a global metropolis, meeting these people from around the world, travelling across the continent…I realised I could never be happy making “just” electronic music, it had to have this feeling and texture of the world woven into it somehow.

The question always is how far to develop these compositions though. I can easily hear some electronic parts being replaced or accompanied by real string quartets, intercultural ensembles, gospel choirs…but this would require a whole different level of financial investment. The pioneering Finnish electronic duo Pan Sonic always used to say that what they’re actually making is Jamaican dub and American rock’n’roll, but since they are just two taciturn Finns with electronic oscillators, they leave all those dub and rock’n’roll elements out. In a similar way, I’m always working with orchestras and gospel choirs in mind but since I can’t afford them, I leave them out in the final mix.

The theatre/dance production we worked on during the winter is currently on hold due to the pandemic; the related short film has been finished and I’ll share it once it’s being released. My “futuristc jazz” album has been postponed for the future: it simply doesn’t feel so thrilling to me at the moment, compared to the new music that has emerged here. Some of the promising musical collaborations have led to nowhere. My bicycle broke down (now fixed). And Paris…Paris continues to be love, a home in this galaxy of ours.

Paris – a multiplicity

A long postcard from Paris. Time just whizzes by.

The summer has finally turned into an autumn – the first time I felt my fingers freezing while cycling home late at night. Where did all that heat and endless blue sky go? Into working haphazardly on everything, meeting new people, cycling around Paris, going out, experiencing the city, settling down, pondering, searching for the meaning and motivation to continue making music: releasing albums digitally to muted response just won’t do anymore, I’m honestly done if that’s all there is for the function of music-making!

The end of the summer has fortunately coincided with the start of new conversations and collaborations. Paris, like any location, is an assemblage of different multiplicities, each multiplicity presenting a universe of ideas, encounters, possibilities. As the autumn leaves are preparing to fall, I’ve found myself on a plane connecting one such multiplicity to few others, entering exciting new becomings – meaningful and refreshing expressions of life, creativity and culture, if you will.

One such becoming is with this Swiss choreographer, dancer and director. Finally a long-term project that allows me to collaborate with other talents across the arts and other areas of the society for the next few years (why doesn’t this happen more often, especially since I’ve been more than ready for the past 20 years?). The details of our project may be discreet for now; the reason I bring this up is because it is our long conversations and shared experiences of Parisian culture that finally brought to an end my months-long impasse of trying to find the purpose for music-making. We don’t exist in isolation nor is the digital any answer: we need each other, real feedback and different talents to make the projects and worlds we care about happen. Behind every success story there are dozens of people with different skills working toward the same goal. My work has existed more or less in isolation (and digital ambiguity) up until now – not because I’ve wanted but because I haven’t encountered any like-minded scenes (and sceniuses) so far. I don’t really care about the popularity of my music per se: as long as I feel thrilled and passionate about what I’ve created, that’s all that matters; it’s the greater cultural and societal function of my creativity and dedication that bothers/matters to me.

And with this Swiss artist my long-term musical and societal interests have aligned with hers. Creating and imagining music for her project feels like serving a greater societal and cultural purpose than releasing albums into some digital amnesia that the internet represents.

Alongside this, Paris has presented some of the most fascinating live concerts I’ve experienced so far: between cultures, in a fourth world, between experimentation and tradition, like possible musics of the future (for one, check out the Palestinian composer Kamilya Jubran and her Terra Incognita project – and if you can’t find it, book her trio for your next festival/event 🙂 ). And I’m excited to say that I’ll be collaborating with some of these artists for my forthcoming albums Sharawadji and Earth Variations. I’ve been working joyously with a kind of “idiot glee” (as the painter Peter Schmidt put it) in my studio for the past week and have to concede once again: there’s so much potential and beauty in everything – so much incredible material – yet only less than 0.1% of that ever gets released. I guess the life wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Below some random snapshots from this transitional period. Paris is love, a home in this galaxy of ours.

Cité Artist Residency / Paris

Bonjour from Paris, my new hometown!

I’m currently doing an artist residency at the Cité internationale des arts for a year: working on various musics (Earth Variations and a tentatively titled album Sharawadji), developing the Future Forest Space II generative composition, and researching and writing (gravitating towards philosophy, judging by my recent haul from my local bookshop, Shakespeare & Company).

Paris has always felt like home to me, ever since my first visit here in 1995, so it feels wonderful to be able to immerse myself in this microcosm with greater time. While the city feels lovingly timeless and is always recognisable, it’s constantly permutating, evolving and progressing; it’s a multiplicity upon multiplicity upon multiplicity which never ceases to pique and inspire me.

Below some photos of the residence and its surroundings, with my crappy (apologies) phone camera.