Bells, tools and meditation are all ancient. When it has been confirmed by historic research, that tools and weapons were among the earliest bronze objects in China, the bells also now belong to this bronze age era. The meditative component has eminently added value and appreciation among the Asian arts. People are looking for nurture from art, and statuesque buddhas seem nurturing, even healing with their meditative poses. Massive sculptures are surrounded with the calm that is often lacking from the demands of the everyday life. The journey inwards requires little more participation.
Chinese bells have a special form that calls for a closer investigation. They are emblems of music, and when tried, the sound can be interestingly different from the Western terms of bell-sound. The church-bells have varying melodies, yet Chinese bells embody tones that are thousands of years old. It is believed, that the sound has not changed since they were casted. Bells still narrate of ancient technology as a soundsystem.
With the global travel, the world has shrunk, and meditation practices have become increasingly popular. We are at the moment pushed to scrutinize ourselves into increased indoor dwelling, so discovering new possibilities of meditative practices might be useful. Sound is one way to go, listening to music with new awareness, concentrating fully into music or sound may turn the focus into a particular matter. A ‘look’ inwards may be rewarding.
Meditation is a bodily practice of a mind as operator. A word techne would also fit with its stance of the world. Techne is a philosophical term, which includes knowledge at its core. By using it in reference to bodily practice, it might as well connect to understanding your meditation approach. Learn to meditate by meditating, gain knowledge of meditation by doing it. Knowledge is coming from the act and art of doing.
Sitting buddhas are art works that meditate, giving out a pose with a silent approach that is almost demanding us to participate in a technology of looking inwards, of stopping our other activities, breathing with the sculpture. The art stimulates the senses into a sole pattern of sitting with a more disciplinary attitude.
Finnish contemporary composer, oboist and music pedagogue Riikka Talvitie is an artist greatly influenced by her audience. She believes that the audience and community have an impact so important that there is a need for new notions of authorship and agency in music. Her compositions are brought into practice in performances, and so the discussion of the community’s role in collaboration is relevant. As a woman composer, Talvitie also wears an activist hat in society. Women are still in the margins as art music composers.
There are topics and ideas that Talvitie is ready to discuss more, and she collaborates with artists of many genres. She is currently in the process of doing her artistic doctorate in music at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts in Helsinki.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you pick oboe as your instrument?
Riikka Talvitie: As a child, I lived in Kerava, in a small town near Helsinki. When I was seven years old I started to play piano in a local music school which was founded in those years. (This autumn I am composing a piece for the 40-years celebration.)
When I was around 14-years old I asked our music teacher if I could start to play oboe in a school orchestra. In the orchestra, there was also an older student, oboist, who started to teach me. I didn’t know how difficult it was to start the instrument.
Later after school, I did entrance examination for Sibelius Academy with both instruments. I got in with oboe, which was a sort of coincidence. I also started to read mathematics at the University.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How much did your own instrument define and influence your creations in the early face of your career?
RT: I just did a video work Self-Portrait which is dealing with this question. The main thematic issue of the work is a relationship between a composer and a musician. I am performing both persons at the same time, so I am discussing with myself. I am also improvising some bodily exercises with the oboe. (See the video here https://fmq.fi/articles/composer-at-work-a-critical-self-portrait)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What else in your musical training and background created who you are, and what made you choose composing?
RT: I chose a high school, which was specialized in performing arts. All my friends had something to do with theatre, cinema, literature or dance. So while I was studying oboe playing I composed and improvised music to theatre plays and short movies. I was quite enthusiastic with these projects so I took composition as a secondary subject.
I was also quite interested about contemporary music in general. I played myself a lot and I was visiting many festivals.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How many years ago was this, and how has your career path evolved?
RT: I had my first composition lesson in 1994 in a summer course with Jouni Kaipainen and Magnus Lindberg. At that time I had lots of ideas and plans but no craftsmanship or technical skills. After the course I started to study really seriously.
The world might have been a bit different place in the 90’s because I was able to study composition quite long at the Sibelius Academy after I had graduated with oboe.
I have also been twice in Paris. First time I was studying oboe and composition at the conservatory of Paris. And the second time I was following one-year-course of music technology at Ircam.
Finally when I got my first child, in 2004, I stopped playing oboe because I didn’t have time to practise and travel anymore. In the video work I am quite strict to myself and ask: why did you stop playing? You did not think about your career? The answer is not that simple. This autumn I have some oboe performances coming so I am still dealing with the same question.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What words describe your music?
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What kinds of themes do you usually develop in your compositions?
RT: Many themes and interests have changed during the years. When I was younger I got excited with mathematical ideas. Abstract world without social intrigues fascinated me in many ways. Then I have worked a lot with texts – poems, plays etc.
Nowadays, I am more into political and critical themes. I have a feeling that concert music is repeating some kind of old ritual where the most creative ideas are forbidden. Many things are not allowed, socially and aesthetically. I find this quite contradictory to the main purpose of art.
At this moment, my goals are more interactive and communal. I am preparing an artistic research about shared authorship and communality in a composer’s practice.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are there ways to categorize contemporary music? Do contemporary works differ from modern music, say in tonality, and in aesthetical ways?
RT: I just read an interesting book Music After the Fall: Modern Composition and Culturesince 1989 by Tim Rutherford-Johnson. The writer argues that contemporary music is not anymore so much linked to modernism as we tend to think. instead, it should be analysed in the context of globalization, digitization and new media. He starts the new era from the year 1989. I recommend this book to all composers and musicians who are trying to define the state of contemporary music scene today.
I see some trends among composers. The growing use of video and multimedia is now very common in concerts all over. Also the question of material is changing. In modernism a composer created his/her own material on which the composition was built. Now, there is more liberal relation to musical material which can vary from different musical styles to short samples of already existing music or sound.
One of the most important changes is the effect of social media. All the composers are marketing and presenting their works openly in the internet. It gives composers freedom to find their own paths but on the other hand it feels like a global competition of recognition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Does being a woman composer mean something special to you?
RT: Yes, it means a lot. I am a feminist, in a way. I strongly support equality and diversity in the society and correspondingly in the music field.
These values are unfortunately missing in the project of canonizing composers and art works. I am interested in artists who are left outside the canon. A year ago, I was presenting a work by Ethel Smith, a British composer from the beginning of 20th century. She was not mentioned in our music history classes in my youth. And how many others are there?
While doing my artistic research, I have many times wondered why the different waves of feminism haven’t left almost any imprint on art music composition. In Finnish composers society there are still only 10 % female composers. If we think about what happened in performance and video art in the 60’s and 70’s there were lots of artists participating in the happenings for sexual emancipation. At the same time, among contemporary music we just invented new composition techniques 🙂
I have also considered this question while teaching. What values do we forward to the next generation?
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finland has a woman composing star, Kaija Saariaho, who is also well-known in New York City music world. Do you think she has developed a way for others to follow?
RT: Kaija Saariaho has an important role in Finnish music life, for sure, and in that sense her career is a sort of example for woman composers. She is also really warm and gentle person towards colleagues, especially for young students.
On the other hand, Kaija is presenting quite traditional image of a composer. Her career is based on international reputation, large commissions, prizes and so on. This position is actually quite hierarchical, and mythical.
There are plenty of artists who don’t want an individual international status. They want to work in working groups or in a pedagogical field. We are different. In that point of view Kaija is not a role model for all Finnish female composers.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your key influences as a composer, and how do you conceptually start your works?
RT: Every project is slightly different but I still try to give some concrete examples. I start every composition by discussion with other people who are involved. I try to figure out who is playing, what skills musicians have, what are the interests of a producer, what is the schedule, what else is performed in the same concert, is there a musical theme like era or an ideological theme like protection of seas etc. For me it is really important that musicians and performers are fully engaged in the big picture.
I also collaborate quite a lot with other artists. In those situations I normally wait a moment and listen to others. I feel that I have much to learn because contemporary music has been so isolated in the abstract world for a long time. I am also curious about ideas and opinions of my audience. Also different audiences like non-musicians, children, teenagers etc.
When I start to compose I spend a lot of time looking for suitable material for each situation. I sit at the piano and try out things. I look for certain ”constraints or boundaries” for each project. Almost always, I meet the musicians and give some sketches to play. Lately, I have increased to send demos while I am working, just to open up the process and get feedback.
I consciously think composing as an ongoing collaboration.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the composition process for you like, how long do you usually develop a work?
RT: I like to work slowly and develop ideas with other people.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How many solo instrumental works have you composed so far, how about chamber music and orchestral works?
My works in numbers:
– 4 operas
– 1 radio-opera
– 8 works for orchestra
– 14 choir works
– 18 songs
– 12–15 chamber works
– 5 solos
– 1 radiophonic work
– pedagogical works
– theatre projects
– short movies
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Recently you have also worked with opera. Could you tell more about these projects?
RT: I have recently composed two operas. The first one is called The Judge’s Wife which is based on TV script written by Caryl Churchill at the time of IRA terrorist attacks 1972. The text deals with the power structures of social classes and the difference between terrorism and a revolutionary act.
The opera was carried out as a cross-art performance with some additional text and documentary video material by its director Teemu Mäki. The performance was closer to contemporary theater or live art than traditional opera. It included music, drama, videos, texts, humour and also a meal, vichyssoise soup, which is also written into the libretto (http://www.teemumaki.com/theater-judgeswife.html).
The second opera Queen of the cold land was a radio opera commissioned by Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle-radio). The libretto is a sort of rewriting of the Kalevala – a present-day version of some abstract life situations. The aim of the working group was to look at the Kalevala from a socio-historical point of view. Kalevala is not qualified as a source of Finnish mythology because the mythical images of folk poems have been transformed and merged into new entities by Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot’s goal was not only to collect poems and to propose them as a coherent epic, but the goals went together with the nationalist idea to create a common image of the past, customs and culture of the Finnish people.
The opera is dealing with several issues like diversity, sexual identity, nationality and naming. As a composer, I would state that the main theme of the musical narration is nationalism or rather the future of national states. This theme is presented in the musical material.
The music consists of orchestral music, chamber music, operatic and folk singing combined with radiophonic possibilities. The composition is based on a variety of materials. The most extensive material consists of national anthems by different states and people. In addition to these I use folk music, war songs, wedding anthems and lullabies.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: In Finland, composers like Jean Sibelius are master voices in the classical music world, for their emancipatory approach of voicing national myths, and yet speaking to broad international audiences. Sibelius is a widely known European composer in the United States with his Finlandia, and Violin concerto. Has this tradition created a sense of your own status as a composer who has Finnish roots?
RT: As an answer to this question, I just tell that have composed a chamber opera called One seed, one sorrow – conversations with Aino Sibelius. Aino was a wife of Jean Sibelius. At least it was an other perspective to the question of national heroes.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: We met in Lapland in 2007, while doing a nature piece in Pyhatunturi. Do you still get inspired while spending time in nature?
RT: I am really worried about nature and by that – also inspired. This year I work with several pieces which are processing nature and particularly climate change.
Last spring, I carried out a project called Heinä (Grass) with playwright Pipsa Lonka. It was performed in Silence Festival in Lapland. The performance contained images that a grass had drawn. I tried to read or interpret those images by composing them for bass clarinet and voice. The performance took place in an old cottage with smoke and a dog. The atmosphere was quite unique.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are you critical of your own work?
RT: Of course I am critical and I would like to rewrite all my compositions but I just don’t have time for that. So let them be…
As for the future composition, I have challenged myself to ask every time ”why do I do this piece”. I feel that every art project should have a reason or meaning or aim which is something more than a commission, a commission fee, reputation or a course credit. This goal can be both an internal musical idea or external starting point. It should be something that connects our work to the surrounding society.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who gives you the best feedback?
RT: The best feedback comes from my children when they ask ”what on earth are you doing” or ”how awkward”.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the role of commissions in your work?
RT: The art funding is quite different here in Finland than in United States. Mostly I work with small commissions by different musicians, ensembles, choirs, orchestras or festivals. However, the main income of Finnish composers comes from the working scholarships.
Some of my works are collaborations with other musicians and artists. Then we apply funding together as a working group from different foundations and institutions.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have specific plans for the future?
RT: I have plenty of plans for the future. In a near future I will finish my artistic doctorate that is about shared authorship and communality. For that, I still have couple of projects to compose. After that I will devote my time to activism.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How about dreams, perhaps international presentations and residencies?
RT: An old image of a composer with a wig is quite outdated. This image contains travelling and prestige. Luckily the world has changed – women and mothers can be composer too and they don’t need to represent ”a plaster composer”.
Mainly, I don’t travel. I work nearby. I am quite often at home in the afternoons when my children come home from school. And in the evenings they have hobbies. My plan – not a dream – is to spend time in residencies after my children are grown-ups. I just need to be patient because it will take ten years still.
I don’t dream about an international career, firstly, because I like my daily local life. And, secondly, because I am at this moment interested in subjects and working methods which are rather marginal in classical music f.e. community art, live art, performance and philosophy. These are not the themes of a grand audience.
I dream about ideological aims. I hope we will see the world where the terms of consuming, owning and competing are less valued. I also hope that there would be a turn in over-consuming that finally we are saved from dystopical eco-catastrophe. I am not that worried about my own career.
RT: I have a small activist inside me who says that we should listen to different voices. So I would recommend you some other Finnish female composers here:
Japanese sculptor Yasushi Koyama lives in Helsinki, Finland and exhibits frequently in the local galleries. In this interview, he ponders the aesthetics behind his cute wooden sculptures. The artist brings the two artistic worlds together in his deep knowledge of both Finnish and Japanese cultures. One of his revelations connects to an idea of etic (or ethic), a general belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When did you move to Finland, and how did you decide to go there to study?
Yasushi Koyama: I moved to Finland in Autumn 2007 to study Fine arts in Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Imatra. In 2006, I met Finnish printmaker Tuula Moilanen and took her art courses in Kyoto Japan. She was a good teacher and gave me some advice for Finnish education and art school. Then I decided to come to Finland to study.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the best part of having two cultures to live in and with?
YK: The best part is to have another viewpoint beyond one culture. In addition, in my own artwork Finnish culture meets Japanese culture automatically, unconsciously and unintentionally. It is a good mixture of two cultures for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that new cultural heritage transforms you?
YK: I am transformed by Finnish culture on a daily basis especially with the sense of nature and with the contemporary culture of art & design in Helsinki. While in Imatra I experienced a lot of nature such as forest, lake, snow, river, waterfall etc. I took many photos of the beautiful Finnish nature during each season. In this point I was transformed to be a person who likes nature. At the same time, it reminded me of how to be a Japanese, because a life with nature is the very style of Japanese culture too. I came to Helsinki in 2012 to have my solo exhibition in NAPA Gallery. In 2012 Helsinki was the world design capital and my exhibition joined in with some events of World design capital 2012. NAPA Gallery had many artists who were related to graphic design. It was very fresh for me. The art of NAPA members inspired my own art language to absorb the feeling of contemporary graphic design into my art. So I am transformed to get the design viewpoint from the Helsinki contemporary culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are currently taking part of an exhibition at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Tell about the background for this particular show.
YK: The show is called “Masters of Saimaa’16”. It is Masters of Fine Arts graduation exhibition in The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. 9 master degree students have joined in the show. My artworks are 3 works. There are 2 wood sculptures and 1 wood installation from me.
One of the wood sculptures is titled Panda papa and child. It is a large sculpture, 160cm high and weighting more than 400 kg. The artwork is made for my Art for Children project in 2016. People can touch & hug this Panda papa sculpture, so it is interactive art, and the art also connects to our well-being. It is going to be donated to children’s public place as a public art after my upcoming solo exhibition in Galleria AARNI. I have a good memory attached to Panda. When I was 6 years old Panda came to Ueno Zoo in Japan from China. I visited the Zoo to watch the Panda with my father.
Another wood sculpture is titled Walking cat with Katja’s T-shirt – collaboration with Katja Tukiainen. It is 150 cm high and weights more than 200 kg. Artist Katja Tukiainen is my supervisor for my final works of my thesis. Both Katja and I had a similar experience of having cats as pets in our childhood, and we both like cats. Katja Tukiainen has also designed the official T-shirt for the Cable factory. I liked the T-shirts and so got the idea for the collaboration with her.
Then, my wood installation’s goes with the title The horizontal – wood installation. It is composed of 6 pieces of woods that were originally from one large tree (5m high). Each piece weights between 30 kg to 150 kg. It is made from ash wood that my friend gave me. The title is from Eija–Liisa Ahtila’s video work “The horizontal “ to use 6 screen panels to show one long tree in horizontal way. Her video work “The house” was the first contemporary Finnish art that I saw in Tokyo in 2003. Through this work I wanted to express the culture of wood in Finland and Japan, the process of wood sculpting and wood as a material itself. In Finland the forest area is 71% of the entire land area. In Japan the forest area is about 68% of the land area. In the world, the average of forest area is 31%. So in comparison, our countries have a lot of forest and woods. I think that we both have the tradition of wood culture such as wooden buildings, wooden houses, wooden tools, wooden arts etc. So wood is really important material for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You hear often that Finnish and Japanese cultures have something in common from the point of view of the design cultures. Do you think it’s true and in what ways?
YK: Yes, it is true. As I told, both Finland and Japan have the culture of wood. Both Finnish and Japanese like nature in life. So natural materials have an influence on the expression of our cultures of design, architecture and art. In addition simplicity, clarity and repetitive nature are similar in both cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your artistic expression with the sculpture?
YK: My artworks are animal sculptures described as “Cute, lovely and humorous”. Most of my works are made from one piece of wood by using hand chisels. The rich textures of wood sculpting give people a warm impression. My wood sculptures have the good mixture between traditional wood sculpting and contemporary expression.
I learnt traditional wood sculpturing in Japan, New Zealand, Transylvania and Finland. For example in Finland in school I learnt wood sculpting from Finnish sculptor Pasi Karjula. He cherished the traditional way of wood sculpting using axe and hand chisels as well as other methods.
In the contemporary art context my wood sculptures have the expression of cuteness and positive energy. Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen had an influence on those expressions. And Finnish sculptor Kim Simonsson inspired me with his innocence of cartoonish sculpture. In addition, the graphic design of Marimekko etc., as well as the culture of the Finnish children’s characters, especially the Moomins took effect on me.
At the same time Japanese Manga & Anime and “neo-pop” art by Japanese painter Yoshitomo Nara have influenced my art language of cuteness. The ideas of art works are inspired by animals, natural shape of wood, self-drawing, Finnish art, illustration, textile design and Japanese art & culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are your cute animal sculptures loved by both Finnish and Japanese audiences alike?
YK: Yes, I think so. They are loved and sold in both Finland and Japan. The interesting issue is that Finnish people say Yasushi’s works have Japanese feeling, and Japanese people say that Yasushi’s works have Finnish feeling in them. I accept their viewpoints as a good mixture between Finnish and Japanese culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you develop and teach your concepts to kids?
YK: I remember that I was making animal sculptures with clay almost every day when I was between 4-6 years old. My father gave me photo books of animals. After I looked at them I made animals. It was my ordinary life during my childhood. So it was natural for me to make cute animals. Although I was making a human sculpture while in school, after my graduation I remembered my enjoyment with animal sculptures. So it is normal and natural for me to make these cute animal sculptures. After starting to create animals, some friends and gallerists told me that my artworks include concepts for kids. So I will continue developing art based on my own childhood memories.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is your favorite museum or museums in Finland and why?
YK: I have many favorite museums in Finland. It is difficult to tell of all the museums. So I point my favorite 3 art museums with exhibitions in 2016. I liked Ai Weiwei & Yayoi Kusamaexhibitions in Helsinki Art Museum, Ernesto Neto’s exhibition in 5th floor in Kiasma and “Suomen Taiteen Tarina” (Stories of Finnish Art) in Ateneum Art Museum. Ai Weiwei and Yayoi Kusama are top well-known artists in the world. I appreciate HAM to have offered their exhibitions to people in Finland. I also like the space in Kiasma’s 5th floor. Ernesto Neto’s exhibition gave us the participation and experience, the post colonial and interdisciplinary disciplines in the contemporary art context. “Stories of Finnish Art” was very compact exhibition, but at the same time a very profound way to show Finnish art history. I thought it was a great opportunity for tourists in summer to see the exhibition in Ateneum and also for Finland to show their image through Finnish art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe Finnish aesthetics?
YK: I want to describe 3 concepts of “less is more”, “silence” and “sorrow” as Finnish aesthetics.
When I think about aesthetics, I always think about “etic” of aesthetics. Etic (or ethic) is a general idea or belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes. I think that Finnish etic are diligent, honest and simple. Finnish aesthetics is the general idea that influences Finnish people’s behavior to understand beauty. So in my opinion one of Finnish aesthetics is about “less is more”. When I see the simple structures of Finnish architectures, it is so obvious.
About “silence” (hiljaisuus in Finnish), and how it is connected to nature. I remember silent landscape of snow in forest during winter. It was very beautiful. One of my Finnish friends gave me the message about nature, comparing sisu to silence (sisu is a Finnish spirit against strong power). “Nature means more than forests or lakes. It means freedom for oneself. Sisu is the most important for Finns. But how can one respect the other’s freedom? To respect one’s own freedom and the other’s freedom, Finns are keeping silent.” It is poetic but precisely showing the Finnish behavior of silence.It says that silence is the expression to respect one’s own and other’s freedom. Silence is one core of beauty related to the idea of freedom in Finnish culture.
About “sorrow” (suru in Finnish). A Finnish pop singer-song writer Kaija Koo says the phrase: Niin kaunis on hiljaisuus, mutta kauniimpaa on kaipaus. It means: So beautiful is silence but more beautiful is longing. So, when a Finn misses another person or a place, they feel sorrow. The sense of sorrow is connected to the feeling of longing and missing. In addition, a Finnish sense of sorrow takes place in the melancholic climate of Finland, such as during cold, dark and snow etc. “Sorrow” is a general and profound concept in Finnish art, film, novel, mythology etc.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does innovation mean to you?
YK: Innovation is the attitude to look for new applications of old knowledge and the one to create new concepts by mixing more than two different concepts and cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who do you collaborate with and where do you work? Is teamwork important to you?
YK: To meet a person is very important for me. So I would like to cherish meeting a person. This time I collaborated with Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen in Cable Factory, Helsinki. I met her in Cable Factory in 2009 coincidentally, when I was walking around the Cable Factory. She was very kind to me even though I didn’t know her at all at that time. She talked to me friendly about Japan and her exhibition in Yokohama, Japan. I think that meeting is sometimes coincidental but often meaningful. I would like to cherish such a meeting. For the collaboration it is important for me to have a similar concepts, and to be able to share ideas. It is important for me to make collaboration beyond your own culture and to create something new from it. I have collaborated with artists such as painters, sculptors and printmakers. For the future I am interested in collaborating with not only artists but also with designers, anthropologists, philosophers, children, and with ordinary people to be transforming my art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have an opinion about Kusama’s works, she is now extremely popular in the West. How do you like the exhibition in Helsinki at the moment?
In my opinion Kusama’s exhibition includes an important concept of interdisciplinarity, the roles of post colonial and gender in the contemporary art world. So it is natural for the West to accept her art. And her exhibition shows not only art but also an idea to share an experience of her art with visitors. It means that her art works are not only objects but also the image of her art, spirit and that of the contemporary culture. Her exhibition goes beyond art and connects with people in the gallery space to share their experiences. From this point of view, the visitors can participate in her exhibition. And I find that her paintings have an influence coming from native art and aboriginal art. Then, I think that her dot art includes not only pop art but also biological consideration of a cell, Shintoism and neo animism. I imagine that those concepts are fresh and still new to the West. So I admire HAM (Helsinki Art Museum) to have her exhibition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Does Kusama have an approach that can be applied to other things, or could there be a recipe for a good idea to be developed further. There seems to be something that makes people really want to participate in it?
YK: Yayoi Kusama was the world’s most popular artist in 2014. And she is still one of the most popular artist in 2016. I think that the quality of this exhibition is among the top of the world. And her exhibition has been already developed by the point of visitor’s participation, comparing it to her exhibition that I saw in Matsumoto, Japan in 2003. It would be possible for her to use 5 senses to prompt visitors to participate in her art, such as the sense of touch, the sense of smell and auditory sense.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that art should be more sensorial, and available for people to touch?
YK: Yes, at least for me. I think touching art is a much deeper experience than seeing art. I make my large animal wooden sculptures (about 160 x 80 x70 cm) to be touchable and huggable. It is a hands-on way of “interactive art” in a sense that visitors also take action towards the art. And it is also “participation art” as you are touching and hugging a sculpture in the exhibition gallery space or in the public space. The importance of touching art is also connected to the internet period or described as a post-internet period. Although we can see a lot of images through internet, we can’t get a sense of touch through internet as well. So the sense of touch is a strong point attached to my animal sculptures. The feeling of a wood material is little warm and nice to human body. My animal sculptures have been already in some public places as public art. It gives people happiness and experiences in a way that they participate in a society through art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is there a line between art and design in contemporary art or does there have to be?
YK: For me such a line is not so meaningful in our contemporary time. Design can be art and art can be design. I think that art and design have an effect on each other especially here in Helsinki.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are you planning next, do you have new ideas and exhibitions coming up?
YK: My next exhibition is coming soon 23.11-18.12.2016 in Galleria AARNI in Espoo, Finland. The concept is “Cute” –between SÖPÖ and Kawaii. I mix Finnish cuteness “SÖPÖ” with Japanese cuteness “Kawaii” in my art. In Japan “Kawaii” (= the quality of cuteness) has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture. This term Kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool, groovy, charming and innocent. The book “Kawaii Syndrome” tells “cute” and “neat” have taken precedence over the former Japanese aesthetics of “beautiful” and “refined”. So cuteness is a new cultural wave of Japanese postwar generation especially of the ones born in 70’s and 80’s. This cultural wave has come to Europe particularly through Manga and Anime. For the design of my animal wood sculptures I use Finnish wood, and the Finnish cuteness of SÖPÖ is inspired by Finnish art and design. In the exhibition visitors can see ”Cute” animal sculptures, touch & hug a large sculpture ”Panda Papa & Child”. I am hoping the audiences will enjoy Yasushi Koyama’s world of cute animals in the exhibition coming to Galleria AARNI.
Aimee Lee is an artist, papermaker, writer, and the leading hanji researcher and practitioner in the United States. With paper, she makes thread, sculpture, books, drawings, prints, garments, and installations. AimeeLee’s background as a performing artist and musician carries traces of paper as sets and costumes. Her installations are artistic research on paper and sound. She has pursued a career with traditional Korean hanji, coming up with new aesthetic concerns and techniques for her artistic practice. As a scholar, she is author of award-winning book,Hanji Unfurled (The Legacy Press).
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are a musician, a performer with live violin. How did you start creating performances onsite, including your own installations, manifesting set designs and creating costumes? Did everything start with music?
Aimee Lee: My early aspirations were to become a concert violinist, but I learned in college that I was not serious enough to devote the requisite hours of practice and study. However, I still loved music and wanted to stay close to musicians, so I continued to play and my first jobs were in music administration—bringing music to people who did not have access, or bringing people together through music.
When I moved to Chicago for graduate school, I entered an interdisciplinary program that encouraged combining different media, especially performance. It was a book and paper program, but I was interested in the intersection of books and performance. Once I began to make paper, the connection between paper and performance was so compelling that I created installations that were dependent on paper that I made. The performances, which almost always included sound from my violin, activated the installations.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Some of the live performances, which you composed and put together implement almost haunting kind of sound that responds back from the architecture of the venue, and then audience is stretched to interactive listening and feedback, where did you get the ideas to make these works?
AL: Mostly, I studied classical music, but later learned improvisation and jazz. The heart of what I have always loved to do is rooted in improvisation, whether or not I was aware of it. Human communication, which sound and music are, has always fascinated me, so I wanted immediate feedback and interaction with my audiences. In Chicago, I was influenced by performance residencies with Aaron Williamsonand Greg Allen, and by Julie Laffin.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Now, we can perhaps say that you have become a master of hanji, the Korean traditional paper making. Where did you find the enthusiasm to start exploring it, and how did it come about?
AL: While I studied papermaking history in the graduate school, I noticed that it began in China, moved to Korea, and then traveled to and flourished in Japan. Most of the existing research in English on East Asian paper was based in Japan, and I was unable to find much about hanji (Korean paper). I grew up at a time and place in the US where people always tried to guess my heritage, but they could only imagine that I was Chinese or Japanese. This sense of Korea being overshadowed affected me deeply, so I felt a curiosity about Korean paper history. My Fulbright research in Korea uncovered an entire history and culture that fascinated me on all levels, as an artist, a researcher, a Korean American, a person in the world. After my return to the U.S., I felt a strong responsibility to share what I had learned. I would never call myself a hanji master, but will always be a steadfast hanji ambassador and artist (read Aimee Lee’s exhibition review in Firstindigo&Lifestyle)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is the knowledge of making hanji widespread in Korea today, how about the new generations and passing down this historic form that goes back hundreds of years?
AL: Korea has similar issues to the U.S. and other cultures where the current knowledge of traditional craft by the general public is quite limited. It is not a priority in contemporary life, so not many people in Korea are aware of the process of making hanji and its impact on Korean history. There are less than 25 paper mills remaining in Korea, and very few have serious apprentices, because it’s not an easy living. In a world where you could live and work in an urban center with all the amenities you need, why would someone decide to live in a rural area doing manual labor for very little money? There are no good incentives to do the work, even if you believe in continuing an ancient and important tradition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How sustainable is the process, could you tell about the ecological aspect of the paper making?
AL: Papermaking on a small scale (meaning individuals or families who are in business) in Korea is ecologically sustainable, though it may not be financially so. The main raw material is the paper mulberry tree, which is cut each year. This coppicing practice encourages the plant to grow back every year, so the same plant can produce material for over 20 years. These are not trees in the way Western minds think of hardwood lumber: they are tall and skinny, almost shrublike, and cutting them down does not kill the plant. The traditional methods of processing always used plant materials so that production byproducts were easy and not toxic to dispose of or reuse. The bulk of the energy that goes into making hanji is human energy, which means that the process is very labor intensive but has a very light ecological footprint.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is it correct that Hanji derives from nature, or implies a closeness to it?
AL: Hanji is made from plants, and could never have been invented without a human closeness to non-human nature by observing the possibilities of certain species and experimenting over time. Dorothy Field, artist and author (my favorite is her book Paper and Threshold) writes beautifully about how certain plants long to become paper, and all they needed was the human hand to let them reach that state.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can Hanji accessories, or clothing, be compared to textiles, or is it irrelevant?
Paper and textile have a very strong connection, aside from each being able to be transformed into the other. The first paper was made from hemp cloth, and hanji can be cut, spun, and woven into cloth. Hanji has been used to make clothing, and today’s contemporary designers and manufacturers are including hanji into their textile production.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are teaching as well, could you tell about the workshops and education aspect?
AL: I mentioned before that sense of responsibility to share knowledge about hanji to a much wider audience. Part of this is from a conservation instinct, out of a fear that hanji is disappearing. But most of it comes from a joyous instinct, out of my love for this material that is so endlessly versatile. I always knew that handmade paper had great range, but even after almost a decade, I continue to find possibilities for hanji. If the substrate was not impressive, I would not feel compelled to promote it. However, I want people to know about hanji as an option, so that they can have another tool in the toolkit. This means that I teach a range of workshops, from preparing fiber to making hanji to manipulating it by hand. I travel continually to spread the word, in the hopes that eventually hanji will become as familiar as other papers, and that paper itself can be regarded on the same level as canvas, clay, metal, glass, wood, and so on.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The aesthetic form of Hanji art and folk art influences your making, how do people receive these traditional objects, which you are making today?
AL: Most people don’t know about the lineage of the objects, so the responses are mostly of wonder—they are amazed that my pieces are made of paper in the first place. This provides an opening to share the stories of their historical use, and illuminate the ways that humans have always made objects that are not only useful, but embedded with meaning. Some have asked if I am interested in using the techniques to make much more contemporary ‘looking’ art. I have wanted for years to extend crafts like jiseung into installation and larger work that goes past the original shapes and functions of their predecessors. The issue is that the time and labor that it takes to make one piece is so great that I could only go in that direction if I had a very long and uninterrupted stretch of time to work. However, I am gratified to see that some of my students are moving in that direction after learning about hanji and its applications.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What other materials do you use today in the making of your art?
AL: For the longest time, I have been very strict about using hanji whenever possible, or other handmade papers. My thread box is always full of different paper threads I have made, though I use cotton, linen, and silk thread to sew my hanji dresses. I also use the raw materials that make these papers, such as the cooked bark before it is beaten to a pulp. I use mostly natural dyes and finishes, which add color, structure, and protection to the paper. Last year, I collaborated with Kristen Martincicon a paper and ceramic installation, and recently had a couple of jewelry metals artists help me with additions to my paper ducks at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. I’m interested in continuing this last investigation further.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is fascinating about your use of paper is its multiple dimensions from small objects to books. Your own writing and art (illustration) is sealed into these art books. Tell about the books, which you have made, how did the stories develop?
AL: Books came first for me, before paper. I was making artists’ books at Oberlin College while studying with Nanette Yannuzzi Macias, which was a game changer. It was a way to combine writing, drawing, storytelling, and all kinds of other media into a form that felt very familiar and yet new. I don’t remember when I started to draw comics, but like improvisation, it was something that came naturally to me. I always thought that the point of being able to make my own books was the ability to create all of my own content. Most of my books contain original writing and stories that come from my own life experience, literature that I love, and the immediate present moment—whether an emotional space or an actual time in history that could be marked in the news cycle.
Aimee Lee, Lapse relapse, 2015, ink and persimmon dye on kozo and hanji, thread. Oberlin College Art Libary collection.
Aimee Lee, Blue moon, 2015, Naturally dyed, spun and woven mulberry paper, mildweed paper covers, thread, 4 leaves.
Aimee Lee, Figure and ground, 2006-2011, pen on handmade paper, tacket binding, 12 pages, CIA Gund Library Collection
Aimee Lee, Arithmetic, 2016, Pencil and stamped foil on handmade paper, 300×300
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you travel to Korea to get new ideas and exchange?
AL: I am able to get back every several years, whenever I am funded. However, because of the distance and difficulty of making enough time to visit (I prefer going for longer periods of time), it’s not a journey I make often. Certainly it is inspiring, but it is a challenge as well because the expectations of me as a Korean American woman can be stressful.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Often you hear that there is a division of thought between Eastern and Western approaches or philosophies. Do you feel you are bridging the gap between east and west in your practice, or do you think about these questions?
AL: This idea comes up often and much of my work can be seen as bridge building between cultures. However, I do my best to stay away from the reductive nature of “East/West” because it sets up an automatic “Us/Them” mentality that can become dangerous. My life experience of feeling reduced to a single word, automatically, because of how I looked, keeps me aware of the unconscious instincts we have to categorize everything. I prefer to present my scholarship and artwork as being rooted in and inspired by many different traditions and cultures. It’s impossible for me to work any other way because I was born to immigrant parents and always lived between at least two disparate cultures.
The “east meets west” cliché is one I particularly dislike, as if it has just happened, and as if there are only two monoliths in the world. It also comes from the point of view of a certain place being the center or more superior, which is problematic. Most cultures around the world have been in contact with each other for centuries, so cross-cultural understanding is not a new thing or an anomaly. Rather, it’s the norm.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Where do you see yourself as an artist and educator in the future?
AL: My goal is to build a new hanji studio for myself, where I can work, make paper, and teach independently, while continuing to travel to teach and exhibit. I want to train apprentices in this new space so that I can increase the number of people who can support hanji. There’s at least one more scholarly book left in me as well, so I look forward to finding the ideal setting to properly research and write it. All of this will be unlocked, I think, once I find the right place for myself to be.
Norwegian documentary film director and advertising professional, Simen Braathen introduced his new doc ARCTIC SUPESTAR to audiences in New York City last week. His documentary about a Sámi rapper SlinCraze had the screening and a concert by the rapper at the United Nations as part of the Forum on Indigenous Issues. The film opened the Films From North program at the Tromsø International Film Festival earlier this year receiving a well-deserved welcome. US VICE Magazine described it as “one of the best music documentaries” of 2016.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you start doing documentary films originally, did you plan on becoming a director as a career choice, or did it just happen?
Simen Braathen: ARCTIC SUPERSTAR is my debut film and it was something I stumbled into 4 years ago. I was working in advertising in New York at the time and as a side project, photographer Martin Johansen and I wanted to make a photo exhibition that portrayed Norwegian rappers and the places they represent. You know, instead of reppin’ Brooklyn, Bronx or Compton, you would have rappers throwing up their signs on top of mountains and fjords.
That’s when we came across SlinCraze – who was not only living in one of strangest, most desolate places I’d ever been, but he was also rapping in this ancient language less than 20.000 people speak. So we brought DOP Kristoffer Kumar for the trip and made a short doc.
At the exhibition opening the year after, the short film earned way more attention than we could ever dream of. With both Huffington Post and BBC showing up to cover it. That’s when we knew that the story might be strong enough for a real doc. Since then it has been a learning-by-doing-kind of process, but luckily I’ve had some very experienced people helping me through.
What is your background and education, you studied Social Anthropology at NTNU?
SB: I’ve also studied creative writing and advertising in Oslo, and moved to the States after graduating, where I spent three years in Colorado and New York. Now. Besides making documentaries I also run a small creative shop called BRUNCH OSLO.
How did youeventually find about SlinCraze?
SB: I knew a couple of Sámi rappers from before, but I was really caught off guard when I first hear SlinCraze’s music. His flow and technique were way better than I ever expected. And his mix of traditional Sámi music with raw hip-hop makes you forget the fact that you have no idea what he’s saying.
Did you know much about the indigenous Sámi people and their culture in Norway before starting to make this documentary?
SB: No, sadly most Norwegians know very little about the Sámi people and the things we do know are usually based on stereotypes. Even current journalism from that region tends to ask the same cliché, preconceived questions. I think what made our process a little different was that we were first and foremost interested in music and we shared so many musical references we could connect through. To explore this part of the world and being able to hang out with some really cool people have been a major motivation for making this film.
In this documentary, the Sámi rapper from Finnmark, Norway is on a mission. Nils Rune Utsi has recently gained a lot of visibility with the definition of a guy wanting to save the language, previously gaining audiences in Norway from all ages. How was the ARCTIC SUPERSTAR screening last week in New York City?
SB: Great! It was such an honor to be able to show it both at the United Nations and at the Scandinavia House last week. It was fun to see that people here responded to the same things as the audience in Norway, cause you never know if things will get lost in translation or in cultural differences.
This is the 15th time that the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was held at the UN. There were more than 1,200 indigenous representatives from around the world attending to promote indigenous rights. One of the participants, Aili Keskitalo, the President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway, was introducing the screening and the SlinCraze concert on May 10th.
What can you say about the German and European responses that you’ve had with the film, would Europeans know more about the subject, and about their indigenous people?
SB: No, I don’t believe they do, but I think there is something universal about coming from a small place, like SlinCraze does it dreaming big dreams. And I think that is what the audiences recognize and have roots for.
Did hip hop change Norway essentially, can you say it is much different there than in America?
SB: I’m not sure how or if it has changed the country, but we’ve had a huge hip-hop scene for many years. Some of our best selling and most influential artists today have their background in hip-hop. One of the things I really like about hip-hop, is that it can be so local. Even in a small country like ours we have subgenres that vary based on where you come from.
You have career experiences from branding and advertising industries, how is advertising different from making documentaries, do you find it useful to have expertise in both fields so that one gives to the other?
SB: The creative process is the same. You plant a seed and make sure it grows into it’s full potential. But the time and money you have in making, is obviously very different. As a creative I’ve really enjoyed mixing the two, because making a documentary is such a slow game, and whenever I felt like nothing happened I could turn into advertising. At the same time, advertising can feel pointless at times when clients turn your ideas into crap. So then I would go back to my film where I was in control.
There is always a lot of curiosity around the Cannes lion prizes. What is your personal opinion, what do you generally think of prizes and awards and their role in the making of your works?
SB: I personally couldn’t care less about advertising awards and I’ll never understand why people spend more time making case studies for their work, than the actual work. But I guess that’s how a lot of the industry works, how people get promoted and agencies win business.
How do you usually fund the projects, is Norwegian support for film good and beneficial?
SB: I don’t know so much about this. It’s is probably more of a question for my producer Stig Andersen at Indie Film in Norway.
Do you see yourself as an artist; are documentary filmmakers considered to be artists, and how do they talk about art in the advertising industry?
SB: No, I don’t. I think documentaries sometimes can turn into art in the end, but I never like the ones that set out to be that from the start. The same goes for advertising. If you start by thinking you’re going to make art, you will most likely end up making shitty art that also doesn’t work as an ad.
Start with something true and make the most out of it. Then maybe it becomes something unique. -Simen Braathen
What is your motto of making your works in a couple of sentences?
SB: Finish it no matter what. Every creative will at some point think, “this idea sucks, I’ll wait for the next” but when you’re stubborn and push things through, you’ll never know where it might end up. In this case we ended up at the UN.
Do you have great plans for the future, any specific subject matters that are important for you at the moment?
SB: We just started developing a new project, which is about my grandpa who is 93 years old and plays in a band. Also I’m excited for some of the things we’re doing at BRUNCH, where we help companies tell genuine and more engaging stories.
“Anri Sala: Answer Me” -exhibition, which will be on display at the New Museum until April 10th, 2016, features multichannel audio and video installations. In his recent works, Albanian artist Anri Sala has interpreted musical compositions, classical works so to speak, with experiments that are structured into video and sound installations. The monumentally compound works navigate through the limits of our perception; mapping the sound and the spatial, and investigating the sound in the architectural spaces. This experiment transformed New Museum floors into symphonic areas of soundful meaning, leaving room for small encounters.
Anri Sala’s often political works have tested the boundaries of sound and language in our construction of cultural realities. From cultural point of view, his works seem to investigate contexts that are outside the dominant aspects of reality. Or the realities are rather revealed through the layering of world of sounds. We have adopted a notion that the words create the meaning in our cultural communication. Yet, as Sala with his approaches has shown, it is possible to challenge this definition further by mapping and deconstructing the terrain, in which words actually restrict our ways of interpreting or seeing the world. From this perspective, the everyday life is full of noises that communicate without restricted syntax. Sound, form this point of view, has a great capacity to alter meaning.
Sound’s features are attached to the material world that is so close to music. For Anri Sala, sound plays a role of an incomplete music, or music, which is in the state of becoming. Sound as a mediating device – even when it is real musical pieces divided into fragments – can document and edit reality, and communicate on a new level of poetic composition. This becomes immanent through the artist’s works, which New Museum profoundly projects. What stays with the viewer, is the personal corporeal experience, which is created in the architectural space as the entirely new perception. The change in the reception of the artistic works is focally in the embodiment. The surrounding sound world invites the viewer to walk into the next room full of sound. Or it freezes on the threshold, making the mystery of the sound’s origin more significant.
Fragmentation and repetition is evidential in Sala’s second floor installation. The work unfolds as a two-channel HD video from 2014: ‘The Present Moment (in B-flat)’. This installation depicts different interpretations of an original compositional score by Arnold Schoenberg, titled ‘Verklärte Nacht Op. 4’ (1899).’ On the video, the chamber music setting acts as a fictional rearrangement of the historical work. Two videos feature a sextet of two violins, two violas and two cellos that play solitary notes from the musical work. Eventually the original musical score unfolds. The audio-visual installation works powerfully on two separate screens absorbing the body of a viewer into its mellow soundscape. The intimate portraits of the musicians, the movements and gestures of their heads, hands, arms, and backs, act as counterbalance to the interior, in which their playing has been recorded. The setting of empty room or hall creates an atmosphere of a vast space that accumulates sound on multiple stages. Sala’s meditative and mesmerizing piece truly puts an emphasis on the present moment.
Anri Sala, The Present Moment (in B-flat), 2014, Two-channel HD video in color, and twenty channel sound installation, 14:13 min.
Anri Sala, The Present Moment (in B-flat), 2014, Courtesy Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Marian Goodman Gallery; and Hauser & Wirth.
Anri Sala, ‘Ravel Ravel’, 2013, HD video projections.
Dramatic ending of the ‘Ravel Ravel’, 2013. All works @artist. Video still images: Firstindigo and Lifestyle.
Upstairs, at the fourth floor of the museum, is a presentation of Anri Sala’s installation ‘Ravel Ravel Unravel’, from 2013. This is the work’s US premiere, it debuted in 2013 at the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale, where the artist represented France. In the title work ‘Ravel Ravel’ (2013), Sala reinterprets Maurice Ravel’s ‘Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Orchestra in D major’. The composer created the composition in 1929 for an Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during the World War I.
The museum space, in which the ‘Ravel Ravel’ video is installed, is designed to absorb sound and prevent echoes. In this chamber like room, there are two unique and separate performance interpretations of Ravel’s composition taking place. The musical echo is produced with ‘in and out of sync’ parameter, as two simultaneous performances measure temporal dimensions. The two pianists gradually shift out of unison, they are projected with their performances with two different orchestras. The one might evolve slightly different from the other, creating a minimal echo. Shifting between doubling notes and echoes creates the difference of the entire work, leaving the spectator paralyzed and in awe.
Sala’s work contours in time, with tempo variation and within the space that has left no chance for error. The other video in the fourth floor being part of this work is titled ‘Unravel’, 2013. It debuted at the Venice Biennial alongside ‘Ravel Ravel’. ‘The Unravel’ video presents DJ Chloé Thévenin who takes part in the manual and physical manifestation of these two concerto recitals. She has the performance recitals on two turntables, in which she accelerates and slows the records in process. Fascinating, a visual turnout of the concerto sound in a new gesture.
More info about the artist and the current exhibition “Anri Sala: Answer Me” :
Exited about this video. Sephardic music and traditions have been carried on from one generation to the next by women storytellers and performers. Flory Jagoda and Susan Gaeta performed together on March 2013 in Maryland, where this video was recorded. Flory Jagoda tells a story about her family in Europe, going back to family photos, and including her own career as a musician. She started learning from her own grandmother, who sang her folk songs in Ladino. Jagoda is a leader of the revival of Ladino language by song. Vocalist/guitarist Susan Gaeta is an important member of new generation performers exploring a rich variety of Sephardic music.
Daniella Rabbani, actress, singer, and a new yorker is currently producing and starring in #GYMSHORTS, a series of Web Shorts. Daniella graduated from New York University’s TischSchool of the Arts with a focus on acting for television. She also studied at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What productions/premieres did you do recently?
DANIELLA RABBANI: THE GOLDEN LAND, THE OFF BROADWAY MUSICAL I WAS IN THIS PAST FALL WAS NOMINATED FOR A DRAMA DESK! I GOT TO DRESS UP AND GO TO THE NOMINEE RECEPTION AND THE AWARD CEREMONY. IT WAS SO FUN! I’M CURRENTLY PRODUCING AND STARRING IN #GYMSHORTS ABOUT THE FUNNY THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT THE GYM. IT’S AWESOME. I GET TO DO BE REALLY GOOFY WITH SOME OF THE FUNNIEST ACTORS I KNOW AND PUMP IRON WITH TRAINERS LIKE BRETT HOEBEL FROM THE BIGGEST LOSER. IT’S HYSTERICAL.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who are your greatest mentors and idols?
DR: I’VE BEEN VERY BLESSED IN MY LIFE TO HAVE SEASONED PROFESSIONALS, MASTERS AT WHAT THEY DO, TAKE ME UNDER THEIR WING. I APPRENTICED UNDER THE STELLA ADLER STUDIO’S HEAD OF MOVEMENT, JENA NECRASON, FOR YEARS. SHE TAUGHT ME HOW TO FOLLOW MY INSTINCTS, TO TELL A STORY WITHOUT ANY WORDS AT ALL, TO COLLABORATE AND TO TEACH. I ALSO SING IN YIDDISH. ZALMEN MLOTEK, THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL YIDDISH THEATER, HUNKERED DOWN WITH ME FOR HOURS AND HOURS TEACHING ME BEAUTIFUL YIDDISH FOLK AND THEATER TUNES. WE TOURED TOGETHER FOR YEARS. EVEN ARTISTS I HAVEN’T MET YET- GIRLS LIKE GRETA GURWIG, LENA DUNHAM, ZOOEY DESCHANEL, MINDY KALING – GIRLS WHO TAKE THEIR ARTISTRY AND FATE INTO THEIR OWN HANDS- THESE ARE MENTORS TO ME TOO.
What is your favorite performance genre, which one do you like more, musical theater, drama or film?
DR: I’M INSPIRED TO CREATE MORE WEB-BASED FEMALE DRIVEN COMEDIC CONTENT. I THINK THE WEB IS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE AND I DIG IT. MY BACKGROUND IS IN THEATER, WHICH I TOTALLY LOVE, AND MY FUTURE IS IN TV (IT’S ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM). STATING A PREFERENCE IS LIKE PLAYING FAVORITES WITH YOUR CHILDREN… EVERYONE DOES IT BUT IT’S NOT THE TYPE OF THING YOU’RE GONNA ADMIT.
Do you tour, how is it different to perform in New York City and elsewhere?
DR: I TOUR LESS THESE DAYS. THE LAST TIME I SANG A CONCERT OUT OF TOWN, WE WERE IN WARSAW, POLAND SINGING TO HUNDREDS OF POLES IN YIDDISH. IT WAS INTENSE. BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING, SAD AND HAUNTING… I GOT TO GET TO KNOW WARSAW A BIT AND EVEN TOUR AROUND KRAKOW AND AUSCHWITZ… IT WAS A COMPLICATED, LIFE CHANGING TRIP.
How do you consider yourself as a role model for young people?
DR: WHEN I PERFORM, I TRY TO BE MY FULLEST SELF- BY EMBRACING MY HUMANITY WITH ALL ITS GREATNESS AND EVEN MY IMPERFECTIONS. I HOPE THAT THE AUDIENCE WATCHING CAN FEEL INSPIRED TO LIVE THEIR FULLEST LIVES AS WELL.
Daniella Rabbani’s ownwebsite. Follow @DaniellaRabbani on Twitter., @drabbani on Instagram.
Exporting music and arts to different parts of the world belong to cultural heritage. Arts are sustainable and renewable part of culture. Some artists choose to live in another country to gain inspiration, to start a new career, and desiring to make it there. Each story is different. Finnish musician, singer, songwriter and composer Paula Jaakkola has lived in New York City since 1999. She is a graduate from the University of Helsinki’s Musicology program in 1999, and from The New School in 2002 where she studied jazz vocals. Recently Paula was in Finland recording her new album.
Paula, how has the recording experience been so far?
PJ: The first recording sessions in Finland this past December were fun and inspiring. We started with 3 songs of mine. The musicians Ape Anttila, Jaska Lukkarinen and Marzi Nyman are extremely talented artists and I am fortunate that they are excited to play my music. The recordings continue this spring in Finland and in New York so there is still a lot to be done.
What other plans do you have for the near future?
PJ: In the somewhat near future I am preparing for the CD release party for the fall of 2013. The plan is to work hard to get exposure for the album, make music as much as possible and hopefully tour a lot as well.
What is your favorite song?
PJ: This is a hard one as I don’t have a favorite song. There are so many. But lately I have been touched by Sia’s “Breathe Me”.
How do you collaborate, arrange the songs with other musicians?
PJ: If I am doing a gig with musicians and they haven’t played with me before I usually send them music charts along with MP3’s that are the demo versions of the songs. They get an immediate idea of the mood and style of the song. At the rehearsals we refine the ideas. I don’t always have a very clear idea what the drummer and the bassist should play so I always welcome honest input from the musicians.
As to the album collaboration it is a bit different. I send my demo audio files to the producer. He arranges them further, maybe changes the form a bit, adds more instrumental ideas and grooves. He sends me MP3’s to listen to and I might have more ideas to add. It’s lots of back and forth as we work long distance and deal with e-communication. The fact that he is in Finland makes the process a bit challenging but so far it has been working. When the arrangements are ready the musicians will come to the studio and play their parts and usually bring their own additional ideas as well. It is a very organic process where everyone has the freedom to bring their creativity on the plate.
You have performed in many venues in New York City, what is your favorite?
PJ: I really liked the Living Room in the Lower East Side but it just closed, which is very sad. I also like Somethin’ Jazz Club in Midtown where I have been playing a lot recently. It is a super mellow venue. I have sung a few times at the legendary Joe’s Pub but those occasions haven’t been my own shows. My goal is to be able to have my own concert there sometime in the near future. It is a beautiful space with a really good sound system.
What is the most inspirational Kalevala poem to you, how did Finnish National Epic Kalevala inspire you?
PJ: Kalevala inspired me a lot when I was co-leading a Finnish world music group Kaiku. We used some Finnish folk poems as basis to our songs. I really cherish Kalevala’s mystical world. I like the part where the wizard Väinämöinen plays his “kantele” (traditional Finnish string instrument), starts singing and makes all the people and forest animals enchanted and trance induced. Music is his ultimate power and wisdom.
Here are some of Paula’s up-coming performances in New York City:
Friday, March 15, 10pm
90 W Houston St
(btwn LaGuardia and Thompson)
Friday, March 29, 7pm
at Somethin’ Jazz Club
212 E. 52nd St. 3Fl. (btw/ 2nd & 3rd Ave.)
I interviewed Jason Carter, a Harp guitar adventurer, who was born in UK, is a World citizen and celebrating his birthday this week. Jason has exiting new adventures coming up. And just a bit about the World peace too.
Happy birthday, Jason, hoping it is a good one! I remember our collaboration in 2000 in Helsinki with our ‘Landscape/Innerscape’ -performance project. It was great fun. Seems that we both have been doing creative projects for a while and traveled quite a bit since.
WOW, was it really THAT long ago??? I remember it well, it was my first trip to Finland, so very memorable. I am 43 today, time to start thinking about growing up. After all, it is the thought that counts..
What are the most recent places you visited to perform? How did you build bridges through music between cultures and people? What do you think about the carbon footprints and travel miles? This idea of making the world a better place through music is fantastic.
The most recent places have been Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brunei, Malaysia and Estonia. I think that every performance every artist gives, inevitably builds bridges, but then if the context is one of tension, conflict, or post war (power vacuum) then this becomes more poignant, as there can be also need for healing and reconciliation. The difference begins with every individual making an effort, which in turn, makes a difference. The carbon footprint is a difficult subject for me as I do travel far and wide, and to get to Dubai for instance, I would need to go by train all the way to Istanbul, then buses from there. Sounds great, even romantic, but impossible given the amount of concerts I do every year. Maybe one day I will be in a position to not think about how many concerts I need to do every year, and just travel this way, which would be amazing. Saying that, I will take the train to Siberia for my concerts in Novosibirsk in April.
I love your video *Endless Summer*. Tell me a little how it came about. The landscape speaks to me with its calm language. And the humor is so touching.
The creative process involved here come from two perspectives, me as a film maker and a musician. The music came easily with David Lillqvist (another Finn!). I rarely play with drummers, so this brings out a clearer sense of rhythm. The video was more difficult because we struggled with light in some of it, and it was COLD! For me, the video making process is not always or only about the story of the music, but a little about the personality of the performers. Maybe this is because I am a performer first and foremost, and I feel it important to connect with the audience personally.
What future plans you hold now, where do you see yourself going next in your career?
Big question, as I am in the middle of some big changes. I have started this project http://www.jesseralwadi.org which is an initiative based in Abu Dhabi (UAE). It is many things, including education/workshops for schools, performances in the UAE and internationally (in UN concerts in Geneva and NYC). But mainly, this project is something which enables me to continue the theme of ‘building bridges through music’ on a more official level. I am off to Dubai and Abu Dhabi on Monday to secure funding for the first year. Wish me luck!
Thank you so much Jason, your projects are awesome, you need lots of good luck! Happy and safe travels!