The Soundscapes Concert Series
The 2013 Soundscapes Concerts Series / Berlin / in cooperation with Gallery Toolbox
(Finnish-German Art Space Berlin-Wedding) established a vibrant platform for Finnish and Berlin-based avantgarde musicians with a focus on improvised music and present-time composition (PTC). Under the curatorship of its founder, instrumentalist and composer Harri Sjöström, the series developed to a considerable format.
The 2016 edition of the Soundscapes X-Tensions Festival / Helsinki / Hakasalmen Huvila widened and exported the format of the previous series to become an international platform for contemporary improvised music and PTC focusing on connecting representative Finland-based musicians with distinguished avantgarde musicians from other countries worldwide.
The 2018 Soundscapes & Soundportraits Festival / Helsinki / Balderin Sali is a further extension of the previous editions. The two-nights festival invited and connected top-level musicians coming from different avantgarde music scenes (England, Italy, Mexico, Berlin and Helsinki). A multidisciplinary element was introduced with the inclusion of real-time drawing and painting.
It all started with a short email: ‘Hey Libero, I’m organizing a big festival in Helsinki between 8th and 10th of September, are you available? Please let me know asap, Harri’. I quickly replied that yes, I was available. Weeks later when I read the lineup in another email, my jaw dropped: Evan Parker, Philipp Wachsmann, Paul Lovens, Teppo Hauta-aho, musicians who have literally created and shaped the contemporary improvisation idiom… Yes, it meant I would be performing with those legendary artists who have accompanied my musical life for many years. Why I think it is relevant to share here my personal experience? Because for a musician’s artistic and professional growth it is extremely important to play with and play in front of legendary and highly respected musicians. Moreover, I believe that during those special encounters a part of the free improvisation cultural heritage is somewhat passed down between generations. During the two days of Soundscapes & Soundportraits there were in fact at least three generations of improvisers: in addition to the abovementioned ‘first’ generation, a younger one was represented by Harri Sjöström, Matthias Bauer, Sebastiano Tramontana and finally the youngest: Veli Kujala, Emilio Gordoa, Dag Magnus Narvesen, myself, and Lena Czerniawska.
Geographical diversity was another important element of this international festival, with players coming from England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, Mexico, Poland and Finland. ‘A pan-European hoedown’ as Ken Waxman called it in his review for Jazzword. As music scenes are often associated with a certain city (London and Berlin are famous for their free improvisation communities), this festival has been an important cultural exchange for the members of the Finnish free improvisation scene. I, we all are grateful that the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) shared this opinion and supported financially Harri Sjöström’s vision and efforts in creating this special event.
Months before the concert we agreed with Harri we should professionally record the festival, if not to be published, at least as a documentation. I am glad and thankful that my alma mater, the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki and in particular its Centre for Music and Technology agreed to support the recording and mixing, making this record possible.
I would like to thank Harri for all the work he has done. Witnessing such a tireless and always enthusiastic artist has been an important lesson on how to make big vision become reality.
As I am writing this text the recording is almost ready to be printed and we are finalising the last details. Soon physical and digital copies of these live performances will be available to the public. I hope you will enjoy the music as much as we have enjoyed making it!