The First Finnish
by Petri Kuljuntausta
The compositions on
the ON/OFF CD were composed during 1958-1963 and all of them are
previously unreleased. The following text describes the works and the
composers behind them.
[b. 1934] worked as a sound technician from 1957-66 at the studios
of Finnish radio YLE. He was a trusted figure in the field and helped
many artists to create high quality recordings. He also recorded John
Cage & David Tudor  and Terry Riley [1963 & 1967] when
they visited YLE's studios.
composed electronic and concrete music: Sounds 1 ,
Sounds 2 , Idiopostic 1 , Sounds 3
 and Idiopostic 2 . Idiopostic 1 is one of the
finest examples of electronic works realized at YLE in the early 60's.
Sounds 1-3 were all concrete works but Idiopostic 1 is
based on electronically produced sounds. The first performance was held
in October 1963 at the Contemporary Music Days in Helsinki. Later on
Jyrkiäinen decided to modernize this work and created a two-track
version, Idiopostic 2 in 1966.
In 1966 Karlheinz
Stockhausen selected and broadcasted Jyrkiäinen's work on his radio
series for WDR, introducing electronic music from different studios all
across the globe. The two-track version of the Idiopostic was
played as a background music for a photography exhibition in Sweden
[Gothenburg] in 1966.
Johansson [1914-1989] started his career as a recording engineer in
1952 at the Finnish radio YLE. Johansson was the key person [or
technical guru] at the station who took care of teaching a new
generation of sound technicians [eg. Jyrkiäinen]. In his early sound
technician courses in the late-50's he introduced and played the latest
electronic and concrete music recordings for his students. Many of the
listeners were stunned by the possibilities of new recording technology
and started to experiment by themselves too.
interested in studio technology and contemporary music as well as
traditional music. In spirit he wasn't particularly avant-garde and
didn't want to follow them; he believed in traditional expression and
his ouvre includes a large number of choral and organ works. But as a
'technical person,' Johansson did dream of trying out the possibilities
of new technology and did compose, in 1960, the first Finnish work based
strictly on pure electronic sounds, Three Electronic Studies.
Composition work started in the beginning of 1960 and the work was ready
six months later in July. The first performance was at the Nordic Music
Days in Stockholm, September 1960.
Almost every time
when Three Electronic Studies was performed, it divided opinions
and raised strong feelings: especially young avant-gardists didn't like
the piece, because of it's traditionally-based idiom and organist-like
attitude. But nobody could deny the fact that the work was well-crafted.
It has spirit, nocturnal calm, and intimate character. The piece has
been performed many times in Finland, and it was selected for a
Scandinavian tour in late-1963. Karlheinz Stockhausen broadcasted
Three Electronic Studies on his radio series for WDR in 1965.
Donner [b. 1939] was perhaps the most radical person in Finnish
music during the 60's. New and avant-garde ideas interested Donner and
he was willing to experiment. His career has many tracks: working as a
compositor, jazz musician, producer and organizer. In 1963 he invited
Ken Dewey and Terry Riley to visit in Finland and soon arranged the
first happenings in Finland: Street Piece Helsinki [street
happening, 1963], Pasila Piece [one of the first TV-happenings,
1963], Studio Sleeper [radio-happening, 1963] and others. Since
then, Donner has composed music for many theatre productions as well.
He used the
possibilities of tape machines in his Ideogramme 1  to
broaden a live sound with an additional instrumental parts played from
the tape. In early 1963 he composed Ideogramme 2 for instrumental
group and tapes. The work was composed for an exhibition performance and
the tape part realization was created on four tracks [2 x two-tracks].
During that time he composed a music collage for the film Two
Chicken by Eino Ruutsalo [1921-2001, pioneer of Finnish avant-garde
film] and during spring-summer of 1963 continued his electronic music
studies in Bilthoven [Holland] under the guidance of Gottfried Michael
König. Later during that same year he went to Siemens studio in Munich
to study more of the secrets of electronic music technology.
Esther at the Bilthoven's studio. The piece starts with a steady
opening section, but suddenly the direction of the piece totally
changes; the work starts moving lively, dynamic relations chances
quickly and piece goes wild with a hits of surprising sounds. It was
realized in Bilthoven, but it has the same kind of raw sounding
character that is familiar with the early works composed at the studio
of Helsinki University.
Salmenhaara [1941-2002] was one of the central figures in a young
and rising Finnish avant-garde life in the early-1960's. In 1960 he
stated: "We should not follow Sibelius, nor we should run blindly after
the new ideas of [Darmstadt's] avant-garde". This statement doesn't mean
that he didn't follow his time. Actually Salmenhaara composed the first
Finnish live-electronic compositions Pan and Echo  and
Concerto for Two Violins .
for Ferrophon  from the same time period was an extraordinary
sound piece; a musician [Salmenhaara himself] used sticks and other
objects to scrub sounds from the large metal sheet, which Salmenhaara
called a 'ferrophon'. These works were intentionally 'ugly-sounding' and
'noisy' pieces, as a critic described Salmenhaara's avant-garde works
too. Stockhausen was an important figure for Salmenhaara but soon he
found a band called the Beatles, which marked a turning point for his
towards tonalism but he didn't gave up with electronic music. He
composed a large scale electronic works for a two TV-films, both
realized in 1968, and for the EXPO 67 in Montreal he composed an
electronic composition Information Explosion .
 was Salmenhaara's first electronic work and it was composed at
the studio of Helsinki University during spring 1963. Its industrial and
explosive character holds the same kind of sound identity that was
typical for the work of the studio's owner, Erkki Kurenniemi. White
Label's first public performance was at the Jyväskylä Art summer
festival in July 1963.
Kuusisto [b. 1933] visited the Darmstadt's avant-garde festival for
the first time in 1957, and heard there electronic music of Pousseur,
Henry and Stockhausen. Before the visit he was already familiar with
Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge and during the following
spring he helped the composer himself with Stockhausen's first visit and
tournee in Finland. Kuusisto studied music but also in the late-50s he
went to the USA to study television directing. After the period he came
back to work at YLE in the early 1960s.
composed eleven operas and created music for very different kinds of
instrumentation, using influences of light and romantic music, and he
has also worked as an organist and chorus leader. In the early 1960s he
also took part of the experimental actions. His academic composition
diploma concert was arranged together with Reijo Jyrkiäinen in October
1963, and in this concert both of these composers experimented so well,
that one critic raised the question of an 'anti-academic music'.
2  was composed in spring 1963 and was performed first time at
the diploma concert in 1963. The sound sources used in the piece are
church organ, taken from the organ piece Ritmo Acustico 1 ,
chain saw and sound generator. After his early experimental period
Kuusisto stepped to the world of chorus and stage works, but later on
has used modern synthesizers and their electronic possibilities in his
operas and other pieces.
The tracks 6-8 on
the CD are constructed by me based on sound effects from radio works
mentioned below. Finding these forgotten works in YLE's huge tape
archives was a pure accident. Concerning the two radio theatre works,
Bug and Your Own Figure Behind the Door, I was lucky
enough to find some newspaper reviews first, which gave me hints about
the use of electronic sounds in the works.
In the third case,
track no. 7, the sound material used in the Demonstration was
taken from a discussion program's tape. At first sight the tape and its
information text wasn't so interesting. But I was suspicious and while
listening to it, I soon realized that the tape was labelled with the
wrong information about the recording date and persons discussing on the
tape. After a long research process and by checking manually, date by
date, all program and broadcasting informations from a mid-50s radio
magazine, I finally succeeded in tracking down the original broadcasting
date. The tape was something that I could never believed still exists:
the first public discussion about electronic music broadcasted in
In this program six
main figures of Finnish music life discussed about electronic music and
what it might have to offer us an aesthetically and technically. The
program was broadcasted in March 1958, and the second broadcast was four
weeks later, after Stockhausen's visit and concerts in Finland. The
program also included examples of electronic works composed by
well-known composers like Herbert Eimert, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano
Berio and Bruno Maderna. The latter broadcast also included
Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge as an additional extra piece.
Both broadcasts started with Johansson's 8-minute long lecture and
demonstration. The purpose of this demonstration was to give to the
radio listeners a practical example of the technical possibilities of
electronic music. The Demonstration on this CD is constructed
from the sounds taken from that radio lecture by Johansson.
A radio play
Bug [Lutikka] was realized at YLE's radio drama department
in 1958. The Bug is based on a science fiction novel by Vladimir
Mayakovski under the same title and this broadcast was the first time
when Mayakovski's work was performed in western countries. In this
Finnish radio realization, the sound technicians and director wanted to
express time changes (or time jumps) and the workings of a ‘melting
machine,’ as well as the fast running of the bug. There are also some
repeated and electronically manipulated speech announcements: "Hyvä"
[Good], "Huono" [Bad], "Ehdotusta ei voi hyväksyä" [The suggestion can't
A radio play Your
Own Figure Behind the Door [Oma hahmosi oven takana] was
realized at YLE's radio drama department in 1960. The text was written
by Bo Carpelan and it was directed by Eddie Stenberg. The radio play is
characterized by the use of tape manipulation techniques and it starts
with nearly a dozen repeats of the same situation: the ringing of a
telephone and a man answering and saying his name. The work includes
some extremely powerful hit sounds and echoed sounds, which take a
central role in the radio play each time when they appear. During those
days, listeners' ears wasn't so used to hear such electronically
produced sounds very often, so the whole thing must have sounded quite
Letter to Jan Bark is a collectively composed humorous collage
work, created in 1963 by Kaj Chydenius, Erkki Kurenniemi, Henrik Otto
Donner, Erkki Salmenhaara and Raija Mattila. According to Kurenniemi the
work was a spiritual gift for Jan Bark from a composition seminar that
he gave them in Finland during fall 1963. Bark visited frequently in
Finland and he was a close friend of young Finnish avant-garde
This short track on
the CD is constructed by me, the sound material here were taken from the
sections that Erkki Kurenniemi composed for the original 16 minute long
work. Included here are processed speech sections, electronically
produced motive from the Swedish national anthem and some two track
Mustonen [b. 1937] has worked as professor of statistics at Helsinki
University but he has always been interested in music and music theory
too. While he worked at the Cable Factory in the early sixties in
Helsinki, he started to make music experiments with an Elliott 803
computing, Elliott 803 played tones, giving auditory signs to a
programmer who could then estimate about how much time is left until the
computing work was finished. These primitive tones came out from a small
loudspeaker mounted aside of the console. Mustonen was interested in
these tones and decided to write a computer program to control the notes
and to create scales and musical themes. During his holidays in the
summer of 1962 he started to work toward his goal and soon the music
program for the Elliott computer was ready.
He demonstrated the
program for some composers in fall 1962 and was invited to give a
performance at the Jyväskylä Summer festival for the next summer.
Mustonen's program created variations from the given theme in real time.
If necessary, the program could create a whole music performance by
itself without any given themes and could compose variations up to 20 to
the 5oth power years without repeating its themes!
For this CD I have
selected a few short examples from these lively moving variations on the
original 20 minute long tape. Later on Mustonen continued his career
with his Survo program, at first created for statistical calculations,
which is still doing well and its development continues under the work
of Survo user enthuasists and programmers.
Usko Meriläinen’s [1930-2004] composing style changed from
neo-classicism and Stravinskian influences towards avant-garde ideas
that he got from his visits to Central Europe. Soon he opened another
new door and started to experiment with tape recorders. Meriläinen's
first tape composition was Eros & Psykhe , music for a
theatre play and radio drama, both versions under the same title.
divides into the three main sections written for orchestra (1st and 3rd
section) and for tape (2nd section). He created the tape part on his
own, with a cheap tape recorder and home-made techniques by using e.g.
standard scissors for tape cutting. Meriläinen used concrete sounds and
recorded piano sounds (prepared), noises from the radio, dog sounds and
human sounds recorded at the entrance hall of his flat.
This edited version
on the CD is taken from Eros & Psykhe's 18 minutes long 2nd
section for tape. Since the 60's, Meriläinen has composed many tape
works, most of them large scale pieges, e.g. electronic symphony, music
for dancers and radio theatre.
Nordgren’s [b. 1944] first recorded work is the concrete tape work
Water Drops, which appears on this CD, composed in 1963, when he
was only 19 years old. The composition was created at YLE's studio with
a help of sound tehnician Reijo Jyrkiäinen.
All sounds used in
the piece are based on a short sound recording of dripping water. Later
on Nordgren used the studio’s technological possibilities in his
Kalevala myth-based work Lights of Heaven [Taivaanvalot],
composed in the mid-80's. Since 70's, influences of Japanese and folk
music has been one of the trademarks in Nordgren's work.
Vuorenjuuri [b. 1932] visited Darmstadt in 1955, met Eimert and
visited the Cologne studio where Stockhausen was composing Gesang der
Jünglinge at the time. He and Stockhausen became friends and
Vuorenjuuri invited him to Finland. Stockhausen's first visits were in
1958, 1961 and 1962. And in fact, after his visits Stockhausen was so
fascinated with the country that had a plan to buy an island in Central
Finland and move to there!
Vuorenjuuri was a
newspaper writer and critic at Helsingin Sanomat [the main newspaper in
Finland] and he used all of his position to inform readers about the new
ideas of avant-garde and electronic music. Sometimes there was big
intellectual fight between Vuorenjuuri and the more conservative music
people. But younger people liked Vuorenjuuri's radical style and about
the fact that something new could happen in Finnish music life too.
After the Darmstadt
visit in 1955 Vuorenjuuri had a plan to establish an electronic music
studio. This was never realised, but in 1958, Vuorenjuuri started to
compose concrete music work at the YLE studios. The text that he used as
a basis for the work was A Brave New World  by Aldous
Huxley. Vuorenjuuri's adaption of the work marked the beginning of
Finnish tape music.
massive, 1,5 hour long work was created from speech voices only. At
first the radio theatre's actors read the text, one by one, for the
tape. Vuorenjuuri wanted the lines to be read without accents, stressess
or intonation. The imaginary world in the Brave World was very much
mechanized, so Vuorenjuuri wanted to eliminate human character from the
voices too. After the text lines was recorded, he started the real work
with the tapes. He experimented with many tape machines and other studio
equipment; for a robotic voices he used eg. 'zeitwandler', a specially
designed 'time changing machine' from Germany. He developed all sound
effects used in the work from a different speech fragments, like sound
of helicopters, crowds, chorus, incubation center, e.g. the sound of an
ambulance was created from a female voice, sea waves from the 's' utter,
as well as lashes of a whip too.
The short version of
Brave New World on the CD is edited by me. I wanted to keep in
balance three sides in this work: follow the original story, create a
drama in a compressed form, and retain many of the sound inventions used
in the original work. Ten years later Vuorenjuuri composed another
concrete work Take-off [Ponnistusta, 1968], subtitled as
'a psychedelic sound picture', based on a sounds produced by athletes.
Eskolin [1936-2001] specialized in mobiles. He created many
pioneering works in Finland and very often used sounds in his sculptures
too. During the 60's Eskolin created a series of artworks under the same
title, Space Construction.
The version of his
sculpture music on the CD was realized in 1963 at YLE studios, with the
help of technician Reijo Jyrkiäinen. On the original tape there were
several versions of the piece, some of them were dry, some versions were
echoed. The Space Construction is based on water sounds. I found
this tape by chance in YLE's sound effect archive, among the usual
copyright-free sound effect tapes[!].
Kurenniemi [b. 1941] was the key figure during the early years of
Finnish electronic music. He built the Helsinki University's electronic
studio and started voluntary work during 1961-62. Kurenniemi was a
physicist, but a strong interest in electronic music and electronic
instruments took him into the music world. When he was a young student,
he had an electronic studio at the school's organ balcony for a short
time, where he made some experiments with his schoolmates during the
late 50's. But his dream of a real studio came true a few years later
when he was offered the chance to build the university's studio. Serious
work started and little by little his self-made equipment was ready and
studio work could commence.
From the beginning
of 1963 other composers started to visit and work at the studio. At a
very early stage [in early 1960s], Kurenniemi decided to use digital
technology in his electronic instruments. Another basic idea was to
think of the whole studio as a one big instrument and to develop it
technically in the direction where it would be possible to play the
studio in real-time. In fact his composition On-Off was played in
real time for the tape. During the recording process he controlled all
tape machines, sound sources and effects himself.
Kurenniemi worked at
the university studio until the end of the decade, when he left to found
his company Digelius Electronics Ltd to build and market his own
original electronic instruments. At the top of the Kurenniemi's design
line were DIMI-series [Digital Music Instrument] synthesizers. DIMI-A
 was controlled and played by an 'electric pen'; DIMI-T
['electroencephalophone', 1973] by electrodies connected to a human
head, reading brainwaves; DIMI-S ['sexophone', 1972] by sensors attached
to the arm, reading electrical chances from the skin.
The most interesting
of Kurenniemi's digital instruments is DIMI-O , a
video-synthesizer. By using a video camera and monitor, all moving video
images could be converted to electronic music by this device. He
organized concerts where DIMI-O was controlled by a dancer's movements
or a symphony orchestra conductor's hand moves. He also did an 11-minute
long film DIMI Ballet , in English, where he demonstrates
the capabilities of DIMI-O video-synthesizer with the help of a dancer.
The film is one of the first works in the field of interactive video
It should also be
mentioned that all of Kurenniemi's electronic instruments still exist
and still function. Kurenniemi also created the first commercially
manufactured and marketed microcomputer in 1973 (two years before the
American MITS Altair), and during late 70's worked with robotics. Later
on he became interested in Artificial Intelligence and since the 90's
has worked as a researcher/coordinator at the Heureka Science Museum.
Recently he finished a manuscript for the book about his theory of music
harmony, which mathematically proves a totally new perspective on the
As was previously
mentioned, On-Off  was composed in real-time at the
Helsinki University's electronic studio. Kurenniemi has stated that the
name and the character of the work is connected to the acoustic
experience of the power-station's generator-hall.