For Sound artist Jaakko Autio, choral singing is part of Finnishness – (Interview by Anneli Tuominen-Halomo ) – LÄNSIVÄYLÄ 9.11.2022

It’s worth stopping to listen to Jaakko Autio’s sound work without rushing.

Galleria Aarni’s exhibition now features sound art – for the first time in the gallery’s history.

Part of the gallery space has been occupied by 18 speakers and 18 vocal voices from the Nomad Vocals choir. The author of the installation is Helsinki-based sound artist Jaakko Autio.

The Intimacy installation explores the human longing for intimacy and connection.

There is a chair next to each speaker in the gallery. The visitor can sit on chairs, relax and listen to the sounds. When you move to another chair, you experience a different soundscape.

The installation takes the viewer into the middle of choir rehearsals. You can choose to listen to the whole choir or an individual singer. The work was already completed two years ago, when a new disease, covid19, frightened Finns and the whole world.

Autio’s original idea was to make an interactive sound installation “Cough samba” about people coughing and play corona instructions in the gallery space.

The purpose was to record choir exercises in general. When Jussi Mattila, the choir director of Nomad Vocals, who is involved in the work, asked if the choir would start rehearsing a song, Autio answered in the affirmative and sent Jussi Mattila a preliminary idea of possible material. Jussi Mattila threw himself into composing and a wonderful sacred composition was born.

– When we started recording, I completely lost track of time, although I usually know very accurately much time or seconds has passed in a recording situation. I decided to abandon the idea of a cough samba, says Autio.

The childhood years spent in Senegal have strongly influenced Auti’s experience of music and Finnishness.

– I call myself a social anthropologist, even though I have no training in the field, Autio laughs.

Senegal, located in West Africa, has a strong musical culture.

– Music, dance and storytelling are referred to together under the word ‘lyrics’. People gather weekly for a Tandeber ritual and strengthen the vitality of the local residential quarter.

At the age of 11, Autio moved to Finland and Ylivieska. It was a shock.

– What a cultural vacuum I fell into! There was nothing to do but stare at the TV.

That’s when Autio started making his own music and the flame has been burning ever since.

– If I return to Senegal, I will immediately get a job because I know how to record and mix music. However, I have made a conscious decision to live here, says Autio, who graduated as a sound professional and master of arts.

- Finnishness does not represent normal to me, Finns make their Finnishness, that is, they actively renew the Finnish way of existing, the artist analyzed.

Autio sees that a person longs to merge into a larger entity such as nature, community or ideology.

For him, art is a way to belong to the Finnish community.

– That’s why I want to make art that speaks to everyone. Art that carries an intimate message from one person to another.

While working in Estonia (Narva), Autio has noticed that Finns’ way of being together is also different from that of Estonians. For example, Finnish choir members are more ready to throw themselves into improvisation, when, for example, in Narva it is important to express yourself with the right singing technique.

All events where people gather together are important to Autio. In his opinion, choral singing is a very Finnish way of being together.

Autio has worked as a sound designer in several city theaters and in the free arts field, for example in dance art. He has studied sound design at Metropolia and Theater Academy (UniArts) in Helsinki.

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