Olli Aarni

Your Musical DNA


Finnish musician Olli Aarni is composing a piece that conveys a notion of the everyday specific to his native culture.

Olli Aarni, © promo

Olli Aarni

Melding electronic sound, traditional Finnish percussion instruments, and the kantele—a Finnish box zither—the musician’s aim is not to elevate the sense of the everyday to something grander, but rather to dig deeper into the habitual and humdrum. This offers a glimpse of how it feels to be alive in this specific time, space, and cultural context.

Olli Aarni at Forecast Forum 2019
Olli Aarni, Forecast Forum 2019. Photo: Camille Blake.
Olli Aarni at Forecast Forum 2019
Olli Aarni, Forecast Forum 2019. Photo: Camille Blake.
Olli Aarni at Forecast Forum 2019
Forecast Forum 2019. Photo: Camille Blake.

The piece melds various fundamentally different compositional approaches, such as improvisation and the use of pre-recorded sound material. The kantele part is strongly influenced by the improvisation tradition of nineteenth-century Finland, and the instrument he uses is essentially a replica of the ones used in that era. The electronic component combines obsolete analog technology with current digital audio-editing capabilities. The piece becomes an intersection of different disciplines and eras, with a strong focus on the local musical tradition, the everyday soundscape, and the technological context of making music.

The project addresses underlying questions: how can such complexities be interwoven into a single performance, and what are the myriad options one has to navigate to distinguish between a local and global tradition in the current cultural climate?

Olli Aarni at Forecast Forum 2019
Olli Aarni, Forecast Forum 2019. Photo: Camille Blake.

Aarni describes his motivation for the project: “In the performance I’m filtering a chunk of my everyday experience into the form of music to show a private, often unwanted part of myself and my experience of the temporal, physical, and cultural space I inhabit. The main motivation for all of this is that I wish for other people to do something similar, so I could glimpse into their worlds.”

Your Musical DNA: Mentor Okkyung Lee and mentee Olli Aarni

He will work on the project in close cooperation with the composer and cellist Okkyung Lee, who will mentor him throughout the process of constructing and performing the piece. The two presented an early version during a work-stay at Nordic House in Reykjavik, Iceland, in February 2020.

At the Forecast Festival, which was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, Aarni will present a further development of the piece, which was originally titled Ajoittua ja sijaita. The musician created a meandering sound environment that conveys a notion of the mundane specific to this turbulent moment, when the digital realm is increasingly shaping the everyday in all contexts of culture.

Sija, Project credits:

Sound, video, and installation: Olli Aarni
Assistance: Mia Tarkela
Videography for musical performances: Mia Tarkela
Videography for the installation: BFF (Best Films Forever) Collective
Videography for spaces in radialsystem: Mariel Baqueiro
Additional video processing: Jussi Simonen
In situ installation collaborator: Bettina Katja Lange
The percussion instruments were built by Juhana Nyrhinen
The kantele was built by Rauno Nieminen