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Material tape as a piece of art: case studies of an inconstant work-concept in Erkki Kurenniemi’s electroacoustic music

Mikko Ojanen, Kai Lassfolk

Mikko Ojanen and Kai Lassfolk, Department of Musicology, University of Helsinki


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Erkki Kurenniemi was a central figure in the Finnish experimental and avant-garde scene during the 1960s and early 1970s. He collaborated with several Finnish and Swedish composers and artists, designed a series of unique electronic instruments and founded the first electronic music studio in Finland in 1962. Kurenniemi’s technologically oriented approach to the composition process challenges the traditional idea of the realization of a musical work – and blurs the definition and meaning of the work-concept.
Kurenniemi’s compositions can be roughly divided into two categories: “official” pre-planned works and material tapes. Kurenniemi produced a large amount of electroacoustic material to be used in compositions by him or other composers. Some of this material ended up on audio releases as such and gained the status of a musical work. The use of raw, unedited and unprocessed material gives an interesting starting point in analysing the definition and meaning of the work-concept in electroacoustic music.
Here, an overview of Kurenniemi’s electroacoustic music is presented with special interest in material tapes and instrument demonstrations that either have so far remained as such or that have been considered as musical works. Recently, there has been a growing international interest in Kurenniemi’s work, both in the form of art exhibition exposure, audio releases, academic research as well as a film documentary by Mika Taanila. The transformation process of material tapes into pieces of art still continues due to audio releases of previously unpublished material.

EMS12 Proceedings