Claes Anderson / Kalevi Seilonen / Erkki Kurenniemi / Otto Donner

Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, August 2, 2013
Review Type: 

In their on-going quest for musical oddities, the guys at Ektro Records came across this truly wacky recording, which may well be considered as one of the first encounters of Spoken Word with Electronic Music. Now, seek as you will, you won't find any info on this project except on the label's website (which is also where you'll find a link to two sound samples from the album at SoundCloud. In order to allow myself the easiest way out of reviewing this, I'll simply start by giving you the full explanatory text (with some sentence building changes, and adaptations to concur to Concrete Web standards nevertheless)...

In early February 1968 (yeah, thàt far back), Finnish artist Eino Ruutsalo had a one-week show at Helsinki's Amos Anderson Museum which he called Valo Ja Liike (translates as "Light and Movement"), and as part of the show he arranged an evening of performances including electronic music, "machine poems", light shows, and screenings of his own experimental short films. The main attraction of the evening on February 9, which he named Sähkö-shokki-ilta, was the integrated synthesizer which was designed and built by Erkki Kurenniemi for the Department Of Musicology at the University Of Helsinki. A machine which he called Sähkö-ääni-kone ("Electric Sound Machine"), and which was used during the evening for reading poetry (by poets Kalevi Seilonen and Claes Andersson) in real-time, with "music" being "conducted" by composer/ musician Otto Donner. Regretfully, on the evening itself nothing was recorded, except for photographs. The evening's title was somehow appropriately chosen, as during his day-job as a psychiatrist at The Hesperia Mental hospital, Andersson frequently had to subject his patients to electro-shocks, as was the custom of that time (as well as the administration of massive doses of anti-psychotic drugs and the practice of lobotomy).

You start wondering what we're dealing with then? Well, apparently there was a rehearsal on the day before the actual evening, which was “accidentally” recorded on a reel-to-reel recorder. Evidently, the poets needed to practice the effects of the several sound effects on their onomatopoetic and metaphysical rhymes, and at the same time Kurenniemi did the electronic processing, according to Donner's instructions. Also on the tape, besides Ruutsalo, we can hear Kurenniemi's girlfriend at the time, Meri Vennamo (she even does some “singing”). Everal years later, Ruutsalo described the the “Machine Poems” as such : “The sentences of spoken poems are torn apart, the rhythm of the words is altered, the spoken word vanishes into the silence. The machine offers the reader different kinds of delays, the pitch varies. By using these modulations, the source material of the Machine Poems can be mumblings, babblings, screams, sounds – as well as words.”!

With all spoke words being done in Finnish and Swedish, people of that area of the world, or those comprehending the language, are probably the ones who'll like this album (which has an amazing length of 76 minutes) the most. Of course, those people who actually witnessed the actual Sähkö-shokki-ilta evening, or were part of its organizing, now have a document which they can cherish. The question is, how many people apart from these would be interested in this kind of experimentation? One would have to be a weirdo, wouldn't one...someone a bit like myself!