Sunday, 8 May 2022

KRAFT - A world premiere with Akademen

What a concert! What a night!

Last night the Academic Male Voice Choir Akademen together with their conductor Elisa Huovinen gave an outstanding world premiere to my piece Hav, which they had commissioned. Due to a movement in the piece, where the choir is required to clap and stomp, the choir sang the whole 17 minute accapella piece by heart! This in a time when covid-19 has made regular choir practises impossible for over 2 years! I was so impressed!


The whole concert took place in a former steam power plant Kattilahalli, which felt like a industrial cathedral (to borrow the music criticque Mats Liljeroos words).


Hav was one of three commissions by the choir around the theme renewable energies interwoven by preludes and interludes by soundartist Joel James Ward and the whole concert was visually orchestrated by light artist Alexander Salvesen. After Ward’s opening soundscape, Andrea Eklund’s meditative piece Aeon Breath to a poem by James Gilbank filled the domelike hall while the smoke lay heavy and the light scape was hazy. During Ward’s water-inspired interlude soundscape, while the choir re-essembled in the dark.


KRAFT Photo by Melinda Schultz
KRAFT Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz



Out of the dim light and haze the intimate beginning of my Hav began to rise, while Salvesen made spectacular visual landscapes through enormous water projections of light upon the ceiling. Hav consists of a total of ten movements which are sung attack after each other. The first movement in Swedish is meditative and describes the sea and how tremendous it is while the second very energetic movement in English discusses the possibilities of wave power plants. Example of the lyrics of the second movement:


There is an enormous energy potential 

that is available around the clock and free of charge. 

A potential, that if fully exploited, 

could satisfy 40% of the world wide demand for power. 


This equals the output of 700-800 nuclear power stations. 

This would mean no high-level radio active vaste 

of seven hundred to eight hundred nuclear power stations. 


KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

As mentioned, Salvesen had arranged a water basin of about two times 20 meters, with a small motor spinning a pedal that produced fantastic waves that all was reflected on the ceiling, so the energy potential of waves was literally projected on the ceiling and walls.


In the middle of the piece the choir sings partly in unison and partly in three part harmony with a happy melody in major with vibes from Finnish folk music, accompanied by claps and stomps, the following text in Finnish from the Finnish “Economist” (Taloussanomat), here translated:


Only the demand for renewable energy 

will grow this year, 

predicts the International Energy Agency IEA.


The global energy market and emissions

 from energy production 

will see a historic drop this year 

as a result of the coronary virus pandemic, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.


The prognosis says  

that the energy demand 

is going to fall 

the most it has done in 70 years - 

Emissions could fall 

by as much as eight percent, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.



KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz



After this lighter segment the choir is split up so that soloist came to stand between the choir and the water pool, each with an own lightbulb in front of them. While the choir breathes in and out at a rising tempo like a dying planet, the soloists recite a text about how Finnish firms developing Wave-power haven’t received the needed funding from the state (which somehow just seems incredible to me, and so sad). The ever growing crescendo and accelerando is interrupted by a foghorn, which is followed by some beautiful huge chords by the choir and a lamenting solo sung by one of the first tenors. The choir get’s to whistle and sing overtones as well. The piece ends with my words (in Swedish)


Today wave energy costs 

about twice as much per megawatt hour, 

than electricity produced by wind or nuclear power.


But what is the price for the survival of mankind, 

for the continued existence of our planet? I

magine if you were to invest as much i

n renewable energies as in Olkiluoto 3, almost nine billion. 

What would happen? Where can it take us?


Sea

Oceans

Energy potential

Sea


KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz



After my piece the hall went almost dark again and while Salvesen made an impressive visualsation of red radar lights moving around the space, Ward filled the space with a morse code telling about the piece and presenting the artists. During this time the choir could collect their note stands and sheet music for the final piece.


It felt like Alex Freeman’s A Field of Sunlight picked up where I had left, and the piece began with an amazing chord with overtone singing, which was absolutely stunning. The piece composed to Galileo Galilei’s poetical texts about the sun, was an all time changing mass of sound. 


KRAFT Alexander Salvesen Photo by Melinda Schultz



During this piece the amazing circular projections of water (projected by old overhead projectors) began to fill up with colours and turn blood red in the front (stage) part of the hall while they turned green and blue in the back part of the hall. A total of 8 overhead projectors were projecting different coloured orbs on to the ceiling and walls, while Salvesen walked calmly between them and adjusting the colours in them. The whole piece ended in semi-darkness with the feeling of rotating stars moving around the room. This was achieved by two simple disco balls placed relatively far behind in the room, a simple but genius work of art by Salvesen.


KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz



After the last tones of Freeman’s piece had rung out the audience was allowed to clap for the first time in 75 minutes, and clap they did! They audience gave the concert a standing ovation for about 10 minutes. This was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and its with mixed feelings I say: a once in a life time experience. Of course it would be amazing if this whole concert would be put up again, in for instance a festival! But there is also something very beautiful and special in being part of something so huge and visceral.


Joel Ward, Cecilia Damström, Alex Freeman, Andrea Eklund, Alexander Salvesen and Elisa Huovinen after the concert KRAFT 7th of May 2022 at Kattilahalli, Helsinki.


Saturday, 19 March 2022

Happy Day of Equality!

Happy Minna Cath Day – Day of Equality!

Cecilia Damström on Minna Canth street in Kuopio 17.03.2022

What a wonderful week it has been, in the former home town of Minna Cath – Kuopio – working together with the fantastic Maria Itkonen and Kuopio Symphony Orchestra! The ice was thick enough to walk (or skate!) on, the sun was always shining, the people were amazing, the concert outstanding and the concert review raving! 🤩

“Damström’s wonderful musical language is impressive.Cecilia Damström’s piece Lucrum now fits our time a little too well. The Helsingborg Orchestra commissioned the work from Damström to their theme “The Seven Deadly Sins,” and greed is now the sin that attacks our eyes and ears from the media every day.

Damström works with the subject musically superbly through elements of growth, continuously adding more and more through demanding musical structures. A magnificent work from one of our leading composers of the new generation. Itkonen managed to bring out fantastic effects out of the orchestra.”

Jussi Mattila for Savon Sanomat 19.3.2022



Cecilia Damström on ice in Kupio 16.3.2022

Sunset on ice in Kuopio 16.3.2022. Photo©Cecilia Damström

Maria Itkonen rehearsing in Kuopio. Photo©Cecilia Damström

Maria Itkonen on ice. Photo©Cecilia Damström



Happy composer Cecilia Damström, soloist Aapo Juutilainen and
conductor Maria Itkonen after a great concert in Kuopio 17.03.2022



Friday, 11 March 2022

ICE nominated for the Teosto-Prize!

In the midst of everything terrible happening in the world, one amazing thing happened in my life that I would like to share with you: my piece ICE is nominated for the Teosto-prize alongside 11 other amazing works of music by colleagues! ICE was commissioned by Lahti Green Capital of Europe 2021 and was premiered by the world's first carbon neutral orchestra Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by their fantastic chief conductor Dalia Stasevska.

Teosto-Prize nominees 2022. Photo by Jussi Helttunen



About the piece ICE: The piece is inspired by melting ice and in the piece we can hear how landscapes and winter become ever shorter, in the end while alarm signals are chiming and all possible breaks are put into action. Through this piece I try to express how global warming as well as the collapse of ecosystems and the ever faster growing tempo of the world, is killing the beautiful snow and ice structures of millions of years, and how the heart of the earth is fighting for its existence through each beat. In this piece I have also tried to describe what happens if we WILL take action: you can hear a rewind, how action has an impact and can make us go back to winters. The name ICE stands both for ice and for “In Case of Emergency”.

Cecilia Damström: ICE. Photo by Jussi Helttunen

The whole launch event of the Teosto Prize can be watched (in Finnish) online under this link. The nominees have been mentioned the Finnish media by Helsingin SanomatYLEHufvudstadsbladetSoundiRumbaKeski-Uusimaa and Etelä-Saimaa.The Teosto-prize will be awarded on the 19th of May 2022, but as cheesy as it sounds: I feel already like a winner for having been nominated for this prize. ❤️

If you haven’t yet heard ICE, have a listen here via the link below! (And you can of course always also listen a second or third time! 😉 )

ICE by Lahti Symphony Orchestra

About the Teosto-prize (in Finnish)

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! Very honoured that the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto has chosen to highlight my music alongside the music of 15 other talented composers in their article. I hope music can bring you hope also in these difficult times.


Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Infirmus with Tapiola Sinfonietta

The new year has sadly begun with some cancellations but this week I’m super happy about making my debut with Tapiola Sinfonietta and the fantastic Tabita Berglund on Friday! The concert will unfortunately not be able to have an audience this time, but I’m super happy my piece Infirmus from 2015 will finally get it’s radio debut with the Finnish Radio Yle.


Welcome to listen live to the radio premiere of Infirmus on Friday the 14th at 7PM Finnish Time (UTC+2) and will be available for 30 days after as well!

Photo by the fantastic Maria Svidryk for Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia



Wednesday, 24 November 2021

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Trigger Warnings: Racism, Sexism, Violence

Today the 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 

Violence against any human is always a product of a complex system of power and inequality, a system, that campaigns like MeToo, BlackLivesMatter and many more have tried to dismantle since years.

 

I believe in the good in all humans, that most of us want to become better humans and strive for a better world. For me the “woke movement” has been a proof of that: a growing number of people trying to educate themselves about their own privileges, get informed about the basics of intersectional feminism and working on changing their way of speaking to make it more inclusive and a safe space for as many as possible.

 

However, since last Friday Finland has been buzzing after the scandal on national TV. ( Yle’s Marja Sannikka discussion program where first the whole “woke culture” was questioned after which astronomer Esko Valtaoja used the racist N-word twice in a discussion which left the reporter Renaz Ebrahimi bewildered). It has been very disappointing to watch: both the program itself as well as the media coverage it got afterwards.

 

Here are a few points of prevailed power structures that have upset me:


  1. Why would you interview two white males (Valtaoja and Tammisalo)about racism, when they never have studied anything to do with racism or with intersectional feminism. This is a very important and difficult subject, where terminology is very important. Why invite people who neither have the terminology nor even personal experience.


  2. Why juxtaposition a person of colour (Ebrahimi), who has a lot of knowledge about racism and intersectional feminism, with a person who has no knowledge in the field and say that “everyone has the right to their opinion”. No, no one has the right to racism or oppression in the name of “free speach”.


  3. The person of colour (Ebrahimi), who rightly was upset of the usage of the N-word, has been portrayed as “aggressive and emotional” by press and many on social media. It is absolutely absurd that the person calling out the racist behaviour is being portrayed as the “agressive” one, and not the one using the racist language (in a calm voice).


  4. The absurd juxtaposition, of a white male (Valtaoja) and white female Sannikka) arguing for “free speach” against a woman of colour (Ebrahimi) who opposes hate speech, has made the internet explode. The outcome has been that: Ebrahimi has received hundreds of death threats and other threats over social media. Sannikka’s program has been cancelled. Valtaoja has been given media coverage by Iltasanomat to tell “his version”.

 

Here we see usage (and misusage) of power in a nutshell, and the outcome was just an other “textbook example” of how structural oppression works. The person of colour who happened to be a woman had to pay the highest price, although she only called out racism and said it was unacceptable. 

 

Threat of violence against women is used very actively also today to try shut up women’s voices.

 

Lets try to change that, together, okay?


© Cecilia Damström 2021



Friday, 6 August 2021

ICE video premiere!

What an incredible day!

Composer Cecilia Damström and architect Erkko Aarti


Today 6.8 my piece “ICE” commissioned by Green Capital Lahti got its video premiere, recorded by Lahti Sinfonia and conducted by Finland’s star conductor Dalia Stasevska (who is still in the UK as she conducted the opening of the Proms!)! The video premiere was on the big screen of Helsinki Music Centre at 12 PM, and is now available online in 100 cities threatened by rising sea levels. 

Sinfonia Lahti playing ICE conducted by Dalia Stasevska


After the video premiere, the Mayor of Lahti Pekka Timonen officially cut the ribbon and opened the monumental visual piece I.C.E by Erkko Aarti and his team. The piece can be seen in front of Helsinki main library Oodi for the next 10 days, and all these days from 10 AM to 5 PM my piece ICE can be heard in the Wood Paviljong (on repeat).

Lahti Major Pekka Timonen opening I.C.E.


When I was asked in December 2020 if I would like to compose the piece, I immediately had a “vision” of how this piece should sound, it was clear from the beginning to the end. Due to it’s important topic (the climate crisis) this piece is really special to me. My humblest thank you to Green Capital Lahti, Sinfonia Lahti and Dalia Stasevska for your trust in me, and giving me this enormous and amazing opportunity to be part of this!

I.C.E. for GreenLahti2021

I.C.E. for GreenLahti2021



Also a great honour to get the opportunity to collaborate with the super talented Erkko Aarti and his team! Its not everyday a composer gets to collaborate with a prize winning architect and his team! (Well, no part of this project happens “often” in a composers life, to be honest! 😀 )

Still find it hard to believe this all happened today and is real! ❤
Composer Cecilia Damström


#greenlahti #greenlahti2021@greenlahti2021 #sinfonialahti@sinfonialahti #daliastasevska@daliastasevskaofficial#ceciliadamström #ceciliadamstrom@ceciliadamstrom #ICE #icemusic#ympäristöpääkaupunki #climatecrisis