Saturday, 26 July 2014

ISAM 2014 Day 2

Saturday July 26th 2014. Only two more days left of being 25, so sad. Yep, I have already come to the age when it’s not anymore fun to grow older, all “youth reductions” (on trains and airplanes) end on Monday, so sad.
My room at ISAM 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

The view from my window at ISAM 2014.
In the garden you see on this pic they grow the sallad we ate every day!
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Had breakfast with Evan Pensis, Sam Kinsey and Geoffrey Conquer and later also Spencer Lyons and Andrey Stolyarov joined our table. At 9.15 all composer met up and we went to Ofers work room, the same room I have been composing in for the past days. There all student’s presented them selves and some work they had done. The session lasted until 12.45 and then we headed of for lunch, all very hungry by this time.

After lunch I went back to Ofer’s room (which was free) and composed until coffee time at 14.30. After coffee I practised a bit piano and composed until lunch, at 18.00 and managed to get the first movement ready of my “Dorfmann trio”. All composers are encouraged to participate in a internal ISAM composition competition. This year the instruments you can chose from (using 1-4 instruments in total) are saxophone, piano, contra bass and percussion. More over we have been given the cryptogram of musicologist and ISAM founder Joseph Dorfman for inspiration, which is a note transcription of his name: C (do), D (re), F, E (mi), A. I am writing for saxophone, contrabass and percussion (marimba and bass drum). I am going to write a three movement piece, and I actually managed more or less to finish the first movement before dinner, 2,30 minutes! Not completely happy with it yet but I can get back to it later.

After dinner I didn’t manage to get anything done.  I was planning on going to the pub, but finally decided not to go because I was too tired and instead I went to bed early (at 23 o’clock).

Friday, 25 July 2014

The First Day at ISAM 2014

Friday the 25th of July. Oh my this day feels again like half a decade!

This is where we dine breakfast, lunch and dinner, chandeliers and original
frescos from 1740'ies. Photo © Cecilia Damström

So I was up at 7.30 and was at the breakfast table at 8.30. We ate breakfast in this incredibly beautiful large hall in the castle which is decorated with
beautiful pictures. At breakfast I met the first three composers; Jasper Schmich Kinney from Colorado, "Snooz" Leyou Wang from China, but studying in Stuttgart, and Marc Migó Cortés from Barcelona. I had already gone to sit by myself but Jasper waved me over, which was so nice of him!

Landes Academie Ochsenhausen, the place where the International Summer
Academy of Music is held every year. Photo © Cecilia Damström

After breakfast I went for a walk to see the whole place and OH MY DEAR
GOD it is BEAUTIFUL! I want to live here! There is a stable as well and an
art exhibition in one part of the monastery. I even found Jesus sunbathing
in the yard!

The art exhibition. Photo © Cecilia Damström

The entrance to the castle.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

The stables. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Jesus sunbathing in the backyard.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Because the property and the castle/former monastery are so huge I grew tired
quite fast and went in again and composed for a bit more than an hour and
managed to write about 40 seconds of music!

This is where I composed today.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Then it was already time for lunch at 12. At lunch I met another composer
from Colorado; Robert. After a great lunch I went to Marc’s and Jasper’s
room and they showed the pieces they have written for this course (Marc
has written a trio and Jasper a quartet). By the time they had shown their
music (at around 14 o’clock) it was already time for coffee and tea! So
off we were once again to eat.

After our afternoon tea we dropped by the library, which is very nice,
one more reason to live here! But the librarian, Andreas Kreißig , had to go and get professor Ofer Ben-Amots, so we only spent 10 minutes in the library before it closed. After that we went back to Marc’s and Jasper’s room and I presented them my pieces Dagbok and my orchestra piece Unborn and then Snooz presented us his Fugue and the second movement of his violin sonata.

Then I went back to my room and by now my roommate had arrived; Emi Morishita from Japan, but studying piano in Belgium. After having updated my Facebook with a picture from the amazing castle I napped for half an hour and then it was again time for dinner at 18 o’clock! I already have asked the librarian Andreas, in a joking tone, if they are trying to get us fatter for
slaughtering us at the end of the course…?

For dinner I had my own meal made, so nice of them! At dinner I met so
many new people that I have a very hard time remembering them but I will try: Evan Pensis from LA studying piano, Thomas Kudernatsch from Stuttgart studying organ, Aarón Ribas from Barcelona studying organ, Spencer Lyons from Colorado studying composition, Andrey Stolyarov from the US studying composition, Michael Essl from Stuttgart studying composition (at this course, in Stuttgart studying jazz piano), Sam Kinsey from LA studying piano and Geoffrey Conquer studying piano at Montreal. I also met professors Ofer Ben-Amots , Daniel Pollack and Jürgen Essl. There are a lot of more piano and organ student’s whom I haven’t met yet though.

After dinner we had a short presentation round and then an hour’s free time,
during which I composed a bit more (15 secdons) and wrote most of this update.

At 21 o’clock we met up and went to the “Gasthaus zum Schäfer”, a small
restaurant pub literally just across the street from when you leave the
monastery/castle ground. I had a big glass of banana juice, best juice
ever, but it’s mostly only available in Germany. The sun was setting and we sat
out side where we have this amazing view over the sloping fields. It turns
out Geoffrey Conquer, from Toronto (studying in Montreal), knows my friends Paolo Griffin (from summer camp as a child) and Sarah Albu (only by name, but anyway)! Such a small world! At a bit before 23 o’clock most of us were so tired that we all left for bed and I’m now sitting on my bed, with a head ache but still happily writing this update. But goodnight for now!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Traveling to ISAM 2014

Next up some blog posts about the composition master class called the International Summer Academy of Music 2014 that I attended last summer. It's a two week master class for composers, pianists and organists, held in a former castle like monastery, nowadays called Landes Akademie Baden-Württemberg, in a small village called Ochsenhausen. Many warm memomires from last summer!
Thursday the 24th of July 2014 and oh my what a long day it has been! Tomorrow the International Summer Academy of Music will begin here in Ochsenhausen, so I have spent the whole day traveling from Finland, via Copenhagen and Stuttgart traveling to Ochsenhausen.

So I slept exactly 3h last night, due to packing so long, got up a bit before 8 and washed my hair. I tried to read the newspaper but my eyes were so tired and hurt so much I could only keep one eye open at a time, so reading the newspaper went even slower and I gave up after having read the comic strips.

Today hasn’t been my lucky day. Just when I was in a hurry to leave for the airport I dropped a bottle of washing fluid, without a lid on, so a big part of the fluid went on the floor. I tried to wipe it up with a sheet that anyway was going to be washed but anyway managed to step into the washing fluid so I had to change socks.

I left home slightly too late so I didn’t manage to catch the bus I had planned to get, but took the 9.30 bus to the airport. I arrived at around 10.05 and tried immediately to check in on a machine but it said “contact staff”. So I did and he friendly pointed out that my flight was BOOKED FOR TOMORROW!!!! Oh my dear God! I have to be at the course by tomorrow, so the staff from SAS was friendly and called in a woman who could help me with re-booking, who actually was having her lunch break. By this time it was about 10.20 and my flight was supposed to leave at 10.55 for Copenhagen (and from there a connecting flight to Stuttgart). The lady warned me that it might be too little time, and so it turned out to be: she couldn’t print out a boarding pass later than 30 minutes before take off, and by the time she was going to print it was 28 minutes to take off, so it didn’t work. But she was very nice and re-booked me on a different flight to Copenhagen which still got me on good time to catch my connecting flight to Stuttgart! Obviously this whole ticket change cost me a lot, 79 euros for changing the ticket, 60 euros penalty fees and 25 euros service fee, so altogether 164 euros additional… But I still am forever grateful to the nice woman from SAS who managed to re-book me!

So at 12 I flew to Copenhagen. I had forgotten what horrible nausea I get when flying… and my ears always hurt badly, so I asked the steward if he could bring me some “Mickey mouse ears” on which he laughed out loud (in a friendly way) but anyway was kind enough to bring them. In Copenhagen I had a overpriced lunch, 17 euros for a small piece of fish and potatoes and vegetables, which were all cold by the time I had managed to queue with my dish and pay.

Copenhagen airport is huge, it took me a long while to walk to the next gate. It’s funny how much I can enjoy the smell of freshly baked croissants and buns although I can’t eat them anymore… Or maybe that’s exactly why I nowadays get satisfied by the mere smell of them?

To Stuttgart - we took off at 15.40 in a small propeller airplane with only 28 seats in it. Most of the time I used to write my blog.

I was quite late out of the airport area and immediately took a train to Stuttgart's main railway station, which takes about a good half an hour. At the main railway station I had good time finding the right track, buying an underpriced salad for 3,50 and a two photo-magazines for only 3,50 euros each! Oh I love the prices in Germany…!

On the train from Stuttgart to Ulm I happened to sit with two lovely middle aged ladies who I had just met earlier on the train ride and I joined in on their discussions and we had a great time together and time just flew past! We discussed how nicely the Finnish school system works, how they as Germans always expect the trains to work although they nowadays seem to be increasingly having technical problems very frequently, about languages and how times have changed since they went to school.

Arriving in Ulm at 21 o’clock I had only 5 minutes to change to my connecting train to Ochsenhausen, with my suitcase, backpack, two handbags and one photo-magazine bag, so obviously I missed the train.

I had to change track and there was no elevator at this train station (that I at least knew of). A girl saw me struggling with trying to get the luggage belt to work, which would pull up my suitcase, but it didn’t, and she was so nice and helped me to carry one of my handbags. But then a homeless person saw us struggling and came and helped push up by bag. He was so nice and polite! Then he continued rummaging in the bins for empty bottles, but he wasn’t being very lucky and looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. I was thinking of giving him some money and some of my snack food (fruit) but wasn’t sure if that would insult his dignity and before I had decided if I would give him money or not, he had already turned back and waved at me and wished me a good journey and disappeared. I regret not having given him anything as a thank you for his help!

I arrived 10 minutes after schedule in Ochsenhausen at 22. I had asked to be picked up, but no one was to be seen. I got worried; had my ride left? Or had anybody come at all? I tried to call the only number I had, but all my phone said was “this number does not exist”. After having waited for about half an hour and asked everyone (about 3 people) standing on the train station if they were from the International Summer Academy of Music, I began to get a bit desperate. I called my mother but just when I was almost going to surrender and take a taxi, a small bus drived up beside me with the text “Ochsenhausem Musik” on it’s side! I can’t describe how happy and relieved I was!

Out jumped a friendly middle aged man who drove me all the way, 23 km to the Castle and told me about all the cute villages we passed. In his village (which we also passed) there is only one bakery and one butcher, no other shop. But there are 4 or 5 “Gasthäuser” (bars)! I couldn’t believe my ears! But he said there was a shop in the next village, about 4 km away. But so many Gasthäuser!

It was completely dark and then we arrived: AT A TREMENDOUS BEAUTIFUL CASTLE!
I knew my Japanese composer friend Sayo Kosugi had told be about it and I had seen one picture but it was even bigger than in the picture! The man who had picked me up was the housekeeper and he was so nice and showed me around!

Monday, 30 June 2014


Monday the 30th of June. My friend Natalja stayed the night and we spent the next day mainly for sightseeing. She also ate sushi for the first time in her life, at Zen Sushi, although it wasn’t “real” sushi, it was vegetarian sushi because she is vegetarian.

Symmetry at Sanomatalo, Helsinki.
Photo © C.Damström

Cute signs for sale at Hakaniemen kauppahalli. Photo © C.Damström 

Having sushi at Zen Sushi Bar in Helsinki.

Natalja at the Rock Church of Helsinki. Photo © C.Damström

Natalja at Kaivopuisto in Helsinki. Photo © C.Damström

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Our Graduation Party

Sunday the 29th of June my sister Jacintha and I celebrated our graduation! Both of us are now Bachelors of Music, she (in flute) after 3 years at the Sibelius Academy with 184 ECTS credits and I (in composition) after 6 years at Tampere University of Applied Sciences with 315 ECTS credits… Quite funny, isn’t it?

My sister Jacintha got her Bachelor of Music on the 18th of June, I'm so proud of her!
Photo © Cecilia Damström 

We had invited both friends and relatives, altogether over 100 people were invited and about 50 were able to come (but scattered all over the day). Our mother had baked lovely strawberry cakes and made lots of salad and other food for the guests. It was a really nice party, and I enjoyed both seeing lots of relatives whom I meet too seldom, as well as old school friends and getting to know Jacintha’s friends. The first guests arrived at about 3 PM (while I still was blow-drying my hair…) and the last guests left at about 4 or 5 AM. So once again a great party!

At our gradution party
Mum had baked lovely strawberry cakes.
Getting ready to serve sparking wine! Photo © C.Damström
Happy and proud parents! Thank you for all your support throughout the years!
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Grandmother with her newly graduated grandchildren, all in green!

Friday, 27 June 2014


On the 26th of June I went by bus to Porvoo for listening to a concert of the “Summer Sounds-Avantti!” Festival. The festival always also has a composition masterclass and workshop called “Sävellyspaja” (which more or less means “composition workshop”), nowadays lead by Jouni Kaipainen, Jukka Tiensuu and Tomi Räisänen. The students (from all around the globe) who are elected to the course are asked to compose a work for some constellation of the Avantti! chamber orchestra. The works are rehearsed during the course and performed at an official concert at the end of the course. All students get two private sessions each with every teacher, where they usually use one lesson for talking about the work that they have composed for this project and one lesson usually showing other compositions. I attended this course in 2011 and have to say it was a marvelous experience!

This year my friends Matilda Seppälä and Henri Sokka, both from Tampere, were attending the course, Sauli Zinovjev (from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki) and more peculiarly, my friend Bin Li from Indiana University (United States, originally born in China). I met Bin in 2012 at a composition course in Berlin held by Doctor Samuel Adler, and last winter I mailed all my former colleagues about this master class, so he applied and came! It was great seeing Bin again after two years!  

Composers Bin Li, Kosmas Giannoutakis, Pang Chun-Ting and Reuben Jelleyman
at the Summer Sounds Festival in Porvoo! Photo © C.Damström

The programme of the concert by the composition masterclass 2014 was:

Instructors: Jouni Kaipainen and Jukka Tiensuu
Jaakko Kuusisto, conductor
Essi Luttinen, mezzo soprano

Bin Li: Lighted Fools
Henri Sokka: Dusty Tales
Sauli Zinovjev: Jum

The task of this year was to compose for a singer as a part of the orchestra, but the participants were given three texts to chose from. As the previous years Jouni Kaipainen was moderating the concert and was also interviewing the participants about their piece, which always is very interesting. The concert was really nice and I especially liked Matilda’s piece “and the vines with their tender grape and Komas Giannoutakis “The Vanishing.

Léo Collin and Jouni Kaipainen at Summer Sounds 2014

Bin Li and Jouni Kaipainen at Summer Sounds 2014

The concert of the young composers was quite early (at 5 PM), so it was followed by an other concert by Avantti!, including the chamber version of Stravinsky’s  A solider's tale. There was also a orchestra piece by the composer in residence Gerald Barry. But the absolutely most memorably number was when the festivals artistic director Barbara Hannigan sang AND conducted the famous coloratura aria from Ligeti’s Le Grande Macabre while dressed in black latex, a black wig and high heels! She was absolutely outstanding!

Barbara Hannigan after the concert at Summer Sounds 2014.
Photo © C.Damström 

After the concerts I hang out with Matilda and the other masterclass members until the late morning hours, and the next day I and a few others got a ride back to Helsinki by Sauli.

Feedback session of the composition masterclass Sävellyspaja 2014. Photo © C.Damström

Composer Henri Sokka Photo © C.Damström

Composers of the masterclass Sävellyspaja 2014 getting ready to go home.
Photo © C.Damström

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Composing in Tampere

After midsummer I spent a few days in Tampere, trying to get my violin solo piece “Sydänlaulu” (Heartsong) ready for my friend Elisar Riddelin, as he will be performing it at our up-coming festival TampeRinging 2014 in August. But I am still quite exhausted from the spring so not much got done in the past days…

At the composition studio in Tampere... © C. Damström

Yet an other sunrise seen from the composition studio of Tampere. © C. Damström

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Midsummer Eve

After the 17h travel, finally getting home and having some warm food and a good night rest, it was already Friday the 21st of June, so midsummer’s eve. Midsummer is quite big in Finland, but every once celebrates it at their summer cottages, so there are “many small parties in the middle of nowhere” to put it frankly.

This year my family (and I) were invited to our friends midsummer party quite close to our summer cottage, so we went there by boat. (It rained and the waves splashed all the way so my eye make up had smeared it self all over my face and my “curls” all gone by the time we arrived…) We had a great dinner including salmon and mustard herring, “new potatoes” and ice cream with strawberries for dessert, Finnish summer delicatessen. My sister and I of course also performed some (pop) songs for the happy guests, and at 1 AM we drove home to a beautiful sunset.

Finnish New Potatoes, Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
Not my plate but anyway; midsummer dinner 2014. © C.Damström
Strawberries and ice-cream for desert. Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
Someone hoping on leftovers...
Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
My sister Jacintha Damström and her friend Linda juggling while the neighbor dog watched.
Midsummer 21 June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström