Category Archives: musician’s lifestyle

So, Are You Going to any Festivals this Summer? Menetkö festareille tänä kesänä?

Edited: Suomenkielinen versio alla (yleisön pyynnöstä).

Turku, the city where I live, is welcoming this weekend thousands of people to Ruisrock, one of the biggest music festivals in Finland. However, I am just heading away from Turku to Vaasa to celebrate the Anniversary of the Finnish Navy.

The summer is time for many festivals and events all around Finland. Tickets are sold out to the most popular ones already before summer. I just began a three-week working period with the Finnish Navy Band and we are also having many concerts in many cities. I will even get to play music from my early teenage years: Spice Girls!

I get this question a lot from my friends: Are you planning to go to any festivals? And for many summers I have told them: No, I’m not. I have other plans.

When I was younger I somewhat envied my friends, who were going to festivals. During my study years, summers meant working in summer jobs or attending music courses and master classes. It’s kind of the whole different culture and again part of my identity between a classical musician and a rock girl. At the end, it was always more important to practice for my future profession.

Hard work pays off. Now I am proudly working as an artist. Most of the times I have a concert to play just when there would be some interesting artist performing. Because I couldn’t foretell my schedule for this working period I didn’t even pay that much attention of the program of the festivals. Of course, I believe that I will have a chance to go to some festivals if I really want. If not this summer then next time. Anyway, I’ve always liked a bit smaller festivals with free entry or inexpensive tickets.

One big event in Turku this summer is Tall Ship Races. It’s luring a lot of audience and I’m excited to perform in the opening concert for the event. At least then I can say: Yes, I was there. If anyone asks 😉

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photo by Juho Tuominen

Upcoming performances / Tulevat esiintymiset

8.7. Vaasa

10.7. Helsinki

13.7. Turku

14.7. Helsinki

20.-21.7. Turku

23.8. Vaasa

25.8. Tammisaari

26.8. Turku

 

Nykyinen kotikaupunkini Turku toivottaa tervetulleeksi tuhansia ihmisiä tänä viikonloppuna Ruisrockiin, yhteen Suomen suurimmista festareista. Minä kuitenkin suuntaan pois Turusta kohti Vaasaa juhlimaan Merivoimien vuosipäivää.

Kesällä järjestetään paljon festivaaleja ja muita tapahtumia ympäri Suomea. Usein liput suosituimpiin tapahtumiin myydään loppuun jo ennen kesää. Meillä Laivaston soittokunnassa alkoi juuri kolmen viikon työperiodi, jonka aikana esiinnymme monissa eri kaupungeissa. Pääsen myös soittamaan musiikkia varhaisilta teinivuosiltani: Spice Girlsiä!

Ystävät kysyvät joka kesä, olenko menossa johonkin festareille. Useana kesänä olen vastannut kieltävästi. Minulla on ollut jo muita suunnitelmia.

Nuorempana kadehdin hieman kavereitani, jotka pääsivät käymään festareilla. Omat kesät kuluivat kesätöissä siivoten ja rahat musiikkileireillä tai mestarikursseilla. Ne ovat tärkeä osa musiikinopiskelijoiden kesäaikaa ja opiskelijaelämää. Vaikka välillä rokkiminäni olisi kaivannut festareille, niin klasariminäni valitsi harjoittelun tulevaan ammattiini.

Nyt voinkin todeta, että se kannatti, ja olen päässyt työskentelemään muusikkona. Samalla huomaan, että olen itse usein keikalla juuri samaan aikaan kuin tarjolla olisi kiinnostavia artisteja ja tapahtumia. Koska kesän työaikatauluja oli vaikea ennustaa etukäteen, en edes kiinnittänyt aktiivisesti huomiota tulevan kesän artistitarjontaan. Uskon kuitenkin, että pääsen festareille, jos haluan. Jos en tänä vuonna niin ehkä ensi kerralla. Muutenkin olen aina pitänyt enemmän pienemmistä festareista tai ilmaistapahtumista.

Yksi tämän vuoden suurimmista kesätapahtumista Turussa on Tall Ship Races. Se houkuttelee paljon yleisöä kaupunkiin ja olen innoissani päästessäni soittamaan avajaiskonserttiin. Ainakin se tulee varmasti koettua Turun tapahtumista tänä kesänä, jos ei muuta 😉

Dancing

In February I wrote about my cultural confessions. I talked about different art forms but I left dancing out on purpose. Already then I had the idea of this post.

Just this weekend I travelled to Oulu where I lived in from summer 2013 to summer 2015. My friend Mimmi had a big birthday party and the theme was dancing. We have known each other for 20 years now and all that time Mimmi has always wanted to dance. Now she works as a dancing teacher. She asked everyone to create their own dancing performance and I was really excited.

I have only danced in disco and at home and never took any dancing lessons. So I’m not a dancer myself. But I’ve always liked it and I enjoy watching professional dancers dancing.

There are so many different dancing styles and techniques. I don’t know much about them but I think the main thing is to use your body for a movement with music.
Dancing kind of gives one more dimension for music to express yourself. I think in dancing performance culture the coolest thing is always to get very visual. There has to be outfits and lights. Lots of make up and some glitter and shimmer. Sometimes these elements could boost a musical performance as well.

I prepared my own performance for Mimmi. I wanted to compose my own music too. This time the accordion was the right choice of instrument. I wanted to keep it very minimalistic and modern since you can just express the movement and improvise more.

My show was partly serious but also humorous. People took it quite well. One dancer told me that I’m one of them now. It was really cool. I told about my choice of clothing. Tight black outfit and bare feet, hair tied up high and before the show I was wearing the wool socks and a warm sweater. I told that this was my image of dancers (students) as I saw them when I was studying in Oulu.

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A photo by Heli Palomaa

I would like to do some projects with dancers. Some of the projects has been also dancers but usually musicians just play and dancers dance and the director of the project takes care of these things. It would be more interesting to create something together with a dancer.

I wish everyone to enjoy and express themselves with their body dancing!

DIY Own Musical Parts

I’ve seen quite many do-it-yourself posts recently so I came up with an idea to do one myself.

It’s about the musical parts, the note material that you play in the orchestra. Sometimes happens that you have to do some creative changes with your part. The most common thing is that there is a difficult page turning so you just add an extra copy of the next page.

Sometimes the conductor asks you to play something that is written for some other instrument because there is no player for that instrument. For example, in this concert period I am playing the bass clarinet. So I was asked to play second bassoon part in one short section.

So this is very easy and everyone can do this. There is not only one right way to do it but you can use all your own creativity. Next I will go step by step how I created this addition to my bass clarinet part.

All you need is paper, scissors, clear tape and maybe some black fine point permanent marker. Access to copying machine is also good.

So this time I got the bassoon part. I don’t’ feel very comfortable to read bass clef and transpose music while playing and I wanted to transpose it and write the notes out in Bb. First I took a copy of the part I was going to add to name the notes to make it a little bit easier. Then I had to take a copy of my parts next page since this addition made my page turning impossible.

I also had blank musical staff paper. You can get it ready or do it also yourself but then you need a ruler. So I would write the transposed notes by hands on the blank paper and cut the paper to right size. Some might prefer to write it with notation softwares like MuseScore. It even might transpose automatically. Then you just need a printer to print out your DIY part. But I felt this was so short section so I could write it by hand.

The next step was to cut the extra page of my part until the brake where I could turn the page. And then I added this to the handwritten section with the clear tape. And finally I had to add some extra paper under these two pieces to make it more even shape to be able to tape it together with the my original bass clarinet part.

Actually you don’t want to tape it to the original part. And I happened to  have already a copy of the original since the layout of my part was wrong. The page numbers were in the inner corner of the page so also the page turnings were not during the pauses but always in the most difficult places. So I had to make a new booklet with the opposite layout.

I’m quite happy with the result and was already able to play it in the rehearsal.

photo by Heli Palomaa

The concert where I will use my DIY part will be on 11.4. So welcome to listen to the Finnish Navy Band in Turku. Really interesting program for wind orchestra.

Also next Saturday I will play the bass clarinet in a Viola concert. It’s a contemporary piece for Viola and small ensemble. There is a free entry in Sigyn hall.

Cultural preferences

“You should develop your cultural taste” was an advice from my professor in Graz, Austria, during my Erasmus studies. I believe he was somewhat right. Sometimes I feel I’m totally out of what is happening in the art music genre. People ask me if I know this and that musician or composer and I have to admit that I have never heard of them. Of course I know who are historically important musicians and have studied it all. However, when I entered professional level of music studies I probably knew more about Finland’s rock and heavy music scene. Nowadays I’ve lost the track of that genre as well.

It’s time for February’s post. Today it’s the last day of February and in Finland it is the day of Kalevala aka the day of Finnish culture. I tried to read Kalevala once. My first boyfriend had a great old version of with illustrations of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. I didn’t understand anything! Actually today in Turku is also a premiere of the long lost opera Die Kalewainen in Pochjola. Hopefully I will have possibilty to experience it.

To celebrate the day of culture I decided to reveal some of my own cultural preferences. Not all Finnish but very global that also proves that there are no boundaries to understand culture and art around the world.

Culture is not only music but also for example film and literature, visual art and so on. Actually art music is nowadays quite underground art. It’s not part of “popular culture” and “main stream”. Since it’s my job, I should also know about it. But if I’m stuck only in that field, I think it doesn’t make me interesting as an artist. I like that there has to be a twist or some kind of a contrast. It’s the best that you follow just your own instinct and taste when enjoying culture. You can get good hints from other people but at the end you don’t have to like what everyone else likes. Next I want to share with you some of my personal favorites.

I just got my CD collection to my own home from my childhood house. It is quite full of darkness and rough sounds but also some classical hit music. It’s impossible to list everything here! I also listen quite a lot of radio since I don’t own a television. One of my favorite radio channels is actually an Austrian radio station called FM4. I get easily bored to just one kind of music or then I have periods that I listen to only one artist for few days. Anyway, I remember that I wanted to have a change and suddenly found this radio channel. As I mentioned I have studied in Graz so the places they talk about are familiar for me. That’s how I got to know Austropop and my two favorite bands are Bilderbuch and Johann Sebastian Bass. Yes, you read right, Bass, not Bach. They have talented groovy sounds. Actually I happened to hear Bilderbuch in the movie called “A Cure for Wellness”. I was so excited and probably the only one in the movie theater to recognize the piece. But I also recognized Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony that came later in the movie.

In Tampere I had a period when I borrowed all Wagner and few other operas from the city library in DVD format and had opera nights on my sofa at home. Also Graz was the place to introduce me the world of operas. With our student card we could see anything for free up in the balcony. For Wagner they even let us sit down on the seats.

Perhaps Graz has offered indeed a good place to develop my cultural taste since I also learned to listen to jazz music there. Before that I just couldn’t follow it. Now the best thing is a relaxed Sunday morning breakfast with jazz music. I don’t know that many names but I could mention that the pianist Joonas Haavisto gave me few piano lessons when I was a teenager. Now he has a great trio with his own name, Joonas Haavisto trio.

Our colleague band, The Air Force Band, plays big band music and I learned they have published a great album called Aaltoja/Waves. Find it on Spotify for example.

I have to mention really talented Tim Burton. He has made a lot of films (Beetlejuice, Nightmare before Christmas etc) and I own one of his poem books whit illustrations. I got to know Tim Burton by Ville Valo, the singer of the Finnish band HIM that was my favorite when I was a teenager. So of course I followed anything that Ville Valo recommended like a true fan.

One of the most famous Japanese anime film directior is Hayao Miyazaki and his films with Studio Ghibli are classics. Just anything by him is beautiful.

Black Books is a British sitcom created by Dylan Moran and Graham Lineham almost 20 years ago. I just laugh and laugh for the dark humour and I’ve seen all episodes so many times that I can almost remember the lines coming next.

Sherlock TV series is the modern version of old stories. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant!

I have loved reading since I learned how to read at the age of five. After that I also began to write myself. I’ve written many short stories and thought I would publish a book as well but the story remained as a short story. I also have written poems and lyrics for songs I haven’t composed. So now I focus mainly on writing my blog and less fictive stories. Anyway I enjoy reading books. I don’t have just one favorite author and I probably missed all the big classics. One summer I wanted to read only Kafka. And of course I have Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all the works of Edgar Allan Poe gathered in one book. When I studied for German language examinations I found a pink book in the library. It was written by Ildikó von Kürthy auf Deutsch and that was a way for me to really learn the language. Von Kürthy writes women books. Not too heavy to read and stories that all women understand.

My latest discovery is Harlequin books. I found a big pile of them left on one table in my work place. I admit they are a bit trash literature. But I love them! They make me laugh so much with their absurd story lines. And every time you know what is going to happen eventually and you started to guess it when and how it will happen. Like horror movies you try to guess who is going to die next. This time the matter is just when the main characters are going to have hot sex.

I’ve been working with couple of theater productions playing the music. And I wrote earlier about working in the theater. One of my best theater experiences was in Tallinn. I was a alone and a bit nervous if I would understand everything since it was in Estonia. It was at the end of my second year in Tallinn so I already spoke quite fluently. And I didn’t have any difficulties to understand. I felt I even understood something that only Estonians would understand since it was Estonian play called Bloody Mary. Really intensive and thrilling show. After that I went to a bar and ordered my first ever Bloody Mary drink.

Fashion is maybe not part of traditional arts but it is also culture. People express themselves by the way they dress and appearance is part of the cultural categories. As you probably already noticed that my favorites come mostly from dark alternative culture. I also enjoy the dark and goth fashion. I have dressed up a bit that way myself as well.

 

photo by Heli Palomaa

photo by Heli Palomaa Tuska 2005

Nowadays it’s more mild but I still enjoy the twist. I just both a pink shirt with blacks bats with sad faces for example. So in Youtube I was randomly watching some videos to kill time during my army service. And I found the channel of Black Friday,a New Zealander goth girl. I began to follow her vlogs and she is really warm-hearted girl and I enjoy to see the goth culture and lifestyle although I have found also the more colorful side of me. Yes, there was a time when black was the only color I would wear.

Another vlog that I follow is by Chris & Eve. They have two cats called Turbo and Jet. Just a lovely couple and cats!

I love drawing, painting and taking pictures and again I think more dark pictures capture my attention. I can’t name many artists but I’ve attended to exhibitions of H. R. Giger and Tom of Finland for example. And I love to see the style and the technique of the artists. I really would love to paint myself more and learn about it. I was pretty good in school. However I didn’t get in to a “art school” as my sister and many other friends did. I was sad and thought I was for sure good enough there. Same happened by the way for Adolf Hitler too. He applied to study in  Academy of Fine Arts Vienna but failed the exams. Well, maybe someone already decided that I have to focus on music in my life.

For me it’s sometimes difficult to go to concerts for example. With theater it’s more easy because there is a plot to follow. Anyway it is not easy to get that feeling “this was amazing”. I’ve seen many famous musicians but sometimes I have felt nothing from their performance. First I thought I was just stupid because I didn’t understand what everyone else liked. But lately I just have came to a conclusion that it is all very personal what hits the right buttons for you. And those times doesn’t come very often. But when they come, you can remember them always and want to experience that again. Anyway, people are seeking for many kinds of experiences through art and culture. Someday you wish to laugh and other times to cry.

So after all I feel I have my own taste. And it is developing as I get older. There is maybe not that big strive to find something new anymore as it was when I was a teenager. The question is more what kind of art I would like to produce myself. And as an artist myself I should be able to give those wow experiences for the audience. I think it is only possible when you do something that comes really from your heart and is part of who you truly are. Not that you try to be a copy of someone else. You can let the influences show and also when playing someone else’s music there is always part of his or her emotions lived through by your own emotions.

I wish really enjoyable cultural moments for everyone!

Bremen, the city of musicians? Bremen- Die Stadt von Musikanten?

So here we are in the city of Bremen. They invited us to play in Musikschau der Nationen, Music Show of the Nations. I was talking with our lovely guide, Doerte, and she told me what this show means for her. This year is the last time they organise this event and they have held it already for 53 years every year. It is a very famous show all around the area around Bremen. People are sad that it is ending. Some people wanted to be sure to get the tickets for the last time and bought them already one year ago. But for sure in the future there will be some other kind of musical events instead of Musikschau.

As I saw the logo in the pin I suddenly remembered a story from my childhood. It was the story about the city musicians of Bremen. I wanted to refresh my memory and searched the episode of Tao Tao in Youtube. The story tells about four animals that leave their homes for better life and decide to travel to Bremen to become town musicians. Making music brings together and builds new friendships. As Doerte said, is the best thing about the Musikschau to meet people all around the world. Funny detail was that actually the animals didn’t even get to Bremen because they found a cabin in the forest where they liked to stay.

So, I don’t know if Bremen is the city for musicians, but at least for this weekend the city is full of musicians from all around the world.

photo by Heli Palomaa

photo by Heli Palomaa

Also hier sind wir, in Bremen. Wir waren hier eingeladen, in der Musikschau der Nationen zu spielen. I habe mit unserer lieber betreuerin, Doerte, gesprochen, und sie hat erzählt, was die Musikschau für sie bedeutet. Dieses Jahr wird die Musikschau zum letzten Mal organisiert und es macht alle ein bisschen traurig. Für 53 Jahr ist die Musikschau jedes Jahr organisiert. Es ist schon sehr berühmte Veranstaltung in der Nähe von Bremen. Und jemand hat schon letztes Jahr die Eintrittskarten aufgekauft. In Zukunft gibt es sicherlich andere musikalische Veranstaltungen in Bremen.

Also bin ich nicht sicher, ob Bremen die Stadt von Musikanten ist, aber am wenigsten ist die Stadt für diese Wochenende voll von Musikanten.

The Difficulty of Giving Up

I have felt myself like a loser many times if I didn’t achieve what I was aiming for. It’s not that bad if you did everything you could but you just didn’t success. But if you have to quit before completing the task it sucks. And it has to be you to say the words “I can’t do this”.

I believe many musicians are conscientious and sometimes forget their own well-being. I have written earlier about the case when I passed out on the theater stage because working under flu. I know that it is wrong to go to work when you are sick but I felt I had no choice.

This time it’s about my wrist. I have had some problems already for ten years. When I was younger it got better faster and I didn’t pay so much attention to it. So many musicians hurt sometimes that it is somehow concerned to be normal. But playing shouldn’t hurt! I wrote my last thesis about the physical demands of working as a musician. Also my close friends have had to quit playing because of problems in their hands. So this time I wanted to be careful and went to a doctor when the pain didn’t end in two weeks. Now I’m eating pain killers for one week and giving rest for my wrist. Hopefully I am able to play in the next concert.

Event Poster copied from Facebook

Event Poster copied from Facebook

So I had to give up one project. It was not only about the wrist but also technical difficulties. I was so excited about this project because it was going to be a solo performance in Turku with the bass clarinet. It was going to be a part of a really interesting concert series in a bar. Definitely I am going to attend some of the concerts. It is not nice to say no, but I hope something else will come up when it’s the right time.

Spring looks busy with work and the next big thing is Musikschau der Nationen in Bremen, Germany! I will be writing my blog from there like in Oslo but this time I will also use my language skills and write auf deutsch.

Bis bald!

Hearing Protection & Playing

photo by Heli Palomaa

photo by Heli Palomaa

Finally they are here! My new custom-made hearing protectors.

Hearing is one of the most important working tool for a musician. In an orchestra where are many players the decibels rise high fast. Especially for those who are playing just in front of other players.

I am happy that the level of my hearing is still fine, but it could be damaged any day and anywhere. Many friends got custom-made ear plugs already during the studies. I was thinking about it but for some reason I just didn’t buy them. Maybe I thought they were quite expensive and only professional musicians would really need them.

Now that I play in a wind orchestra I feel that full band playing forte is absolutely too much for my ears. I’ve been using simple yellow foam ear plugs cut in two peaces since my auditory canal is very narrow. I’ve also had Elacin ER20 for several years that we also call “spruce plugs” as the shape is similar to the tree.

I’ve been enthusiastic to experiment with my new plugs in rehearsals. They feel different after plugs made out of soft materials. The filter is quite good. I can hear more than with the foam plugs. Anyway there are always the same problems with the hearing protection. First of all, you lose control of your own sound. It is hard to tell if you are playing louder than others and the sound is vibrating through your mouth and head so you don’t get the same sound that is coming out from your instrument. The music is not loud all the time so when you should play really soft and in tune with others you don’t really hear anything else but yourself. This leads me to take at least one of the plugs out of my ear. That can be dangerous while your hearing will adapt again and if there is a sudden loud noise, the hearing could be damaged.

Anyway I am happy to have these plugs now and I am quite sure it is possible to learn to play with them. It only takes some time and patience. I always play the E flat clarinet with plugs because the high pitches really hurt my ears. And I never leave to a bar without some ear plugs. Or if I end up in a place with loud music I can use even a tissue to make plugs.

Let’s enjoy music and our ability to hear it!