Timo Väänänen

Sounds from Solitude

Gillian Stevensin kantelekonsertto Sounds from Solitude – Ääniä yksinäisyydestä on julkaistu äänitteenä toukokuussa 2015. Sävellys on kantaesitetty vuonna 2009 Mikkelissä ja levylle se äänitettiin 2013. Solistina on lahtelainen musiikin tohtori, kanneltaja Timo Väänänen. Gillian Stevens kertoo konserton synnystä:

Tämä konsertto on syntynyt mitä suurimmassa määrin yhteistyönä, ainakin mitä tulee soolo-osuuteen. Nyt kun teoksen syntymästä on jo vierähtänyt tovi, pohdin sitä musiikillista alkemiaa, mikä sai teoksen syntymään kuin vaivatta. Olen esiintynyt Timon ja Dylan Fowlerin kanssa Taith-yhtyeessä, joten olen oppinut tuntemaan äänten kirjoa, jonka Timo saa kanteleestaan luotua ja tunnen myös hänen soittotapansa. Säveltäessäni orkesterin osuuksia minulla oli tämä mielessäni ja kuvittelin kanteleen osuuden. Orkesterin harmoninen maailma on saanut vaikutteita ja oikeastaan rajoitteitakin kanteleen harmonisista mahdollisuuksista.

Konsertosta tulee mieleen 1700-luvun tapa, jossa solisti improvisoi konserton kadenssit. Ero tässä kantelekonsertossa on se, että Timo improvisoi paljon enemmän. Olen kyllä päättänyt asteikot ja harmoniat, mutta olemme yhdessä keskustelleet ja kokeilleet – pohtineet, miten toivomani tunnelma tai vaikutelma saavutetaan ja Timo on esitellyt erilaisia teknisiä mahdollisuuksia.

Työskentelimme yhdessä sekä Suomessa että Walesissä ja vaihdoimme ajatuksia myös tietokoneen välityksellä. Joskus kanteleen osuus on hyvin vapaa ja joskus sillä on tarkkoja teemoja ja rytmejä soitettavanaan. Mutta silloinkin kun kanteleen osuudet ovat tarkkoja, on solistilla vapaus muunnella sävelalaa ja muita soiton seikkoja. Joka kerta tämä teos on erilainen, mutta silti erehtymättömästi tämä teos. Jos joku muu solisti joskus ottaa tämän teoksen esittääkseen, on tulos jälleen erilainen mutta tunnistettava. Minun on kuitenkin vaikea kuvitella toista esittäjää, joka voisi niin täydellisesti muotoilla soolojensa suhteen orkesteriin kuin Timo omalla vaivattomalla luovuudellaan.

Levyn on julkaissut Taith Records yhteistyössä Maanitteen ja Sibelius-Akatemian kansanmusiikiin aineryhmän kanssa. Saatavilla Maanitteen verkkokaupassa.

levyarvostelu YLE.fi:ssä: http://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2015/11/26/yksinaisyydesta-ponnisti-kuuluvaaaninen-kannel

Sounds from Solitude

by Gillian Stevens

In 2006 one of my orchestral pieces, Llysenwau, was performed at the Haapavesi Festival and Timo joined the orchestra on kantele. He subsequently had the experience of playing music for the film of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with the Colorado Symphony orchestra. This all gave him a taste of the pleasures of playing with an orchestra, so together we cooked up the idea of my writing a kantele concerto with Timo as soloist! I would have liked to write for symphony orchestra, but the first performance was to be with the Mikkeli String Orchestra so I was compelled to rein in my ideas, though we got away with bringing in a drum part. When it came to the point of recording the music a few years later we were able to add a flute player who doubled on percussion. Both she and the double bass player are experienced improvisers, which added an additional dimension to the new version.

Many of the ideas for the piece came to me while I was on a month long silent and solitary retreat in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, in a place called Llanerchwen. I was further inspired by a magical night of continuous kantele playing at the Väisänen Symposium in Savonranta.

The piece is in seven movements. They run continuously each linked by a sustained kantele chord or a double bass solo. The mood of each movement was initially based on a specific image or experience but as the music developed, more and more intertwining of themes from one movement to another began to occur. As I wrote the music, it started to tell me things I didn’t know and that are impossible to put into words. I actually gave the movements their final titles when the piece was finished, as a way of encapsulating something of what I had in my mind. The titles may be a starting point for a listener, but images have different meanings for different people and I suspect that that must be even more true from one country to another.

Hidden Waterfall.

Musically this was influenced by Karelian kantele playing, with its mesmeric patterns. Unlike Karelian music the harmonies change frequently, which means frequent tricky lever changes for the soloist. Timo made up words to help him remember the patterns, which perfectly fit the mood of the music. It would be much harder to find English words to fit these rhythms, as our languages have quite different rhythmic characteristics. The musical shape is a gradual expansion. Maybe the waterfall finally comes into view.


This contains very contrasting material, which reflect the extremes of emotion that come up when you take time to be alone. It also reflects the great contrasts in the Welsh landscape and weather; slate-grey clouds over mountains and sunshine on dewy grass, all at once. The main musical material consists of rising 5ths separated by different intervals. Much of the harmonic and melodic material in subsequent movements derives from this.


Silence and quiet but unpredictable, sounds characterise this movement. The orchestral parts are set and use the previous harmonic material, with sparse repeated semiquavers. The kantele part is mainly improvised, following the orchestra’s harmonies and foreshadowing the melody to come in House by the Lake. Percussion parts are also improvised

Hollow Yew

The yew tree in Britain is a symbol of rebirth and of protection. Yews as much as 2,000 years old are frequently found in churchyards. Here the kantele calmly plays a continually repeating sequence, interrupted or supported by the orchestra, until themes from the second movement return leading into:-


A joyful dance-like piece in 7/8. In Britain the hare is a mysterious creature of rare darting appearances, very unlike the docile hares of Finland. It is also a symbol of rebirth and fertility.

House by the lake

Calm, beautiful, solitary; a place to recuperate and gather yourself for wilder darker times. This melody came to me when I was staying in a Finnish summer house; by a lake of course.

Till by turning

This movement is very similar to the first movement, but the harmonic sequence and rhythmic patterns are reversed and the string parts are changed. In life everything spirals round and returns. We are children; we have children; we have grandchildren; we become like children again. The seasons spiral round. The title is from the words of an old Shaker song;

To turn, turn shall be our delight, till by turning, turning we come round right.

This concerto is utterly a collaboration as far as the solo part goes. At this distance of several years from the original creation of the music I wonder at the musical alchemy, which made this process seem so effortless. Having performed with Timo and Dylan Fowler in the Taith trio I had become familiar with the range of sounds Timo could create and with his style of playing. As I wrote the orchestral music I held this in mind and imagined how the kantele part might go. The harmonic world of the orchestra is influenced, even restricted, by the harmonic possibilities of the kantele. In some ways this concerto is a little reminiscent of the 18th century custom where the soloist was expected to improvise cadenzas. The difference here is that Timo has far more improvising to do. Though I had decided the scales and harmonies, together we discussed and experimented with ways of achieving the kind of effects I was looking for and Timo demonstrated possible techniques. We met in Finland and Wales and worked together and exchanged ideas on the computer as well. At times the kantele part is very free and at times there are exact melodies and rhythms to play. Even when this is the case, the soloist is at liberty to vary the tessitura and other aspects of the part. No playing has been exactly the same as any other, yet all are unmistakeably of the same piece of music. If another soloist were ever to take this piece on, the results would be even more different. The piece would still be clearly recognisable, but it’s hard to imagine how another performer could match Timo’s perfect structuring of his solos in relationship to the orchestra, or his effortless creativity.



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