LAATIKKO/BOX CD RELEASE LISTENING PARTY

went well. We sat in the dark and listened to the 31.5 minute piece, and heard a new(ish) acoustic violin piece of mine, chatted, ate, drank. If you haven't heard Laatikko/Box, buy it here!

Instead of marching today,

I am at an enormous suburban high school, 'judging' over 30 musical groups for a regional contest.
Trump wants to cut most of the little art funding that is left in this country. Why is this important? The arts make us more human. Good musicianship teaches us to compromise, to work together, to listen well, to tap into that which exists beyond time and culture. Good musicianship that is, and we need to continue promoting that, encouraging it, and leaving space for it in our culture. The more it disappears, the less all of us remember it exists. That is the danger of the slippery slope. That is the importance of resistance and going against the grain.
Marches are good, they are big and visible. But we also have choices in our daily lives - every day! How do we want our society to be? It is made up of us. We are fighting against strong forces: greed, power, ego. But aren't we all fighting against those forces inside ourselves on a daily basis? The internal journey is the external.
We need to work in all ways to fight for the good of humanity - that is beyond any constructed party lines. 
But. Trump proposes cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts. That also effects funding in the schools, and funding to the arts in general. The arts are an integral part to culture, and the national government should support them. 
Let's work together!!

FINLAND 100 LAUNCHED!

2017 marks 100 years of Finnish independence. It is a special thing. Finns were always under someone else's rule (Russia, Sweden). Finns are a genetically and linguistically unique population in the Nordic countries and successfully defended themselves against Russian takeover during WWII (it's more complicated, but it's a huge source of national pride). 

This weekend, the Twin Cities had a big launch of a year of festivities, with the presence of Finnish ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, and two Minnesota Orchestra concerts featuring Sibelius and contemporary Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. I was happy to provide Finnish folk music in the atrium.

Look for many events to come, and stay informed thru the FinnSource website

LAATIKKO/BOX ALBUM RELEASED 1.7.17

Happy new year! My solo project, LAATIKKO/BOX, is now available for sale and download. It's difficult now, at the completion of an artistic project, when I should tie all the knots tightly, package the work up neatly, present it in an oversaturated world, vie for a millisecond of internet attention (and yours). But it's not difficult enough to make me forget how this project, Laatikko/Box, began. It's not difficult enough to make me forget about the fear, the uncertainty, the searching, all the circumstances in the last 3 years that contributed to its creation. It was a huge step in my artistic and personal growth - and more than that, I believe this 31.5 minutes has something to offer the listener, and for that I am grateful and proud. All I desire is that people take something away from the work - maybe something to soften, to open, to create a small crack or change. 

Here is a video of Aallotar and friends

at Beethoven and Banjos festival this fall:

This video highlights a performance from the second season of Beethoven & Banjos - a festival featuring cross-genre collaboration between classical musicians and folk musicians. 2016 featured guest artists from the Finish-American duo Aallotar (Sara Pajunen and Teija Niku), members of the chamber collective Decoda (Meena Bhasin, Hamilton Berry, Evan Premo, and Anna Elashvili), and Laurel Premo.

I curated a playlist of new Nordic/Baltic folk for my friend

Meena's San Francisco music resource, Reveler. Check it out here: 

And here is my intro:

"What can you often hear in Nordic music? Nature. Space. That is what I am drawn to, I may even say it lives somewhere inside of me, as most of my roots are Finnish. Of course, nature and space goes beyond the Nordic countries, to humanity as a whole. But there are certain cultures where it is embedded, even just a bit more, and the Nordic countries are some of these. Art mimics life, life mimics art, whichever it is, I have chosen tracks that conjure that sense of space, of walking in the deep forest, the forest that belongs to everyone. The forest that reminds us we are just a blip in time, that we are connected to our ancestors, that we are a part of something larger." 

ALMOST 'READY' TO MIX LAATIKKO/BOX

and I have found a new way of working. Walking with computer, providing the weather is nice. Until we can control our devices with our hands and see our screens through glasses, must keep searching for ways to keep the body relaxed and free and moving while doing computer work (especially creative). It was a fantastic fall day in Minnesota. My friend Grant Cutler is mixing and helping produce this new solo work of mine. 

THE LAATIKKO/BOX ALBUM WILL BE READY BY THE END OF 2016!

I have lived in Finland.

Finland spends an average of 66 dollars per person on the arts - that's 2.1 percent of total public spending. The US, $4.84 (.13%) as a nation, but the national budget is less than a dollar. They are different countries with different populations, demographics, and challenges. But this is an ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE. 

The National Endowment for the Arts (US) received $148 billion this year. $245 billion went to bailing out banks. $601 billion to the military. 

I completed my first day of Classical Minnesota Public Radio's Class Notes Artists program in Willmar, MN today. The music teacher told me the administration was very firm that they would be receiving no new instruments this year. It is complicated. Willmar has a huge influx of immigrants and first generation Americans. The district needs to build another elementary school to accommodate all the new learners. But that is separate from their arts' funding. What draws human beings with differences together more than music? More than reaching the spaces where culture and language do not matter as much? 

I have no answers for this. I have to do a lot of research and have a lot of experience. And I will still have no answers. But I believe in the power of the arts, to heal the individual, and therefore heal societies. 

The Laatikko/Box album had a

good week-long run in development at a secluded and historical artist retreat on Rainy Lake. Ernest Oberholtzer was a Harvard-educated conservationist who lived the majority of his life on a small, rocky island called Mallard Island (just near the Canadian border). The island and its fantastically unique buildings have been preserved by a foundation and are used for retreats and residencies. No better place to focus on a project that demands time, space, and connection with the natural world! And, the island houses over 10,000 books. I felt the history of the United States in the small snippets I read: the exploration, the hierarchy, the promise, the beginnings of a new culture. Very in line with the idea of Laatikko/Box, very in line with the current state of our union. The Laatikko/Box album will be released by the end of 2016. 

It was a tough weekend,

with violence and targeted hatred. All that is impending, good and bad. I know music and art has a chance to reach our deep levels, where doctrine and conditioning and separation disappear. And I was happy to have a few beautiful musical experiences in the past few days. Visiting friends from Finland (Karuna) offered us a moving sound experience at my home performance space, with such wonderful community atmosphere. Then on Monday I recorded in the MPR studio for the upcoming Class Notes Artists. Let's create things that open ourselves and others!

My amplified sonic dream come true

is 4DSOUND. 'Spatial sound is ... improving the quality of our listening environment to enhance our mental and physical state of being," they say. I say, do you realize the poor quality of directed sound that is such a far cry from the natural 3D sound experience of this world? Can't they be more similar? 

Them, again:  'By exploring new ways of listening spatially, and discovering new subtleties in our capacity to perceive sound, we are examining the role that sound plays in consciousness. We become aware of the way we perceive, and we challenge to what extent we are able to perceive consciously, or unconsciously. Developing our capacity to listen spatially, means becoming increasingly sensitive and subtly interconnected with the environment we exist in and are a part of. When we listen in this way, a new level of awareness begins to emerge. A way of decoding conscious experience through being mindful- in other words, by listening.'

“ 'I don’t think that music is really about music,' he posits.

I think that music is about something else….We as creators, as composers and musicians, spend our whole lives trying to get the right sounds.  It’s very, very difficult and we fine tune the sounds till we get just exactly what we want and so on.  But that’s not really what music is about.  What music is really about is love and sorrow and the whole range of human emotion—making audible the whole range of human existence and human life.  I’m interested in sound only to a certain extent, to the extent that it gets me to where I want to be in terms of my musical storytelling, my musical narrative.  That’s the importance of sound to me.” - Paul Moravec

I MET MY FIRST REPRODUCING PIANO

in Stanford, California. Holy Cow. I was smitten. I heard Gershwin play Gershwin:

And Ravel play Ravel. And then I played along with the craziest version of Autumn Leaves I've ever heard. Supposedly it was famous at the time, but this was not what I expected - impromptu! More about reproducing pianos.  

The music of Astor Piazzolla,

since I first heard it, often sounds and feels like the perfect music to me. I have played quite a bit of it. It is deceptively difficult, and playing you realize how much music lives in the 'feel.' I won't use more words to explain, except those of Astor himself: (Speaking of Nadia Boulanger, his teacher) 'Nadia looked into my eyes and asked me to play one of my tangos at the piano. So I confessed to her that I played the bandoneon; I told her she shouldn’t expect a good piano player because I wasn’t. She insisted, ”It doesn’t matter, Astor, play your tango.” And I started out with ”Triunfal”. When I finished, Nadia took my hands in hers and with that english of hers, so sweet, she said, ”Astor, this is beautiful. I like it a lot. Here is the true Piazzolla – do not ever leave him.” It was the great revelation of my musical life.'