17 Jan 22

20 Artists for 20 Years: Kimmo Pohjonen

Kimmo Pohjonen - Uzone - Photo Credit Minna Hatinen

Continuing our interview series, celebrating 20 artists for Sound UK's first 20 years, we recently caught up with Finnish accordian player, Kimmo Pohjonen.

Kimmo is internationally renowned for his ground-breaking avant-garde and experimental work, revolutionising accordian music with his custom-made electrified instrument that includes effects, MIDI and other electronics.

What do you remember about the projects we did together? And what was your most memorable experience?

Both projects, Earth Machine Music and Accordion Wrestling were quite special ones.

The technical set up for Accordion Wrestling was a challenge as we had the amplified wrestling mat and complicated visual design. It was great to see the audience faces during the show as the action on the wrestling mat started to go crazy. The performance itself was physically so hard that I was very often close to vomiting at the end of the performance where I had to play, spin around and wrestle simultaneously.

For Earth Machine Music, we created a unique concert with the farmers. It was always a big surprise to find so many different sounds from each farm from the local machines and animals. I felt it very touching how the farmers wanted to present their neighbourhood and how proud they were about it. The highlight was always the last bow together as we felt the energy we got back from the audience.

The beer label which was made for the tour, “Earth Machine Music beer” with all the tour dates on the bottle is quite memorable too.

Did these projects help to develop your creative practice? If so, how?

Every project I do develops my creative practice as I have the chance to perform them many times in different places. It is very interesting to see how a project concept starts to develop as it communicates with the audience. In the end I think that that communication between the performer and audience is the most important thing. It is one of the biggest reasons to do this work.

What have you been up to recently?

I have been developing a new technique of playing my instrument. My accordion has had many changes in this process. The instrument is now an “electro-acoustic machine” that allows me to create several textures simultaneously. With this new technique I also control visual elements and lights while playing. It has been a very creative process to find again something unexpected and new from my instrument. The project is called UZone.

Another interesting work was the UNIKO arrangement for Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Originally a Kronos Quartet commission, this piece revealed marvellous new textures recently when I performed it with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tonu Kaljuste.

In 2021 Sound UK launched a new artist development programme to help develop and test ambitious creative ideas. How important do you think initiatives like this are and the work Sound UK does commissioning artists?

To develop and test ambitious creative ideas is the essence of the art, at least for me. These kinds of commissions are extremely important for the artists. I am sure that the chosen artists will get huge support for their work from Sound UK by this kind of programme.

What role can a producer like Sound UK play in helping artists to realise their potential?

I think the previous programme is a good example, which helps artists find their potential. Sound UK encourages artists with whom they work to find their own unique voices.

What does the coming year have in store for you? What are your future plans?

I will continue with the project Uzone to develop it further. I will do more performances as the process goes on and some day it will be ready. When that point is reached, I will expand UZone for a bigger orchestra. I am very excited about this and feel I'm at the turning point of something totally new and I am eager to show the different faces of the accordion to audiences again.

I will also compose more UNIKO music to include Tallinn Chamber Choir together with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. The idea is to take UNIKO to a totally new and different level as it now seems to have a new life after a few years break.

What are your hopes for music and its audiences in a post pandemic world?

We should have more respect towards nature. We need to learn to live responsibly with this current unfortunate situation. Life needs to go on, hopefully better than how we have done so far on this planet.

Visit Kimmo Pohjonen's website to find out more about his work.

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