Saturday, 18 February 2012

Vapaassa Tilassa

Moving on from creaky renditions of Peg O' My Heart ...

I've enthused before about the brilliance of Finnish fusion music, and about the work of Johanna Juhola. The above video is the title track of the album Vapaassa Tilassa ( (In a Free Space, Texicalli Records, 2007) which is a collaboration between Juhola and Timo Alakotila, a musician and composer acclaimed as the father of Finnish "chamber folk" music. The style is moderately unclassifiable - folk freestyle, but with elements of jazz improvisation, tango and chillout - but whatever it is, it showcases one of the greatest exponents of accordion as an expressive and versatile modern instrument. There are a couple of other tracks in full, Heini and Kevään ensimmäinen tango, at the WOMEX entry, and samples of all the tracks at the digital-tunes page. The Johanna Juhola official site has some others in its media player list; one of my favourite Juhola pieces, Paluu, is there, and also on Vapaassa Tilassa.

Check out also the official Timo Alakotila site;  the Music page provides an excellent sampler of his work, which ranges through solo piano, chamber folk, and neo-classical work for string quartet and full orchestra; the general flavour is very reflective and wistful. I notice he recently released another duo album, Åkerö, in collaboration with another of the great modern Finnish accordionists, Maria Kalaniemi (samples at the CDRoots page show that one track is a beautiful accordion / vocal / piano arrangement of the previously-mentioned Koskaan et muuttua saa).

Out of purely geeky interest, if you compare the images to this post and the previous, you can see the difference between the keyboards of the C-system accordion played by Johanna Juhola, and the B-system one I play (they're mirror images of each other).

As to the whole issue of skill level that seeing the top players raises with me: I know I will never be as good as this. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. At one level, it's quite depressing. I know I don't have a major aptitude; as I've said, music for me is part of a generalism, one of a whole list of things I'm medium-good at. But at another, it's an inspiration, and there are crumbs I can pick up: angles on style and arrangement.The positive thing, perhaps, is that I don't feel about accordion the way I feel about, for example, unfretted strings or brass instruments: not being able to imagine how anyone does it. With accordion, I can see colossal skill, but I feel I'm somewhere - however low down - on the same skill ladder.

Sorry, but I think I'm going to be rather boring with angst about this in the long term. Over the past year, the bayan accordion has become a very major part of my life (as you may know, this much). Martin Stork kindly sent me this nice atmospheric photo from the Topjam sessions.

That's what my fingers feel like when I play in public!

- Ray

No comments:

Post a Comment