This year Avanto extends the scope of its music programme to include composers. For the first time Avanto has commissioned original works, both of which will debut at this year’s festival. The new compositions by the American musical polymath Jim O'Rourke and the German composer Ralf Wehowsky will be presented in the nearly extinct tradition of tape music concerts that began with electronic music in the 1950s. No performers will take the stage, only sound reproduction equipment.
Jim O'Rourke (1969–) started his sonic explorations as a school boy, playing guitar and investigating the music section of his local library to discover more about free improvisation and contemporary music. He went on to study composition at DePaul University in Chicago. His compositions include instrumental pieces, his focus, however, was tape music. O'Rourke’s catalogue of tape music compositions impresses both with its sheer volume and with its spectrum of styles, ranging from delicate drone works to out-and-out studies in musique concrète. In parallel with his work as a composer, O'Rourke has performed and recorded with many of today’s most notable improvisers. In the late 1990s, his interests shifted strongly to popular music. After being a member of the pioneering post-rock unit Gastr Del Sol, he recorded several albums of skilfully orchestrated pop music. After this, O'Rourke moved on to producing and mixing records by artists such as Tony Conrad, Faust and Wilco. He has also composed music for several films and was one of the originators of the laptop boom of the late 1990s. O'Rourke has collaborated with Sonic Youth on various projects, most notable of them the 1999 album Goodbye 20th Century, on which the band interpreted classics of 20th century avant-garde music. In 2001 he joined the band full-time, working as a musician and its producer until 2005. Over the last few years, he has returned to improvised music, performing with several artists representing the new generation of American musicians. After departing from Sonic Youth, O'Rourke moved to Japan, where he has worked mainly on film projects. The piece commissioned by Avanto is his first tape music composition in more than five years.
Ralf Wehowsky (1959–) belongs to the growing category of non-academic composers whose work lies outside of both the limits of popular music and the institutions of serious music. Wehowsky started his musical activities towards the end of the 1970s, inspired by punk’s DIY spirit but drawing his musical influences from serious avant-garde and tape music. From the beginning his methods were unique, often involving home electronics for creating tape music. In the 1980s, a collective called P16.D4 f ormed around the composer, and it soon became Wehowsky’s primary musical tool. Since those days his work has been characterised by recycling of material and collaborative composition projects. The aesthetic principles he adapted at the time have strongly influenced the development of experimental music, and they remain relevant to this day. Wehowsky also founded Wahrnehmungen, one of the first record labels to publish experimental music on audiocassettes and later the foundation for Selektion, one of the most important experimental music labels of the 1980s. Avanto presents his new work, a tape piece based on raw material produced by the Turku-based guitarist Topias Tiheäsalo.
Jim O'Rourke & Ralf Wehowsky: Tape music concert at the Chamber Music Hall of the Sibelius Academy on Saturday, 18 November at 12:00.