Dec 25 2014

Retro & Pro

First of all: Thank You!
Thank you for following this blog, visiting our concerts, buying our records – in general: for being interested in my music!

It’s been an amazing year in many respects, and at the same time an ambiguous one, too.
After enjoying the enormous privilege to receive a grant from the Finnish Arts Council for the previous three years, 2014 saw me at the mercy of the liberal market again.
I decided not to go back to teaching, but rather threw myself into the business side of music, even more than I had before.

The result was an incredibly productive year with two new records that received splendid reviews, two orchestral premieres, four active bands performing different repertoires all exclusively of my own music.
On the other hand, as the saying goes ‘The artist pays’, I could continue by saying: ‘I did so much work this year that soon I will be broke’.
I’m not complaining, I’m merely stating the fact that it ain’t easy these days to make a living as a creative musician, even when your work is well received.

Well, so much for the year gone by. Despite the challenges, I am deeply grateful for the beautiful response I’ve received after my solo concerts in Temppeliaukio Church or during the Contemporary Collective’s tour, for the glimpses of blissful presence with my fellow musicians, and I’m happy that some reviewers really understood what I am after.
I wouldn’t change any of this for a safer job in an office.

Which brings me to the prospects of the year to come, 2015.

I would have loved to record the Brotherhood and the Jazz Camerata, but until some great, wealthy jazz lover comes along to sponsor these fantastic projects (Hint, hint!), I will go with the most feasible and, in a way, also most logical idea: after thirteen years of playing solo piano improvisations regularly, once a week, in Temppeliaukio Church, I’ve decided to make another solo piano recording.
I will try to capture these magical moments at this fantastic instrument in this amazing space.
The church has gracefully given permission for me to spend two evenings in March at their glorious Steinway grand piano and currently I’m making a selection of Hymns and Finnish folk songs that could serve as points of departure for my improvisations.

Temppeliaukio Church

This might be a good moment for interaction with the audience and I’d like to encourage you to send me suggestions of pieces that you would enjoy to hear me play. If I know the song well enough, or I can get to know it well enough, to make a personal statement on it, it just might be a beautiful addition to the set I have in mind. (See the contact page for address details.)

On April 11th, I will perform the new program in an evening recital at the church.
Welcome to join the concert!
I will digress a little from the solo piano versions to be recorded, on the one hand of course, because I’m improvising and can never be sure of what ideas will come to my mind in the given moment, but also in respect to the choice of instruments. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, I have developed an interest in the use of electronica in recent years, so, on that evening I will include in the setup my Rhodes piano, effect pedals, a loop machine and other little gimmicks that are fun to use.

instruments setup

Other than that the year is wide open. The opera project sadly had to be postponed due to the lack of financial resources.
The Contemporary Collective will be on tour again in May, however, which is fantastic prospects, and another nice thing is the fact that Infinita will perform in Finland; so far, March 6th has been set at the Sellosali in Leppävaara. This is one beautiful band not to be missed!


On that note, let me wish you a very happy new year 2015 and I’m looking forward to welcome you at one of my concerts.

Dec 22 2014

An arthouse jazzvideo

So, here it is, my last project for 2014 and a rewarding experience it was indeed:

The Contemporary Collective’s promo video was filmed in stylish black & white with a cool loft-type production design.
See it for yourself and comment right on the Vimeo page, if you feel like it.

We had a very easy time making it, everything seemed to fall into place, one idea led to the next.

There was no script, I just had this idea of a sixties’ ‘noir’ film in my mind and the location was to be a factory hall in eastern Helsinki.
Our camera man Pietari Peltola had just finished a feature film (He ovat paenneet / They have escaped) making great use of natural light, or rather the lack of it, so we only had a few lamps and went for deep contrast.
Given the limitations of the budget we decided to use our recent record ‘Outer Space’ as a soundtrack, no live sound, but rather a David Attenborough kind of voice-over, dubbed in later on.
So we slowed down or sped up the film sequences, creating a floating kind of feel to the movie.

Some bits I’m particularly happy with, like the idea of that still picture in the middle of the film. Is it a photograph? Has anybody seen the German epic ‘Heimat’ by director Edgar Reitz?
He had used that idea there, too.
Or the coincidence that when I had finished writing the voice-over text and went over to the cutting session, Pietari had just added some cloud footage from his archives before knowing that the title of the film was going to be ‘In Finnland weht ein frischer Jazzwind / There’s a fresh jazz breeze over Finland’.

Things fell into place and I’m very pleased with the result.
Thanks to the Music Finland organisation – without their financial support it would be impossible to even think of starting such a project.
Now a film is there, it’s done, it has happened – who knows where it will lead us.
Hopefully you like our little movie and hopefully some promoters get inspired to book the band.
This is a truly exceptional project.

As the end of the year approaches we had a little extra fun with the Contemporary Collective when making a promo video last weekend.
The talented young cinematographer Pietu Peltola, who has done the camera work in the recent Art house film and critical success ‘They have escaped / He ovat paenneet’, filmed us in a factory hall in eastern Helsinki.

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The film is being edited right now and next week I will add some voice-over in German, as the video is part of a campaign by the ‘Music Finland’ organization to promote Finnish music in the German speaking countries.

The GAS countries, Germany, Austria & Switzerland, as they are called here.

The beautiful black & white photography however should be fun enough to watch, even if you don’t understand the German language. It’ll be a GAS, GAS, GAS!

The film should be out by Christmas.
It’ll be on YouTube, where else, and I will put a link to it on the Videos page.

All the best to all of you for the Holiday Season!
Keep on eye on the gig calender and join us next year in one (or more) of our concerts.

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The concerts are over, the bills are paid, almost all paper work is done.
There are just a few more reports to be filed in order to get the support that has been granted.

It looks like we broke even this time, which is better than earlier tours that had been artistically just as successful, but economically needed to be considered as ‘investments’ into a better future.
It’s not an easy task to get six people to six concerts in various parts of the country.
But I still think it’s worth the trouble, particularly as it is my own music that I’m making the effort for.

So: Thank You, everybody!
All you people who came to listen, all you people who helped in organizing, all you people who decided to support this band by bestowing us grants!

We got some great feedback after the concerts.
One of the most memorable ones may have been that of an elderly lady who came up after the concert to say that ‘it wasn’t aggressive at all – very well balanced!’

Also some reviews were outright raving like the one in RondoClassic (in Finnish), where I got described as the ‘wizard behind the piano’. Not bad!

What became clear again, is that the artistic chemistry in this band works brilliantly. I am so grateful to my fellow musicians for pouring their soul into my music, for all the spontaneous interaction, for their enormous musicality.

Take an improvisation like the one we played in Tornio, only agreeing on two keys, creating fifteen minutes of sheer magic!
Listening to these improvisations afterwards, I often feel like it wasn’t me who did this.
I don’t even know where these ideas come from, I  didn’t even know I could play such stuff, I just happened to be there looking at my fingers moving, listening to the other musicians, listening to the textures that evolved right there in front of my ears and eyes.

It’s a strange profession we have.
One night we drove home by car after a gig, having played to about as many people in the audience as there were in the band. Still it seemed worth the while. I got a little worried about the finances and all, but what great listeners these guys had been!
And you never know what comes of it! Maybe these few guys will spread the word of an intense band who played fantastically!

So, exhausted but happy, slightly relieved, too, I’m back in the composer’s shed, preparing next year’s tour, writing new material, experimenting with some new effect pedals, practicing the Theremin. There’s always something to do.

Now the final preparations for the Contemporary Collective’s tour in October/November are keeping me busy.
Flights, car rentals, hotels, stage maps, rehearsal booking, the actual rehearsals, maybe still writing a new piece, if I get around to it.

Once we’re on the way, we will start in Lapland, where we play in two very beautiful halls, the Korundi hall in Rovaniemi on October 23rd and the Music house in Tornio on October 24th.

Both concerts are featuring the string quartet / guitar / piano – version of the band.
Beautiful music (even, if I say so myself) in various settings:
guitar and string quartet (from our recording ‘The Zen Connection’),
piano and string quartet (from my piano concerto ‘Motion’),
the string quartet alone performing my ‘Quatuor no. 2 – In Farben’, which we will record later on this year, and some new pieces for the whole band.

A week later on Wednesday, October 29th, bass clarinetist Heikki Nikula will join us at the Kanneltalo in Helsinki.
Here is a link to the Kanneltalo’s brochure:

Then in November the quartet version of the band will get on the road: Kajaani, Loviisa and finally the Kansi Auki Festival in Helsinki on November 13th.
Bass clarinetist Heikki Nikula, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen, me on piano and cellist Markus Hohti will introduce the Collective’s new recording ‘Outer Space’.

‘There is no borderline between jazz and contemporary classical music.
There is only a small gap between mindsets, a tiny little opening of space for the NOW – a universe for the improvising musician. This is where the Sid Hille Contemporary Collective operates.’
These are the liner notes on the CD cover and that’s exactly how it is!

Here is a first draft of the cover which I made myself. Trusted designer Maarit Kytöharju is currently working on the final version, the record will be available by mid-October.

Outer Space