Animal orchestra flies to New York
Magnus, Mirkku and Reksi part of hands-on sound installation
By Pirkko Kotirinta
A cow moos the sounds of a cello, and piglets snort in rhythm.
Looking on is a serenely gentle horse called Magnus, but the serenity is deceptive.
Magnus also has springtime in his heart. Inside him a piano sounds. A calf is in a singing mood.
It is Monday morning and the musical herd of animals pose under bright lights in Tikkurila. In the afternoon they will be packed into crates, and soon the entire barnyard will by flying through the air to New York.
The flight will be pricey - tens of thousands of euros, as space in the luggage hold is billed by the cubic metre.
The destination in New York is the Meatpacking District. The past of what is now a very trendy neighbourhood is not a cause for concern for the group.
Customs and X-rays are a bigger challenge, as each creature has a large piece of metal inside, which might raise suspicions, but it is really no more than a loudspeaker.
Magnus, Mirkku, Reksi, and the other animals, including a golden calf, are taking part in the Design Week event on May 16th-18th.
Their installation, called Touching, was invited to take part in the Hardcore event of Design Forum Finland.
Touching is a joint project of Pentagon Design and Tikkurila Paints, and the organisers expect that it will attract attention in the USA.
The same animals were first seen at the Helsinki Design Week a couple of years ago - at that time, without sound, explains Marika Raike, visual coordinator and colour designer for Tikkurila.
The animals were also on display at last autumn's Habitare furniture and design exhibition last autumn. At that time they were accompanied by the singing of the vocal group Rajaton ("Without Limit").
Raike uses the term "polysensual". With its installation, the paint factory hopes to touch senses other than that of sight. And there were plenty of visitors who stroked Mirkku and Magnus.
The sound design for the installation was by musician and composer Kim Kuusi, who is known especially as a composer of advertising tunes.
Now the idea has been refined one step further.
Kuusi proposed a composition for the Hereä band for use with the Tikkurila animals. The band, comprising musicians with a folk music background, was happy to accept the challenge.
Vesa Norilo and Milla Viljamaa composed about ten minutes of music, and in early April they were in the studio, and now they are in Tikkurila, hearing the results for the first time.
The cello parts and recorder tunes played by Norilo and Viljamaa's restful piano were joined by vocals written by Aili Ikonen as well as the percussion parts of Sara Puljula.
The vocals are mainly interpreted by the calf, the percussion parts resound from inside both Reksi, covered in blackboard paint, and Lord, with a rough concrete coating.
One of the pigs is more lyrical, finding its internal violinist (actually, it's Ikonen).
"The commission immediately sounded fun", pondered Vesa Norilo. According to Milla Viljamaa, Hereä is interested in working with pictures, and the band would be happy to produce music for films or commercials.
The cords required by the speakers run directly from the hooves and disappear into the double floor.
Kim Kuusi and his assistants had quite a time in putting the animals into their final state.
"The whole project nearly collapsed in the final stretch, because the transport costs became so ridiculously expensive," Kuusi observes. He is clearly sincerely enthusiastic about the possibilities of the installation, and is already busy thinking about ways to make it even more interactive. After all, there are all kinds of instrumental applications that work with infrared sensors.
The technical heart, including a hard disc with the seven-channel sound, is hidden away behind a wall.
Hereä's composition plays again and again, sounding slightly different, depending on where the listener is standing.
The animals themselves are not Finnish design: they are decorative material, Made in Philippines.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 29.4.2008
PIRKKO KOTIRINTA / Helsingin Sanomat