Saari Alumni Stories: Jarkko Hartikainen

Photo: Jenny Meißner

Helsinki-based composer of contemporary art music, Jarkko Hartikainen, worked at the Saari Residence’s individual residence in the winter of 2014 and group residence in the summer of 2016. In his work, Hartikainen is interested in the timbre and the information relating to the conditions of the birth of sound that it conveys. Hartikainen’s music brings out substantial elements in music that touch the human soul: “It is my dream for my music to not only be heard but felt – at the same time, expanding the listener’s life, regardless of their knowledge and background,” he explains.

Hartikainen says that his composition work is triggered by the acoustic phenomena related to certain instruments, such as the resistance, fragility or pressure produced by a certain playing technique and how this is reflected in the sound and consequently the structure of the composition. He is currently going through a phase of solo works. “In my latest works, my focus has lain in building a pulse for the body of an accordion in the composition Cardio (2018), and concentrating mainly on an instrument’s wood resonance in my work EMBODIED: Violin Solo (2018),” Hartikainen says. “I am currently finishing off a composition for solo voice. In this work, the physiology of the human body plays a prominent role, as the performer and the instrument are one,” he explains. The work will be premiered in the first concert of soprano Meeri Pulakka at the Sibelius Academy’s Young Artists of the Winter series on 15th January 2019.

Jarkko Hartikainen has worked at the Saari Residence on two occasions, in both the individual and group residencies. He explains that the individual residency in particular was a crucial period in his career. At the time, the composer was suffering from overexertion, and as a result, his plans for intensive, solitary toil had to give way for something different. “The timing and environment of the individual residency offered me an auspicious opportunity to review the direction I was going. What became key parts of my stay were the peer discussions I had with the other residents which clarified my thinking, my reassessment and rebuilding of my own role as a composer and especially the experience of time stopping in the rural environment which calmed me down and sharpened my concentration,” says Hartikainen, describing what he got out of the residency. “I started a brainstorming and programming process, which lasted practically the entire year and gave me a series of truly powerful new tools and ways of thinking for my current work. The process also led me to apply and be accepted to study for a postgraduate degree at Uniarts Helsinki and, with the help of the structure provided by my doctoral studies and the university community, a new stage in my work which really took off.”

As a result of spending a lot of time together, all the artists and researchers from that period who were able to, returned to the Saari Residence in the summer of 2016 for a group residency in order to engage in cross-sectoral cooperation. In addition to Hartikainen, visual artist Ulla Leppävuori, historian Sinikka Selin, poet Irina Javne and performance artist Satu Palokangas gathered at Saari. Performance artist Jenni Kokkomäki was also involved in the brainstorming and creation of the application for the group residency, although her busy work schedule prevented her from participating in the residency itself. At Saari, the group gave each other lectures and explored various opportunities for collaboration through discussion, experimentation and by preparing a presentation of an experiential path which was open to the public. “The group residency offered me the opportunity to experiment with what kinds of art I, a person trained as a composer, can create in a situation where the traditional writing of notes cannot result in a musical performance – due to lack of musicians – but where art had to be created in other ways,” says Hartikainen. “As a result, I found myself playing music with a rusty hinge or the metal poles that keep berry bushes from dragging on the ground in response to the stimuli provided by a visual artist, creating a sound montage on the musical character of a book of poems, or acting as a DJ and disturbing a history lecture from behind a wall with the music of the era under discussion,” Hartikainen describes the experiments made during his residency.

For Jarkko Hartikainen, residency work is a part of his practice, at least for the time being. “It seems that the artist residence is an excellent tool for me when I want to redefine my work in order to concentrate on it, and for concretising clear temporal objectives which are necessary every now and then,” he contemplates. Typically, Hartikainen uses his residency periods for a specific, individual stage in his work which is suitably long for the period. Lately there has been a great deal of debate on the climate impacts of residencies – and especially the travelling involved – and Hartikainen too has given a lot of thought to the future of working at artists’ residencies. “I am trying to minimise air travel more and more and to find suitable working facilities close to home, so it remains to be seen whether this will fundamentally change the way I work and where the changes will take me,” the composer says.