A short introduction to Erkki Kurenniemi and his instruments

Erkki Kurenniemi (1941–2017) was a pioneer of electroacoustic music in Finland whose work set the stage for the first 15 years of Finnish electronic music. During the academic year 1961–62 Kurenniemi was invited to build an electronic music studio for the Department of Musicology at the University of Helsinki by the newly appointed Professor of Musicology Erik Tawaststjerna. Amidst his studio design, between 1964 and 1975 Kurenniemi built ten innovative instruments and composed approximately thirty pieces of electroacoustic music including electronic music and sound effects for films, theater, radio plays and exhibitions. Kurenniemi collaborated with several Finnish and Swedish composers and artists, thus his visionary ideas and technical know-how had an influence also on the works of his contemporaries – and vice versa. In 1970, together with Jouko Kottila and Peter Frisk, Kurenniemi founded a company Digelius Electronics Finland with the initial target in designing and marketing of Kurenniemi’s instruments. The emphasis of the projects conducted by Digelius, however, was on industrial technology leaving instrument design into a minor role. After only six years of rapidly growing operation, Digelius went bankruptcy in 1976. After his active period in music, Kurenniemi worked as a developer of industrial robotics in a multi-industrial company Rosenlew (1976–78) and at the cable machinery division of Nokia (1980–1986). In the 1980s, Kurenniemi was a founding member of the science center Heureka. During the years, he became known as a frequent commentator on scientific, technological and futurological topics on the Finnish media.

This site presents a brief overview of Kurenniemi’s electronic musical instruments with dedicated pages for each separate instrument as well as the early history of the University of Helsinki Electronic Music Studio. Blog posts about events and other news related to Kurenniemi’s instruments and their use are, here, irregular and casual. The emphasis of this site is on historical research. More up-to-date news will be posted on Facebook pages of Erkki Kurenniemi (facebook.com/Erkki-Kurenniemi-37536139263/), the University of Helsinki Electronic Music Studio (facebook.com/UHMRL/) and Project QRZ (facebook.com/ProjectQRZ/).

Research material, data, presentations, and publications related to Kurenniemi’s instruments and their use are openly accessible via the ‘Electronic Musical Instruments by Erkki Kurenniemi’ community maintained in Zenodo (https://zenodo.org/communities/electronic-musical-instruments-by-kurenniemi/).

The research project on Erkki Kurenniemi’s instrument is hosted by the University of Helsinki Music Research Laboratory.

Text CC-BY Mikko Ojanen