Monthly Archives: April 2021

STS Helsinki Seminar – Mikko Ojanen

We are happy to continue our seminar series in 2021 with a talk by Mikko Ojanen:

29 April, 14:15–15:45 (EEST)

Mikko Ojanen, PhD
Part-time teacher – University of Helsinki Music Research Laboratory, UHMRL
Information specialist – Data Support, Helsinki University Library
Audio engineer, musician, record producer – KrunaUG


Engaging with electronic music technology in Finland in the 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s was a time of intensive interplay between music technological utopia and the contemporary reality. The decade marked a significant turning point in electronic musical instrument design. Both the transistor-based integrated circuits and their digital logic applications in sound synthesis, processing and sequencing methods strongly challenged the prior designs. The development occurred widely in the international contexts – as well as at grass-roots level in local scenes. In Finland, the music technological rupture inspired Mr. Erkki Kurenniemi, one of the pioneers of electronic musical instrument design, to seek new means to implement the novel technology in his strive for utopia. For Kurenniemi, the electronic musical instrument of the future was a tool for realizing automated and algorithmic musical processes.

In this case study on Kurenniemi’s designs, I focus on the users of his electronic musical instruments. Amidst Kurenniemi’s ten unique instruments, my research material consists of approximately 100 musical works realized with Kurenniemi’s instruments by twelve Finnish and Swedish composers and artists, who also collaborated with Kurenniemi. My analysis strengthens the notion that instrument design processes are deeply socially constructed and the implementation of new technology is significantly dependent on the users’ willingness to engage with equipment at hand. The willingness to engage with the technological solutions, on the other hand, is affected by the users’ background.

Here, I identified three points of departures for the artistic work of the users of Kurenniemi’s instruments. Their points of departure were based on 1) fully technologically oriented processes, where technological solution even played the most significant role, on 2) listening-based creative processes employed in real-time interaction with the technology, or on 3) their initial ideas for a work, which then were realized with  the current technological solution. Composers and artists either accepted Kurenniemi’s designs as is, or rejected them altogether. They rarely modified his designs, and the user experiences did not feed back to his design process leaving the instruments in the prototype phase.

Short bio

Mikko Ojanen, PhD, studies music technology – especially the history of electroacoustic music in Finland in the 1960s and 1970s at the University of Helsinki. He works as a part-time lecturer at the university’s Electronic Music Studio and as an information specialist in the Helsinki University Library Data Support. Ojanen also performs frequently as a musician, sound technician and music producer in several electronic, experimental and popular music projects and groups.

Join the seminar via Zoom:

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Meeting ID: 676 0516 4053
Passcode: 060863

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Meeting ID: 676 0516 4053
Passcode: 060863