Promotional link for artwork, prelistening, distribution, release Nov 2013 , Buy @boomkatonline , Finnish booklet text (pdf)


By Kari Sallamaa

With the CD "Kuuntele", AGF (Antye Greie-Ripatti) interprets the poetry of her new homeland Finland with a few well chosen examples. Her method is the same as in her former CD, Gedichterbe (2011), for which she just received an Honorary Mention at Ars Electronica in 2013 in Digital Music & Sound Art. Poems are always the starting point for her music, but from there AGF creates independent pieces. Schubert and Schumann followed the path of their poets' expressions - they sewed a costume for the poem, where figures of the body could be identified. Languages, in this case Finnish and English, can be transcended: as auditive material there is no great difference between them, as meaning is diminishing into a backdrop.

These poems are keenly connected to music, voices and their sensorial prerequisite: hearing. The whole is acoustic and electronic. Different layers of music bring additional dimensions to the poetry. Words are springboards for the music, but only a beginning. They do not just intermediate meanings, but rather deliver a comprehensive experience. continued below

Artist: AGF & Various

Title: Kuuntele

1. A Stranger To Start A Tale (Väinämöinen, Kalevala, 1849) feat. AGF

2. Keinutan Kaikua (L.Onerva, 1904) feat. Lau Nau

3. Joy Is Boring Too (Nils-Aslak Valkeapää) feat. AGF

4. For Toffle (Tove Jansson, 1960)

5. Sinisten Risti (Eino Leino, 1903) feat. Matti P

6. Diamantenstimmen (The Birds, Solveig von Schoultz, 1963) feat. AGF

7. M A R I A S I M O I N T Y T Ä R (Maria Simointytär, 1683) feat. AGF

8. Kiitos (Eeva Kilpi) feat. Islaja

9. The Generations 1 (Eila Kivikk'aho, 1961) feat. AGF

10. Kuuntele (Juha Rautio, 2011) feat. Juha Rautio

11. Counterpoint (Eeva-Liisa Manner, 1956) feat. AGF

12. How To Address The Fog (for Paavo Haavikko)

13. Ratsumies & Surun Jumaluudet (Aku-Kimmo Ripatti, 1986 & Iris Uurto 1944) feat. AGF

All music and production by poemproducer AGF (Antye Greie-Ripatti)

Except vocal performances in Keinutan Kaikua by Lau Nau, in Sinisten Risti by Matti P, in Kiitos by Islaja, in Kuuntele by Juha Rautio. Booklet text by Kari Sallamaa. Thanks to translation and inspiration by Kati Hiekkapelto. All artwork and calligraphy by Antye Greie-Ripatti. The record was produced in the Shark Reef Studio in Hailuoto/ Finland.

Label AGF Producktion via Morr Music Distribution 2013.

Then the old Vainamoinen
put this into words:
'If no one else will
come and sing with me
I will launch into poems
and burst out singing alone:
since I've been made a singer
and turned out a reciter
I'll not ask others the way
a stranger to start a tale.'
(The Kalevala, Oxford Edition)

continued text from Kari Sallamaa
Finnish literature was born in the 15th century, as Jöns Budde, a monk in the nunnery of St. Bridget in Naantali, who wrote in Swedish language, translated from Latin visions, revelations and sacral texts for the sisters. In a way Finnish women's literature was born already at this moment, as many of the texts were written by nuns and other literate women in Germany and Sweden, like St. Bridget herself. 

The Lutheran reformation in the 16th century gave birth to the Finnish speaking literature, as bishop Michael Agricola, student of Luther and Melanchton in Wittenberg, created the Finnish alphabet and produced mainly biblical translations and handbooks for the new church. But he also wrote some of his own poems into the prefaces of the books.

The Finnish written poetry was born in the 17th century and what is most important, also women's lyrics in our two languages. An officer's wife, Christina Regina von Birchenbaum wrote an autobiographical lament in Swedish in the middle of the century, as her husband had vanished in the battlefields of the thirty year war in Germany. In the poem she expresses the hard destiny of a widow. But the manuscript was published as late as in the 19th century.

The first printed text of a poetess is called "An orphan child's lament", and was published in 1683 in a broad sheet collection called Six New Religious Psalms. There is no author's name; in those times especially, a female writer had to hide herself behind an acrostic. In this way, the name Maria Simointytär (Simon's daughter) comes through every strophe's first letter, which AGF picked up here and built her piece around - the first words of each verse spells out the name of the writer.

Christina Regina had hidden her gender in the same way. The fact that Maria does not have a surname shows that she belonged to populus vulgus, the mean people, not nobles. Normally peasants and other ordinary people were illiterate. It is enigmatic, how a woman from the people could have achieved enough skill to write such a masterpiece as the poem is. It is also a political text, a marvelous vindication of justice. Its tendency is democratic as it defends the poor and oppressed. It was published in the same year as the lament of the priest and university scholar Johan Cajanus, which has been seen as the top of Finnish speaking poetry so far. Maria's poem stands equivocal with it, or even a bit elevated in the sense of achievement.

Women's literature was published on a larger scale as late as in the 19th century: novels, short stories and poems, mostly in Swedish, which was the language of the educated. The Finnish speaking peasantry and those intellectuals who turned out to be fennomaniacs got inspiration from Elias Lönnrot's epos, Kalevala (first edition 1835, second 1849).

The writer wrote it based on his own and his fellow collectors' field work, which brought together epic cycles, chants etc. from the people all around the Finnish and Karelian regions. In lyrics, a collection called Kanteletar (1840), also published by him, gave an example of the high standard of people's spiritual strength. Normalized as written poetry, these two works of Lönnrot, in spirit of Herder's aesthetics, proved that Finns were ready to become cultural people and politically a nation. This was the starting point for Finnish poetry in two national languages.

In this collection Antye Greie-Ripatti has chosen examples of Finnish poetry over 327 years beginning from the above mentioned "An orphan child's lament" by Maria Simointytär and followed by Kalevala's second edition of 1849. The creating hero Väinämöinen suits the poetic beginning: he is a Demiurg, creator of land and trees, who arises from the water. His name originates from the word väinä, a broad gulf. The primal voices (Urstimmen) reflect his heroic deeds. When he ascends into the stomach of his living dead ancestor, the shaman Antero Vipunen, to find three magical words claiming to change the world, he strives in this labyrinth and hell like the other primal heroes, Heracles, Theseus and Jesus Christ.

Among the other chosen poets on the CD is the Saami multi-artist Nils-Aslak "Ailu" Valkeapää (1943–2001), who was a Finnish citizen except for his last years. Here follows his love poem, a coitus in a Saami teepee. The young couple knows, that their parents and grandparents had arranged their marriage long ago, when they were children. In many cases it is quite a good solution, and you can learn to love, as with many other skills. The poem is from Ailu's grand oeuvre, a poem and picture book "Sun, my Father" (original in Saami language 1988). For this work Valkeapää received the Nordic council's literary price in 1991, as the only Saami writer so far. Nowadays it is called the Saami national epos.

Out of 13 pieces of music eight poems come from female, six from male writers. Two of these texts have inspired AGF to give a pure instrumental interpretation.

There is no need for words, fog and sounds are enough: Paavo Haavikko ("How To Address The Fog") and Tove Jansson's "Who Will Comfort Toffle?". Jansson is mother of the Moomin family and world. Originally this picture book in the Moomin series was published 1960 in the Swedish language. Tove Jansson was also a versatile illustrator.

Tove Jansson's (1914–2001) culture is Finnish Swedish, not pure Finnish. It is poetry of the brave people around coasts and archipelagos, a seafarer's and fishermen's culture in Southern Finland. The Moomin world is a celebration of goodness, philosophical and genuine intellectual thinking, far from normal Finnish melancholy and suicide mentality.

Another Swedish Finnish writer is Solveig von Schoultz (1907–1996). She is mainly a novelist, but she also wrote convincing poetry. AGF transfers her poem "The Birds" into the sound poem "Diamantenstimmen" which refers to the most important thing, the weaving of love and issues crystallized into the hardiest stone, a diamond.

The tradition of the Kalevala can be heard in the selection of texts. Eino Leino (1878–1926) is the most important poet, who got inspiration from the national epos, and he is the most remarkable developer of this legacy. He wrote about these thematics in several poems and plays. He also renovated the slow and tautological Kalevala meter. He showed, that with this meter it is possible to express all kinds of modern themes in philosophy, religion and politics. In this entity is included a fragment of the legend "Blue Cross" taken from the latter edition of the two collections of poems called Helkavirsiä (1916; hard to translate). It comes from Leino's theosophic period. He is escaping to a transcendental spirit during the deep social and political depression of WWI, before the revolutions in 1917–19. In this context the whole transforms into a magical chant, a miracle of word which is here performed by the Helsinki based rapper and spoken word artist Matti P.

Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008) took up Kalevala in his modernistic way two times, first with his epos Twenty and One (1974): in it a boatload of Finnish adventurers row to Constantinople and steal Sampo, the moneymaking machine of the Byzantine emperor. The second round began, as Haavikko wrote a manuscript for the TV-film Iron Age, directed by Kalle Holmberg, a famous theatre renovator. To the same entirety belongs a prose epic with the same name and its supplement The Story of Kullervo (all works in 1982). The movie is a magnificent, fantastic spectacle, like Wagner's operas. Such is also the epos, full of creating imagination and fury against all the traditional and stagnating Kalevala culture.

The strong line of women writers goes through L. Onerva, Eino Leino's friend, muse and dearest one to modernists, who made their debut after WWII: Eeva Kilpi, Eila Kivikk'aho and Eeva-Liisa Manner. They represent the generation which rose up under the war, but did not immediately participate in it.

Onerva's (1882–1972; real name: Hilja Onerva Lehtinen) "I rock the echo" from the collection Mixed Tunes (1904) brings up the deepest mission of a poet through voice, echo, and resonance: to express with words that which can not be pronounced, rhythm behind meanings, pulse which comes up from Julia Kristeva's chora, the deepest innards of a woman. In this lullaby the lyrical subject rocks music into being. The heroine of Onerva's first novel Mirdja (1908) is not a poetess, but a singer. The writer herself lived surrounded by music as wife of compositor Leevi Madetoja. Lau Nau, a Finnish underground musician and singer lends her voice to this fragile creation based on a song made entirely from an iPad app by AGF.

Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1975) is the most important female modernist from the fifties. Her poem "Counterpoint" in the first collection This Voyage (1956) is connected with J.S. Bach, her favorite composer.

The piece, to which the poem intends belongs to a unfinished work of the master, Kunst der Fuge. In this CD there is just the first part of the poem, but it finishes with an allusion to another classical compositor: "Drops of Mozart, zart, zart". Following the name of one of the poems in the collection, Manner's lyrics rises from "The obscure of childhood": from cloudy memories, forgotten words and rooms, mixed voices, touching of relatives, flowers and birds.

Eila Kivikk'aho (1921–2004) is the most lyrical of these poetesses. Words and nature in unison, visual and auditive worlds as a united entity participating in the birth of the poems. Especially important is her collection Away from the Meadow (1951). In this CD she is represented with the poem "Generations" from the collection The Flock (1961). War water has filled trenches and a steel helmet left in the field. The same motif is expressed by Haavikko: war boots march through the mind.

AGF has chosen the first part of Kivikk'aho's poem; can the young generation conquer the elder one, overrun by the war? Can you win the defeated one? The principle of defeat (varying Ernst Bloch's "Das Prinzip Niederlage") is repeated from generation to generation and perhaps by AGF's radical interpretation also dragged into the 21st century in the light of environmental rethinking.

Eeva Kilpi (1928–) is one of the most productive and beloved of the Finnish female writers. She has written equally novels, collections of short stories and poems. She has written about her destiny, and companions' sad experiences both under and after WWII:  refugees from the missed Karelian territories, which were lost to Soviet Union. Also Kivikk'aho was born in the lost Karelia, in the beautiful town Sortavala on shore of Lake Ladoga.

Eeva Kilpi defends the rights of animals (collection of poems Animalia, 1987), and speaks about the importance of nature in general. Her assets are also the daring sensualistic and corporeal erotic poems. Love is for her not just spirit, but physical touch and ecstasy of senses are equally important. Languages, Finnish and English, folding upon each other weave here a fabric of connection. "Thank you for touching me..." sings the well known Finnish "freak folk" singer Islaja.

Between L. Onerva and female modernists of the fifties you find here the novelist Iris Uurto (1905–1994), who during the war and a later published a couple of collections of poems. The Wolves (1944) includes the poem "The deities of sorrow". Like Eila Kivikk'aho, Iris Uurto also respects empathy as a measure of humanity, that you "love the one beaten by destiny". 

AGF sings and melts together Iris Uurto's text with her son's (Aku-Kimmo Ripatti, 1931–1994) poem "The horseman" from the collection "I don't say anything else" (1986). The one who rides on a stone, reaches far away: to his/her own depth. "The snow scrunches only under an honest shoe", utters the voice of boots in another poem of Ripatti.

The newest one of the poems is Juha Rautio's "Listen" from his third collection of poems Sit down song (2010), read by the poet himself. It is also the title piece of the CD. It is Finnish word magic, experimental poetics, where the timbre and colour of words is more important than their meaning. Its structure follows a known Finnish children's chain poem, and in the same way it is full of neologisms, words being born just now at the moment. Homophony and trifling onomatopoeia of the words strengthen the penetrating magic of the poem. Poetics of magic chant is to be found: the poet grasps the shape of a shaman, whose task is to seek the most important and deep. He is a reborn Väinämöinen. Rautio means blacksmith: the poet is also a wordsmith, who hammers sounds continuing the creating act of Sampo by Kalevala's smith Ilmarinen. Present in this birth-giving are birds, waters and all of nature.

Kari Sallama (Doctor of Philosophy, Fellow for literature, University of Oulu; Fellow for didactics of literature, University of Helsinki; President of the Association of Finno-Ugric Literatures; specialist in Ethnofuturism and Finno-Ugric literatures; poet and essayist)

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