Artist: Claes Andersson, Kalevi Seilonen, Erkki Kurenniemi, Otto Donner
Label: Ektro Records
Sähkö-shokki-ilta, Finnish for Electro-Shock-Evening is based on recordings that were found in the archives of Ektro records. The recordings date from 1968, when Finnish poets were experimenting with spoken word and live electronics.
According to Ektro Records, this is the story behind the recording:
“The Finnish artist Eino Ruutsalo had a show called Valo ja liike (”Light and Movement”) at Amos Anderson Museum in Helsinki 7–14 February 1968. As part of his show, Ruutsalo arranged an evening of performances at the Museum, including electronic music, ”machine poems”, light shows and screenings of Ruutsalo’s own experimental short films. The main attraction of this evening on February 9, 1968, called Sähkö-shokki-ilta was the integrated synthesizer designed and built by Erkki Kurenniemi for the Department of Musicology at the University of Helsinki. It was called ”Sähkö-ääni-kone” (”Electric Sound Machine”) and used for ”modulating” poetry reading in real-time. Composer/musician Otto Donner ”conducted” the evening.
Unfortunately no sound recordings seem to exist of Sähkö-shokki-ilta, only some photographs. This recording at hand is a delay effect tape used at the rehearsal on February 8, 1968, the day before the actual event. Poets Kalevi Seilonen and Claes Andersson practice their onomatopoetic and metaphysical rhymes, while Kurenniemi does the electronic processing simultaneously according to instructions given by Donner. On the tape we also hear Ruutsalo and Meri Vennamo, Kurenniemi’s girlfriend at the time.
Several years later, Ruutsalo described the ”machine poems” like this: ”The sentences of spoken poems are torn apart, the rhythm of the words is altered, the spoken word vanishes into the silence. The machine offers the reader different kind of echoes, the pitch varies. By using these modulations, the source material of the machine poems can be mumblings, babblings, screams, sounds – as well as words.”
The title Sähkö-shokki-ilta, coined by Ruutsalo was catchy and actually rather appropriate, since the poet Claes Andersson had a day-job as a psychiatrist at The Hesperia Mental hospital, where electroshock treatment was still used at the time. “In our daily practice, we tried to oppose the use of electroshocks to our patients. The shocks were part of the dominant and fashionable school of manipulative psychiatry, like lobotomy and excessive doses of antipsychotic drugs”, Andersson remembers.“
As all spoken word on the recording is Finnish and Swedish, it is rather difficult to catch the meaning of the poems. But the words are altered and stretched in such a way that distinguishing words becomes difficult alltogether. Nonetheless, some words are emphasized and repeated endlessly – to convey a message.
Language is stretched, distorted, rolled and used as a soundscape, together with very early electronic experiments. The resulting recording sounds like a pyschosis.
If you understand Finnish and/or Swedish, check out this curiosity – for other listeners, unfortunately most of the message is lost.
You can learn more about the album on the website of Ektro Records.
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