Photo: Studio Amanda

Improvisation and diverse music traditions enhance a performer’s audience relationship

In her doctoral research, violinist Eeva Oksala suggests that studying different music traditions, working with different musical genres and studying improvisation can all strengthen a musician’s performership and deepen the interaction between the performer and the audience, even in classical music concerts. The public examination of Oksala’s doctoral dissertation will take place on 14 April 2018. She will complete her degree in the Arts Study Programme at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki (Uniarts Helsinki).

In her five doctoral concerts, Oksala studied whether it is possible to take influences from other musical genres and theatre art and incorporate them into classical music concerts, which are usually strictly regulated by tradition, with the help of folk-inflected violin and chamber music repertoire. She suggests that having versatile experience of different musical genres and of theatre art can enhance a musician’s performership and interaction with the audience. Alongside classical music, Oksala began playing Romani music 17 years ago and has later in life become acquainted with fields such as theatre art, as well.

I wanted to find out why these bypaths changed my performership and relationship with the audience. For example, the improvisation-based nature, strong physical expression of emotions, risk-taking, and putting one’s focus on the audience are all characteristic of Romani music, and they bring an entirely new intensity into performing and take the bodily experience of it to a whole new level, says Oksala.

The power of eye contact

In her dissertation Kohtaamispisteessä – Kohti uudenlaista esiintyjyyttä [At the meeting point – Towards a new kind of performership], Oksala presents a technique that she learned in an audience contact course organised by Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy. According to the technique, the performer can make the audience an active part of the performance by having direct eye contact with its members. Oksala reflects on how an exceptionally strong contact can influence the performer and how it has changed her performership also as a classical music artist. She noticed that learning to use a powerful interaction method, such as an intense eye contact, can change one’s attitude towards the audience, even when the performer is a classical musician performing in traditional environments, such as a dark hall with no view of the audience.

After the interactive encounters that I experienced in the audience contact course, I could no longer think of the audience merely as a passive observer, even when people didn’t do anything but sit in a dark room quietly. Instead, the audience became an active, animate part of the performance.

Oksala notes that having experience of the different roles that a performer can take, performing in different environments, and utilising improvisation and an interactive audience relationship can all help the performer feel more free and find interactive elements in concert situations where the roles of the performer and the audience are traditionally strictly defined.

Further information:
Eeva Oksala, 050 361 2152,

Public examination of Eeva Oksala’s doctoral dissertation
14 April 2018 at 12:00, Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, Wegelius Hall, Töölönkatu 28

Artistic component: Folk-inflected violin and chamber music
Thesis: At the meeting point – Towards a new kind of performership
Thesis examiner: Eeva Anttila
The board of examiners in charge of assessing the artistic theses: Merit Palas, Timo Alakotila, Jaakko Kuusisto, Kaija Saarikettu and Hannu Vasara
Chair of the examination: Anu Vehviläinen