Artistic components of Nathan Riki Thomson’s doctoral degree

The body of this project is centred around three doctoral concerts, a CD/LP recording, and a documentary film, which took place between 2016 and 2021. In addition, I draw on the embodied experience of a five-year period I spent living and collaborating with musicians and dancers in Tanzania and Zambia prior to the doctoral project. 

As a double bass player, multi-instrumentalist, and composer, I place myself in a series of different musical and multi-arts contexts, engaging in dialogue with musicians, dancers, and visual artists from Brazil, Colombia, Estonia, Finland, France, Madagascar, Mexico, Poland, Sápmi, Tanzania, the UK, and Zambia. Various solo, duo, and ensemble settings act as case studies to examine how this process takes place, the new knowledge gained from the collaborations and their resulting artistic outcomes, and the effects of intercultural dialogue, collaboration, and co-creation on my own artistic identity. 

Further research outcomes include new techniques and the expansion of the sonic palette of the double bass, enabled by developing custom-made attachments, preparations, and electronic manipulation. The complete scope of this doctoral project includes four artistic components (three concerts and a recording), a documentary film, and an artistic doctoral thesis comprising two peer-reviewed articles and an integrative chapter, all housed within the main multi-media exposition, Resonance: (Re)forming an Artistic Identity through Intercultural Dialogue and Collaboration. 

The first recital Resonance 1

2.6.2021, Black Box, Helsinki Music Centre

In Concert 1, the theme of Resonance is explored in three interconnected ways: 

  • Sonic Resonance: resonance as a sonic phenomenon and the ability of frequencies to shape physical form; 
  • Personal Resonance: with a place, the land, an idea, an emotion, etc.; and 
  • Community Resonance: the importance of finding points of understanding, connection or resonance with others. How does this happen and how can we cultivate this skill?

In musical terms, inspiration is drawn from the natural resonating qualities of traditional Aboriginal Australian, Brazilian, Gambian, and Tanzanian instruments: 

  • Ilimba: thumb piano from the Wagogo people of central Tanzania; 
  • Filimbi: overtone flute from the Wagogo people of central Tanzania; 
  • Litungu and Bolon: bass end lutes from Tanzania and The Gambia; 
  • Brazilian berimbau/Tanzanian Ndono; and 
  • Australian Aboriginal Yolngu Yidaki. 

Rhythmic and timbral elements, as well as the physical playing techniques of these instruments are explored on the double bass as a means for expanding the sonic palette and approaches to the instrument. Themes of personal and community resonance act as inspiration for the emerging new music and dance. Resonating frequencies travel in the space through a multiple speaker set-up, as well as through the seats of the audience through a speaker system installed under the seats. Salt, seeds, and dried flowers are placed on a metal plate above a speaker and react to changing frequencies and rhythmic impulses in real time at various points during the concert. 

The concert was recorded and filmed live for the University of the Arts Helsinki YouTube channel. 

Artistic working group and performers: 

  • Amos Darkwa Asare (Ghana), spoken word 
  • Jouko Kyhälä (Finland), live electronics, harmonica 
  • Otso Lähdeoja (Finland), live electronics and sound design 
  • Juhana Nyrhinen (Finland), instrument maker 
  • Fornier Ortiz (Colombia), dance 
  • Ville Tanttu (Finland), visuals 
  • Nathan Riki Thomson (Australia), double bass, prepared bass, ilimba, stomp box, vocals 
  • Satu Tuomisto (Finland), choreography 


  1. Homeland (soundscape composed by Nathan Riki Thomson and Otso Lähdeoja) 
  2. 1788 (music by Nathan Riki Thomson and Jouko Kyhälä; choreography by Satu Tuomisto and Fornier Ortiz) 
  3. Transformation (music by Nathan Riki Thomson; choreography by Satu Tuomisto and Fornier Ortiz) 
  4. Resonance 1 (music by Nathan Riki Thomson) 
  5. Cycles (music by Nathan Riki Thomson) 
  6. Asante Twi (interlude) (music by Amos Darkwa Asare, Jouko Kyhälä, and Nathan Riki Thomson) 
  7. Tapage Nocturne (music by Otso Lähdeoja in collaboration with Nathan Riki Thomson). 
  8. Primal (music by Nathan Riki Thomson; choreography by Satu Tuomisto and Fornier Ortiz)

The second recital Resonance 2

2.6.2017, Black Box, Helsinki Music Centre

This concert builds on concepts from Concert 1 (Resonance 1, June 2016), further exploring resonance as both a physical phenomenon and a metaphor for intercultural dialogue and collaboration. A new augmented double bass was built for this concert, with a modified bridge to create different kinds of acoustic buzzing distortion and a system to drive electronic sounds into the physical body of the double bass through structure-borne sound drivers. This system enables the coexistence of acoustic and electronic sounds within a single double bass, bypassing external speakers and audio gear. New pieces were created and commissioned for this instrument, drawing on further research into traditional instruments such as the Tanzanian ilimba (thumb piano), Bolon (West African bass lyre), and the Brazilian berimbau. Musical elements are narrowed down to focus on rhythmic cycles, traditional acoustic distortion techniques, texture, bass frequencies, vocals, and resonance. New instrumental techniques and approaches are developed for the double bass and the sonic palette is manipulated both acoustically, through attachments for the instrument, as well as electronically. Using sound design, frequencies travel through the space, resulting in the entire Black Box concert hall becoming a resonating chamber. Following on from the experiments of Concert 1, resonating frequencies are once again represented in physical form through live visuals of natural materials (seeds, beans, dried flowers, etc.) responding to sonic impulses and filmed in real time when placed on a metal plate above a speaker. 

Working group and performers

  • Adriano Adewale (Brazil), calabash, berimbau, percussion 
  • Simon Allen (UK), composition 
  • Mari Kalkun (Estonia), vocals 
  • Maija Kauhanen (Finland), vocals, prepared kantele 
  • Otso Lähdeoja (Finland), electronics, sound design 
  • Marek Pluciennik (Poland), visuals 
  • Petra Poutanen (Finland), vocals, guzheng 
  • Ville Tanttu (Finland), live visuals 
  • Nathan Riki Thomson (Australia), prepared double bass, augmented double bass, stomp box, vocals, composition 


  1. Migration by Sea (Poutanen/Thomson) 
  2. Resonator 1 (Thomson) 
  3. Ode to Nana (Adewale/Thomson) 
  4. Empty Air Thickens (Simon Allen commission) 
  5. Roots of the Baobab Tree (Kauhanen/Thomson) 
  6. Motherland (Adewale/Lähdeoja/Thomson) 
  7. Resonator 2 (Thomson) 

The third recital Resonance 3 – Continuum

15.6.2018, Black Box, Helsinki Music Centre

Resonance 3 — Continuum explores the fundamental elements of rhythm, texture, movement, and human connection, building on the concept of resonance as both a physical phenomenon and a metaphor for intercultural dialogue and collaboration. In collaboration with musicians and dancers from different backgrounds, we aimed to create a dialogue that explored themes of identity, diversity, human connection, borders, struggle, perseverance, and the search for common ground, striving for a state where the performers are taken over by the music and movement itself. The production of the live performance involved placing the audience on a raised circular platform in the middle of the room, with the four musicians situated at equal distances around the outside of the circle and the dancers moving freely in the space. Transducers were placed under the seating platform, which enabled audience members to feel the sonic frequencies and rhythmic impulses in their bodies. This process culminated in a one-hour improvised concert based on small seeds of ideas.

Collaborative Group

Adriano Adewale (Brazil), percussion, berimbau, vocals 
Amandine Doat (France), dance 
Otso Lähdeoja (Finland), electronics 
Fornier Ortiz (Colombia), dance 
Petra Poutanen (Finland), vocals 
Njara Rasolo (Madagascar), dance 
Nathan Riki Thomson (Australia), double bass, augmented double bass, stomp box, ilimba, vocals 
Satu Tuomisto (Finland), choreography 
Elina Valtonen (Finland), dance 

Artistic Component 4: Resonance Album

  • Studio recording 17 – 21.12.2018
  • Album release date 1.11.2019 
  • Recorded at the Centre for Music Technology Studios, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki. 

The Resonance CD/LP forms the fourth artistic component of this doctoral project. Through a series of solo pieces, one thread of the album focusses on capturing the fine details and idiosyncrasies of the custom-made double bass attachments and electronic manipulation in recorded format. The second thread of the album focusses on six duo dialogues, exploring a range of contrasting sonic environments and musical collaborations. Two of the duo dialogues, titled “Oaidnemeahttun/Invisible” with Hildá Länsman and “Ode to Nana” with Adriano Adewale are analysed as musical case studies in my published exposition, “Sonic conversations for double bass, berimbau, and Sámi joik: Shaping identity in the third space”, which can be found in chapter 8.6. The Resonance album was released by Sibarecords/NAXOS in both CD and LP formats in November 2019, with the LP including alternate takes of some of the tracks.

  • Adriano Adewale, percussion, berimbau, vocals
  • Simon Allen, bowed and plucked springs, percussion
  • Maija Kauhanen, prepared kantele
  • Otso Lähdeoja, live electronics
  • Hildá Länsman, joik, vocals
  • Petra Poutanen, vocals, guzheng
  • Nathan Riki Thomson, double bass, prepared and augmented double bass, ankle and hand shakers, stomp box, Wagogo overtone flute, bass bridge ilimba, didgeridoo, vocals
  • Co-produced by Simon Allen, Adriano Adewale and Nathan Riki Thomson.
  • Recorded by Mikko Haapoja.
  • Mixed by Mikko Haapoja, Simon Allen, Adriano Adewale and Nathan Riki Thomson.
  • Mastered by Svante Forsbäck.
  • Released by Sibarecords/NAXOS.

Hybrid Component 5: Resonance Documentary Film

  • June 2020
  • Filmed and recorded outside in the forest and coastlines of Otsolahti and Karhusaari.
  • The Resonance documentary film will be shown in the Etnosoi! festival in November 2021

Video, music, and spoken dialogue are interwoven in the Resonance documentary film, resulting in a hybrid component that uses visual and auditory means to further reflect on some of the underlying themes of this artistic research. The main content of the film took place during an all-night filming and recording session, which took place outside, on an island off the coast of Finland. The footage was captured during the longest day of the year, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2020. The month of June is a time when daylight slowly shifts, changes, and never quite disappears in Finland, creating the sensation of endless light and a feeling of timelessness. The film is centred around a conversation between Adriano and me, interspersed with improvisations that took place on location in nature, as well as excerpts of footage from my doctoral concerts.

  • Adriano Adewale, berimbau, percussion, vocals
  • Amandine Doat, dance
  • Hildá Länsman, joik, vocals
  • Otso Lähdeoja, live electronics
  • Fornier Ortiz, dance
  • Petra Poutanen, vocals
  • Njara Rasolo, dance
  • Nathan Riki Thomson, double bass, prepared double bass, Wagogo ilimba, Wagogo overtone flute, Maori kōauau flutes, vocals
  • Elina Valtonen, dance
  • Filmed and edited by Ville Tanttu. Co-produced by Ville Tanttu and Nathan Riki Thomson. Recorded and mixed by Mikko Haapoja