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Hooray! We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary in 2023! The celebrations will be themed around the future of arts.

Pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tion of the ar­tis­tic doc­toral de­gree of Antti Ohenoja

Title of the doctoral project: From Petrushka to Les Noces
A musical journey composing original xylophone compositions influenced by Igor Stravinsky, with an examination on practice as a process

Photo: Heikki Tuuli
  • Supervisor-in-charge: Markus Kuikka
  • The board which assessed the ​artistic demonstrations: Dr. Marcus Castrén (chair), Dr. Olli-Pekka Martikainen, Dr. Hannu Pohjannoro, Eric Sammut, Raimo Nikulainen, Prof. Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen 
  • Examiner of the thesis: Dr. Susan Powell 
  • Chair: Dr. Markus Kuikka

About the artistic components of the degree

The artistic section in my artistic doctoral degree has been a wonderful musical journey. Collaboration with the amazing musicians and composers has been very valuable for my development as an artist. Organizing the concerts and deciding and planning the repertoire has been fascinating as well. The collaboration with the composers through new commissioned works has been exactly the kind of work that I was interested in before starting my doctoral project. I wanted to dive into the beginning stages of musical creation and to be a part of it through discussing with the composers about the technical possibilities of the instruments and their timbres. 

On the one hand, there were so many small details to consider and arrange in the artistic doctoral project, and then on the other hand, one had to keep in mind the large scale structures of the concert series as well. The small details included for example the choice of mallets and page turns in the compositions, and how the changing of the mallets in the middle of compositions could be executed as quietly as possible. The large scale structures included among other aspects the stage setup arrangements for the entire concerts. I wanted to make all the setup and music stand changes as effective as possible, so that there were minimal movement of instruments between the compositions during the concerts. The concert order was also very important for the musical arch to carry until the end  of the last piece in the programme. By having an effective and contrasting order of the compositions, I could surprise the audience, and hopefully raise artistic questions for them as well. Perhaps the most important grand theme and revelation for me during the artistic concert series was the fact, that percussion instruments today have an enormous artistic potential as a solo and chamber music instrument. The themes that I chose for the concerts are the music by Iannis Xenakis, Japanese percussion music, and percussion in chamber music context. These three different themes all confirmed in my opinion, that percussion instruments are at the same level with other classical instruments in the 20th and 21st century solo and chamber music repertoire, in terms of their expressiveness, versatility and the ability to be the main musical voice in concerts and recitals.

Abstract of the thesis

This thesis is part of the requirements for the Doctor of Music degree in the Arts Study Programme at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. The thesis introduces new aspects of and perspectives on Igor Stravinsky’s (1882–1971) xylophone writing through original solo xylophone compositions by the author. The history and background of the xylophone will also be discussed. The final chapter of the thesis focuses on practice as a process, with the author’s own viewpoints combined with ideas of some of the leading pedagogues and performers of the percussion field. The musical material presented will largely consist of Stravinsky’s xylophone parts and my own original music, which are discussed in the earlier chapters of the text. I will provide another perspective on the music in the context of practice as a process. 

The thesis proceeds in three phases. Firstly, the challenges of Stravinsky’s xylophone parts have been brought up as a topic of discussion. Secondly, Stravinsky’s xylophone parts are used as an inspiration for the original compositions in the thesis. Stravinsky’s technical and musical challenges are then explored in my original compositions through practicing and performing them. Thirdly, the whole practice process is put under a microscope and utilized for preparing compositions and orchestral parts. Furthermore, I will study the artistic and technical aspects of the musical material herein, and how it can be prepared optimally in terms of timing and the scope of preparation for performance and/or presentation. In my research I combine aspects of composition, practice process, and the history of the xylophone. The thesis is aimed primarily at university level students, but also at professional percussionists. The goal of the thesis is to provide effective and practical benefits to percussionists based on the thesis’ innovative approach to xylophone performance and the learning process. 

More information

Percussionist Antti Ohenoja received the Bachelor of Music degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Toronto, and the Master of Music degree from the Sibelius Academy. Antti performs extensively classical, contemporary and improvised music. In his Doctor of Music thesis, Ohenoja has composed two new solo compositions for the xylophone. The compositions have been influenced by the xylophone parts of Igor Stravinsky’s works Les Noces and Petrushka. Overall, his doctoral thesis focuses on the xylophone from several viewpoints, such as the practice process, pedagogy and the performance practice. At the moment, Ohenoja is pursuing an international career as a soloist and orchestral percussionist. This season he will perform with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur.

Antti Ohenoja


27.9.2022 at 15:00



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