Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi

Interdisciplinarian approaches towards sound – introducing lecturer Ava Grayson

Lecturer Ava Grayson is looking forward to this fall semester’s courses, especially Sound Art and Sonic Arts studies as it has Petri Kuljuntausta and Tero Vänttinen as the guest teachers.

Hi Ava! You are a lecturer of Sound Art and Sonic Arts studies at Uniarts Helsinki. What’s your own background?
I’ve been involved with music since childhood, and spent my teens quite actively playing/singing in wedding and bar bands. Much of that is a funny memory, but I also value the excellent life experiences gained from these years. Though I had no formal training until 20, after an intense year of studying piano and music theory I was able to get myself admitted to a composition program at UBC (Canada). It was a rigorous, albeit amazing degree. By graduation, I realised that although composition was something I would want to continue with for the rest of my life, collaborations and working with technology in an interdisciplinary way was a more natural place for me. I came to Finland in 2013 to do my MA at Aalto in the Sound in New Media program. During most of that degree, I worked for other artists as a sound designer (including Aalto’s Artist in Residence at the time). My thesis project was a sound yoga series, and I’ve continued to do event series of a similar nature since graduation. I’m still very much focused on facilitating events around ideas of community, sound, and embodied wellbeing practices.
Could you tell me more about Sound Art and Sonic Arts studies (SAMA) – what are they?
They are all kinds of things! Those of us involved with SAMA have done our best to ensure the curriculum offered is as well-rounded as possible; any Uniarts Helsinki student looking to understand sound in a deeper way can hopefully find at least one class that would benefit them during their degree. SAMA addresses both sound art as its own field, as well as related fields that involve sound (aka sonic arts). It’s also a fertile ground for interdisciplinarian approaches and collaboration between departments and students. The curriculum ranges from practical and technical knowledge in hands-on courses—such as the Intro to Audio for Visual Artists and Sound Art Project courses that we run every year—to courses that focus more on analysis and concept (like the Sound Art Aesthetics & Practices lecture course). Frankly, it’s a joy to be part of such a varied curriculum.
Is there something especially interesting going on in SAMA studies this semester?
I know I’m biased when I say this: there’s always something worth checking out in SAMA. I’m delighted that Petri Kuljuntausta and Tero Vänttinen will be leading this semester’s Sonic Improvisation for Moving Image. Anyone who knows Petri is aware of his extensive knowledge and work in the field of sound, and those that are familiar with Tero’s work with the project Cleaning Women know how engaging their performances are. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing the final performance.
Through your work, you must have a great insight into cultural happenings in Helsinki. Give us your top tips for this fall’s events!
I’m excited that there will be a sound walk workshop led by Sophie Foster and Third Space on September 8th: I feel like Helsinki is such a wealth of acoustic ecology exploration and wish for more of that kind of thing here. Saxophone god Evan Parker is performing in the Soundscapes and Soundportraits Festival on September 8th and 9th. There’s a pretty big memorial event happening on September 22nd in memory of the late Perttu Häkkinen, which from the looks of it is going to be massive. On October 3rd, I’ll be throwing a party for the launch of my new publication called SOUNDEST, dedicated to sound art and sound in the arts (surprise!) …and of course there will be performances and talks happening that evening. On October 5th, there will be a sound art night happening at Myymälä2. And lastly, no one should be missing out on the yearly MuTeFest, put on by the wonderful staff and students of the Sibelius Academy’s music technology program from November 26th–30th.