Photo: Richard Harris

NYKY Ensemble is the contemporary music glory of the Sibelius Academy – autumn 2016 offers music from Steve Reich and John Cage

NYKY Ensemble, which recently performed in Flow Festival on the 13th of August with Steve Reich’s music, is contemporary music chamber orchestra located at the Sibelius Academy. NYKY Ensemble has two free-of-charge concerts this autumn 2016 at Helsinki Music Centre. Producer Libero Mureddu answered to our questions.

What is NYKY Ensemble? When was it born? What is the educational purpose for the Sibelius Academy students?

Libero Mureddu: NYKY Ensemble is the contemporary ensemble of the Sibelius Academy. It’s a contemporary chamber music course, where students learn how to perform contemporary chamber music with the coaching of a teacher, a different one for each project, who is specialized in contemporary music. The project was founded in 2009 by Professor Tuija Hakkila, who still is the artistic director of the ensemble. Shortly after its foundation I was asked to join the project where I work now as intendant.

Though it started as a fairly small project, with the years, NYKY Ensemble has become bigger and bigger. We started performing more challenging pieces, Gérard Grisey’s Partiels and the Finnish premiere of Fausto Romitelli’s An Index of Metals with Paolo Pachini among others, and collaborated with artists from different disciplines. Some good examples are the two projects with Liisa Pentti’s dance company, the second one with Gavin Bryars, or with Jean-Baptiste Barrière, choreographer Luca Veggetti and the students from the Outokumpu dance program for the performance of Kaija Saariaho’s Maa. After all those years I’m happy to see that in 2016 NYKY Ensemble has both a public role in the Finnish new music scene, with its regular performances of contemporary music in the broad sense of this word, as well as keeping its fundamental educational role.

How was your gig at Flow Festival this August? What kind of feedback did you got?

It was great! I admire and respect a lot Flow Festival’s brave vision, with its openness to all genres. I also think it’s a very successful and modern approach. From what I’ve seen, having performed there now for the second time, Flow’s audience is a very curious, open and warm one, and I think they sincerely enjoyed our performance. We received as well a very good review from the German-based pop music magazine Kaput, that was particularly interested about seeing contemporary classical music within a pop music festival.

You have two NYKY Ensemble concerts at music centre this autumn. Can you tell me something of them?

The first concert NYKY Ensemble: Steve Reich Back to the Roots (28th of Oct.), will be an expanded version of our Flow program, with the inclusion of the 1965 classic It’s gonna rain and Violin Phase from 1967, for violin and tape.

The second concert, NYKY Ensemble: Eruptions – Silences (25th of Nov.) is a program designed by Mikael Helasvuo on the theme of noise and silence, a very original program where we’ll range from Japanese noise music (Masami Akita aka Merzbow) to Salvatore Sciarrino, John Cage, Erik Bergman and Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Why Steve Reich is such a hip thing nowadays? Do you have any explanations for this?

I have always loved his music since the first discovery, but it seems in the past two years there’s a growing interest in his music, at least in Finland. I personally think that the sound of his music is extremely familiar to any audience, as it has become sort of part of our daily lives. It is music that fits very well our time, with its repetitions, and a sort of geometrical purity that fits very well the digital age. At the same time is a music that seems to create quite a strong emotional response from the audience, at least from the feedback I got at Flow Festival. What I particularly like in his music, is the fact that it is mostly instrumental music, with living players performing on acoustic instruments. The combination of this, together with the apparent simplicity of the mechanical, machine-like compositional elements, and a very personal approach to harmony creates in my opinion an extremely powerful and charming mixture.

What can contemporary music give to people?

In general, I’d say that classical contemporary music can give to people the experience, the joy, the emotion we feel when we meet something new and unexpected. In contemporary music we have the chance of experiencing sounds that are rarely present in our daily lives, or to give a completely new perspective of common, more traditional sounds. At the same time, with its richness and complexity, contemporary music can nourish and challenge our intellectual side as well, and not only our ears. Variety is also another important element, as contemporary music nowadays embraces a wide amount of compositional styles, and quite different from each other.

I think many people listen to what one could call experimental or contemporary music, but the kind that comes mostly from a non-academic environment. I hope in the future there will be more and more contacts and exchanges between creative musicians and curious audiences, whether their background is academic or not.

NYKY Ensemble at Helsinki Music Centre, autumn 2016

NYKY Ensemble: Steve Reich Back to the Roots
Fri 28th Oct. 7.00 pm
Black Box, Helsinki Music Centre
Free entrance

NYKY Ensemble: Eruptions - Silences
Fri 25th Nov 7.00 pm
Camerata, Helsinki Music Centre
Free entrance

Text: Johanna Laitinen

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German pop music media Kaput - Magazin für Insolvenz & Pop visited Flow Festival two weeks ago and met NYKY Ensemble, the contemporary music glory of the Sibelius Academy, performing with Steve Reich music on Saturday afternoon the 13th of August. Take a look at the video and see clips of NYKY Ensemble gig from Flow and an interview with Tim Ferchen (music coaching) and Libero Mureddu (producing).