Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lovely Lofoten

In the beginning of June I went to Stamsund in Lofoten, Norway. I haven't ever been quite so far up in the North before. Wow. It was beautiful.

Up there

We took part in annual international theater festival in Stamsund with "Imitation of Life" by Boris Nikitin. Stamsund is a sleepy fishing village with population of 1100 people. Little red houses everywhere and countless fishing boats. The smell of air-dried cod in the air.


I didn't have so much information about the location and the festival before getting there, but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. One can really tell that the people responsible for this festival really enjoy what they are doing and do it with passion. They took really good care of us. I haven't ever experienced three meals a day and free yoga lessons for participants =). And our very own little red house as accomodation. I'd love to go again...

Nallu, my faithful traveling companion

It is also lovely that they try to engage the whole village to this festival event. It all started on an opening day with a procession through the village with marching band, local school kids doing gymnastics, local choir singing. So it's definitely not just and higly artistic bubble that happens to appear into the village for a while, but rather an event for all the locals also. And an opportunity to mingle and make new friends from all around Europe.

Or meet old ones... That was rather unexpected, though. On a last little plane from Bodö to Leknes. I was just sitting there and waiting for the take-off, when a friend and a colleaque from Finland slouches in. I hadn't seen him in approximately seven years. Could been in Tibet... But nonetheless, there he was and bound to take part on the same festival as me. How small is the world actually.... So cool. Kimmo: It was great to have a chance to exchange the latest. Hope to see U soon again. =)

Fjelds, or arctic hills, if U like

I had quite some free time while there also, so I went to see other performances. I saw pretty nice things, but one of them really stood out. This was a sound installation called "Ghost - Echoes of a Life" on an island of Törnholm just outside the village. One needs to take a short rubber boat trip to get there and then you get a mp3-player and a head-set. The installation is a site specific audio-walk that takes you around the little island in a strange world of The Maker. Without going into the details of the story they tell you, I just need to say that the soundscape was just amazing. Very threedimensional and convincing in every detail and layer.

Törnholm island

Yeah. Stamsund and Lofoten was quite something else. And the midnight sun... It was so funny to observe the other members of our team to experience it for the first time. They vere going positively bananas about it =) =). Well, I admit, it is pretty amazing. And I hadn't realized how much I had missed it. And the sound of the seagulls (this I thought would never happen...)

More fjelds

It also seems that we were extremely lucky with weather. It is highly uncommon that the days are so warm and sunny for many days in the row. But for us it was quite pleasant indeed. Clear blue skies and temperature over 20 deg Celcius.

In the harbor

Buoys in the midnight

it aint over till its over

My newest production with bigNOTWENDIGKEIT premiered in late May in Berlin.

This turned out to be an approximate 90 minutes performance, in which Esther Becker creates a chain of associations that pulsate around the theme of how and why things come to an end. Danijela Milijic is creating an excistence of her own by monotonic and ceaseless counting.

Since this was not a theatrical set up as such anymore, the request for light and sound was somewhat bit different also. Me and sound designer Alice Ferl were asked to produce a different level of being with our media. The space was turned into an experimental laboratory where we try out and execute our own compositions and adaptations of possible "ends".

I used quite a lot of very subtle chasers and painstakingly slow fades to interact and contrapunkt with the soundscapes Alice created. As result we have a space which has a life of it's own and is swaying, pulsating and flickering in a barely noticeable way. Everything is also run manually, so no two shows are quite the same and there is always room for improvisation and possibility to interact with Esther. 

All this is obviously quite impossible to see in a 2D photographs, but I will try to post a video as soon as the editing is finished to sample the idea better.

Description in German by bigNOTWENDIGKEIT:
"Das Ende ist präsent. Szenarien vom Ende begleiten uns täglich. Unermüdlich werden Enden proklamiert. Es ist das Ende der Geschichte, das Ende des Klassenkampfes, das Ende der Philosophie, das Ende des Christentums und der Moral, das Ende des Subjekts, das Ende des Menschen, das Ende des Abendlandes, das Ende des Ödipus, das Ende der Welt, Apocalypse now...

...Die Apokalypse gehört zu unserem Handgepäck. Sie ist ein Aphrodisiakum. Und sie ist ein Angsttraum. Sie ist eine Ware wie jede andere. Sie tritt uns in allen möglichen Gestalten und Verkleidungen entgegen, als warnender Zeigefinger und als wissenschaftliche Prognose, als Weckruf und als Produkt der Unterhaltungsindustrie, als Aberglauben, als Vexierbild, als Kick. Sie ist allgegenwärtig aber nicht wirklich: eine unaufhörliche Produktion unserer Fantasie, eine Katastrophe im Kopf. bigNOTWENDIGKEIT fassen das Ende näher ins Auge....


...Was ist das Faszinierende am Ende? Warum wird es bemüht? Was macht Enden zu Enden? Und was endet je wirklich? Ist die letzte Schwalbe das Ende des Sommers? Ist die erste Lüge das Ende der Liebe? Ist das Ende eines Romans der letzte Satz? Ist das Ende eines Films die letzte Szene oder der Moment, wenn der Abspann vorbei ist und das Licht im Kinosaal wieder angeht? Ideen von, Erinnerungen an und die Angst vor Enden werden befragt und ertragen. bigNOTWENDIGKEIT untersuchen ausgesuchte Enden aus Literatur, Film, Historie und Kunst auf ihre verschiedenen Qualitäten. Was lehren sie über Aufhören, Weitermachen und Neu-Anfangen?....

...Enden können Angst machen und sie können erleichtern. Sie können etwas wegnehmen, aber auch den Weg für etwas Neues öffnen. Erst vom Ende her können wir Dinge deuten und bewerten. Erst das Ende schafft Struktur und ermöglicht Anschauung. Soviel steht fest: ob angekündigt oder überraschend, ersehnt oder gefürchtet, unvermeidbar oder herbeigeführt: Das Ende ist nie eine Tatsache, sondern immer eine gedeutete Tatsache vor dem Horizont anderer Tatsachen...

...Der letzte Vorhang ist noch nicht gefallen. Und ist nicht das Interesse für das Ende ein leidenschaftliches Interesse für´s Weitergehen, für die Fortsetzung, die Umkehr, den Anfang, für ein Leben in größerer Fülle als bisher? Ob angekündigte Weltenden, das Ende der Kindheit, das Ende der DDR, ob Black, Tod, das Happy End, der Abschied, Zerfall, der Vorhang, der Countdown, das Fade Out, der Schlussakkord, die Katastrophe, die Lösung oder die Vollendung – in Gesten, Erzählungen und Bildern werden Enden von bigNOTWENDIGKEIT heraufbeschworen, seziert, zelebriert, und neu montiert....

...Der Countdown läuft. Das Ende ist nah."

Regie: bigNOTWENDIGKEIT (Anna K. Becker & Katharina Bischoff)
von & mit: Esther Becker, Danijela Milijic
Dramaturgie: Heike Pelchen
Bühne: Ina Vera
Licht: Minna Heikkilä
Musik/Sound: Alice Ferl
Assistenz: Anne Herwanger
Produktionsleitung: ehrliche arbeit - freies kulturbüro

Next show dates:
18., 19., & 20. September:    Rote Fabrik Clubraum, Zürich, CH

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung

Faith, Hope and Charity : A Little Dance of Death in Five Acts

This is a story of Elisabeth, a young woman with serious financial problems. She tries to overcome these by attempting to sell her future corpse already while still living. She finds out fast that this is not allowed, but the a worker at the anatomical institute feels sorry for her and lends her the money anyway. Turns out that Elisabeth already got the necessary amount of money from somebody else and she is therefore sentenced as a scam artist. She swears that she intended to return the borrowed money to all parties as soon as possible and meant to scam nobody, but people don't really believe her. Her epic-love relationship with ambitious young police officer comes to an abrupt end when he finds out about her mischievousness. Devastated and at loss of solutions, the penniless Elisabeth chooses to commit suicide to escape the situation.
Original time frame of this play by Ödön von Horváth is the 1930's, a time when poverty, abuse of the social power, economical crisis and corruption were part of everyday life. Director Dalit Bloch sees throughout parallels to present time and wants to encourage the spectator's recognition of this, therefore the place and time of adaptation is abstract. The dialog of the play remains in it's old form in the hope that by choosing this approach, it is possible to dissolve the distance the audience might feel. Modern set design together with old-fashioned speech builds a bridge from the old days to present day.


Freies Theater Therwil
Direction: Dalit Bloch
Set design: Dalit Bloch (concept), Andres Jost
Lighting design: Minna Heikkilä
Costume design: Kurt Walter
Assistant: Nathalie Grignaschi
text adaptation: Ueli Blum
Graphic design: Diana Schroth

Performers: Diana Schroth, Gabriele Bianco, Markus Spillmann, Peter Brêchet, Michael Enzler, Bri Jost, Werner Kirchhofer, Norina Molina, Claudia Reinhardt, Gordana Schwizer, Nathalie Grignaschi
Premiere: April 12th, 2013, Mehrzweckhalle, Therwil, Switzerland

My escapades in the wonderful world of midi - connection problem in Win7 finally solved!

I finally cracked the hard nut and I'm somehow very very satisfied with my achievements. And I want to share what I learned.

I have been fiddling with the possibility to control GrandMaOnPC with midi fader-extension for a long long time. First attempts were about a year ago with BCF2000 by Behringer. I didn't get very far with this since the Windows 7 Pro refused to recognize my gadget. I managed to establish the fact that the problem lays, not within the gadget itself or the software I wanted to connect it with, but with Win7. At that point I didn't find a solution to overcome the obstacle. I had all the necessary drivers and the device management claimed that the thing is working properly. Nonetheless, the controller was useless because none of my programs could see it. It was just not enough to install the manufacturer's driver. So, I gave up.

But now I'm back again since I really need the function for the show I'm working with and bought myself a nice and slick Korg nanoKontrol2 for that. So I looked into it again. And did some serious googling. It seems that the problem is a common one. I found (again) loads of discussion threads complaining about the exact same problem, but no obvious solution. -Until I stumbled upon this video clip on Youtube (below). It explains how to connect a midi controller to Pro Tools and Reaper in Win 7. I wanted to use the midi for another application but nevertheless the magic trick is the same.

The thing is that Win 7, or basically any version of Windows above XP, can only handle up to 10 midi devices. I thought that this couldn't possibly be a problem for me, since I never tried with midi before. So how on earth all the seats could be taken if I only once plugged in the Behringer??? Anyhow. What this brilliant guy, coolconvertible999, suggests is that one should open Regedit and navigate down to Microsoft driver32 folder to see what's cooking there. When I did that, I realized that actually all the positions were filled with the generic Windows audio drivers and my actual Korg driver did not show at all even though the device management informed that everything is installed and working properly. So I went ahead and deleted all the entries except the the initial "midi" entry. After that I installed the driver for Korg again and BUM! -There it was. This was the most important thing to fix. WhooooaYippeeHooray!!!

This was a start. At least I now had the gadget connected to my laptop, but I still was far away from being able to use it.

I already had MidiOx, which is a free midi-mapper utility, installed on my computer so the next step was to open it to see if the gadget is sending something. Everything checked out, but still GrandMA didn't connect with my controller. At this point I cross-referenced with a little light controlling program called "Acidlight" and there it worked just fine after assigning some notes. So further study was required. By doing this I learned that GrandMA can somehow only process midi notes and not the control change messages which Korg sends natively. I needed to translate the messages. The MidiOx can do this quite easily and the transmission can be monitored over the program.

MidiOx port configuration

Still nothing on Mama. Hmmmm... Back to Google. I need virtual midi ports GrandMA can listen to. In MidiOx there should be inbuilt MidiYoke which is supposed to create exactly this, but somehow I didn't manage to get it running. So I looked for an alternative and decided to go with LoopBe1 which is a free virtual midi driver. I configured MidiOx to get midi signal in from Korg and send it out to LoopBe which I set GrandMA to listen. Then it was down to write some notes to mama's midi remotes and again BUM! -There it was. For overview and quick editing the "Kontrol Editor" program provided by Korg is very easy to use.

Below some screenshots of  my set up:

MidiOx data mapping

GrandMA options for midi in/output

Console controls

Some notes

It was a long road but I finally arrived to the finishing line and can't wait to give the set-up a real test drive in few days. But as it seems, everything should work just fine. Maybe my configuration is not the most intelligent one, but at least it is finally up and running. And maybe this post might help someone else solve similar problem.

Now I'm going to look into the original idea of using Behringer again and see if I get that operational. It would have motorized faders... luxurious. Albeit for me the NanoKontrol2 was more appealing alternative because of it's very light weight and compact size. I-I'm trying to keep my system as portable as possible. Now it all still fits into a normal backpack with two days' change of clothes =) =).

I'll keep you posted about my findings =)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I think I learned to ski when I was approximately three years old. Growing up in Southern Finland, it meant mostly cross-country. No hills to speak of there. Nonetheless, I used to love that too. Quite often I would take of with some hot chocolate and sandwiches in my backpack and make a little solo tours on the frozen lake to the nearby islands.

On one of the early winters

In the mid-nineties I spent some time in Grenoble, France, as an exchange student. Up until then I hadn't really thought much of alpine skiing, since I never had the finances to go find some decent slopes in Lapland. Suddenly the slopes sort of came to me, so I figured it would be a great sin not to use the opportunity that was presented to me. So off and down the slopes I went. And absolutely fell in love with that. Easy curves and smooth ride, wow....

After that I did some downhill skiing also in Finland, but not very often. Now I've been based in Basel, Switzerland for past six winters. You would think that she's surely going for it again since the mountains are right there. Yeah, right. Somehow for past winters I never made it to the slopes. Wanted to, but never got there. Somehow the winters just flew by and there didn't seem to be time for snow-sports. Show-sports being more time consuming =). And my excuse could also be that there is no mountains in Basel region, it's so-called flatlands of Switzerland.

This winter I was determined to set it right and drag my butt to a ski resort. Yesss, I made it. And wanna do it again. It was so much fun again. Took some time to get my bearings on the new (to me) carvers and all, but at least it didn't fall flat on my face. 

Upright, yesss!

I went with couple of my friends to Feldberg at Black Mountains, Schwarzwald, Germany. A nice and mellow day. Foggy, of course, so not much scenery to boast about. But I was totally prepared for this, since the mountains generally don't wanna show themselves to me. I'm starting to think that they are just an urban legend, -just like the giant crocodiles in the sewers of New York.

I don't really know why it is like that, but generally, when ever I'm heading for the higher ground, there is loads of fog or low-hanging clouds. So no chance to see any kind of mountain formations. Like this time also, as you can see:

The Alps on the background, yes?

However, skiing is much fun, even if there is no postcard-pretty "Alpenblick" on the background. And I have really set my goals to reaching the snow more times this season.

And I'm also dying to invest in new gear, but I try to hold my horses until the end of the season and get it cheaper. Difficult, difficult...