Composition for voice and electronics


2018 Johanna Elina Sulkunen launched a new project, this time as a SOLO, called Sonority. The project invites a multilayered journey of sounds of a human voice mixed with electronics and touching on life’s big questions. The name of the album, Kōan means paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment.

All the sounds on the album are based on vocal sounds and field recordings from Japanese Buddhist temples and manipulation of them– electronically. Johanna traveled to Japan in 2016 to record in temples and collect sounds. In her words: “I had to contextualize the text and the project that I’m working with somehow. I also wanted to record the sounds and objects in the temples to create music with the surroundings” Says Johanna.

Rather than concentrating on the storytelling, language has been used as a tool. It has been broken into pieces exposing the poetics of a sonic material of letters, syllables, and words and revealing an infinite source of sound-based composition and improvisation.

Concentrating on sound has opened a lot of doors for me as a composer and vocalist. The ‘liberation of sound’ is not a new statement, but with my background as a so-called ‘jazz vocalist’ the use of electronics and the more sound-based composing combined with the full autonomy in solo playing has been a personal liberation for me!” states Johanna.

Along with her jazz background, some of the biggest influences for the project shine through in the album. Among them; Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, and on the other hand electronic musicians like Ikue Mori and Holly Herndon. The result is a special combination of music concrete, improvised vocals and contemporary classical music mixed with jazz influences. Human vocal sounds and electronic sounds create a symbiosis where electronics become embodied in the human body and voice becomes electric.