Venue: Gloria

Helsinki Computer Orchestra @ Avanto Festival, Helsinki

Avanto Festival info.

The Event

Avanto Festival, International sound and visual arts festival of experimental and avantgardist kind.


The Helsinki Computer Orchestra is comprised of a rather heterogeneous group of experimental electronic musicians, free improvisers, and noise musicians. Their instruments, too, vary from clumsy 80's game consoles to the aerodynamically designed powerbooks of the new millennium.

At the Avanto concert The Helsinki Computer Orchestra featured Samuli Alapuranen, Cumhur Erkut, Enrico Glerean, Sami Järvinen, Mikko Hynninen, Satu Karhumaa, Ilkka Klang, Tommi Lehtovirta, Heikki Lintula, Lauri Luhta, Emi Maeda, Sami Pekkola, Olli Pelkonen, Pilvari Pirtola, Samuli Salonen, Niko Sirkiä, Ibrahim Terzic, Jukka Vallisto, Juha Vehviläinen, Antoine Verhaverbeke and the orchestra's founder Tommi Keränen. The performance was conducted by Shinji Kanki, who also played the short wave radio.

Performed Piece

After witnessing the orchestra's debut concert (March 2003), the Japanese-born contemporary composer Shinji Kanki, a veteran of the computer music studio of the Sibelius Academy, proposed to compose a new piece for their Avanto performance.

Kanki's PCM 0355+53 can be approached with the concept of music as a language: what happens when a group of some twenty members, each playing in their own "language", start reading a score written in languages foreign to them? As source material for the score Kanki has used text in Morse code, EEG readings, dolphin sounds, and chance determined patterns ? all these messages can be heard simultaneously in PCM 0355+35.


Oh my, my first ever appearance on stage as an artist and where is it? At Avanto Festival! One could comment that this wasn't really that much, that I was only a small part of an orchestra, but there's nothing "only" in it for me. Getting into Helsinki Computer Orchestra was a great opportunity and a chance to meet a large number of interesting musicians and the whole thing made me learn to not only play with others, but to use new software.

At the time of the Avanto gig I didn't as yet own a laptop, so I had to drag my tabletop box and keyboard with me to the rehearsals and the gig! Fortunately, a dear friend borrowed me his flat screen, so I didn't have to drag that too from Turku to Helsinki... It was quite something, that dragging. I even got a little cart to help me moving the darned thing.

HCO at avanto
Shinji Kanki conducting PCM 0355+53 at Gloria.
Image courtesy of Avanto festival.

We played the gig (or rather, concert) in Gloria, occupying the "dance floor" with our table set-up. Due to this arrangement, the audience could get right up close to our computers. Too close, as it turned out. One of the tables (the one Niko was playing at) collapsed when we sat down, luckily on the players' laps and not straight to the floor, so none of the computers slipped off or hit the floor. Somebody had also managed to knock my tabletop, enough to get the sound card loose. This, naturally, caused trouble. We had a sound-check before starting the actual performance and it turned out my machine didn't emit a single bleep. The audience was getting a tad restless, while I was frantically checking the machine and taking the covers off to check if it is the sound card. Meanwhile, Shinji Kanki is telling the audience that he won't start the performance before I've got my sounds on, telling how "she's too valuable for the concert" and I am grateful for that!

Once we got the show started, things run smoothly and I have to say it went well. While the beginning of the piece is somewhat slow (fittingly so), it gradually builds up into a huge dome of sound and for us in the middle of it, it felt like sitting in a spacecraft taking off! I hope members of the audience took a hint of the orchestra members starting to put earplugs on... It's a bit pity that the best seats soundwise were occupied by the players, though.


"This time around the most interesting acts in the repertoire of the festival's club events at Gloria were those who relied on the power of pure sound. Formed quite recently, the Helsinki Computer Orchestra performed a piece called 'PCM 0355+53', composed and conducted by Shinji Kanki, the Japanese professor at Sibelius Academy. The computer collective of some twenty people, most likely quite unique in its genre, was divided into four sections, each producing different types of pulsating sounds. Under strict direction of the score and the conductor's baton, the composition provided ample proof of the vitality and applicability of classical music even in the age of modern digital equipment." (Lauri Luhta & Pekka Luhta, Taide 1/2004)