Finnish singer Aino Peltomaa’s pure and contemplative voice is at the center of a number of exciting choir projects that reimagine modern audiences’ interaction with medieval, renaissance, and devotional music. Ensemble Gamut, Peltomaa’s current project, is a fresh, experimental collective of early music and folk music specialists, who are constantly searching for new ways to perform early music. They combine historical instruments and electronics in an innovative way, creating a unique world of phenomenal Finnish folk.
In celebration of their debut performance for MusicTraveler.TV we sat down with Peltomaa to talk about her approach to music. (photo by Henri Melaanvuo)
Where did your musical journey begin?
I grew up in a musical family, surrounded by classical and folk music. My parents actually met in an early music ensemble and I used to play with my toys under the harpsichord at our small house. During the summers we used to spend a lot of time at our summer cottage near a beautiful lake in the middle of Finland, and our father always came to wake us up (and still does!) with a shepherd flute he made himself. This scenery: small forest birds, breeze from the lake, silence, the sound of the water and the songs my parents used to sing are all a huge inspiration for me.
However, it took me a long time to find my way, my sound and especially my confidence. All of my four siblings became musicians as well, but somehow I always felt like a strange bird, since all others went to jazz or pop and I didn´t see that path in front of me, and the classical world felt too conservative and rigid for me. This was until about eight years ago, when I met a very inspiring teacher Veikko Kiiver at a master class, who strongly encouraged me to go on with early music. This gave me a lot of confidence and it feels amazing how things have evolved from there!
My sound and all my projects circle around early music (medieval and renaissance), folk music, improvisation and electronics. Somehow I have a strong need to create something new, something that has not been done before, to keep being the strange bird, but who is not lost, but instead has a voice to sing out!
Tell us a bit about the stream you're broadcasting on MusicTraveler.TV
This stream is our album release concert with Ensemble Gamut! at a folk music festival JuuriJuhal Rotfest. Our album was released in December by Eclipse Music.
Making the album has been quite a special journey, through years of gathering material, taking inspiration from my childhood songs, songs that have stayed with me from beautiful encounters with musicians, and as well my own research through medieval manuscripts. In this concert we meet in different centuries, in different countries, different languages, but in the end, we are all the same, aren't we? We speak of the same themes, loving, longing, bittersweet love, motherly love and a call to higher spiritual forces. The basic needs and emotions are all the same, no matter if we are at the shores of 13th century Vigo, echoing the Galician-Portuguese lyric troubadour poetry, or in the deep forests of Finland, sitting by the lake. Our approach in combining medieval, renaissance music, Finninsh folk tunes and improvisation has been primarily focusing on the text and tonality. I have searched for themes that connect the pieces together, to create a journey, or an exchange of thoughts between centuries of human spirit and emotion.
This album was recorded at very challenging times last August with Covid -19 spreading through the world, and a constant shadow of uncertainty hung upon us. I think I had 5 different studio sessions booked, and 3 different harpsichords, since we found out that we can´t fit our harpsichord player Marianna´s instrument through the corridor into the studio! In the end we had to put it all together in a few days, since our recorder player Juho lives in Amsterdam and there was a risk that he could not come to the planned final session.
But, that is how life is, and we are so grateful that we got this together, and that it has reached so much wonderful attention!
In these times when performances are not taking place, where do you dream most of returning to play when that's possible again?
Well, I really wish that all the concerts and festivals that I have bookings for in the next 6 months will actually happen! Being able to travel the world, to meet new people and places, to perform with colleagues from all over the world has really been a dream come true for me! From June onwards I should be performing around Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy. So my biggest wish for now is that these concerts and festivals do not get cancelled!
One of our missions at Music Traveler is connecting artists. Any dream collaboration you’d love to see happen?
I think this is such a wonderful idea! Just to browse through the possible spaces all around the world makes me crave for actual travelling to happen again. I´m trying to create longer residencies while travelling, to do it in a sustainable way, and to spend longer periods in the countries I visit. It would be wonderful to organize something with an interesting artist of electronic music or improvisation, to do a stream collaboration, or live meeting in one of Music Traveler´s spaces when that is possible.
How has streaming changed your approach to music?
Well it has been wonderful to have been able to follow live concerts from all over the world, one evening I visited 4 countries and watched 5 concerts in a row from my own living room.. Streaming quality has improved a lot these days and I´ve enjoyed e.g. theater performances, where the whole production has been planned as a stream, and there has been wonderful audience involvement in it as well. This is something I would love to see more, being able to interact with the audience during performances.
However, I feel that no stream can replace a live concert, the connection with the audience and the physical experience that the sound waves produce. I hope that good streaming services can be a great tool besides live concerts, albums and music videos.