Media-Based Music in Estonia

From Unearthing The Music

Site-Specific Sound Installation by Raul Keller (2009)

Media-Based Music in Estonia - An essay by Hans-Gunter Lock for Sound Exchange.


Media-based experimental music is a phenomenon in constant fluctuation whose characteristics mean it often evades being pinned down. Nonetheless, it continuously leaves marks which can best be analysed using the Poststructuralist rhizome metaphor[i].

People in both the East and the West were equally interested in technical innovations, and devoted their attention to similar aesthetic dilemmas. What differentiated them were merely the possibilities available to pursue these interests or access information.

Estonian journalists, composers and artists were largely familiar with Western European and Polish trends in electronic and media-based music, thanks to trips made to the Cologne NWDR Studio and the Warsaw Autumn Festival, etc. Various Estonian radio programmes focused on topics such as synthetic music, computer music, cybernetics, machines and music and electronic instruments. An attempt by the Estonian Composers’ Union to secure a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer (which failed for ideological reasons) and trips made by Lepo Sumera to the USA in the 1980s are evidence of the artists’ interest in electroacoustic and experimental music.

In order to better understand the multifaceted mechanisms and root-like interconnections of recent and contemporary history, official as well as private, obscure documents and events must be taken into account [ii], though the latter are either badly – if at all – documented, or only orally transmitted. In addition, many of the pioneers can no longer be interviewed as they died during the last Millennium. These include composers Kuldar Sink, Lepo Sumera, Rauno Remme, computer linguist Mart Remmel, sound engineer Hannes Valdma as well as computer music enthusiast Mark Rais, who launched an association for computer music and music informatics at a founding congress in 1989 which was attended by the legendary Lew Termen [iii].

The association remained active well into the mid-1990s. Many composers of the younger generation were able to study and reside abroad once the Iron Curtain opened in 1989/90, while maintaining ties to their cultural roots. Conversely, various composers from abroad have since moved to Estonia, enriching cultural life there.

Rauno Remme. Photo: Harri Rospu,

In an attempt to compile a modern historiography that aims to get by without playing the centre against the periphery, an overview will – at least partially – be given of the most significant developmental phases of the academic and free art scene.

Categorisation, Places and Contexts of Media-Based Music in Estonia since 1960

As media-based experimental music only started to be integrated into academic structures in Estonia at the beginning of the 1990s, we will throughout the rest of this text mainly speak of institutional and independent trends whose boundaries, however, frequently blur.

We consider institutional in a narrower sense to refer to all events connected to the Estonian Radio, the Estonian Music Academy and the Estonian Art Academy. On a broader front, we will look at events connected with various associations and registered societies. Such developments took – and still take – place at the Estonian Arnold Schönberg Society (since 1992), among others. Ensembles such as the NYYD Ensemble (since 1993) and Küberstuudio (Cyberstudio since 2000) that work with concert organisations, or make use of other institutional structures, can also be classified as such. Also included in this category are events organised by registered associations, such as concert series and festivals. This includes the Estonian Media Artists Union, which organises the international Plektrum Festival, and Improtest, an association that has organised a series of improvisation concerts together with the Kanutigilde hall and MKDK Records since 2005. Also worthy of mention is the HUH Festival (Hea Uus Heli, Guter Neuer Sound, 2003–2010), which was connected to the Ulmeplaadid record label.

Further associations include the MoKS Centre for Art and Social Practice (southern Estonia), which began as a network in the field of sound art in 2001, and the Academia Non Grata (formerly Academia Grata) in Pärnu, with its periodic training structures and free activities. Platforms for the primarily independent scene are the so-called culture factories. These include Polymer, Kultuurikatel and Telliskivi in Tallinn, and the Pärmivabrik in Tartu.

Examples of free groups prior to the opening of the Iron Curtain are alternative and progressive rock bands such as Mess and In Spe, as well as the experimental ensemble Grotest, which existed from 1984–1992. Bands in the 1990s and later include Röövelööbik, Luarvik Luarvik as well as Weekend Guitar Trio and the Trio Fragile.

Significant individual pioneers of the alternative and DJ and house music scene include Aivar Tõnso, Raul Saaremets and Rando Sulg. Experimental electronic music representatives of the early 2000s include Taavi Kerikmäe and Mart Soo.

Weekend Guitar Trio – Mart Soo, Robert Jürjenthal and Tõnis Leemets. Photo: unknown

Individual forums that stretch beyond institutional structures and the established media are partially supported by the Estonian culture foundation (Kultuurkapital), which to date has mainly supported independent projects of this kind.

Electroacoustic Music and Computer Music in Estonia 1960–2000

Media-based music in Estonia also has many terms and different manifestations that have been subject to constant change over the past 50 years. While the state generally considered electroacoustic and computer music to be ideologically untenable, they were absorbed with great interest and enthusiasm in the music and radio scene.

In 1961 Kultuur ja Elu (Culture and Life) magazine published an article entitled »sünteetiline muusika« (synthetic music). [iv]  Kuldar Sink used the Estonian term »tehismuusika« (artificial music), selecting it as a name for his four-part radio series in 1970, in which he surprisingly comprehensively illuminated the different facets of Western European and Polish electronic and concrete music. [v] In 1963, a travel report about West Germany in Sirp ja Vasar (Sickle and Hammer) mentioned the activities of the Cologne School and the visit to the NWDR experimental studio. [vi]

In 1963 and 1964 a number of radio programmes featured the topics of machine and music [vii] and art and cybernetics [viii], and simple technological possibilities using computers to make music were discussed (although the Estonian Radio’s data processing centre only received its first computer in 1969). It can be assumed that a lively public interest in technological innovations and the link between technology and art was prevalent, which was enabled by the more liberal policies of the »thaw« at the time.

At first, genres such as film and radio play music naturally encouraged a creative use of the audiotape as a technical tool with which to create new kinds of sounds. Film music also provided a promising field of application for this kind of music. Indeed, there are early examples of Estonian electronic music in this context. In the Soviet Union, however, it was believed that electronic music was only suitable as film music (especially science fiction), and not for independent works of an absolute music. [ix]

Probably one of the first Estonian electronic works is a theatre music piece by Kuldar Sink, composed in 1966 for a drama by Polish novelist Jerzy Broszkiewicz, entitled »I will tell you my story«. [x] In »Problems in Artificial Music«, a radio programme broadcast in 1970, Sink introduced his work by referring to the working methods of musique concrète: »It’s about a purely programmatic sound backdrop that accompanies the pantomime of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. My starting material includes natural sounds such as footsteps, calls, screams, individually recorded sung chords, drum tremoli in different pitches, music fragments that melted into a whole through multiple mixing, partially through fourfold modifications of the playback speed and reverse functions.« [xi]

In addition to audiotape-supported, musique concrète-style approaches, the use of electroacoustic and electronic instruments gradually established itself despite ideological barriers and technical shortcomings. From 1957–1961 Heino Pedussaar and Anatoli Sügis constructed a key instrument called a »varioola«, which was based on pipe technology and can be viewed today at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum in Tallinn. [xii]

J. S. Bach, Partita Nr. 1 BWV 825, Raldur Roots plays the electronic instrument Varioola (Melodia)

With the conquest of transistor technology, a handful of enthusiasts built their own analogue synthesizers. Instruments such as these, and later also commercial products that found their way to Estonia, become known through their use in rock bands. Sven Grünberg is without a doubt Estonia’s synthesizer music pioneer, moving stylistically between progressive rock and ambient music with influences from Far Eastern music. Sven Grünberg developed a Härmo Härm-built synthesizer in 1974 with only one oscillator for Mess, his progressive rock band in which he primarily performed his own compositions.

At the end of the 1970s Koit Saarmäe built a modular analogue synthesizer that already had three oscillators and noise generators. It was used by Erkki-Sven Tüür and his rock band In Spe. In addition, Grünberg was eventually given the chance to work on an EMS Synthi-100 in Moscow. It was there that he composed the works »Valgusõis« (Light Blossom, 1978) and the film music for »›Hukkunud alpinisti‹ hotell« (»The Dead Mountaineer« Hotel, 1979). [xiii]

Jaan Rääts’ »Electronic Marginalia« from 1980 – which can be categorised as classically modern – represent electronic versions of several of his »24 Marginalia for the Piano«, and were dedicated to Kalle Randalu. They were a collaborative effort, recorded partially through improvisation using keyboard-based synthesizers at the Estonian Radio studio. They were mixed by sound engineer Enn Tomson, along with Kalle Randalu and Sven Grünberg.[xiv]

The term »computer music« (»arvutimuusika« in Estonian) can be found in a book on contemporary music from 1970 by the founder of Estonian musicology, Karl Leichter [xv], though the definition – much as that in 1960s radio programmes – assumes the computer to be a mere composition and playback aid. In 1986, a translation of an article by York Höller entitled »On the Current Situation of Electronic Music« appeared in Teater.Muusika.Kino magazine. It had been published two years earlier in the Österreichischen Musikzeitschrift. The article portrayed computer music as the newest and most interesting development in electronic music. [xvi] In the same edition was an article by musicologist Jaan Ross on the application of music and microcomputers, [xvii] and an article by Mart Siimer [xviii] elaborated on how to use computers in music. The interest in computer music culminated in Mark Rais’ collection and conference activities.

The beginning of the 1990s saw several articles and radio programmes on computer music and electroacoustic music published (in Teater.Muusika.Kino magazine, among others). In 1996, Rauno Remme declared in an interview, however, that electronic music in Estonia had never, so to speak, »belonged anywhere« – that no one really knew how it should be classified and that it did not have a market (except in film and theatre, in which it partially only represented a cheaper alternative to instrumental music). We recall the aesthetically negative judgement of independent, absolute electronic music during Soviet times and the »restriction« to (science fiction) film music that might have changed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, thanks primarily to the biannual NYYD New Music Festival, which was initiated in 1991. For a wider audience, however, Remme claimed in 1996 that »there was no electronic music«.[xix]

In conclusion, it can be assumed that Estonia’s experts were familiar with trends in electronic music and computer music prevalent in the Western world and Poland.

The Electronic Studio at the Estonian Music and Theatre Academy

The foundation of the Electronic Studio at the Estonian Music and Theatre Academy coincided with a period in which Estonian experts focused on the technical and theoretical aspects of the phenomenon of computer music, becoming one of the most important institutions in this field and evolving into a base for the academic dissemination of electronic and computer-based composition methods.

First referred to as the Helistuudio (sound studio) when it was founded in 1993 by composer Rauno Remme, the Studio, which at the time mainly consisted of outdated Soviet-produced technology, was housed in the Music Academy in Tallinn’s suburb of Nõmme. In 1994 the Studio moved into the inner city building of the Estonian Music Academy. During the following years, the technical equipment could be renewed thanks to support from the EU’s TEMPUS fund. Various master classes were offered in collaboration with the Lyon Conservatory and the Cologne Music School’s Electronic Studio, and Estonian students were given the chance to do a semester abroad at the partner schools. In September 1995, professor of composition Lepo Sumera was appointed director of what at the time was referred to as the Arvutimuusika stuudio (Studio for Computer Music).

The Studio was officially re-inaugurated in October 1995. One month later the Studio took part in the NYYD Festival, where, among other works, Rauno Remme’s multimedia composition »Gen Ision« (with music, video and dance) had its premiere. [xx] In 1997 the Studio took part in the music academy at the Festival Eesti Muusika Päevad (Estonian Music Days). Works were performed by Sven Grünberg, Igor Garšnek, Peeter Vähi, Rauno Remme and Mihkel Laur, and Lepo Sumera organised a sound installation. [xxi] At some point in 1997 the Studio was renamed Elektronmuusika stuudio (Studio for Electronic Music).

»Gen Ision« by Rauno Remme. Photo: unknown

The Electronic Music Bachelor’s programme commenced in 1997/98, with subjects including computer technology, computer notation, sound engineering and sound synthesis. [xxii] From the beginning, equal emphasis was placed on in-depth artistic and technical education: »In our opinion, technical knowledge also encourages the ability to think about what is actually possible and what kinds of sounds can be imagined. In electronic music, the sounds are, of course, first created and then used to develop the composition,« wrote Sumera in 1999 in Teater.Muusika.Kino.[xxiii]

The instructors and studio consultants are available to advise the students, who work on their pieces and computer programmes more or less independently. Despite a constant change in the respective courses of study, Sumera’s principles, which were established in 1999, are followed to the present day.

When the Estonian Music Academy’s new building in Tallinn’s old town was inaugurated in 1999, the Electronic Studio moved there as well. Composer Margo Kõlar was named director of the Studio, with Sumera remaining in his post as professor of composition. The need arose to incorporate the disciplines of electronic composition and sound engineering, thus further expanding the student body. Efforts were made to connect the sound engineering and electronic composition departments, continuing to a certain extent the Estonian tradition of composer-sound engineers that began in the 1950s (among them Arvo Pärt).

The deaths of both leading figures, Lepo Sumera (2000) and Rauno Remme (2002), was especially dramatic for the development of the Studio. Their responsibilities were taken on by a younger generation of sound engineers and composers, and the teaching curriculum at the Studio has since been continuously renewed, harmonised with technical innovations and expanded to include new subjects. Young, qualified graduates were later to become a new generation of instructors.

In 2003 a new curriculum was established which included acoustics, electroacoustics, practical sound engineering and foundations of audiovisual art, which (until his death in 2008) was taught by esteemed sound engineer Hannes Valdma from Estonian Radio. Live electronics and interactive composition were incorporated into the curriculum in 2006. Guest professors from Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Latvia and the USA enhance the programme. Until 2003, the equipment available to work with was largely from Cologne. Thanks to support from the Japanese government, the Studio was able to be completely refurbished once again, fundamentally improving working conditions. [xxiv]

The technical possibilities were updated on a constant basis, and special electronic composition devices were acquired in addition to tonal equipment, including a Doepfer A-100 system for analogue sound synthesis, hemisphere loudspeakers with omnidirectional antennas and a Lemur touchscreen controller.

The Studio for Electronic Music enjoys a long-term collaboration with the IRCAM in Paris. After Helena Tulve was able to participate in IRCAM courses for composers in 2001, flautist Monika Mattiesen – who founded the Küberstuudio Ensemble in 2000, which was closely related to the Studio for Electronic Music – attended multiple IRCAM classes for interpreters as well as Stockhausen’s master classes in Kürten. In 2008, the Studio participated in the ECMCT (European Course for Musical Composition and Technology), an IRCAM-coordinated teaching programme, together with the Centre for Music and Technology (CMT) at the Sibelius Academy Helsinki. [xxv]

The 1990s were spent rapidly acquiring further knowledge, and there were soon even gerater possibilities to discover and practice media-based music. This was institutionalised for the first time with the Estonian Music Academy’s Studio for Electronic Music, but remained in the background for a wider audience until the mid-1990s.

Networks with other international centres were established parallel to the institutionalisation and increased teaching activity during this time. The music that is produced at the Electronic Studio in Tallinn can primarily be categorised as electroacoustic art music and electroacoustic concert music.[xxvi] This distinguishes it from independent artistic movements, such as progressive rock before and after 1990, as well as from sound art and multimedia installations.

Sound Art, Installation and Performance Since 1960

On account of the small number of artists, it would be an exaggeration to speak of larger schools or movements: »Sound art in Estonia is a matter for individual enthusiasts«. [xxvii] Maria Juur (referring to Leonard Lapin) cites Kaarel Kurismaa and Villu Jõgeva as the first sound art pioneers in the fields of sound sculpture and sound installation with their kinetic objects and electronic sculptures from the 1960s and 1970s. »For (art) political reasons«, however, their works were rarely shown.

The two artists took varying approaches to sound aesthetics. For Jögeva, sound was more a mere functioning machine, as characterised by the theatrical robot performance »Ise-organiseeruv süsteem« (Self-Organising System, 2011) by Hendrik Kaljujärv, Vootele Vaher and Taavet Jansen. Machine sounds also dominate Erik Alalooga’s kinetic installations and performances, such as »Kinemaatiline müsteerium« (2009–2010) and »Odüsseuse Vibu« (2011), in which piezo contact microphones are attached to the respective installations and performance requisites in order to produce electronic sound (Andres Laansalu). The resulting sound is then further processed electronically, and is also used to steer interactive light (Hans-Gunter Lock).

Kinematic Mysterium, Erik Alalooga

Maria Juur (referring to Johannes Saare, among others) views Kaarel Kurismaa’s aesthetics, in which absurdity is achieved through the sound itself, as closer to Cage and Fluxus. In the 1990s Kurismaa turned his attention to installations. The following generation »between Pop and avant-garde«, including the young sound artists Kiwa (Jaanus Kivaste) and Andres Lõo, considers him to be a role model. Juur characterises both (and others) as belonging a small but charismatic and viable school of sound art which is familiar with the international art scene and is influenced by pop culture and art world experiences.[xxviii] Kiwa has built up his own, multifaceted world of texts, music, performance, live performances, art works and curatorial activities, in which music/sound play a significant role.

Andres Lõo’s collaboration with the Ensemble U: in 2005 is evidence that sound art and contemporary music have continued to coincide in recent times, following in the footsteps of Kaarel Kurismaa and Rauno Remme. »Metabor« (2001–2004) and »Audiogalerie« (since 2007) can be viewed as an attempt to create a total environment in which space and architecture, the social and economic components of perceiving art and the immateriality of sound can be experienced experimentally. In addition, Raul Keller‘s video and sound installations, his project »Unison« (since 2000) and his collaboration with the record label MKDK Records should be mentioned. The essence of »Unison« is collectivity, space specifics, improvisation and the search for a universal sound language that can be understood by both professional musicians and untrained music-makers. [xxix]

Electroacoustic Music and Multimedia Since 1990

Estonian electroacoustic music since the 1990s has encompassed a wide sound spectrum that includes synthetic sounds, elements of concrete music, and sounds/samples from acoustic instruments or other sound sources that are modified to a greater or lesser degree. The listener is often expected to be able to recognize the original source, which can sometimes, however, be veiled to the point of unrecognizability, with abstract, illusory and unreal sound worlds being created. Sound processing is marked by formal, sound and spatial and spatial acoustic ideas: e. g. Liis Viira (Jürgens) graphically interpreted Estonia’s coastline in melodic lines for the ensemble work »Rannajoon« (coastline, 2003) with playback tape and video, and Jüri Reinvere constructs and makes historic, geographic and emotional spaces audible (again) in his radio opera »Vastaskallas« (The Opposite Shore), in which he also uses mobile microphones. Hans-Gunter Lock created two four-channel spaces for his work »Keeltemäng« (2003).

The composers also find inspiration from the other arts: e. g. Jüri Reinvere wrote music for Michaela Fünfhausen’s dance choreographies »Dialog I« (2002) and »Air-Water-Earth-Fire-Air« (2003), and Märt-Matis Lill worked with various choreographers and dancers, among them »Kurb nauding« (Sad Pleasure, 2005) with Teet Kask and »Tallinn–Aegviidu« (2006) with Kaja Lindal and Kaspar Aus. Monika Mattiesen’s collaboration with choreographer Mari Mägi resulted in the stage production »Loomise mõnu« (Pleasure of Creation, 2010), and Ülo Krigul worked with choreographer Sascha Pepeljajev on »Tantsiv torn« (Dancing Tower, 2011). We also encounter interactive choreographies with sensors and electroacoustic music in the collaborations between Shawn Pinchbeck with the dance theatre Fine5 (2009) and the Lock brothers with choreographer Kaspar Aus (2007).

Gerhard Lock and visual artist Rait Rosin created symbiotic links between painting and electroacoustic music, as in the exhibition »Kõik on nii hästi« (Everything is so perfect!, with journalist Jüri Muttika, 2006). Electroacoustic music and art are also united in the collaborations between Elo Masing and Rait Rosin (2007) and Margo Kõlar with Meeli Kõiva (2007), among others. [xxx]

Under Andrus Kallastu’s artistic direction in 2008–2009, multimedia performative works premièring under the title of »Action Kuubis« were jointly developed by participating musicians, composers, artists and dancers. These works can therefore be located both content-wise and conceptually in the borderland between various genres and arts.

The incorporation of video components in electroacoustic compositions is relatively widespread, either resulting from a collaboration with video artists or created by the composers themselves. Examples during the 1990s include Rauno Remme’s »Gen Ision« (1995) and Lepo Sumera’s »Südameasjad« (Matters of the Heart, 1999). The latter uses heart rhythms as well as the visual pulsating of a heart.

The 2000s saw video components built into Liis Viira’s »Rannajoon« and »Järv kastepiisas« (The Lake in The Dew Drop, 2004), Jüri Reinvere’s »a.e.g« (t.i.m.e, 2005) and Tulev’s »Teine kallas, vaikuses hommikune vihm« (The Other Shore, Morning Rain in The Calm). During the NYYD festival and the Estonian Music Days in recent years, entire evenings were devoted to so-called »video music«, in which it is evident that the two arts interact both coincidentally and highly symbiotically. During the 2009 Estonian Music Days, Mark Raidpere’s video – which was created for Erkki-Sven Tüür’s chamber music work »Dedication« – was screened, attracting international attention. [xxxi]

In 2010 an entire programme with Raidpere’s video works was shown at the same festival. At the 2011 NYYD Festival, representatives of the experimental and alternative scene (Raul Keller, Taavi Kerikmäe, Tõnis Leemets, Kalle Tikas, etc.) met under the name »Eesti Elekter«, and showed how diverse electronically created and manipulated sounds can be with an impressive number of electronic devices that were partially self-built. A concert entitled »Audiovisual Music« at the 2012 Estonian Music Days demonstrated the possibilities of multimedia composition, in which the composers are also the creators of visual components of a work (programmers, video artists).

The juxtaposition and the border between reality and unreality are often played with, resulting in new virtual worlds. Principles and sounds from the past are recognisable as signs and offer the listener aesthetic experiences and the pleasure of recognition. Sounds taken from nature and its surroundings (as a source of inspiration as much as material) are used, as in Tatjana Kozlova‘s and Malle Maltis’ clock, water and urban sounds in »Boil« (2005), where the fundamental idea behind the work is to describe the evolution of water from frozen to boiling as a metaphor for the transition from time standing still to our current fast-paced time.

In »Tormilatern« (Storm Lantern, 2007) Liis Viira works on her own video material showing interior rooms, lamps and water. Water is also a theme in Mirjam Tally‘s »Veetilgas sätendab veel möödundaastane päike« (Last Year’s Sun Still Glitters in The Drop of Water, 2000) for flute and phonograph, as well as Viira’s video music »Järv kastepiisas« (The Lake in The Dew Drop, 2004). The daily course of the sun in time lapse in Reinvere’s video section of »a.e.g« (t.i.m.e, 2005), Toivo Tulev’s video section in »Teine kallas, vaikuses hommikune vihm« (The Other Shore, Morning Rain in The Calm, 2003) for ensemble, phonograph and video, and Malle Maltis‘ installation music »Veemuusika« (Water Music, 2007) attest to a bond with nature. Andrus Kallastu uses animal sounds in »Anima mea« (2006).

Composers connected to institutions tend to place more emphasis on traditional compositional techniques and aesthetic principles than do independent sound artists. The latter tend to take a spontaneous and predominantly experimental approach, with their experiences stemming from the primarily permanent arts. At the beginning of the 2000s, »academic«, institution-related electroacoustic music concerts still tended to be insider events, whereas the independent scene was able to attract a far larger audience. Each of these movements organised its own festivals and concert series, but this has changed since the mid-2000s in favour of integrated and interdisciplinary collaborations, manifesting in festivals such as EMP, NYYD and Plektrum over the past years.

»Opus Tempus« by Mari Mägi & Kaja Lindal. Music: Monika Mattiesen. Pildi autor: Rünno Lahesoo

The most important ensemble for multimedia music – with its roots in the »academic« scene – is Küberstuudio (Cyberstudio), which was founded in 2000 by flautist Monika Mattiesen and composer and sound engineer Margo Kõlar. In addition to live electronics and video components, it incorporates professional light and costume artists as well as stage effects, and strives for a kind of synthesis of the arts that ruptures a traditional scope and stretches to unplanned provocation. Ensemble U:, which was founded in 2002, has also dedicated itself to electroacoustic and multimedia music, performing – and sometimes premièring – works by artists such as Stockhausen in Estonia and, in doing so, deliberately crossing boundaries.

Since 2005, the Improtest festival has offered a synthesis of various stylistic impulses, as technological means encounter creative aesthetic premises on an equal footing in the improvisation scene. Mention should also be made here of the »Savibraator« project (since 2001) by Urmas Puhkan and Lauri Kilusk, which combines improvised music with the creation of ceramics, light and video in a live performance. [xxxii

The Weekend Guitar Trio and Fragile ensembles, as well as the improvisation projects at the Estonian Academy for Music and Theatre (under Anto Pett), have also realised collaborations with visual artists, the latter with the former E-Media Centre (today the Department of New Media) at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

MoKS, a centre, media lab and guest studio in Mooste (southern Estonia), takes a socially-engaged approach to sound, acoustics and technology that was initiated by American composer John Grzinich in 2001. In addition to sound art, he also introduced so-called field recordings to Estonia (Sumera also spoke of such possibilities in a lecture in 2000 [xxxiii]), and organised the Tuned City Festival in Tallinn in 2011, as well as other festivals, including Heli+Visioon/Sound+Vision in 2006.

We consider the connection between sound and technology in performances and video works at various Academia Non Grata festivals and related groupings, such as CnOPT (sport) since 1998 (In Graafika, Pärnu Fideofestival, Diverse Universe), to be aesthetically provocative. In Graafika and the Pärnu Days for Contemporary Music took place together from 2007 to 2010. Raul Keller (Segaja / Jammer 2002 and, since 2007, Lokaalraadio with Katrin Essenson) provide improvisational and experimental examples of radiophonic art, with Jüri Reinvere providing a compositional and conceptual example (the radiophonic opera »Vastaskallas« 2000–2004). Trios ASK’s live electronic improvisations were broadcast on Estonia’s Klassikaraadio and later released as a CD.

In conclusion, it can be said that many musical styles that use technology in different ways – from academic contemporary music to jazz, improvisation, alternative electronics, DJs, radiophonic and sound art – exist either sporadically or regularly alongside other arts in Estonia, creating more or less fruitful syntheses or, in the contemporary scene, happily coexisting. This is, however, usually at the level of individual artists, their interests and personal collaborations. Naturally, it is not possible to examine the actors, their ideas, concepts and realisations in all of these areas in greater detail. Much must remain undisclosed, unfortunately. More detailed information can be found in the texts that provide the foundation for this article, and further research is required. What has emerged is an exciting web of activities, sound and multimedia worlds.

* * *

Large sections of the above text are based on an article in the Estonian language that was published in 2007 in an anthology titled »NYYD-muusika – Uued helid Klassikaraadios« (NOW Music – New Sounds in Classic Radio). [xxxiv] In his PhD thesis (2006), Margo Kõlar describes the tools, principles and technologies that play a role in electroacoustic music in Estonia. Maria Juur’s Bachelor thesis (2010) offers a comprehensive overview of sound art. A report by Christian Scheib and Susanna Niedermayr (2007) examines the close relationship between the academic and so-called independent scene. [xxxv] Translation: Julia Schweizer


[i] See Helga de la Motte-Haber, »Geschichte der Musik im 20. Jahrhundert: 1975–2000«, Handbuch der Musik im 20. Jahrhundert, Bd. 4, Laaber: Laaber 2000, p. 15.

[ii] See Anu Paulus, »Reception of (Western) new music and postmodern tendencies in Estonian music in the late 1970s and 1980s. Time and Temporality: Categories, Models and Narratives«, Veenre 2011, (Papers and abstracts of the conference of Estonian Graduate School of Cultural Studies and Arts, Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory, University of Tartu, 31.01.–05.02.2011).

[iii] Jaan Ross, »Muljeid arvutimuusika konverentsilt« (Impressions from the Computer Music Conference), in: Sirp ja Vasar, no. 8, 24.02.1989, p. 13.

[iv] [Anonymous], »Sünteetiline muusika«, in: Kultuur ja Elu (1961), no. 4, pp. 25–26; no. 5, pp. 24–27; no. 6, pp. 49–51.

[v] Kuldar Sink, »Tehismuusika probleeme. Kommenteerib Kuldar Sink.« (Problems in Artificial Music. Commented by Kuldar Sink), transmissions: 11.11.1970, 18.11.1970, 02.12.1970 and 09.12.1970, Eesti Raadio.

[vi] Aurora Semper, »Muusikamärkmeid Lääne-Saksamaalt« (Musical Notes from West Germany), in: Sirp ja Vasar 07.02.1963, pp. 6–7.

[vii] Ivalo Randalu, »Masin ja muusika« (Machine and Music), Kristall-64 no. 3, Eesti Raadio, transmission: 28.12.1964.

[viii] Ivalo Randalu, see footnote 8.

[ix] Merike Vaitmaa, »Eesti muusika muutumises: viis viimast aastakümmet« (Estonian Music in Transition: The Past Five Decades) »Valgeid laike eesti muusikaloost« (White Spots in Estonian Musical History)«, in: Eesti muusikaloo toimetised (Publications on Estonian Music History), vol. 5, ed. Urve Lippus, Eesti Muusikaakadeemia, Tallinn 2000, pp. 135–181.

[x] Jerzy Broszkiewicz, »Ma jutustan teile oma loo« (I will tell you my story), 1966, in: »Kuldar Sink, helilooja ja tehismuusika autor«, Eesti teatri lavastuste andmebaas (Estonian Theatre Plays Database). [25.3.2011]

[xi] Sink 1970, see footnote 5.

[xii] Vaitmaa 2000, see footnote 9, p. 154.

[xiii] Margo Kõlar, »Elektroakustiline kontsertmuusika Eestis: olulisemad vahendid, printsiibid ja tehnikad« (Electroacoustic concert music in Estonia: major media, principles and techniques), manuscript, dissertation, Eesti Muusika- ja Teatriakadeemia, Tallinn 2006, p. 13.

[xiv] Jaan Rääts, »24 Marginaali, op. 65« (record, accompanying text), »Marginaalid klaverile, op. 65«, »Elektroonilised marginaalid, op. 65a«, Tallinskaja studija gramzapisi, Tallinn 1981.

[xv] Karl Leichter, »Kaasaja muusikast« (On contemporary music), Eesti Raamat, Tallinn 1970.

[xvi] York Höller, »Elektronmuusika praegusest olukorrast« (On the current state of electronic music), (abridged translation from Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 1984, Nr. 9 by Madis Kolk), in: Teater.Muusika.Kino, 1986, no. 5, pp. 12–14.

[xvii]Jaan Ross, »Muusika ja mikroarvutid« (Musik und Mikrocomputer), in: Teater.Muusika.Kino, 1986, no. 5, pp. 15–16.

[xviii] Mart Siimer, »Kuidas kasutatakse kompuutreid muusikas?« (How are computers used in music?), in: Teater.Muusika.Kino, 1991, no. 10, p. 45.

[xix] Rauno Remme, »Elektronmuusika intervjuu vampiiriga« (Electron musical interview with a vampire), interview: Mari Kolle, in: Postimees, 16.07.1996. [25.3.2011].

[xx] Lepo Sumera, »Eesti Muusikaakadeemia 80«, in: Teater.Muusika.Kino, 1999, no. 9–10, [section: Kompositiooniosakond. Elektronmuusika erialast].

[xxi] Evi Arujärv, »Teateid vee alt« (News from under the water), in: Postimees, 17.04.1997. [25.03.2011].

[xxii] Sumera 1999, see footnote 20.

[xxiii] Sumera 1999, see footnote 20.

[xxiv] Marje Lohuaru, »Pealelend« (Überflug), in: Sirp, 04.04.2003. [25.3.2011]; Mari Rebane, »Muusikaakadeemia sai Jaapanilt stuudiotäie Sony tipptehnikat« (The Music Academy received a whole hi-tech studio from Japan), in: Eesti Päevaleht, Express, 25.03.2003 [25.03.2011].

[xxv] Tui Hirv, »EMTA, kosmoselaev elektronmuusika avarustes« (EMTA, the spaceship in the galaxy of electronic music), in: Sirp, 25.01.2008. [25.3.2011].

[xxvi] Kõlar 2006, see footnote 13.

[xxvii] Maria Juur, »Helikunsti määratlemine ja spetsiifika. Erinevad lähenemised helile Eesti uuemas kunstis« (Definition and specifics in sound art. Different approaches in recent Estonian art), Tallinn: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia (Bachelor thesis), 2010, p. 3.

[xxviii] Juur 2010, P. 21, see footnote 27.

[xxix] Raul Keller [2012], »Project Unison«, MKDK Records. [24.02.2012].

[xxx] Tuuli Raam (2012), »Installatsioonikunstnike ja heliloojate koostöö Eestis [Collaborations between installation artists and composers in Estonia]«, manuscript, thesis, Department for Art Pedagogy at Tallinn University.

[xxxi] Maria Mölder, »Minevikuta pole ka tulevikku. Eesti muusika päevad 2009« (No past no future. Estonian Music Days 2009), in: Sirp, 17.04.2009, [24.02.2012].

[xxxii] Urmas Puhkan & Lauri Kilusk, »Savibraator« (2012), [24.02.2012]

[xxxiii] Lepo Sumera (2000/2006), »Teistmoodi muusika« (Different music), Raadioööylikool (Radio night university), Eesti Raadio/Eesti Päevaleht.

[xxxiv] Gerhard Lock, »Aktuaalsetest tendentsidest elektroakustilise muusika alal Eestis« (On current trends in electroacoustic music in Estonia), in: NYYD-muusika. Uued helid Klassikaraadios (NYYD Music. New Sounds in Classic Radio), Tiia Teder & Immo Mihkelson (eds.), Eesti Raadio / Klassikaraadio, 2007, pp. 112–165.

[xxxv] Christian Scheib / Susanna Niedermayr, »Im Nationalparadies. Estnische Wonnen, deren Grenzen in der Selbstfindung und deren Export über Grenzen. Über die estnische Musikszene«, Redaktionsbuero, 26.06.2007. [31.08.2012].