The River Aura Symphony will be recorded and broadcast on radio during the International Acoustic Art theme night Art’s Birthday by YLE Culture and Euroradio on Monday, 17 January 2011.

River Aura

Symphonic Sounds of River Aura

The first version of the River Aura Symphony, based on ship signalling devices and church bells, will be performed at the opening ceremony of the European Capital of Culture year.

Sound artist Simo Alitalo long dreamt of composing a work for the ships and other sound sources of River Aura. The idea got started in the city of St John in Newfoundland, Canada, where an annual lunch concert is performed with ship whistles.

“The River Aura setting seemed to offer potential for a similar work,” says Alitalo.

“The River Aura Symphony will thus debut on the opening day of the European Capital of Culture year, and it will also be performed in a slightly different form in the spring and summer. The Symphony is part of the Turku is Listening series, which presents the city as an acoustic environment.”

Earlier inspiration for the River Aura Symphony was taken from Arseni Avraamov’s Symphony for the Sirens, which premiered in Baku in the 1920s. Avraamov´s sound sources included fog horns of the Caspian fleet, two artilleries and factory whistles.

“I'm afraid we simply can’t beat that, but we do have a black powder cannon from Arma Aboa. However, since it takes a lot of time to load it, it will only be used as a signal for transition from one part to another,” Alitalo explains.

Museum ships to set sail

The River Aura Symphony leads the audience along the riverside to the opening venue in Forum Marinum, where the work reaches its climax with the museum ships. The best seats for the performance are on the promenades, but in practice, natural conditions will affect the way in which the audience experiences the work.

Wind direction affects, in particular, the audibility of church bells. However, air humidity and temperature will also have their impacts on how sound resounds along the River Aura bed.

Ship owners have readily participated in the project, as have the parishes that allow their church bells to be used by the composer. Not all the ships have their own sound devices, but Simo Alitalo has promised to help get them.

The project is also constantly on the lookout for new sound sources, especially for the performances during the latter part of the year. The current list of ideas contains both banging pot lids and using leaf blowers.

The River Aura Symphony will not be rehearsed in its entirety before the opening performance. The artist takes this fact with calm.
“I hope that the River Aura Symphony will remain an annual event that only gets better year after year.”

Text: Elina Teerijoki