Into the Woodland Silence brings together the internationally acclaimed Swedish big band ensemble, Norrbotten Big Band, one of Finland's most celebrated young composers, Outi Tarkiainen, and Aili Ikonen, a Finnish jazz vocalist with a distinctive voice.
The unique release moves freely somewhere between jazz and contemporary music. The earlier works of Outi Tarkiainen – an award-winning composer dubbed Kaija Saariaho of jazz – range from intimate chamber and vocal pieces to large-scale works written for symphony and big band orchestras. Into the Woodland Silence brings to life Tarkiainen's musical vision of a big band setting where each individual musician weaves into the compositional fabric of the pieces.
The album marks Tarkiainen's debut as a composer-arranger for a full-length release and further expands the young composer's musical palette. Melodic and lyrical in her expression, Tarkiainen draws on Scandinavian melancholy and the mystery and the mystique of the northern nature, but the energetic big band jazz tradition and the unpredictability of contemporary music are there too. One prominent feature is the lyrics, most of which are taken from poems written by Eeva-Liisa Manner and Sirkka Turkka.
The title track Into the Woodland Silence builds on the long-standing collaboration between Tarkiainen and Aili Ikonen. The piece is, in fact, dedicated to Ikonen and tailored specifically to her voice. “I heard Aili sing in a new type of context in 2009, in the opera Lovers of Mankind, and was very impressed. I realised she can do anything with her voice. In Into the Woodland Silence, the attention focuses on the vocalist: Aili sings vocals, speaks, whispers, improvises, leading the listener through different musical landscapes,” explains Tarkiainen.
“Into the Woodland Silence is the most challenging piece of work for me so far, both technically and expression-wise. Outi's musical language and topics are now more expansive and diverse than ever. Ten years back, Outi was much more a traditional composer,” says Ikonen.
For Norrbotten Big Band, too, the title track meant venturing into new and challenging territory. Clarinet soloist Jan Thelin likens his solo parts to a bungee jump: ”You need to let go of the desire to be in control. There's no turning back, you just have to go with the flow and trust your own imagination. It gives you a sense of awareness of what's around you, and the here and the now. The only thing you can't allow yourself to do is to lose the ability to express yourself, go mute.”
The original version of Into the Woodland Silence, commissioned by UMO Jazz Orchestra, was premiered in Helsinki in 2010, and the piece has now been rearranged for Norrbotten Big Band.