Siba Research days 2021 Webposter - Pia Siirala

Aspects of hearing with music of the indigenous people of northeastern Siberia

Pia Siirala


Pia Siirala’s compositions

Video contains excerpts from Pia Siirala’s compositions, based on the music of the indigenous Chukchi, Nivkh and Yupik people in north eastern Siberia and audio-visual material from her field trips to Chukotka and Kamchatka.

Singers: Aretagin, Tevlyantonau, Raughtitval and Jaatitval
Excerpts from the compositions: Asikongaun – 11 moments, Ulita’s Walk, Sound answers Voice
performed by: Ritva Koistinen-Armfelt, kantele, Pia Siirala, violin, Naiara De La Puente, accordion, Sonja Tissari, organ, Kasperi Korhonen, organ, Sirkku Rintamäki, organ, Lygia O’Riodran, conductor

Aspects of hearing

Getting to know the music of the indigenous people of the north eastern Siberia has been a turning point in my life. It changed my earlier views and ideas about music and made me question how I perceive it, as someone brought up in the western tradition of classical music. Its unfamiliarity has an enchanting power, which I want to study and therefore I have named my research Aspects of Hearing.

Personal song

Since 2004 I have made several field trips to Sakhalin, Kamchatka and Chukotka where the ancient musical tradition of the Personal Song is still alive. To date I have recorded approximately 1200 songs. The Personal Song is a song that is given to every child at birth. Later in life adults create their own songs. Singing is not a repetition of something that one has already heard, but as spontaneous as a conversation. It is also common to sing ancestral songs of the family. Unfortunately, this aural tradition is vanishing, together with the traditional reindeer herding lifestyle.


Research method

I use composing as a method to explore this music. My observations will be demonstrated in five artistic components and a Thesis.


Artistic components

The 1st doctoral concert, Ulita’s Walk, demonstrated my early experiences of indigenous music; how I heard and notated it. The following compositions were performed: Ulita’s walk for violin solo, Asikongaun – 11 moments for violin and kantele and The Nivkh Themes for violin, viola, cello and double bass.

The 2nd concert, Sound answers Voice, explored the Personal Song of the nomadic reindeer herders of Arctic Chukotka; what is the root and development of a musical thought and what is the relationship between hearing and synchronisation. During the concert the singing of the nomadic reindeer herders from the field recordings and live music entered into dialogue.

The 3rd artistic component, The Stream of music, will concentrate on the aspect of music, which is always present and flows in a subconscious mind. It will combine my fieldwork films and recordings with my musical impressions of the indigenous singing.

The 4th concert, Polar Voices is a work for string orchestra. It explores the concept of time and the different paces of time that are not directly related to each other. These elements create a space in the same way as unrelated sounds create a space of silence in nature.

In the 5th artistic component, Birth of a Personal Song, I will begin to create my own Personal Song, based on the two Personal Songs that the Koryak Elder, Mulingaut and the Chukchi Elder, Vukvunga each gave me as a gift.

Thesis

The Thesis will concentrate on the musical analysis of the Paleosiberian indigenous peoples. Based on the material that I have collected on my field trips; I examine the variability of the Personal Song in the areas where nomadic reindeer herding continues to exist. I will contemplate on how my hearing filters Chukchi traditional singing. In nomadic Chukchi culture concepts such as melody, pitch, rhythm or form do not necessarily exist, or they might be understood differently. Instead of the word, “music” there are words such as “singing” or “imitation of animals” or other sounds of nature. For us music is something that we produce, whereas in the culture of the indigenous peoples of the North, music is a part of a person’s identity. These differences in perceptions of music between a Chukchi singer who has been brought up by the traditional nomadic reindeer herding culture and a musician who has been brought up in the western tradition of classical music, causes a clash that will hopefully produce new knowledge.

Pia Siirala

About the author

Pia Siirala studied at the Sibelius Academy, the Budapest Liszt Academy and at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. She is concert master of Ensemble XXI, founded by conductor Lygia O’Riordan, with whom she has performed throughout Russia, Europe, Australasia and the Americas. Siirala has also performed as a chamber musician, as a soloist and given solo recitals. Since the autumn of 2016, Siirala has been carrying out her doctoral studies at the Sibelius Academy on the music of the indigenous people of the North East Siberia, Sakhalin, Kamchatka and Chukotka, where the ancient musical tradition of the indigenous people is still a living tradition. Her main research subject is the ancient music of the Chukchi people. Based on the indigenous music she has created several compositions.


Contact author: pia siirala (at) uniarts fi

Polarvoices Siba Research days 2021 website