Uniko
Kronos Quartet at Kimmo Pohjonen Kluster
Director: Christian K. Weiß
Distributor: Bernhard Fleischer Moving Images
Length: 80 mins. performance + 15 mins. making of.
© 2004, a co-production with YLE Teema
Kimmo Po­h­jon­en is one of the cut­ting-edge ac­cor­di­on vir­tu­osi and com­posers of our time. Tra­di­tion­ally edu­cated at the Hel­sinki Mu­sic Con­ser­vat­ory, he real­ized shortly there­after that he had to in­vent new ways of ap­proach­ing his in­stru­ment by elec­tron­ic means. For his first solo-con­cert, Po­h­jon­en tried to re­veal the enorm­ous sound spec­tra of his in­stru­ment that had seemed hid­den be­hind fixed struc­tures and folk mu­sic. His com­pos­i­tions are the res­ult of a multi-layered pro­cess of im­pro­vising jam-ses­sions in re­search of the mu­sic and its melod­ies, as well as the cre­ation of sampling-lib­rar­ies, which form the basis for his mu­sic­al themes.

After hav­ing heard a re­cord of Po­h­jon­en’s dur­ing their con­cert tour in Fin­land, Kronos Quar­tet de­cided to get in touch with him. It was a happy co­in­cid­ence that Kimmo had already made plans to com­pose a string quar­tet be­fore they ever met. Kimmo’s ideas im­me­di­ately ap­pealed to the Kronos Quar­tet, who is well known for break­ing new mu­sic­al grounds.

Seeds for the pro­ject were planted in 2002 when Kronos' mu­sic­al dir­ect­or Dav­id Har­ring­ton heard Po­h­jon­en and Kluster (the name of Kimmo’s part­ner­ship with sampling guru Sam­uli Kos­min­en) re­cord­ings and ap­proached Po­h­jon­en with the idea of a pos­sible col­lab­or­a­tion. Meet­ings in Latvia between the two parties were pro­duct­ive and led to first re­hears­als at the Kronos’ home base in San Fran­cisco in the spring of 2003. The second set of re­hears­als took place in Hel­sinki in Feb­ru­ary 2004. The world premiere of the col­lab­or­a­tion oc­curred in Hel­sinki on Septem­ber 4th and 5th at the pres­ti­gi­ous Hel­sinki Fest­iv­al, with an ad­di­tion­al con­cert in Mo­scow at the MDM Youth Palace on Septem­ber 7th.
The Kronos / Kluster pro­ject is a mu­tu­ally be­ne­fi­cial son­ic/visu­al ad­ven­ture with this goal: to cre­ate unique and nev­er-be­fore-heard-of sounds from ac­cor­di­on and strings, us­ing sounds ori­gin­at­ing solely from ac­cor­di­on and strings plus voice. The pro­gramme fea­tures all new ma­ter­i­al com­posed by Kimmo Po­h­jon­en and Sam­uli Kos­min­en of Kluster. Mu­sic is ar­ranged by Kluster for ac­cor­di­on, sampler and elec­tron­ic per­cus­sion, string quar­tet, sur­round sound and ef­fects. In ad­di­tion to the Po­h­jon­en ac­cor­di­on and voice sounds that Kos­min­en samples in "nor­mal" Kluster rep­er­toire and re­pro­duces via his elec­tron­ic drum pads, the Kronos string sounds are sampled, pro­cessed, and looped in with the Kluster mix and the nat­ur­al Kronos strings to achieve something com­pletely new.

Sur­round sound and ad­di­tion­al ef­fects by sound de­sign­er Heikki Iso-Ahola are also es­sen­tial ele­ments of the com­pos­i­tion, ar­range­ments and per­form­ance, as he cre­ates a full di­men­sion­al sound world in the con­cert hall. Spe­cially de­signed light cho­reo­graph­ies by Mikki Kunttu and live video mix by Antti Kui­val­ain­en provide the fi­nal touch for a com­plete visu­al ex­per­i­ence.

The end res­ult, an 80 minute work en­titled "Uniko", com­mis­sioned by Kronos Quar­tet and com­posed by Po­h­jon­en and Kos­min­en, is something totally in­nov­at­ive, ex­pand­ing and el­ev­at­ing the mu­sic­al, son­ic and visu­al as­pects of both artists and form­ing an en­tirely new and ex­cit­ing kind of con­cert event.
The Mak­ing-Of is a short doc­u­ment­ary giv­ing an in­sight in­to the col­lab­or­a­tion between Kimmo Po­h­jon­en, who has taken the ac­cor­di­on to new di­men­sions, his Kluster-part­ner Sam­uli Kos­min­en, Fin­land’s sampling guru, and the world’s most re­volu­tion­ary string quar­tet – the Kronos quar­tet; A col­lab­or­a­tion which res­ul­ted in two con­certs tak­ing place at the Hel­sinki Fest­iv­al in Septem­ber 2004. The doc­u­ment­ary con­tains in­ter­views with Kimmo Po­h­jon­en and Sam­uli Kos­min­en, who speak about the de­vel­op­ment of the piece "Uniko" and about their fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship with the Kronos Quar­tet. Dav­id Har­ring­ton, John Sherba, Hank Dutt and Jen­nifer Culp –the mem­bers of the Kronos Quar­tet - de­scribe their ap­proach to ex­plor­ing new col­lab­or­at­ors and mu­sic, and al­low the audi­ence to look in­to the pro­duc­tion de­vel­op­ment. The in­ter­view sec­tions are in­ter­woven with scenes of the set-up work for the con­cert, with scenes of the con­cert it­self and of the re­hears­als, which took place in Feb­ru­ary 2004.