The thwack of a hammer on the side of an oil tank, bleating lambs and a revving tractor engine might not sound like music to you and me. But for Finnish accordionist and composer, Kimmo Pohjonen (pictured), these farm noises are the inspiration for the Earth Machine Music tour.
The tour is taking place on four farms. Each inspires a different blend of agricultural sounds which are recorded by Kimmo and then mixed with his own accordion composition back in Finland.
The final performance will take place live on each of the farms in May, with local farmers accompanying the musician by “playing some of their farming machinery”.
It’s hard to imagine how such a musical mash will turn out, but if the critics of previous concerts are anything to go by then the local rural community and lovers of modern music are in for something quite extraordinary.
The combined effect of his accordion playing and voice – along with the effects and surround sound – creates a compelling live experience, which has won him ardent fans around the world.
Meeting Kimmo banishes all preconceived notions about accordion players. He’s young, energetic, amusing and supremely creative. He is, as reported in the modern music magazine Wire, “a galaxy away from squeezebox steeling tourist torture”.
Dubbed the “Hendrix of the accordion”, he describes his musical mission as “expanding the capabilities, sound and experience of the accordion in many different settings.”
And one of those settings is Manor Farm at Cocking in West Sussex. When Farmlife arrived Kimmo was busily capturing sounds from any machinery, animal or container linked to farming that could potentially make a noise. The dulcet tones of a tractor revving, the purring grate of a potato riddler and echo of the mash tun in a microbrewery were flowing into his laptop.
Why farming for a musical concert? “The sounds from farm animals and machinery are not familiar to many people in the cities,” he says. “So I want to bring these sounds to those people in a modern and exciting way. Equally, for the local farming community in which these sounds are very familiar, I want to present them in a different and inventive way.”
Host farmer Richard Marks, who runs this 200ha tenanted organic mixed farm, admits that the project is “really off the wall.”
“But if it is bringing a new audience to farming then it has to be a good thing. These concerts are potentially promoting farming to an entirely new audience that might not consider ever coming on to farm.”
He and his wife Pauline have just opened a farm shop to sell their organic beef, lamb and pork. The Oxford and Sandy Black pigs are a rare breed, which the Marks selected for their easy care and ability to withstand the sun. They, along with Suffolk and Hampshire Down cross lambs, are star players in the farming symphony by Kimmo.
He has staged a similar concert in Finland and it was this that inspired Maija Handover from Sound UK to create the UK Earth Machine Music tour with Kimmo.
“I am hoping these concerts will inspire more people to enjoy contemporary music and bring together the worlds of arts and farming,” she says.
Maija sees the four concerts as a potential marketing tool for farmers. “Farms or unused farm buildings could host an array of creative projects and such a partnership could be beneficial where the farm business is looking to attract general public or raise awareness of what they do,” she points out.
- Watch video of Kimmo
- Sunday 11 May
Bury St Edmunds Festival, Hall Farm, Nowton
4pm, tickets £10. Call 01284 769 505 or www.buryfestival.co.uk
- Tuesday 13 May
Manor Farm, Cocking,
730pm, tickets £10 (advance) or £12 (door)
Info: 01243 774 641 or www.rootsaroundtheworld.info
- Thursday 15 May
Westcott Barton, Middle Marwood, Nr Barnstaple
Tickets: £8 (advance) or £10 (door)
Info: 01805 603 201 or www.beaford-arts.co.uk
- Saturday 17 May
Park Farm, North Aston
Tickets: £10 performance / £13.50 includes farm walk and food ritual (happening beforehand)
Some family tickets available at £25
Info: 0870 750 0659 or www.ocmevents.org
- This tour is supported by Arts Council England, Finnish Institute, Luses and Farmers Weekly
Also see www.sounduk.net