The works of Finnish composer Eetu Lehtonen have drawn comparisons to film music, perhaps stemming from their sense of drama and playful changes in mood. A musical omnivore, the composer aims to create a musical space where modern techniques and harmonies exist alongside traditional structures and melodicism. While currently working mainly within the contemporary music scene, Lehtonen has a background in popular and jazz music. This has given his music a certain bite and rhythmicity not often heard in the classical tradition, as well as the notion that music should above all communicate to its audience.
Lehtonen’s music has been performed at several Finnish contemporary music festivals, as well as abroad, most notably in Amsterdam and Tokyo, with the premiere of a piece for Chinese orchestra scheduled in Taiwan as well. Notable commissions include Kanto for the Finnish-Japanese kantele-koto duo Eva & Tomoya, and Pinta for flute and piano, commissioned by flutist Sami Junnonen.
Lehtonen earned his bachelor's degree in composition under the guidance of prof. Hannu Pohjannoro. He spent most of his senior year studying abroad in Japan at Aichi University of the Arts, under prof. Akira Kobayashi. This was both to delve deeper into Japanese contemporary music, which the composer holds dear, as well as gain knowledge of traditional Japanese music and instruments. Owing to the university’s strong emphasis on electronic music, the composer was also able to gain expertise in the techniques of electroacoustic and tape music that he frequently incorporates into his works.
Besides his work in contemporary music, Lehtonen has written music for short films and commercials, and worked as an arranger, ranging from arranging pop tunes for a big band to works of colleagues for a Chinese orchestra. He also performs actively as a pianist and keyboard player.
Year of composition: 2019
Instrumentation: 3fl(3.picc) 3ob(3.cor.a) 3cl(3.bcl) barsax 2bsn cbsn 4hn 3trp 3tbn tba timp 3perc 2hp pf cel archi
Konephorm draws influence from technology: its underlying concept is that of an envelope, which after introduction starts to modulate various parameters of the music, such as rhythm, harmony and intensity. As such, the piece has no melodic theme, but rather a gestural one. Sounds affiliated with technology, such as echo effects and crackles of electricity, are approached from a purely acoustic perspective. Harmonically the piece is based on spectrum analysis of FM synthesized waveforms, shifting through spectrums ordered by their intensity.
Vastakroma is counterpoint of orchestral colors. Unique timbral colors are first introduced and later combined and juxtaposed in different settings. Extended techniques and aleatory are extensively utilized to bring out the full sonic palette of the symphony orchestra.
Like a walk through an art gallery, Spectoresque offers peeks into pictoresque landscapes of spectral harmonies. A small melodic theme appears throughout the piece, in its entirety as well as fragments and quotations divided among the instruments. A certain warmth and ease permeates the piece.
Performance conducted by Soila Takanen in March 2020
Year of composition: 2020
Instrumentation: fl pf
Pinta brings forth images of a small lake surrounded by nature. Vibrations of the water, ripple of raindrops and the still surface after a storm are all reflected in the music. Divided into two movements, the first extensively features undulating trills, which shift their shape during the movement. The playful second movement introduces showers of agile runs, constrasted by calmer passages.
Bourdon can mean either a bumblebee or a musical drone. Although physically impossible for a solo flute, the piece creates the illusion of a continuous pedal point by repeating and returning to a single note between melodic phrases. Gesturally, the piece borrows from the agile flight patterns and stings of a bumblebee.
Instrumentation: 3fl(1.picc) 3ob 3cl 3bsn 4hn 3trp 3tbn tba timp 3perc pf(cel) hp sampler sop archi
Set to a surreal poem by Finnish poet Katri Vala, Hopearihma paints a dreamlike landscape of varying sonorities. Throughout the piece appears an impressionistic horn fanfare, like a call from afar. Disjunct images and memories appear side by side, reminiscent of the logic-defying structure of dreams.
Set to three poems by poet Edith Södergran, the song cycle features recurring themes of gardens and siblings. Insecurity and mourning present in the first songs, represented by shadows of lilacs and the loss of a sister, give way to hope in the end, where people of common ideals are invited to live in a great garden.
Combining field recordings of insects with the sound of synthesizers, Insect Tape conjures a natural scenery that cannot exist. The recorded sounds are mangled to give them an otherworldly quality, while the synthesizers are programmed in a way to resemble natural sounds, thus bridging the gap between natural and artificial. As the piece makes extensive use of multichannel panning, the swarms of unreal insects can be heard passing by and circling around the soundscape.
Stereo mixdown of the original
Year of composition: 2017
Instrumentation: rec viol hpd elec
Wormhole plays on the idea of historical information, how it is distorted with the passage of time and should be taken with a grain of salt. Written for Ugly Pug, a trio of period instrumentalists performing contemporary music, the piece acts like a wormhole, connecting two distant points in time. Nearly unrecognizable flashes of baroque and old music appear, giving way to digital soundscapes provided by the tape and live electronics.
Excerpt of the piece. Performed by Ugly Pug in Amsterdam 2017.
Year of composition: 2019
Instrumentation: pf gtr syn elec
Iäisyys Yksinäisyyttä is a story of two siblings. Their conflict over personal beliefs causes them to drift apart, leading one of them to reconsider their conviction. The music relies heavily on the guitar and piano, with electronically processed and synthesized, yet organic, sounds providing a shift to the inner world of the characters.
Condensed suite of the music. Guitar parts performed by Allan Raffaele
Year of composition: 2018
Instrumentation: koto kantele
Written for traditional Finnish and Japanese instruments, Kanto hints at harmonic idioms of the two countries. The name suggests a mysterious tree stump, growing new sprouts, leaving the listener wondering what kind of a tree it was or will become. The name is also wordplay on the site of the premiere, Kantō region in Japan.
Based on a Chinese folk tale of the same name, The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl tells the story of two lovers, stars banished to the opposite ends of the sky. Once a year, a bridge of magpies would form and allow the cowherd and weaver girl to meet. The two characters are introduced with their unique melodic themes. Briefly succumbing into sadness, the brilliant fanfare of the magpie bridge is introduced by the suona, and the lovers' themes now appear together in counterpoint.