a week later, I am back where I started.
I got home for enough time to empty my bag, make a quick fettucine nduja and pack the same bag with my skiing gear. With my skis and poles in a blue ski-bag, I walked to the Senate square in time to join the demonstration to demand protecting 30% of Finnish nature as well as all the remaining forests that are still in natural state (there are not many).
Two hours later I was on the bus towards Pyhäjärvi Holy Lake, where tomorrow there will be a skiing competition. As I had forgotten to sign up, I was on the phone with the organisers to see if they could squeeze me in somehow.
They said that I could join the timeless start.
I told them that that sounded perfect for me. I thanked them, and they reminded me to pick up a vest in the morning in any case, so that I'd still get the juice and bananas provided at stalls on the way.
I'm looking forward to making a timeless run.
I notice that I've had a quite a lot on recently, so things a bit further down the line of priorities I easily seem to forget them.
The Finnish word for adult is 'aikuinen' which contains the word for time 'aika'.
In essence, an adult in Finnish is a timeling.
I chatted about this with a composer colleague and friend of mine, and they mentioned that that sounded like a thought they would have on long train journeys too.
When you literally feel like you are made of time.
Alluding to something a firesoul clarinettist said to me a few years ago, a timeling is someone who exists in smaller and smaller units of time, as they learn to be more and more focused and present in a piece of music they are bringing out to the world.
a timeling becomes smaller and smaller, as their temporal units can be divided with more and more numbers.
and gracefully, a timeling ends up scattering into infinidecimally small powdery units, that fertilise the memories of other timelings still waiting for their nth division into smaller temporal units.
only very small, is the timeling of now
whom and what am I stealing time from, deciding that I can spend seven days for a trip that within another moral dimension would have taken me three?
traveling for work and leisure is a privilege that comes with duty to make it count. to carry and not just be carried.
never sure if it was Wilde of Fry that quipped that there comes a time when it becomes more than a moral duty, it becomes a pleasure.
it is a pleasure to carry and to be carried.
I get an image of a 1940's Finnish comedy film featuring the idle yet ebullient railway wanderer Lapatossu, attempting to lift themself up from their own hair.
I carried myself to Glasgow and I was carried there by our hosts
How can I contribute? I can contribute numbers and insight into land-travel experience. A manual in how to steal time.
two nights and just over two days to get to Glasgow.
about 3 hours of travel time on the first day. I don't count the time spent in a cabin on the ferry or on the train as travel time (this is actually crucial in comparison to air-travel).
twelve. a full day, that is actually half a day.
my days are of the half-full kind.
just over 12 hours on the second day from Stockholm to Hamburg, and a long single stretch of just under 18 hours from Hamburg to Glasgow on the third day. Long non-stop stretches of over 12 hours are a preference for me sometimes, if they don't occur too often, but they could of course be divided into shorter stretches.
and back again.
Three nights and just over two days to get back to Helsinki. The overnight train to London, a 10-hour stretch to Hamburg, a night at a cheap cabin-hotel in Hamburg, and another 12-hour stretch with a 6am start to catch the evening ferry from Stockholm to Finland.
I'm stealing time from my metabolism, or how it has come used to a particular biological clock.
time-zones are the shelves from which you are shoplifting time
Early starts are good for land-travel, since they help to accommodate possible delays on the way.
When moving from Finnish time back towards the west, early starts go with the grain and you hardly even notice that your alarm looks like its an hour or so earlier than when you would normally wake up.
Working forwards from GMT, consecutive early starts can start accumulating as jet-lag. This for me is a sign that this particular trip has been an especially fast one. My body does feel more dislocated from its usual rhythm on this trip than previous land-travel ventures. With even one extra day both ways removes this issue completely, as 30 hours of travel would then be stretched across 3-4 and not 2-3 days, making the case for early starts redundant.
when stealing time to have breakfast, make it an adventure and seek out the best breakfast to be had west of Greenwich.
The travel days feel very different based on how they end. If by the end of the day you know you will have a place to stay somewhere, perhaps even somewhere that you can access 24/7 in case of being delayed, such as a cabin hotel or a friends place you have a key to, the day feels settled, and you can afford to slow down and break the fast.
allow yourself to value the precarity of your time on a given day, your friends will understand.
Days, by the end of which you need to catch an overnight connection at a certain time, have a different feel to them. I'm working here. I'm on duty. I need to carry this thing somewhere. Sorry, no time to talk, I have to get to Stockholm tonight.
Usually these latter days also have less flexibility about how to get there. Sometimes there is only one chain of connections, such as almost always is between Hamburg and Stockholm. There are no long connections that operate every few hours or so.
If like today, leaving Hamburg, I want to get to Stockholm in time for the 8pm ferry to Turku (the Helsinki ferry long gone by then, since it leaves already after 4pm), I have one chance to get it.
sometimes the first connection is also the last one.
This will change in 2029, when they finish the Fehrman tunnel connection, halving travel time between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Then I can afford to steal time to explore the best breakfasts to be had east of Greenwich.
stealing time for friends becomes more than a moral duty it becomes a pleasure
and hasn't the person you're meeting to break the fast really been fasting with you the whole way?
the carried carrier
this took longer than 25 minutes
Glasgow was a gathering of words.
I spent two days listening to how lovers of contemporary music articulate their view of the world, contributing my own mesh of spoken strands and working to make sense of a multitude of strands: priorities, crystallisations and shy suggestions alike.
There was also a delicate bubbling of associations, stories, anecdotes and observations.
Some of these were of a personal nature, linking to the history of a city and it's dwellers.
Glasgow-dwellers carry a collective trauma of a particular building. A building central to Glaswegian life both geographically, philosophically and psychologically. Completely destroyed by a recent fire, it lays dormant encapsulated by a grim cathedral of scaffolding, with beams of rusted steel, mangled by the power of the flames, grimacing out from it's foot on the hill, where lay the roof of a large circus building.
Our gathering passed the ruin on our first night in Glasgow, quietened and disheartened by the silent lingering destruction that had been frozen in situ.
On the following day, we had lunch at the CCA gallery just across the ruin, and while visiting the gallery spaces, one of the rooms' windows where giving towards the towering scaffolding.
In grey overcast daylight, the members of our gathering shared their stories of the ruin in turn. How there was a lingering smell of wet ash on the following morning, the reason of which became slowly apparent as the news of the fire reached the comuting readers on tablets and smartphone screens.
The smoke that was a single tower, visible for miles.
Someone found solace in that the building is excellently documented. There is a digital blueprint of the entire edifice and all of its intricate innards.
The art community in Glasgow and worldwide, while engaging in mourning of their beloved alma mater, their landmark, their pride, engage simultaneously in creative remembering. Not a regret of what could have been, but an immaterial trace, an enhanced memory, a fan-fiction.
The human building is foremost a memory palace, that has always had it's most urgent form of existence in its relationship with humans. In the memory of humans.
In the words of a poet building on the experience of a composer: a composition is the tending to a ruin.
Watering the moss that grows on it.
Covering the steel buttresses with a weather-resistant paint.
Being inside it unafraid of the falling weathered sand-stone.
Seeing a cathedral in the scaffolding.
writing every day has been a practice i have latched onto and fallen out of several times in my life.
I've kept a diary since 2005, but some breaks have been almost longer than a a year.
I notice that I can speak about abstract things, moods, feelings and elusive concepts with more ease in my third language now that I'm writing and reflecting on my travels daily.
One of my colleagues with whom we share curatorial work at the Nordic Music Days – the reason of my coming to Glasgow – asked yesterday about how I position myself as a Finn having lived a great bulk of my years in Belgium and elsewhere.
I often (lovingly) retort that I'm now stuck in Finland, having lived there for over 10 years now.
what I really mean is that I have two mouths to feed, and I always get reminded of this condition when I travel through environments familiar to me from my childhood – Brussels, London...
They are environments that have left a mark on me, and they contain cultural capital that is not in a very active state when I spend time in Helsinki.
It's almost like I have two digestive systems, to stomachs, and two mouths feeding into them. The part of me that lives from speaking French and connecting with the ensuing personality that follows from speaking French gets malnourished in Finland.
Likewise I develop a hunger for the ease of being and thinking that comes from being surrounded by and connected to a mother-tongue speaking community, if I'm deprived of it for too long.
But it isn't as simple as it sounds. I feel like i have a bilingual identity, and in a way my French could and would be in a near mother-tongue stage if I would have a more daily connection with it.
I sometimes miss the person I am when I speak French, and I can't seem to bring them out other than in French-speaking communities.
When I travel, it feels as though I slowly and gradually shed my skin when traveling through Swedish and Danish speaking communities – or indeed Estonian speaking – there being something 'close to home' about them. When I enter Germany and especially Belgium, I feel like I enter into a long-distance relationship with myself.
That's when the other mouth starts to feed, and the other metabolism starts its slow squiggling into action. Not always a process free of acids and nausea, but always welcomed and beautiful – fulfilling.
Yesterday after dinner I shared a bowl of rice pudding (or rice porridge in Finnish) with a small heart of cherry jam with a Scottish colleague across the table. The story that went around the table was one of love of porridge, how it tastes different when made with different tap water from different region. The best I have ever tasted was made from the esker-filtered natural spring water that comes out of taps in Lahti.
Turns out both of my mouths eat both porridge and potatoes.
this morning I woke up in my hotel room in Glasgow to both sun and snow.
this further enhanced a strange sort of feeling of making a big loop back to where I started off at, or at least a sense of symmetry between the two end-points of this hook-shaped trip.
yesterday evening I was in London for half an hour, just enough to feel a warm spring air definitely belonging to a consciousness of the south.
the window I was leaning against during the 4,5 hour trip to Edinburgh cooled down gradually. It was dark, and I could only make out the illuminated silhouette of Durham cathedral and the bridges over Tyne.
before London I spent 2 hours in Brussels. I grew up in Brussels – I had my first ventures on many fronts there, and certainly started making music while living there in my early teens.
So in a way I spent nine years there now, and 2 hours while growing up. Or I feel that these two ways of being in Brussels melted into each other once again.
Perhaps always, but certainly yesterday Brussels was a stage for a theatre of precarity. I had not reserved a place for the one Eurostar I had to take to make my connection between my whole trip so far, and the remaining train to Glasgow in the evening. I had to make it to London somehow, so I spent an hour and a half on the helpline and going from till to till to map out my possibilities.
Had I reserved the place a day or two earlier, this would've been as smooth a crossing as any up to this point. The reason I didn't, was that I couldn't have been absolutely sure that I would've crossed Germany in time to Brussels. I've never been majorly delayed by Deutsche Bahn, but I maintained the possibility of severe delays.
Turns out I miscalculated and I should've made a reservation anyway.
Once a place booked, I'd have something to show in case of delays.
Just a mention that I had thought of booking this connection is no currency when negotiating with a corporation.
I made it to my original connection to London eventually by booking two trains through Lille, but to unexpected extra costs. Manageable, but still better avoided.
If this trip would be more interrail-like – as in, I would have more temporal flexibility as to how many days I spend in any given location – i could've just gotten a reservation for the following day. High-speed trains require pre-booking, even with the risk of not making the connection due to delays.
Since I had to be in place A in time X, I should've definitely booked all the potentially precarious connections beforehand. I did immediately book the Eurostar for my return, and managed without a problem.
Like I wrote earlier, this trip is strange even by my standards. One way to bridge the precarity created by a greater number of travel connections, is to have a temporal buffer. Preferably an extra day just in case of something like this, but ideally a few more to be able to connect with places on the way and not just at the destination.
Bridging the wasteland.
that which travels through the wastelands
is a bubble
for want of a word better suited to describe it's form, or rather openness of form. What I mean is that the form changes, and may also be angular. It is not necessarily transparent, nor is the surface necessary smooth. A queer bubble. It may be textured and pleated like a cloth of linen, it may also be smooth. In short, a bubble.
I knew I had to spend a night in Hamburg in order to streamline my connections between Helsinki and Glasgow. I could've stayed in Copenhagen until the Swedish night-train from Malmö to Hamburg on a day that it runs, but yesterday it didn't.
I had contacted an old uni friend who settled in Hamburg, with whom I have stayed with previously, and who's company always cheers us both up – but she was away on a trip.
Remembering a Finnish friend who is doing an Erasmus in Hamburg, I queried after a place to stay and they suggested trying the Finnish Seamen's Mission.
Now this brought back some unusual memories I wasn't sure I had had.
Growing up in Belgium since 1989, my parent's took the principle of avoiding the tendency to remain in the Fenno-Scandinavian bubble, a path that many Nordic families took in the 1990's in Belgium. Me and my younger sibling went to a Belgian French-speaking school, and later joined a youth orchestra of the French speaking community in Brussels. My sibling was also involved in the local fencing community. I preferred solitary sports.
In short, the Finnish bubble wasn't really the scene for us. The least we did, was to allow for our phone numbers to be printed in the phone book of the Belgium-dwelling Finns. And this mostly for convenience revolving around the occasional birthday party logistics.
I think we went to play community baseball at Midsummer once. Maybe gave us all the shivers and we never returned.
But we did sometimes go and buy Finnish candy and rye bred at the said Finnish Seaman's Mission, at their Brussels office. Later we also gave concerts there.
Hamburg has one of the biggest offices, complete with a chapel, a sauna – and very conveniently for me: accommodation for passing travelers at a very reasonable price.
The dorm I stayed in had no-one else. The atmosphere of the place felt like I had been stranded in Hamburg perhaps because my ship had been suddenly quarantined, or delayed because of a storm on the North Sea. Like a friendly night-storage for a weary body.
Perhaps I had lost the keys to my house and my partner didn't answer the phone.
Where do you go?
Here of course. The dorm of the Finnish Seamen's Mission. Even the sauna was still warm.
The host mentioned the word 'jälkilöylyt' without explanation.
I had entered the bubble.
Next to the Finnish, was the Norwegian and the Danish Seamen's Missions. And down the street next to the conveniently places S-bahn station the Swedish Mission.
A chain of bubbles.
After the sauna I walked over to a birthday party my Finnish friend was playing records at. A very friendly atmosphere, and a drink on the house.
We ended up catching-up with my friend for over an hour, talking only Finnish amongst ourselves, and exchanging occasional friendly looks with other guests at the party. We did have a lot to talk about. I wanted to learn of the scene in Hamburg, and they were happy to share their experiences of a scene they seem to have integrated in at impressive speed. I had just come from a festival where one of their teachers presented an immersive multimedia work, so they gave it some local context and insight which was interesting to hear.
We talked about how diligence in composers looks different to the observer than performers diligence.
I'd like to think that I can sometimes work also lying down.
When leaving the bar to get a decent night's sleep before catching an early train in the morning, I waved a friendly goodbye to the guests at the bar that I hadn't exchanged almost a single word with. I was stuck in visions of a wasteland.
I walked back to stay with the sleeping Finns.
I started wondering whether I had just forgotten to board that train and that ferry the day before, and that I was in fact still where I had started.
The bells at midnight around the gigantic statue of Bismarck surrounded by barbed wire.
Another colleague of me wrote a short travel post when attending the Mustarinda residency in northern Finland. The residency that I have also attended for a total of two months in 2021-2022, has an explicit ecological dimension.
They favouritise land & sea travel, a venture they also channel extra funding towards. In exchange they ask for a short piece of writing relating to the travel.
My colleague titled their post 'Travels across the intermediary wasteland'.
In our subsequent friendly banter this has come to (lovingly) mean Sweden.
The trip I am currently on, Helsinki-Turku-Stockholm-Copenhagen (soon to be complemented with Hamburg-Brussels-London-Glasgow) is strange even by my standards of land-travel.
Once my obligations in Helsinki done, the task was to get to Glasgow as quickly as possible to attend 2 days of planning next year's Nordic Music Days, the curator team of which I was asked to join through a recommendation by the Finnish Composer's Society. Once the work in Glasgow would be completed, the task is to return back to Helsinki as soon as possible inorder to attend the Helena marathon skiing competition by the Holy Lake Pyhjärvi on Sunday.
Two nights to get there, three to get back, with a mere two nights at the destination.
Considering speed of travel needed for this venture, there is a danger for the intermediary countries to become wastelands.
I imagine swimming through a tube, holding breath until exiting the other side to rise back to the surface to draw breath. The tube and the water are a hindrance, not an adventure. I'd rather already be at the surface, not needing to pass through this submerged tube.
Contributing to this feeling of distracted transition, is the fact that I have made this trip numerous times in recent years, as part of my practice of committing to land-travel wherever possible.
Nothing is new.
On the other hand, everything is, of course. Both the observer and what is being observed. Another season, perhaps new human and non-human animal encounters.
Time to dwell into thoughts forming, the focus aided by the nonchalance of the moving landscape saying: 'nothing to see here, please get back to your thoughts'. Or: 'look over here, do you notice this lack of snow? we're giving you a pre-order package of the spring soon coming on show to theatres near you'.
For me this particular trip is a necessary transit between two points, and the amplitude of the travel time caused by land & sea travel is much more about mental space than anything else.
I'm practically avoiding getting in touch with my friends and family that live on my itinerary, because I know I don't have time to meet them.
Normally I would put aside at least 2 weeks for a trip like this, so that I could vibe with loved-ones in London, Belgium, Hamburg and Copenhagen.
Not to mention the possibilities of creating and nurturing also professional ties in these locations, in view up an upcoming album release and upcoming concerts.
So the territories crossed by my trip are wastelands only insofar as they are necessary evils of fast transit.
As facilitators of mental space they are positively teeming with life.
yesterday I coined the term in describing a recurring phenomenon in writing music.
I was sitting in my favourite pizza joint in Helsinki, where I had taken my Estonian composer colleagues after a night at the Musica nova festival.
Musica nova saw many ebullient discussions about how composers, as well as other frequent listeners of the festival, position themselves with what they heard here and now. Many of them were quite short from my part, since I had a busy week simultaneously workshopping and planning a choral percussion concerto with video, due for premiere in September. This week as been a Composing week with a big C. I never felt like I had sat the evening until its closing arguments. I was more engaged in internal mushroom-picking.
it seems that I have been under the charm of the fertility of doubt especially poignantly this week.
sitting down for pizza with like-minded practicioners of a shy yet voyeuristic craft – with observers in introspect – acted as a reminder of what composing means for me.
composing is for me a conveyor belt meandering it's way slowly through a whole arcade of doubts of different sizes and colours. it's an activity that happens in a forest ecosystem of doubt.
the main attribute of doubt in this vein for me is, however, fertility.
a fertile kind of doubt is like a question that opens up to more questions, perhaps questions that appear to be further down the line – being the living proof that one has indeed gone further down the line.
I find myself welcoming this spawning of doubt, the gradual distribution of doubtful humidity, as an act of prospecting for interesting compositional questions.
fertile doubt is an occurrence of the leaf-litter – it's not a determined flyer occupying the space between moss and canopy
opening up to the fertility of doubt is a discreet practice, one that is done in silence and in a forehead-wrinkling state of quietude.
trusting the fertility of doubt is a act of turning the tables on melancholy.
I always have the vegan Pinato.
lauri supponen /composer/
25 minutes of writing observations about travel, sound and contemporary music