Interview with Pertti Jalava

a Finish composer Pertti Jalava is completely self taught, yet had won a numerous prizes in international competitions. He had produced four albums of his works in years 2010; 2015; 2016 and 2017.

How did you decided to approach music composing as your career?

It came little by little and started as a hobby. I began very, very late. I was interested in music already in my childhood and listened mainly to progressive rock. I often tried to find how the music was structured and what each instrument was doing or had an imaginary visual journey, which I afterwards tried to draw out. I was already 17 in 1977 when I earned enough from a summer job to buy a drum set. Around the same time I borrowed a cheap electronic organ from a pal. I started right away to invent chords and melodies. Few years later I bought a piano and continued to learn music from public library books. My first compositions were played publicly by a progressive rock band in which I was playing drums when I was 19. Years went by and I was working in graphic industry and was leading my various fusion jazz and prog bands as a hobby. I was already 33 when I had for a while my first composition teacher, American Craig Bohmler in a half a year course of music theater. Craig suggested and inspired me to pursue deeper studies in composition. After the course I studied again from public library books. I was carrying huge piles of scores and CDs home and studied also counterpoint. I had written a chamber opera as my final work of the course and picked now few passages of it and started to write for symphony orchestra. I took part in Turku University’s and Turku Philharmonic Orchestra’s composition laboratories with my writings and was hearten to continue. My first Symphony “Missing Child” was finished and also premiered in 1995. The reviews were praising for my surprise, I had been expecting negative feedback, because I was an outsider amateur composer who had previously written only for jazz and rock bands. Although the urge to compose was strong in me, I still don´t know if I had continued this far if the feedback had been negative.

How does your daily composing routine looks like?

I teach on three evenings a week, so I climb upstairs to my study after breakfast and a walk in nearby forest and work until I have to go teaching. That starts to be quite hard nowadays and therefore I have some pauses in my work. Especially during summer I might have a long pause in composing.

Do you have certain values that can be felt in your creative work? What do you value the most in your music?

Tough question. I try to create a musical narration, which gives an emotional journey for me as a guinea pig of coming audience.

I also value highly the balance of emotion and intellectual challenge. If they are not in balance in music, I quickly loose my interest.

Every composer has to survive transformations. How do you changed as a composer?

If I understood the question correctly the first sentence asks how do I follow the present trends in art music. I don´t. I just write as I wish. I used to build my compositions in such way, that if somebody asks why some note is such that it is, I could answer and justify it theoretically. Now my answer would be: because it sounded good to me. This attitude comes naturally by my age and the long experience as a composer.

Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?

No, if I want to change something, I´ll do it in the next compositions. I´m not totally satisfied with everything I’ve done, but I don´t feel any need to go back in older works.

If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

My goal has been reached if anybody gets ones life a little richer through hearing my music. To change our society is not my goal, but if I could change something I would lower the respect on economical thinking. Nowadays everything seems to be thought through economy and the ridiculous belief in eternal growth is still alive and well.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

Its impossible to consider my life and my work being two different things. My work is a big part of my life. The situations in my life has of course changed during decades, but it seems, that basically I´m writing the same musical language although my music has changed.

Thank you for the conversation!

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