Marja Ahti is a musician and composer based in Turku, Finland. Ahti works with field recordings and other acoustic sound material combined with synthesizers and electronic feedback in order to find the space where these sounds start to mimic each other or communicate. She makes music that rides on waves of slowly warping harmonies and mutating textures – rough edged, yet precise compositions, rich in detail.
Originally from Sweden, Ahti has been a part of the Finnish experimental music scene for more than ten years, in different constellations. She is currently active in the duo Ahti & Ahti with her partner, and as a member of the Himera artist/organizer collective. Her critically acclaimed 2019 solo debut, ‘Vegetal Negatives’, explored a new formal language and sonic palette inspired by a short text by René Daumal. Ahti’s new solo album, ‘The Current Inside’, will be out 8 May, via Hallow Ground.
1: Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano, one of the most active on Earth, Kīlauea erupted nearly continuously from 1983 to 2018, more than 29 years, beginning January 1983. (National Geographic, 2018)
2: “The presence of almost five thousand million people, milling around, going about their daily business, amounts to the existence on the surface of Earth, of a perpetually active human volcano.” (Watson, Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind, 1984)
3: “Of all his contemporaries, Shakespeare used the widest range of meteorological information.” (Heininger, A Handbook of Renaissance Meteorology, 1960)
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Mostly living and listening. Also other people’s music, literature, science, myths.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started to play the saxophone when I was 12 and guitar a few years later. Taking classes didn’t get me anywhere creating my own music. That is something I started at 27, after graduating from university, when the time was ripe. I sold my saxophone, bought some recording equipment and started to teach myself creating with technology.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
I don’t really keep favourites. What I like cycles in phases, depending on my moods. Some albums keep drifting back to me over and over, but I’m sure they are not the same in a few years time. Here are a few examples:
Eliane Radigue – Trilogie De La Mort
Luc Ferrari – Presque Rien
Moniek Darge – Sounds Of Sacred Places
Annea Lockwood – Tiger Balm
Henning Christiansen – The Executioner
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
Turku is on the coast and part of it is islands. One of these, Ruissalo, is a nature reserve and has a remote rocky cape called Kuuva. It’s beautiful in all seasons, sometimes harshly so. It’s about 11 kilometres from my home and in summer, I go there by bike.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I’d probably try my hand at writing.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Crys Cole’s ‘Beside Myself’.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
A volcanologist. I’ve been wanting to explore the sounds of volcanoes for a long time, existing as they do in a fascinating realm between myth and science.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
That’s a difficult question. Being asked something like this, I just tend to remember the latest great gigs I’ve been to. Old experiences somehow keep being written over with new ones. That said, hearing ONCEIM perform Eliane Radigue’s ‘Occam Ocean’ in Stockholm at Second Edition festival a few years ago was powerful.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Utterly important. My work wouldn’t exist without the possibilities engendered by analog and digital sound technology and there are endless possibilities exploring it.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have a younger brother. I never really asked him how he feels about my music, but he has also played in bands and works with literature and translation, so he’s no stranger to the arts.
Photo © Sorbus, 2016