William S. Burroughs conceptualized language as a virus (in his novel «The Ticket That Exploded», 1962), but language and its sonic qualities can also lead to a liberation, even a spiritual enlightenment. Finnish, Copenhagen-based vocalist-composer Johanna Elina Sulkunen, known from the vocal group IKI, wanted to found a way that would liberate her own vocals from the jazz vocalist’s comfort zone by focusing on its basic qualities of her voice and her language – the poetics of a the material of letters, syllables, and words.
Sulkunen’s sonic journey touches on life’s big questions. She imagines this journey to Kōan, the paradoxical-absurdist riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provokes enlightenment. On her Sonority project Sulkunen used her vocal fragmented sounds with field recordings from Japanese Buddhist temples, taken on her visit to Japan in 2016. Later she manipulated these sounds and field recordings with electronics.
The combined outcome suggest a unique multilayered symbiosis and a highly personal language. A new language, but language that is reconstructed and re-contextualizes its vocabulary and syntax anew, embodying the electronics in the human body while the voice becomes electric. Language and vocals as tools towards liberation. Language that becomes an infinite source of sound-based composition and improvisation.
Sulkunen’s Sonority references at times the fractured syllables lingo of Norwegian Sidsel Endresen, the ascetic minimalism of Pauline Oliveros and Morton Feldman and the detailed electronics soundscapes of Ikue Mori. But repeated listenings reveal more and more nuances and colors in Sulkunen bold journey. Her new found language and manipulated voice are used as a provocative Kōan. Forcing the listener to adopt a fresh, a deep listening-meditative approach, sometimes even dream state of mind to language and voices. To accept its transient suchness and not to attach to any of it. To experience fully, now and with big ears, its myriad, colorful aspects before it flows into nothingness.
Johanna Sulkunen (v, elec)