The Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum in Oslo has lured musicians to its haunting space, which is decorated by dimly lit frescoes, and has a huge reverberation time of 20 seconds. The room is definitely the extra member of the band. It’s not surprising then that Arja Kastinen, who has devoted a considerable amount of time to researching and exploring the acoustic properties of the kantele, was drawn to embark on a musical journey here, bringing seven kanteles of various sizes and an expert sound recordist in Taito Hoffrén.
There’s a real sense of narrative in the music as Kastinen moves between the different instruments in her improvisations, and combines different playing techniques with bows and plucking, slides, sticks and mutes as well as using her own breath. In particular “Aaveita täynnä” (“Full of ghosts”) captures the experience with its eerie, glimmering sounds and rich textures as the 15-steel-string instrument meets the warmth of the bronze stringed kantele before the more oriental sounds of the viscose strings and a final chorus of kanteles and bronze bells (played by Tuomas Ylönen).
The CD can only ever be a taster of what it’s like to listen inside the mausoleum, but Kastinen’s creative and adventurous spirit transports us to another world that’s hard to leave.