”Lähteellä (At the Spring) is a three-movement ensemble work with soprano soloist, commissioned by Okko Kamu for Musiikkia!Ruovesi festival 2014. Ruovesi is a municapality in the Pirkanmaa region (250 km to north from Helsinki) with the population of 4,600, and the storyline of the piece is closely linked to its main tourist attraction Runeberginlähde (The Runeberg Spring) –– a protected wetland area close to the municapality centre with several notable tubular springs. The spring area is named after Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), whose famous poem Vid en källa (At the Spring) is said to have been written at the spring.
The first movement Lähde (fantasia) is an instrumental introduction and a musical portrait of the concept of a spring. The second movement Lähteellä (Vid en källa) faithfully follows Runeberg’s poem and its Finnish translation by Tarmo Manelius (b. 1929). The musical approach for the eight-verse song is deliberately traditional and is written in a rather conservative freetonal style, respecting the ethos of Runeberg’s national romantic expression. In the poem Runeberg mirrors the humanity through the allegories of water, sky and clouds while panting a picturesque image of the spring in its early 19th century condition. The contrasting final movement is a violent and straight-forward raport of the current condition of the spring, contaminated by large quantities of E. coli bacterium, nitrogen, nitrate and chloride. In the movement sorpano acts as a narrator, reading and quoting the Spring Water Quality Raport by hydrobiologist Ph.D. Jari Ilmonen (commissioned by the Ruovesi municipality in 2012). The accompaning instruments comment the recitation with appropriate noise effects, produced with the aid of several extended instrumental techniques and collective improvisation.
The controversy over the 3rd movement lyrics.
The rather explicit revelation of the current condaminated state of the sping and the reasons behind it did not please everybody in Ruovesi. Even though Ilmonen’s raport clearly links the condamination with human activity – such as the waste runoff from the upper nearby roads and argiculture area to the drainage basin and the undisputad fact that the E. coli bacterium quantities were of human origin – the public denial of the facts soon found its way to the local media. The relevance of the original 2012 raport was questioned, as well as my interpretation of it. Also, it was suggested that the initial sources for the shocking and revolting E. coli bacterium findings might not be the rectums of the decent Ruovesian, but rather the rectums of some unidetifined aliens. It was also speculated that somebody might have thrown an old porcelain toilet in to the wetland area many years ago, resulting the vigorous and vital bacteria deposit of today. I gladly took part on the debate, which in its absurdity was sort of entertaining and which – as a side product – resulted a column in Rondo music magazine (that was referred in Yle Radio 1 Culture News), as well as a 4-part vocal canon with basso ostinato, Ruoveteläinen peräsuoli (The Ruovesian Rectum).
However, to make the Ruovesians justice it needs to be added that the majority of the commentators did in fact produce constructive contributions to the debate and people generally recognized the bad state of the spring area. Moreover, the media coverage and the raising local concern started a political process, which finally led to a decission to clean up and restore the wetland area to its original condition, as well as prevent its future condamination. In other words, the tragicomic play received a happy ending with a piece of contemporary music being the catalyte for making all the difference.” (O.V. May 2016)