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Johanna Sulkunen Sonority: KOAN

Johanna Sulkunen Sonority: KOAN

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Release date: 11-05-2018

Listen here.

Discoveries in the sonic universe of human vocal sounds and electronics invite you to a room that resonates in all of us. 

On her third album Koan, Johanna Elina Sulkunen has launched a new solo project called Sonority.  The project invites to a multilayered travel of sounds of a human voice mixed with electronics and touching on life’s big questions.  The name of the album, Kōan means: a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provokes enlightenment.  

All the sounds on the album are based on vocal sounds and field recordings from Japanese Buddhist temples and manipulation of them– electronically. Johanna travelled to Japan in 2016 to record in temples and collect sounds. In her words: “I had to contextualize the text and the project that I'm working with somehow. I also wanted to record the sounds and objects in the temples to create music with the surroundings” Says Johanna. 

Rather than concentrating on the storytelling, the language has been used as a tool. It has been broken into pieces exposing the poetics of a sonic material of letters, syllables, and words and revealing an infinite source of sound-based composition and improvisation. 

“Concentrating on sound has opened a lot of doors for me as a composer and vocalist. The ‘liberation of sound’ is not a new statement, but with my background as so-called ‘jazz vocalist’ the use of electronics and the more sound based composing combined with the full autonomy in solo playing has been a personal liberation for me.”  says Johanna. 

Along with her jazz background, some of the biggest influences for the project shine through in the album. Among them; Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, and on the other hand electronic musicians like Ikue Mori and Holly Herndon.   

The result is a special combination of music concrete, improvised vocals and contemporary classical music mixed with jazz influences. Human vocal sounds and electronic sounds create a symbiosis where electronics become embodied in the human body and voice becomes electric.


Johanna Elina Sulkunen is a Finnish vocalist/composer living in Copenhagen since 2009. Since then she has released two albums with the name ‘Johanna Elina’, whereas the latest one ’Belonging’ was nominated for a Danish Music Award. She’s also a co-leader of an award-winning vocal group IKI and has multiple other collaborations ranging from free improvisation, alternative pop to modern jazz with e.g. Tomasz Stanko, Hilmar Jenson, Mike Sheridan and many others. 


“Traditional melody singing is rare, the voice is more like an element from which the multilayered colourful and often dramatic whole. … again the name of Johanna Sulkunen is a guarantee for attractiveness and high quality. “ (Pentti Ronkainen, Suomijazz)

“ Her new found language and manipulated voice are used as a provocative Kōan. Forcing the listener to adopt a fresh, deep listening-meditative approach, sometimes even dream state of mind to language and voices.”  (Eyal Hareuveni, Salt Peanuts)
“Koan that is recorded partly in Japan, Sulkunen has moved far from her excellent previous two albums... Koan invites the listener to be also a questioner and especially to question a way to listen." (Harri Uusitorppa, Helsingin Sanomat)

“Johanna Sulkunen made an album that is obscure & mysterious. There is an alluring atmosphere that captivates a listener. Superficial eavesdrop will suggest a series of avant-garde vocal experimentation, but once you invest time and immerse yourself in the music, than that’s where it happens. “It” can’t, won’t and shouldn’t be explained.” (Niels Overgård, Jazznyt)

“A very fascinating album from an artist who dares to take the step far beyond the established.” (Fredrik Thidell, Lira, SE)

“With its finely-detailed solo composition, »KOAN« is closer to contemporary, complex layered vocal and sound worlds by Holly Herndon and her colleagues than to everything else that is heard in this country from the house of ILK and from the Copenhagen (jazz) scene.… a good dose of sound research avant-garde and ambient poetry between field recordings and intensively electronically processed voice recordings catapults Sulkunen's 34-minute suite in seven chapters rigorously from all the boxes and genres.” (Ingo J. Biermann, Nordische music, DE )


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