2 JUNE 2021 — I never meant to keep such a long break from posting here — thank you to everyone reading this! — but I got incredibly busy and hope to make up for it in time.
Right now happy to announce my first large-scale composition, An Iceland Symphony, Op. 1: A Theatrical Symphony for All Ages, is available as sheet music in both paperback and ebook form.
At the time I’m writing this, very glad to see it’s actually at #1 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases in the category of Opera & Classical Songbooks! My first time seeing that #1 New Release banner on one of my books.
This is a large-scale work of 21 sections that calls for musicians of all ages and includes theatrical elements. The sections range widely in style and complexity. It leaves no one out.
Every note and rest has been carefully tested through hundreds of listenings since I first realised in early 2019 I had started writing this. I hope it may one day be performed live in Iceland by Icelandic musicians.
Until then, here is the full sheet music complete with performance instructions for the theatrical elements as well. I understand Kindle Unlimited members can view the ebook for free, but until the Look Inside previews come up for the paperback and ebook, here are the covers and some sample pages.
Ideally this music would be performed by live musicians, and there will be recordings sooner or later. The audio versions I have now are basically helpful demos only, to be shared with close friends, prospective performers, and writers on music, for example.
I continue to work on high-quality renditions of my own, but more on that later. I’ll also talk more about this in the next episode of my podcast. And as mentioned, one day I hope to see a full, live, staged performance of this.
Many thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me on my compositional journey.
7th SEPTEMBER 2019 — Being in preparations for a move, I only have time for a quick report on this performance I attended in Lahti, Finland yesterday, but I wanted to record it on this blog, as the creators behind it were Icelandic.
At the Lahti Fringe Festival, poet and performer Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir read her poetic meditation on peace and love, with Hildur Kristín Thorstensen as director and with discreet music by Viktor Aron Bragason accompanying.
I had actually attended this performance already twice in Iceland over the last year, when it was given at two different churches in Hafnarfjörður. In Icelandic back then, this time in English for the Finnish audience.
The meditation took the form of both conversationally expressed poetic thoughts and passages of poetry, concluding with a poem co-authored by the poet’s son: she made it from things she remembered him saying over the years.
Also part of the performance were recordings spoken by others, including the aforementioned son, whose contribution was charming, with an adorable pause in the middle of the word “people”.
We will be performing our poetry installation/happening at the Lahti Fringe Festival this September. The poet and the performer is Icelandic writer and actress Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir and the director is Hildur Kristín Thorstensen. The music was written by Viktor Aron Bragason. The piece is a poetry meditation in which all the poems are about peace and love, and meditation music is played to accompany the recitation.
The performance will be in English.
“It may seem like a contradiction, but it seems to me that nothing is as provocative as talking about peace, love, and benevolence. We are often so afraid of everything that could be considered cheesy and sincere. We even associate it with stupidity and a childish world view. In a world where the normalization of hate speech and the propagation of fear is growing, I shall continue to provoke with my own personal heart- and love-revolution and speak for peace with my head held high.” (Eyrún Ósk Jónsdóttir)
And today “The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water“, about a British 1973 public service short film featuring the voice of Donald Pleasence five years before John Carpenter’s original Halloween.
Plus, yesterday I also launched a full day-by-day serialisation of my first book as a Medium series. This innovative Medium form is designed for viewing on smartphones. You tilt your phone to look from side to side. You can also subscribe to this. Here’s the link.
10th APRIL 2019 — The ebook edition of my first book, You Never Know What You’ll See in the Haunted Garden, Vol. 1, is now available on Amazon.
Everyone who buys the print paperback edition can also get the ebook version for free. The next volume in the series will be coming out early this summer. Amazon description for Vol. 1:
“The first in a series of eerie, beautiful coffee table books suitable for all ages. Rex the former game actor introduces us to the Haunted Garden through 30 full-spread wordless illustrations. These are books for leafing through, gazing at, and perhaps dreaming with, well suited for keeping on a living room table or a nightstand. This ebook is an exact reproduction of the paperback edition, allowing every detail of the full pictures to be seen.”
Amazon’s automatically generated preview ends just before the illustrated pages begin, but I have requested this to be changed to show more of the book. The change has been made and that update will soon be live on Amazon.
The new preview will show 20% of the content. Until then, an equally revealing preview can also be found on my site simosakariaaltonen.com.
29th MARCH 2019 — My first book You Never Know What You’ll See in the Haunted Garden, Vol. 1 is now available on Amazon.
More specifically, the paperback edition is — the ebook version is taking longer to work its way through the system, though it has already passed review, so should be available within some days.
The print edition is a large (8.5″ x 11″) 68-page colour paperback. Purchasers of the paperback will also get the ebook for free.
The Amazon product description:
“The first in a series of eerie, beautiful coffee table books suitable for all ages. Rex the former game actor introduces us to the Haunted Garden through 30 full-spread wordless illustrations. These are books for leafing through, gazing at, and perhaps dreaming with, well suited for keeping on a living room table or a nightstand.”
Creating something beautiful and imaginative for young people and the young at heart has long been one of my most cherished dreams.
I feel there can be few greater things a person can do than give a child something that may spark their imagination and create the kind of joy and wonder I remember from my own childhood when I pored over my favourite books. I still return to them and they thrill me as much as ever.
Works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books (late 19th century), the most beloved Finnish fairy tale novel Mestaritontun seikkailut (a really beautifully illustrated book from 1919 whose title translates as “The Adventures of the Master Elf“), and Malcolm Bird’s The Witch’s Handbook (1988).
I hope my first book, later volumes in the series, and items featuring this world and these characters will find their way one way or another into the lives of many children and others young at heart and give them something special and memorable.
Amazon’s automatic Look Inside has unfortunately provided a preview that stops short of the illustrated pages, but a more revealing preview is available on my official site here:
5th MARCH 2019 — Around the turn of the year I got very busy rearranging my life. To my regret, this meant completely putting this blog off to one side. I suddenly got more productive than ever. As a result, several of my creative projects are approaching completion.
This spring I’ll publish my first book and my first sets of sheet music. I’m also getting close to finishing my first symphony, and I’m working on a comic strip and already creating the materials for further books after the one I’ll soon publish. There’s more, but these are the main projects right now that I’m working full speed on.
At noon this Wednesday, 6th of March, I’ll also step onto the stage for the first time in my life since school. I will be drawing and animating things for about an hour with my iPad hooked up to the screen on the stage of a bar called Stúdentakjallarinn (The Student Cellar) on the campus of the University of Iceland here in Reykjavík.
This is essentially performance art in the form of creating in public, as it’s not a presentation. I’ll just draw and animate, and visitors to the bar may observe or ignore according to their inclination. We want to see what the reaction is to this experiment. I was inspired for this idea by the late great Harlan Ellison, who used to occasionally write in public.
I feel really good to be so productive — more so than ever before in my life — and it feels wonderful to set on this road of more active engagement out in the world in connection with art. But I may not be able to continue this blog in the form I originally envisioned. I regret that.
The work I am producing now is the work I had been heading for all along in my life. I feel grateful to have gotten to this point. That would not have happened without all the support I have had over the years from many goodhearted people.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has encouraged and supported me through the good times and bad. Now to make some art.
JANUARY 13th 2019 — No one chooses loneliness. Some people do choose being alone, but that’s completely different. In that case the person prefers being by himself or herself.
Loneliness is the pain of having lost or having never had the things in life that make for human happiness and sense of meaning. And knowing through regular interaction with others that you matter and that it matters to them whether you are alive or dead.
If someone’s reaction to this would be to say that you first need to be happy all by yourself, then I have to say that that person can never have experienced actual loneliness, or has forgotten what it was like, and most likely in fact enjoys a life full of meaningful human contact. It’s easy to say that kind of thing when not experiencing the thing itself. Happiness can’t start coming out of nothing.
Happiness flows from meaningful human moments, not from this particularly cruel and coldhearted self-help mantra, which involves blaming the lonely for their loneliness. No one can know the enormous private efforts a person may have made, day after day and year after year, to change their life, and still being as far away from happiness as ever.
I was looking at my past photos on Facebook and it really hurts to see how obviously many of them are the result of a very lonely guy just trying to make it from day to day, hoping and making every effort possible for something better. There aren’t many photos of other people or of me in happy moments.
Looking at many of that haphazard, desolate collection of photos — of course not including the ones from times when things were briefly different, moments for which I was happy and grateful with all my heart — feels like looking at a broken life. It’s not how life should be. Not at all. I don’t know if anyone knows how that hurts. I didn’t choose to come from a family that got broken by some things that happened when I was very young.
But what hurts at least as much as this thought itself is that very possibly many people think I have chosen this, that this is just who I am. That I am an unhappy and depressing person who remains that way by choice. Nothing could be further from the truth and I feel the sting of tears when I think that people I care about may think this of me. I did not choose this. I know what a full, good life would involve, and I wish for nothing else as much as I wish for that:
A life full of human warmth, of family life, of seeing friends, of fun and laughter, of constant activity, of raising children, going to the cinema, family dinners, trips to summer houses and beaches, rowing on the lake, concerts and plays, music and good food, creating together, cuddling up under a blanket with a special someone while watching something nice, going to sleep holding that person and feeling in so doing the greatest happiness and gratitude that it is possible to experience, knowing she and your healthy family are safe and warm and tomorrow will be a beautiful new day with many more happy moments.
That’s who I am, that’s what I would choose in a heartbeat, and that’s what I wish for. Not how things have been most of my life.
I am only sad when there is reason for sadness. Absolutely not a moment longer. I smile and laugh very easily and with a fullness of heart when there is reason to. I very easily experience great joy and gratitude and happiness when there is reason to feel those. The way my life has been for too long — except for those very special, radiant times when I was happy again — is not at all who I am.
OCTOBER 14th 2018 — Never let anyone compromise your principles.
You are the one who would pay the price of living with that, perhaps for the rest of your life. It’s not worth it, whatever the situation.
And there are people who will appreciate and perhaps even love you precisely for refusing to lie or say false things.
I have decided to do what I can to live up to that ideal of never saying anything to anyone that could not stand as the last thing I said to them, should I rejoin eternity soon after that.
I will never play a single game with another person’s heart. It’s not what we’re here for.
* * *
I will never be one of those people making others feel there is something they need to change about themselves in order to be good enough. In order for me to like them.
Don’t listen to those people. That is a road that will never end.
You will never get lasting validation from them, and even if you did, it would be for all the wrong, manipulative reasons, and would be taken away the next time that person felt peevish — or the smallness of their own heart.
If I or others like you and your company just the way you are, you are already more than good enough, and wonderful.
This life is too precious and fleeting and fragile for anything more closed-minded than this.
Pitch shifting, rhythms, & a figure — What I was doing that day related to music, including a bit about my personal catalogue of rhythms, a notebook bought in Paris, and then also a little about our game SERENA.