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Musical moaning

Published: September 22, 2006 (Issue # 1206)


In a unique art project, members of the public are asked to complain and set their grumbles to music.

Complaining can be fun, complaining can be art and complaining can be a very entertaining and enlightening experience. Confused? An interactive art project taking place in St. Petersburg this weekend has the answers.

Finnish-German duo Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen have found an original outlet for everyone who wants to complain about life’s problems, big and small: to turn the grumbles into a song and have the “moaning minnies” sing it in public as part of a “complaints choir.” Energy expended expressing dissatisfaction, anger and other negative emotions is transformed into something productive, cathartic and entertaining.

The artists have already run the complaining choirs in Birmingham in the U.K., Helsinki and Hamburg.

The project invites people to submit complaints which are reworked during a series of workshops with help from professional musicians. No singing skills are required. The result is a song performed live by a choir made up of local enthusiasts, and the performance is videotaped.

In St. Petersburg, the workshops have been running this week and performances take place on Saturday and Sunday in the city center (see program below) as part of the “Contemporary Art in The Traditional Museum” festival run by the Pro Arte institute.

The artists behind the choir are very excited about the the project taking place in Russia.

“Russia is undergoing quite dramatic changes. It is interesting to see what will happen there with the choir after the fairly stable welfare society of Finland,” Kochta-Kalleinen said in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times.

But why bring the choir to St. Petersburg?

“Actually St. Petersburg chose us. Pro Arte wanted to organize the choir, but for us this was perfect, since we expect a great tradition of lamenting in song in this town,” Kochta-Kalleinen said.

Although the act of complaining is something that everyone can relate to, the complaints of those living in Birmingham seemed to differ from those expressed by people of Helsinki or in Hamburg judging by the results of the previous complaining choir events.

In Finland, people complained a great deal about mobile phones.

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