Finland turns 100 on 6th December. It’s also the country with the most diverse DNA in Europe. Both of these points come together in spectacular fashion in a new tourism campaign by SEK for Visit Finland. Entitled ‘Symphony of Extremes’, the project involved turning the Finnish genotype into music, via a program developed by Professor Jonathan Middleton as the University of Tampere which could create sounds from the base pairs found in DNA. This was the starting point for Eicca Toppinen, the founder of Finnish cello metal group Apocalyptica, to compose an original, with the help of geneticists, based on the extremes that make up Finnish people.
To accompany the project, directing duo Musuta, of the Directors Guild Helsinki, were tasked with shooting a music video to live up to the grandiose scale of the project. The result is a series of sweeping shots across the diverse Finnish landscape with added digital imagery to highlight the scientific tech behind ‘Symphony of Extremes’.
To find out more, LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with Sami Kelahaara, creative director at SEK, Sami Korjus, copywriter at SEK, Juha-Matti Nieminen, executive producer at Directors Guild Helsinki and directors Musuta.
LBB> How involved were you in the creation of the actual song?
Sami Kelahaara, CD> The actual song was made by Eicca Toppinen and Apocalyptica. We were involved in the beginning, but left the artistic freedom to the artist. Apocalyptica were chosen for the project because of their original style that combines metal and classical music.
LBB> Can you tell us more about that process? It started with a professor developing a program that can create sounds from base pairs found in DNA. How did this work? And after that the band worked with geneticists to compose a song based on Finnish DNA – can you tell us about that process?
Sami Kelahaara, CD> The process is simple: our DNA is formed of four amino acids. We collected DNA of the people from different areas, then analysed the data. Eicca Toppinen, our artist, then turned these chains of DNA into music.
Sami Korjus, copywriter> Professor Jonathan Middleton is the professor you refer to. He was a big inspiration for the project and he also consulted Eicca about the algorithmic process, but his program wasn’t used in this case. The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland managed to analyse data and turn DNA sequences into an understandable form that Eicca could use as notes in composing.
LBB> Let’s talk about the film now, which Musuta directed. What was your starting point when developing the concept?
Musuta, directors> The brief was quite open and very creative. It did outline the key elements and of course made clear that Finnish nature and portraying the nature is key, but we were left plenty of room to create. The agency supported the creative process very well and helped to steer the piece into the right direction.
Sami Kelahaara, CD> Finnish Extremes again. We are a land of hot and cold. In the summer time the sun literally doesn’t set, and in the mid-winter the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. We are calm, sometimes even silent, but in the summertime the whole country changes. Even our DNA is more diverse than any other European country
Sami Korjus, copywriter> We knew we had to make something extraordinary for Finland’s 100th birthday. The film is the end result of a long creative process that SEK started a year ago.
‘Travel like a local’ is probably the biggest travel trend globally. People are interested in local lifestyle and local people. The creative team wanted to utilise this trend but do something totally new and go deeper under the skin using Visit Finland’s key factories, the great contrasts of nature and seasons. By coincidence there was an interesting fact in the news at the same time, saying that Finnish DNA is more diverse than that of any other European country.
LBB> As you mention, the main purpose of this project is to celebrate Finland’s 100th birthday - how have you reflected that in the film?
Juha-Matti Nieminen, EP> It’s all there. All of these beautiful locations are part of our country, our roots and our nature. The whole project was very patriotic in a positive way. Everybody who was involved in this felt the same pride of living in this beautiful country of so many extremes.
Sami Korjus, copywriter> It’s worth noting that really the main purpose is to raise awareness of Finland as a travel destination. The centenary is a meaningful thing for Finns, but we understand that for foreigners it doesn’t say much. It was more a case of the project needing to base itself on something more clever for attention. The whole project praises Finnish know-how in science and classical/heavy music.
LBB> The shoot must have taken you to some beautiful locations - what are your fondest memories of it?
Musuta, directors> We are avid travellers and spend all of our free time and money travelling in stunning sceneries around the Nordics – Norway, Iceland, etc. And from our second home, Japan, we go to New Zealand, the Pacific islands, etc. So indeed we felt very patriotic, almost like seeing the forest from the trees, by finding all of these world class spots of beauty right in our own country. It was very inspiring and made us very proud of Finland.
We love shooting in nature and dramatic scenes, so needless to say that the brief was very inspiring and we were very keen to take on the job. This project was particularly interesting as we had to show different sides and extremes of Finnish nature – this meant we had to go find these extremes. The Finnish wilderness is absolutely amazing so it was stunning to be able to go to these places and be able to call it work.
Sami Kelahaara, CD> We have travelled around Finland a lot, but the epic scenery surprised even us Finns. This is a long and diverse country, which means that you have a lot of contrasting scenery. It’s amazing how much open space there is in the north and at the same time the southern part of Finland is lively.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Sami Kelahaara, CD> The project was divided into two phases: the launch of the idea – we’ll make a song of our DNA – and the actual launch of the song and music video. The goal was to keep people interested in this for the whole year – that’s why we’ve made content about the people from whom we took the DNA.
Sami Korjus, copywriter > The trickiest part was combining so many elements –Apocalyptica, genetics, Finnish nature and regions, the centenary – in a way that the audience can see it as nothing else but a killer idea that’s easy to understand.
Musuta, directors> When we finally made it to the edit, we had a mountain of hard drives with beautiful material we had just shot. It was such a challenge to try to decide what to use and what to leave out as there were just so many good shots.
LBB> Being Finnish, what did it mean for you personally to work on this project?
Sami Kelahaara, CD> This has been art and science in one project, and also one of the most challenging and coolest projects that we have worked with. It has been rewarding that everyone has been excited about the project from the beginning, and of course we were lucky to get to work with this exact team.
Sami Korjus, copywriter> Of course it felt great to make something good for your own country, especially when the idea was as original as this. The biggest reward was to work in a team of people made up of so many different professions and to feel the excitement they all had towards the project.