Matthias Hakonen

Artisan Spotlight: TMatthias Hakonen


THLord Mathias Hakonen is best known for his musical talent on the dulcimer.  He can often be found playing the instrument as mood music during court and other social events.  Get to know him a little better by reading the interview below.

What is your SCA Name and Title?
THL Mathias Arnvedr Hakonan of House Romani

How long have you been in the SCA?
Since 1995 in Caid, though not very active when I lived in Calontir from 2008 to 2015.  I kept my focus on music and arts, though not much in SCA there.

How did you find the SCA?
Through friends in the PCC Fencing Club, going to Ren Faires etc.

What do you consider your primary art form/science?
Instrumental music and percussion, Eastern and Western focused on composition in period styles and temperaments.  Old Norse Poetry & Philosophy – research, performance and composition.

What other art forms do you enjoy?
Jewelry, coppersmithing, ceramics, leatherwork, armouring, instrument repair and intonation

What projects are you currently working on?
Pythagorean Temperament on the Hammered Dulcimer – new compositions, research and adaptation of period melodies, techniques, tuning theory, scales and intonation. comparison with other forms of temperament found in period, recording.

This has been a deep rabbit-hole with many branches; Definition of fundamental pitch, temperament theories, scales and modes used, woodwork and string manufacturing, solo vs ensemble use, older forms of music notation….. Many basic facts about the instrument and how it was played are sparse, sometimes contradictory and nearly always open to interpretation, cultural variance etc…. The biggest reward has been the effect of this tuning system on my older compositions, and the new ones that have come about since I made the changes.

Trichord Bouzouki – Research into the evolution from the Turkish Saz and Pashtun Setar, modes used, period melodies, new compositions and techniques based on Pashtun and Turkish traditions, recording and adapting electric pick-ups.

After 25 years, I’ve come to realize I have a Turkish left hand and a Grecian right hand. My scales and fretwork, how I ornament a phrase, use of harmonics, all very Turkish. My right hand, occasional use of rapid strumming, rolls, trills and aggressive slides, all quintessentially Greek. Unintentional, yet a fitting irony for myself and the instrument. Recent work has been focused on Pashtun folk tunes and new compositions.

What do you enjoy about doing art/science?
The fact that all the arts and crafts are alive, in my hands, before my ears and eyes. I can blend research and creation, play something from period as close as possible to the original mode and pitch, and compose my own works in similar styles. This has lead to my own style of composition and performance, one I would not have had without both historic frameworks and inspiration, and a freedom of new expression.

What is your favorite project to date?
Hard to say. Likely the delve into the history of the Dulcimer and Santur (Persian hammered dulcimer) and the experiments in temperament. This lead to re-invigoration of my dulcimer technique, as I had hit another plateau recently.

How often do you work on your art/science?
Daily. I am blessed to be able to earn a living at my passion. When my fingers are sore from the bouzouki, and my ears are ringing from too much dulcimer, I can go burn my hands casting copper Romani Wheels and then beat my friends with sticks…. and then drink homemade mead and compose kennings till 4 am.

Who inspires you in the SCA?
Those who excell in their craft and are gracious in sharing and teaching. Too many to name. I am inspired more by what we make together as a Knowne Worlde. Wars in particular, when you can feel the sheer scale and complexity of what we do, the masses of warriors colliding, the sweep of a silk scarf, cookfires and pavillions, music drifting across evening’s violet emptyness…. the moments an entire drum and dance circle suddenly slows way down, without a cue or signal from anyone….

Where do you find inspiration to do your art/science?
It finds me. I feel the piece before I compose it, the poem before I write it. In a way, it is reverse engineering. I find the words, the notes, the presentation style that evoke the feeling, that in some way expresses it. Then it’s all leg-work, what scale, what instrument, what meter, what style. The hardest part of my compositions are the titles, especially for my music. What do I “call” this one. or that one? Music comes from such a wordless place within me, finished pieces often go for months without a suitable title, one that I feel “works”.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Go, Do, Learn. Teach. Strive.