The Musical Forest or Soiva metsä is an extraordinary forested area with instruments that can be played by all. This one-of-a-kind musical installation was built in 1996 onto an area full of sand dunes in Suomussalmi in Kainuu region.
We had wanted to visit this site for a long time but didn’t exactly know what to expect. After leaving our car at a large sandy carpark near the lake, we walked along a gravel path high up to sandy dunes dotted with pines. Every now and then we could hear gongs and whistles going off in the distance. We were desperate to know which instrument made all the different noises! Not to mention, try the instruments ourselves!
Some of the instruments at the Musical Forest are individual pieces clearly distinct from the forest landscape. However, there are also chimes attached to swings so whenever you swing, a different type of bell chimes. If there are many people swinging backwards and forwards at the same time, they make beautiful music together.
Children will most likely enjoy the simple fact of making noise, but the real challenge is seeing if you can make proper music. Even for adults, figuring out how to make actual music with these wooden instruments is incredibly fun. There are a total of 16 instruments scattered around the area, and it took us about an hour to meander around and try out each instrument.
Globally unique site
The Musical Forest is truly a unique site of large instruments located outdoors. Even on a global scale the site is special as it is the largest outdoor collection of instruments in the world. The original idea for this installation came from Suomussalmi municipality. Then, graphic designer Mr Markku Penttilä designed the instruments and their places in the landscape. The actual artisans who built the instruments and placed them on their specific sites were master instrument builders Mr Pekka Westerholm and Mr Olli Penttilä.
The instruments are built by utilising reclaimed elements. Some instruments were built using old telephone poles, hemp rope, aluminum tubing, and steel. One of the most exciting instruments sits on the bottom of a large sand pit formed by the last Ice Age. This is a suppa, which means a depression caused by an Ice Age glacier being buried under sand slowly melting, thus creating a depression in the ground.
There is the world’s possibly largest kantele in this suppa depression in the middle of the Musical Forest. Now, if you don’t know what a kantele is, it is a traditional Finnish and Karelian plucked string instrument that has a distinctive bell sound. This large kantele is called by a specific name “pentele”, and it has five strings like its smaller cousins.
In Finland’s national epic called Kalevala, the mage Väinämöinen makes the first kantele from the jawbone of a giant pike and a few hairs from a stallion owned by a troll. The music this kantele makes draws all the forest creatures near to wonder at its beauty. Playing the large “pentele” kantele inside the suppa depression is like playing it in a concert hall formed by nature.
Directions to Musical Forest
Address: Lomakyläntie 26-28, Suomussalmi
How to get there: The Musical Forest is about 6,6km from the centre of Suomussalmi town.
- Car: Type Soiva metsä in your navigator. There are two parking areas, one near the “Kesäteatteri” (summer theatre), and one at the end of the road about 500m from the summer theatre.
- NB. There is an accessible carpark nearer the forest: you must drive along the walking track into the woods. All other visitors must walk from the other carparks approximately 1km.
- Bicycle: You can cycle either alongside the cars or use the Seitenahveninen hiking trail from Suomussalmi centre.
- Public transport: A bus will take you from Suomussalmi town centre closer to the Musical Forest; check timetables here. No matter which bus you take, you will still have to walk about 3km. The Soiva Metsä instruments can be also reached by foot along the Seitenahveninen hiking trail, which starts at the Suomussalmi Center in the Pitämä residential area, and leads to Seitenahveninen Recreational Fishing area.
Accessibility: Even though the area has hills, it is very accessible with wide gravel roads. Most of the instruments are accessible for those visiting with wheelchairs or buggies and for those hard of walking.
Facilities: There are no toilets in the area or a possibility to build a fire. If the summer theatre is open, the toilets may be open.
When to go: We recommend visiting this area at any time of the year. Very deep snow conditions may hide some of the instruments closer to the ground.
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