Kaija Saariaho: Ears Open

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Composer Kaija Saariaho Composer Kaija Saariaho (Priska Ketterer)

Kaija Saariaho's music evokes all sorts of natural sounds, the kinds of complex, white noise-y sounds that we often tune out. She's able to take the instruments of the orchestra and pull out of them the sound of wind rustling through trees, or waves hitting the shore. She's got this ear that can hear the music everything, but in not in a John Cage way — she's not putting all sounds on an equal playing field. Instead, she teases harmonies out of these sounds, finding notes that were aaaalmost there to begin with.

Kaija is famous for writing moving, visceral works full of difficult new instrumental techniques. She often writes for acoustic instruments with almost subliminal electronic manipulation — it's hard to tell where the performer leaves off and the electronics begin, and she's written full scale operas, often with strong, historically-inspired female protagonists, grappling with huge themes, love and death, that kind of thing. - Nadia Sirota

Hosted by:

Nadia Sirota

Produced by:

Alexander Overington

Kaija Saariaho: I. Finding Her Music

Kaija wasn’t born into a musical family. She was always pulled by composition though, and spent hours in her room with a guitar trying to “find her music.”


Kaija Saariaho: II. Never a Machine-Freak

Kaija and her colleagues knew that to find their compositional voices, they would need to look outside of Finland. Kaija moved to Germany and eventually to Paris.


Kaija Saariaho: III. Love from Afar

To date, Kaija has written four operas, each with a strong, female protagonist. She has a clear voice for feminism and femininity, and her work doesn’t pull punches.

Comments [6]

Kaija Saariaho: Playlist

Hear a piece of music you loved in the show? Click for a complete breakdown of all the music in Season Two, Episode Two – Kaija Saariaho: Ears Open.


Comments [2]

Edward Chang from NYC, LES

This is my first time listening to MtC and I was amazed at how wonderfully done it was. Nadia, your summary of music from Sonata form to spectralism was a work of art! :)

Anyways, I've never been a huge fan of Saariaho, but I may investigate further after listening to this very inviting program. I may have to check out your other MtC programs first tho...

Best wishes
Ed Chang

Sep. 18 2015 06:08 PM
Paul Epstein from Upper Upper Manhattan

Thanks, Nadia, for a great MTC on Kaija Saariaho. I've been hearing and loving her music for the last 2 years in venues around New York and at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont where she's been the most recent composer in residence. Great to learn so much of her musical life journey.

Here's something (not surprising) to add to the MTC content: Kaija works very well with musicians learning her music. Last summer, when my wife and I saw Marlboro Festival Director Mitsuko Uchida in a Brattleboro VT restaurant, we told her how much we enjoyed her composer-in-residence's (Kaija's) music. Uchida responded that she worked so well with the Marlboro musicians that "she'll be back." And sure enough, she was back at Marlboro this summer, where we recently heard a nifty vocal piece of Kaija's and her Nymphea string quartet (with electronics) that Nadia said she loved. We loved it, too.

Aug. 06 2015 05:58 PM

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