Kaija Anneli Saariaho is outstanding. The Finnish composer based in Paris studied composition in Helsinki, Freiburg and Paris. Her research at the Institute for Research and Coordination Acoustic (IRCAM) marked a turning point in her music away from strict serialism towards spectralism. Her characteristically rich, polyphonic textures are often created by combining live music and electronics. Of course she also was in Germany to study music. She is a kind of DJ in classical, but electronic music with a finnish touch of mystery.

Rewarded for extraordinay work in music

During the course of her career, Saariaho has received commissions from the Lincoln Center for the Kronos Quartet and from IRCAM for the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the BBC, the New York Philharmonic, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and the Finnish National Opera, among others. Lately her opera “Only the sound remains” was performed in Madrid, in the Teatro Real.

Her music is different and exotic

Although living abroad in her compositions there can be heart the Finnish touch of a mix of lonliness and isolation with modern and avantgarde influence. “Only the sound remains”, her probably most important work in the world of opera, made its debut in Ámsterdam in 2016. The sound of this very different opera leads us to another world, the world between death and life. With very a few instruments and a strong chorus Saariaho creates a nearly frightening atmosphere.

Her education is international

In 1980, Saariaho went to the Darmstadt Summer Courses and attended a concert of the French spectralists Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey. Hearing spectral music for the first time marked a profound shift in Saariaho’s artistic direction. These experiences guided her decision to attend courses in computer music that were being given by IRCAM, the computer music research institute in Paris, by David Wessel, Jean-Baptiste Barrière and Marc Battier. She is a woman that loves to mix sound from another world to something that is not particular nice to listen to, but it requires your attention, it impacts you like in “Only the sound remains”.

In 1982, Kaija Anneli Saariaho began work at IRCAM researching computer analyses of the sound-spectrum of individual notes produced by different instruments. She developed techniques for computer-assisted composition, experimented with musique concrète, and wrote her first pieces combining live performance with electronics. In Paris, Saariaho developed an emphasis on slow transformations of dense masses of sound. Her first tape piece, Vers Le Blanc from 1982, and her orchestral and tape work, Verblendungen, are both constructed from a single transition: in Vers Le Blanc the transition is from one pitch cluster to another, while in Verblendungen, it is from loud to quiet. Verblendungen also uses a pair of visual ideas as its basis: a brush stroke which starts as a dense mark on the page and thins out into individual strands, and the word “verblendungen” itself, which means “dazzlements”.