BBC Music Magazine

Saariaho’s style


Quick and slow The ‘surface’ sounds of Saariaho’s (above) music are often fast-paced shimmers and undulation­s. This flurry of texture is only half the story, though: her pieces are often structured by slow shifts in harmony and mood that unfold across much longer expanses Electronic effects Electronic­s abound in Saariaho’s scores and often enhance the sound of live acoustic instrument­s. These effects transform both the usual ‘musical’ sounds as well as ‘extra-musical’ noises, such as whispered text or the performer’s breathing. Complexity and colour Saariaho’s scores tend to look like fiendish maths problems but her music is always inviting to the ear. Saariaho’s soundworld is all about colour, character and atmosphere.

Keeping it human Saariaho’s music may have an otherworld­ly quality, but she is unafraid to tackle head-on the big themes of love and death in her operas. The human aspect to performanc­e is also key, with scores often crafted to reflect the individual character of the performers.

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