Kaija Saariaho (1952-2023)

  • My relationship with nature isn’t about admiring the aesthetics of a sunset; it’s something much more physical that I carry inside me.
  • I’m very sensitive to light and I’m inspired by it. Sometimes I genuinely think about the orchestra in terms of light.
  • I feel like the senses are mixed together, but I’m not interested in analyzing why or how that may be. What matters most is that it works and that it inspires me. For a long time, I’ve believed that the senses are not compartmentalized, but are in fact far more connected than we realize.
  • From the very beginning, my work has sought to unify material and form. I don’t know why, but I feel like I have to reinvent the form for each new piece… there’s a back-and-forth between thought and intuition when composing, which makes it impossible to separate the two.
  • When I’m writing a larger piece, I usually feel the need to attack it from different angles, and in some cases go through several revisions. Sometimes it’s simply because I love a work so much that I don’t wish to let it go…but this can also be a challenge.
  • For me, music is a study of my own self and of the human spirit. I’ve always believed music to be very deep… It’s like a liquid that can go into the depths, spread out in all directions, and take on various shapes.
  • I think, if I had a religion, it would be music, because I find it to be so rich, so universal, so profound.
  • I have an affinity for the human voice… In a sense, it’s the richest form of expression because the instrument is inside a human being and there are many things that cannot be falsified when using your voice.
  • At first, I spent a lot of time living inside my music. When I was little, my inner world was so strong that I couldn’t really leave it. Little by little, I came out of my shell, but what I learned was that the world could be a very hurtful place, and music became a kind of refuge.
  • Throughout my entire life I’ve had to prove that I am, above all, a composer, and one who is as serious and as smart as any of my male colleagues.
  • As for my material emerging from my experience as a woman, that’s just a point of departure. Once I begin composing, I transform it into pitch and rhythm. So whatever that experience is, it simply becomes an element of my work and not a personal story — that’s all that matters. The material can come from our own lives, the lives around us, or whatever. At some point, it simply becomes music.
  • A composer works with time; this assumes a specific awareness of the way in which we manipulate the listener’s ear. And in my temptation to stop time, I have the irrational feeling that, if I succeed, time will become space and I’ll be able to enter a secret realm where I’ve never been before.
  • In contemporary music, interpretation is often very unemotional and I’ve always wanted to do the opposite, to reawaken the interpreters by inviting their feelings and sensations; that’s why I use words like misterioso, dolce, con violenza, and so on.
  • I don’t look back very often and I’m not interested in arriving at intellectual conclusions about how my music has evolved over the years. It has evolved with me; I’ve had a lot of experiences that changed me and, as a result, my music changed. What’s important to me is to always be writing music in the present while envisioning the future.
  • I’m someone who has always lived deeply through my feelings, someone with great sensitivity and an inner imagination — especially for music. I’m a composer with a lot of technique and experience, but I feel very humble because I am not a musician or a performer; sometimes I’m really amazed by the music that’s created from within me.
  • I learn enormously from the musicians I collaborate with!
  • Everything is permissible as long as it’s done in good taste.
  • I was not especially enthusiastic about opera when I was young, and I thought I would never write one. I felt it was an art form of the past, with expensive singers exposing their high notes, and bad theater, and ridiculous stories which don’t concern us. But then little by little I realized that it can be defined very differently, that on the contrary opera can be something profound and not superficial — a wonderful meeting point to all the other arts.
  • I’m not involved in polemics. I never wanted to have any position of power, and I don’t have it.