Composer in Residence: Kaija saariaho


The Finish composer Kaija Saariaho is this year’s Composer in Residence at NJORD New Nordic Music Biennale 2016 and her work will be presented to the audience in a series of concerts and exhibitions.  

Kaija Saariaho (born 1952) is one the most significant composers of our time. Her music is characterised by transparent, organic and expressive soundscapes – often created combining electronic compositions with acoustic music.

At NJORD a number of Kaija Saariaho's works will be performed and contextualized  using both the works of other composers as well as visual art. Furthermore NJORD has commissioned a completely new work by Saariaho, which will be presented for the first time during NJORD 2016. Saariaho herself will also play an active role in the development of the sound and art workshops for children that will be held during and after the Biennale.

Thus, NJORD 2016 is the most comprehensive presentation of Kaija Saariaho's work ever seen in Denmark, and as such NJORD Biennale affords Danish audiences a unique opportunity to experience this world-class composer in a variety of constellations and surroundings.

NJORD 2016 is built upon the artistic idea of a convergence between music and colour. A theme that proposes a cultural event of the senses, where the tonal colours of music and colour tones of visual art will saturate Copenhagen.

For this purpose Kaija Saariaho's music is an obvious and most relevant choice. Saariaho is known for combining acoustic and electronic music focusing on sound and timbre, and her works reaches across genres into the visual arts, dance and theatre.

Before Saariaho became a composer she was a student of music and art. Hence, the intersection between these art forms has always been an important fixture in her oeuvre. Often she draws inspiration from outside the realm of music – be it in the night sky, nature, art or literature.

Kaija Saariaho studied composition by Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, with Brian Ferneyhough at Freiburg Musikhochschule and at IRCAM in Paris, where she has been living since 1982.

Kaija Saariaho has received a number of awards and prizes for her music including the Nordic Counsel Music Prize in 2000, the American Grawemeyer Composition Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world, in 2003, Musical America Composer of the year 2008, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in 2011, awarded to her at a concert with Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and in 2013 the Polar Music Prize alongside Senegalese singer and politician Youssou N’Dour.

”While I sat there listening, I suddenly began to see colours and colour formations moving through the orchestra while they were playing – just as seeing the northern lights moving across the sky. Colours changing as great formations moves in gentle strokes across the horizon – this was how these colour formations moved through the orchestra as they were playing Saariaho's music.”

– Organizer of NJORD Biennale, Jane Schwarz, about her first experience with Kaija Saariaho's music.

NJORD | 28 January – 1 February 2016 | Copenhagen

NJORD is Copenhagen's new biennial for new Nordic music and art. With a focus on timbre in music and color tones in the visual arts, the biennale brings together a number of cross cultured composers, visual artists, musicians, directors, etc. in Nordic collaboration on a number of cross artistic projects.