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The sheer quantity and diversity of music being written in Finland today continues to surprise and delight us. But one significant strand in this otherwise egalitarian success story has remained in the shadows: the role of women composers. Kaija Saariaho appears to be the only such figure to hold a truly international reputation, raising basic questions: why should this be so, how are things changing and what kind of music is being produced. Outlining social and political issues that are distinctive to Finland helps to explain the emergence of Saariaho as a role model for younger women composers. It also invites a detailed case study of a leading member of this generation: Lotta Wennäkoski. This focus on an analytical reading of Wennäkoski's compositional process – as evidenced through her orchestral piece Sakara (2003) – reveals how this music communicates so effectively with contemporary audiences.
As the first systematic 12-tone composition, the Petrarch movement from Schoenberg's Serenade has been associated with ‘newness’. Yet it has conservative features. Medieval notions of isomelody and isorhythm, as well as Renaissance concepts of paralleling a poem's prosody and emotional content, are here. Moreover, 12-tone composition itself is an evolution of ‘Chromatic Completion’ – a technique already flourishing in Haydn and Mozart. Ultimately, what matters most is Schoenberg's understanding of the aesthetics of love. To appreciate this, the essay makes use of the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by the great American poet and scholar Eli Siegel. Beauty, he taught, is ‘a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves’. And love, he explained, has an aesthetic basis: it is ‘proud need’. This essay indicates technical ways in which Schoenberg illustrates the truth of these concepts.
The least familiar of Schoenberg's piano pieces, op.33b nevertheless can be seen to illuminate the crucial relationship between material and form. Ostensibly a simple ABABA pattern, the form has a multi-faceted character, whose second half performs a different role from the first and even suggests a different style of musical utterance. The opening material is pianistically awkward and though its formal returns suggest different possibilities, it is the strange and beautiful passage at bar 46 which does most to alter the trajectory of the later stages of the piece. Although this passage sits outside the form, it has a role in the broader narrative of the piece and many of its characteristics are taken up in the coda of the work. The developing sense of a more fluent pianism provides a counterpoise to the ABABA shape and the awkwardness of the opening becomes part of the dialogue between form and material.
In this interview Gubaidulina discusses her understanding of religion and the way in which it relates to her music, by means of symbolism and metaphor. In particular she speaks of her understanding of the Apocalypse as a book of light, greatly influenced by the writings of Fr Aleksandr Men. She talks about the symbolism of instruments in her work, notably percussion, which she sees as a way to the subconscious; her understanding of the role of modernism in music, and the way in which her work connects with this historical process; and also her use of the Fibonacci sequence. The relationship of her music to liturgy is discussed, as is the double path, apparently contradictory, of the artist who composes both liturgical and concert music. The experience of the composer during the profound changes in music during the 20th century, specifically as regards possible intersections between modernism and spirituality, are also discussed.
Throughout his career, Roger Reynolds has studied perception and used this knowledge in an overt manner to shape many of his compositional decisions. Though this concern affects the ways that he works with many musical parameters, its influence is perhaps most clearly manifested in his global temporal designs. This article examines how he has approached form over the course of his career. Reynolds's initial compositional work from the early 1960s employed formal proportions that were derived from rows. Since 1970 Reynolds has used logarithmically expanding and contracting proportions to define sectional durations in his music to the near-exclusion of other designs. At the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Reynolds began to look for sources of ‘alternative proportional authority’ such as chaos theory, while in more recent compositions his approach to formal design has been more variable.