Welcome to Musica nova Helsinki 2017!

I am very excited to present my first programme as Artistic Director of Musica nova. It’s a privilege to share my passion for new music with you. I am grateful for your and their trust, and to return the favour, let us take you on a journey in Music Space.

My main belief when it comes to building a festival programme is to not „only“ choose great music to be played, but to make going from one concert to another (also physically, from one concert space to another, however cold it is) compelling, to experience a journey, to have a story told. Not only within one concert due to the constellation of the pieces, but through the connections between several programs, works and composers featured.

When it comes to having a „theme“ for a festival, it can only serve as a starting point and it may inspire a string of associations that lead to outcomes and places that we may not know (and we really didn’t!) at the beginning. That’s what happened with the idea of Open Spaces, not only the title of a fantastic piece by Georg Friedrich Haas played on Feb 9th, but a good image of how I see music, and the music scenes of today, developing.

„Space“, and the different possible connotations of the word, are all mirrored in our programme.
The music of György Ligeti certainly opened up new musical spaces in the latter half of the 20th century, exploring new realms of timbre and microtonality. It was not coincidental that it was so extensively featured in Stanley Kubrick’s cult film 2001 – A Space Odyssey, which popularised his work to a certain degree and made it appreciated by a much wider audience.
His legacy is the subject of much of our programming on the final weekend of Musica nova, built around a symposium organised by the Sibelius Academy. We welcome as a special guest György’s son Lukas, who thread his own path through the music world as a composer and performer, as a drummer in jazz and a tireless traveller of African countries and explorer of that continent’s music.
We present the music of György’s most important pupils, but also other important composers whose style can be traced back to his influence, especially Gérard Grisey, one of the godfathers of the so called Spectral Music. He in turn was an important figure for some of Finland’s leading composers, such as Saariaho and Lindberg. Grisey’s Magnus opus Les espaces acoustiques will be heard in Finland for the first time, as is his Le Noir de L’Étoile.

Another giant of modern music is Stockhausen, who alluded to many cosmic dimensions in his work, but also connects the world of contemporary classical music to that of young electronic musicians and creators today, including ambitious pop music, through his pioneering work with electronics.
This fact is celebrated, amongst other ideas, during the first festival weekend, which gravitates around a new space for music in Helsinki, the G Livelab. We hope that our Super-Nova concert marathon at G Livelab will enable you to enjoy contemporary music in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Almost a festival within the festival, it brings together some of the most cutting-edge composers and thinkers in the realms between genres, such as Tyondai Braxton, Jan St. Werner and Qasim Naqvi.
For many of these musicians the words of Grisey, „music is made of sound, not notes“, are central to their own philosophy. Where spectral analysis of sound formed the main subject of exploration for Grisey, on which he built his material, exploring the expansion of basic sounds in space and time, for many electronic musicians working today, synthesis and synthesizers, which create sounds from the basics up – as opposed to breaking them down – have become a main working tool.

Synthesizers are also very prominent in the practice of our resident composer, Michel van der Aa, who uses them as both sound sources as well as orchestral instruments. His song-cycle Spaces of Blank expands the acoustics of the orchestra through electronics, while his new 3D opera Blank Out, having its Finnish premiere at Nova, expands the meaning of opera. His clarinet concerto is heard at Tapiola Sinfonietta’s concert, featuring Kari Kriikku, for whom it was also written for.

I am especially happy to be conducting the works of two young and up-and-coming Finnish composers in the opening concert, alongside the world premiere of the much-anticipated first major orchestral work by Braxton.

Other personal highlights of the programme include Nova’s visits to two of Helsinki’s most extraordinary spaces: the Kiasma Museum, and the Temppeliaukio Church. Here you will hear music written for spatially distributed musicians and sound-sources, and encounter proof of how such amazing buildings and their architecture become an essential part of our music listening experience.

John Cage coined the term „Sound Space“, a system in which you could, with all the different variables that constitute sound, understand it’s infinite possibilities. The young writer and musicologist Adam Harper published a book called Infinite Music, in which he scientifically deducts from Cage an extension of that term, into Music Space. It fascinatingly takes into account many other conditions and elements, not necessarily just sound, in the creation of music. He subtitles his book “Imagining Human Music Making in the 21st Century’, which was and is my guide thought as a musician and festival curator living today.