A Conversation with Kaija Saariaho

Clément Mao-Takacs: I would like to start by clearing up a few clichés that seem to have attached themselves to you and your music. To name a few: You’re from Finland, therefore, you love and are inspired by nature; you are “a fiery volcano beneath ice”; since you live primarily in France, you inevitably subscribe to French music. Can we try to make sense of some of these preconceptions? Let’s start with the nature-Finland parallel.

Kaija Saariaho: I think there is some truth to the connection between nature and Finland. The country’s population is so small and nature’s presence there is so pronounced, it’s impossible to lead the kind of urban life you can in a big capital—even though some people try desperately to pretend that they do. Nature is one thing, but what’s more important is light. Changes in sunlight throughout the year are so drastic that they affect everyone. You can’t escape its influence. And because of this experience—which is so physical, we feel it in our body—we, as individuals, have a very special relationship with nature. Click here for the full interview

This conversation appears as part of a 140-page portfolio of new and newly translated literature on the life’s work to date of Kaija Saariaho. Click here for full details on Music & Literature no. 5.