Contemporary: Saariaho and Lindberg

Modern Ensemble is a Spotify playlist that present contemporary music composed after 1945.

Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer born in 1952. She have studied in Finland at the Sibelius Academy, in Freiburg and at IRCAM in Paris. She had both Brian Ferneyhough and Gerard Grisey as teachers. In 2013 she won the Polar music prize.

Her musical style can be described as a less formal and more freely variant of spectral music. Of her early work Lichtbogen, Io and Stilleben is perhaps the most famous. She often work with computers when composing, both in generating/analyzing musical material for instrumental music and in electroacoustic music. She often have electronic parts in her instrumental music. In later years she have been also started writing operas. From L’Amour de loin written in 2000 to the latest, Émilie, from 2010.

Two works that are closely related is Du cristal and …a la fumee… from 1989 and 1990, They are composed as separate pieces but are constructed so that they can be played together. Du cristal ends with a cello sul ponticello thrill fading away and …a la fumee… starts with the same tremolo. Both pieces are large scale orchestral pieces with electronic elements.

Magnus Lindberg is a Finnish composer born in 1958. After studying in the Sibelius Academy he studied both with Brian Ferneyhough and Gerard Grisey. He has been composer-in-residence both for the New York Philharmonic’s and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

When he was in Berlin he was exposed to it’s punk scene with bands like Einstürzende Neubauten. This was one of the inspirations when he wrote his monumental orchestral piece Kraft for orchestra and a group of soloists. Other early pieces is the ensemble piece UR, and the trio of pieces Kinetics, Marea and Joy. He often use computers to guide him when he write music. One example is the computer generated counterpoint in Engine from 1996. Over the years his music has become less Avant-garde and his perhaps most popular work, the Clarinet Concerto from 2002, almost has a folk tone. Other later pieces is Graffiti for orchestra and choir and the orchestra piece Seht die Sonne

Related Rocks is a piece for two pianos, two percussionists and electronics from 1997. It is a virtuosic and playful piece, both for the pianists and percussionists.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).

Baroque: Buxtehude and the limbs of Jesus

Baroque 50 is a spotify playlist that contains baroque music.

Dieterich Buxtehude was a Danish-German composer and organist from the Baroque period. He is most famous for his organ music and his nineteen organ preludes is regarded his most important legacy.

Dieterich Buxtehude’s also wrote a lot of vocal music. One of those is a collection of seven cantatas called Membra Jesu Nostri, The Limbs of our Jesus in English. It is a collection of seven cantatas, each one about a different part of Jesus body. Every cantata have the same overall form with six different parts that mix instrumental and vocal parts.

Original manuscript of Ad Pedes, the first cantata from Membra Jesu Nostri

The vocal ensemble that performs Membra Jesu Nostri is the excellent Cantus Cölln lead by Konrad Junghänel.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).

Avant-garde: Spahlinger and Haas

Avant-garde 50 is a spotify playlist that present avant-garde music composed after 1945.

Mathias Spahlinger is a German composer born in 1944. I think that the most fascinating aspect of his pieces is the form. For instance, in Passage / paysage from 1988 where he get stuck the last 10 minutes repeating basically the same note. Or in Extension where most of first movement is sparse and quiet point music but near the end have a brief outburst of very romantic chamber music. The third movement of Farben der Frühe for seven pianos also have a unusual form. The same pitch is repeated for more then eight minutes before the movement is ended with bursts of very modernistic cascades of notes.

Georg Fredrich Haas is and German composer born in 1953. Simply put, one can say that his style is a mix of the early micro polyphony of Ligeti and the French spectral school. “… und …” is a piece for chamber orchestra and electronics. The way Haas is orchestrating different spectrum I think is very nicely done.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).



Renaissance: Ockeghem Missa prolationum

Essence of the Renaissance is a Spotify playlist with renaissance music.

Johannes Ockeghem was one of the greatest composers in the Renaissance era. He wrote both Masses, Motets and Chansons. During his lifetime he was known not only as a composer but as a singer choirmaster and teacher. He had a strong influence on other composers like Josquin des Prez, who honored Ockeghem after his death with the motet La déploration de la mort de Johannes Ockeghem.

Kyrie from Ockeghem’s Missa Ecce ancilla Domini in Chigi Codex.

Ockeghem was one of the true masters of counterpoint. Counterpoint is the relation between musical voices. The goal is that each voice is an independent melody and that the voices together form a harmonic polyphony. Counterpoint is one the of the craftsmanship that composers have to master, even today. The development of counterpoint was peeking during the Renaissance and Baroque era with Palestrina and Bach as the most famous masters. But two of Ockeghem’s pieces, Missa prolationum and Missa cuiusvis toni, is considered two of the greatest examples of counterpoint.

The Missa cuiusvis toni is written in such a way that it can be sung in any of four of the different types of modes that music was written in during the renaissance era.

Missa prolationum is special in that it is written entirely with mensuration canons. A ordinary canon consist of one melody and several imitations of that melody delayed in time. One famous example is Frère Jacques. A mensuration canon is a canon where the imitations have different speeds then the main melody. It is very difficult to compose and is therefor quite rare. Because of that Missa prolationum is considered one of the greatest contrapuntal achievements. It is also a very beautiful piece of music.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).

Ambient I

This is the first in a series of ambient pieces. It has three distinct parts and intros that lead into each part. In the broadest sense I see ambient music as music that stands still. Sort of like seeing water floating by in a river. Feldman is, in my opinion, ambient music with that definition. It is music that has no progress or forward motion. The source-code for this piece can be found at