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).

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).



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

Stockhausen Mantra

Mark KnoopRoderick Chadwick and Newton Armstrong have recorded a new excellent album with Stockhausen Mantra.

Mantra is a piece for two pianos and Electronics written in 1070 by Karlheinz Stockhausen. It is a highly structured piece that is based on a thirteen note theme, the “mantra”. Each note is assigned characteristic (like periodic repetition at the beginning), duration and dynamic. Stockhausen then make 13 parts, one for each note. Resulting in a piece that is about 70 minutes long.

For the electronics Stockhausen had a device built, “Module 69 B”, that picked up the sound of the piano and transformed it. The central transformation performed is a ring modulation with the pitch from note for the currently playing part.

One of the parts in a series of lectures that Stockhausen performed in England 1973 is about Mantra. They can be seen on youtube as part1, part2 and part3.