Aliisa Neige Barriere: the reality of connecting with people through music is very powerful

Aliisa Neige Barriere: the reality of connecting with people through music is very powerful

Aliisa Neige Barrière (b. 1995) grew up in a French-Finnish family in Paris where her music studies have included violin, piano, chamber music and choral as well as orchestral conducting. A passionate chamber musician, Barrière has participated in a great variety of projects and masterclasses throughout Europe and the United States, and is interested in performing all music from baroque to contemporary. She studied with Peter Herresthal at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, where she appeared as a soloist in Vivaldi’s Spring and Winter under the direction of Øyvind Bjorå, and where she obtained a Bachelor in violin performance in 2017 and a Master’s Degree in 2019. In 2018, she also resumed her conducting studies and attended a masterclass with Prof. Atso Almila (Sibelius Academy) and Luke Dollman (Univ. of Adelaide) in Zlín, Czech Republic. She then joined the Panula Academy in the year 2018-2019, where she could get regular guidance from Jorma Panula. In 2019, her first record, Ekstasis, was released by the label Cyprès, around the solo works of Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière, in collaboration with flutist Camilla Hoitenga and soprano Raphaële Kennedy.

In the Spring of 2019, Barrière graduated with a Master’s degree from the Norwegian Academy of Music. As of the Fall 2019, Barrière studies in the Master’s program of the orchestral conducting department of the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki) as a student of Sakari Oramo. From August 2021 Aliisa Neige Barrière will hold the position of Young Conductor in Residence with the Århus Sinfonietta, a two year residency. We talked to Aliisa over Zoom.

Aliisa, can you describe your memories of growing in your family, were there any special moments, maybe some epiphanies in your upbringing that led you towards music?
That’s a difficult question to answer because, of course, having grown in that family, I don’t really in a way know anything else. I’ve been able to compare later on with my friends and colleagues, how different their experiences were, but, for me it was very normal to grow up in a musical family. I don’t remember exactly what it is that led me to start, but I do remember I chose the violin, I liked the instrument. Of course I was exposed to music, to playing from very early on, it was always a part of my life, and according to my family, it was always very obvious to them from a very young age that I was interested in music, and that I was musical, and fascinated by music. I was told that whenever I heard music, I would react, and get very excited, sing and dance, but of course I cannot remember myself…

What does music give you as a way of expressing yourself? Is it a substitute for something else or is it another language?
For me music has always very clearly been a language of its own, it’s the best way I have to express myself and my feelings.  I think it’s a bit difficult to put it into words because there are a lot of things I have in mind. As a young child I of course developed verbal skills after a while, and I enjoy writing quite a bit now, but sometimes I had a hard time putting things into words. A good example that comes to mind is we would argue with my brother when we were kids; he was very skilled with words from a young age, and I often struggled to find my words in those situations. So I was always very proud to say that my first language was music. It was the way I best expressed myself.

How in the musical world do people – musicians, singers, conductors, listeners – come to an agreement on what is happening, what brain messages are transferred from a person to person? Say, if you and I have read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, we know that we have read a piece about 19th century Russia, but in music how is this agreement achieved as everybody has a subjective perception of it?
Well, I think it’s something at its core. We all feel it when we listen to music and then the communication happens from a performer to a performer, or from a performer to the audience. Surely, you can never be absolutely sure that you will touch everyone or that you will convince everyone, because that’s just something that doesn’t happen in any aspect or in any field in the world. But just the reality of seeing how, when you play with other people or play for people, others around, you can be touched and can feel connection and just live in the moment with others – it is something to treasure. It is very powerful and maybe it doesn’t need to be explained more than that, just that it’s an extremely powerful outlet for our emotions. And I strongly believe, I may be a bit of a utopian in that sense, that if everyone was given an opportunity to play an instrument or sing or even given an emotional outlet through painting, drawing or writing, our world would be a better place.

Is it the same for an audience of a few thousand, when nobody speaks to each other but also has this shared experience?
Yes, I think the communication is the same, whether it’s the people that you play with or just the people you are playing for, it could be that the connection is there or isn’t, but if you have given your everything, if you have touched one person, or communicated with one person, then that already is something quite authentic and precious.

Do you remember any moments when you knew you passed certain stages in your development or was it incremental growth and you never know where exactly on your music path you are? Were there some defining stages for you? Like the recognition in your career or maybe you walked in the park and you understood your profession in music better than before?
Recognition is always very encouraging and it’s very nice to receive it, but I think when you do music for genuine purposes, you don’t really do it for the recognition or the accolades or the money. I think it’s a physical need, at least in my case it’s a very physical need, and of course there have been a lot of important milestones, but I think that need was always a part of me, so it was never a question for me if I should consider anything else.

Do you now or did you have earlier to study all the musical repertoire say, from Palestrina to modern composers? How do you know that your current music knowledge is enough?
I think knowledge that we have is never enough, sadly or maybe thankfully. I personally love discovering more, as the more we discover the more our mind gets curious, the more we can think in new ways. I think that’s something the classical industry is missing quite a lot, out of the box thinking and trying to renew our codes and routines when it comes to performance but also programming and constructing programs…There is very little questioning of traditions or behaviours, and I think that is a big part of why ‘classical’ music is often perceived as old fashioned. There is a difference between blindly carrying out traditions without asking ourselves why we do it (which can be anything from a rallentando everyone does in a piece, although it’s not written, to asking ourselves why we bow before and after concerts) and researching history and trying to make our interpretation out of it. 

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Do you think some composers are perfomed more often that others or is it something else?
This is true as well. Let’s say that there’s quite standard repertoire, and I also love that music, but I just would wish to see a bit more adventurous programming overall.

Do you tend to have favourites among composers or music styles or genres, or are you accepting of every style and knowing something about every major composer? Are you guided by your preferences, certain people in composition, or are you just trying to see bits and parts of the process in general?
I think it’s hard to generalise because it is impossible to find a composer you like every work of. But I like to explore, to see if there are works of these composers that are not played much, if there are works that we don’t know. I also like searching for possible forgotten treasures or things that might have been swept under the rug. I think it is healthy to just look for what is out there, do some research. It is important to remember that good and bad music has existed throughout history and it is somehow subjective and people can have very different opinions. I also believe that as a performer I have a better chance to convince an audience and to communicate something to them if I am myself convinced about what I am offering.

Can you name your discoveries, what are these pieces and people?
There is a good example, which is not exactly a discovery but I was quite shocked about how few people knew it when I talked about it. It’s a dance suite by a French baroque composer Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1647) called Les Elements. There are several versions of the piece. It is originally ballet suite and then the overture, Le Chaos was performed separately already in the time of the composer. It’s a quite shocking piece, knowing that Rebel was one of Louis the XIV’s court composers, and this ballet starts with what we today would call ‘cluster technique’, where every note from a scale is played at once. Even today it’s very surprising to hear that for classically trained ears, or probably for anyone. But to imagine that someone would do something like that at the time – it’s revolutionary. I’ve been trying to program that piece for so many years and I finally found several opportunities. But when I discovered this piece (when I was already a teenager), I was surprised that Rebel, who is a brilliant composer, is very largely unknown. That piece is his best known piece, but all the rest of his music has been forgotten, and he has very nice music. It goes for a good deal of French baroque composers, because we have Rameau and Couperin, these are the names that most people know, but their music also isn’t performed so much because of how demanding the French baroque aesthetic is stylistically, and quite difficult technically to play as well.
Same goes for the orchestral music of Louise Farrenc (1804-1875). I have started programming her symphonies – and I am happy to see that she is getting more recognition and coming up in programs here and there. But many people do not know of her. The problem with composers of minorities is that people assume that their music has a purely touristic trait. But there are so many forgotten treasures, and many are sadly inaccessible because they were never published, so the music is difficult to find and people eventually give up. But for example Louise Farrenc’s music is expressive, colourful, well thought, harmonically surprising… It is absolutely wonderful music, I can’t even begin to describe the emotion when discovering her works, and it is about time that her music enter our repertoire. (Of course there are many, many more examples!)

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Do you think that such pieces could be repositioned using some technology of modern PR? The crux of modernity is
novelty — we always watch new series, receive new information, while in the classical music field novelty is not
needed so much, which is quite a paradox. So the audiences are used and prepared to the repetition of the same repertoire, while they wouldn’t be watching the same series on Netflix for years. So my question is, why do you think it is so, is it psychological, maybe going from childhood, that we like to hear the things that are ingrained in our brains already? Could it be changed by repositioning unknown music and composers as something cool?
There are always pieces that come and go out of trend. It’s just funny when you look at the programming of big orchestras and see that very often you have some pieces which are suddenly played all over the world for some reason. That’s quite an interesting phenomenon: how sometimes these things can spread very quickly, so maybe it’s just a matter of timing and some fashion. I think there’s a number of parameters that can come into play and it’s hard to predict these things. But, of course, probably a very good PR person can sell anything.

It’s easy to fall in a zone of comfort, and I think a lot of people do watch the same show again and again on Netflix. Or have a favorite movie they’ve seen fifty times. Maybe it’s because it then takes less effort and space in your brain. It’s comforting in a way. In music it is also a bit different because the interpreter(s) ideally bring some of themselves to the piece. And that’s interesting.

Still I do believe that people are curious by nature, and that if we made it a pattern to be more adventurous, most people would be open to that. Of course many might be skeptical at first, but I believe that in the hands of the right interpreters, and presented in the right way, those people could be pleasantly surprised.

If we move into another sphere of your life — your training as an instrumentalist — could you describe your relationship with the violin, how does a violinist treat a violin, what do you feel when you practice? Could you describe your routine of practicing? I know that violin is one of those highly individualized, personal instruments. Do you perceive the instrument as a sort of extension of yourself?

Right now I have a complicated relationship with the violin because my conducting studies have of course taken a lot of time, but I also think that by starting something new, there was a need to recreate my identity. I felt maybe unconsciously that I needed to put the violin aside for a bit. We’re finding each other again now, but I have always been attracted by the violin because can combine the dark register and the light register. I think it also has something to do with the human voice, and I used to sing quite a bit, so there was something very natural for me to start playing the violin, and it felt, and still feels, like my instrument.

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Do you know character of your practice? Do you need time to get into full flow, how do you know you are at the top of your game when playing it? There is this conception about musicians that they play these beautiful violin concertos on stage through sheer inspiration, and I wanted to ask you how it happens in practice.
Surely there is the technical aspect, which is a routine because you just have to build the habit, the muscles to play a certain piece, so that no matter what you’re doing it’s always there. For example, to learn a virtuosic concerto (or in any piece for that matter) you need to learn it and to ingrain it into your body, so there’s a lot of repetition going into it. Then, ideally the piece will bring the inspiration. Depending on the music, for me it can be more spontaneous, in the moment, or something that is more rigorously planned — I think that depends a lot on the nature of the piece. I’m a firm believer, for instance, in classical repertoire, of a more spontaneous way of playing. That brings the music alive in a different way. Musically speaking, if I am facing a piece like Mozart’s concerto, and the same as a conductor, a Mozart or Haydn or whatever symphony, then I will most likely map out the different ways it can pan out and then in the performance get inspired by other people or just do it the way I feel. For that type of music I will never plan ahead that this is how I want to do it, because I think some things need to be left to the moment to be more genuine.

When did you first realize that conducting might also be your thing? You said that you were trying to build a new identity, is being a conductor this new one, or do you have these two parts (conducting and playing violin) competing with each other? How have you been accommodating these two parts of yourself as a musician?
In my personality and throughout my life the conducting aspect has always been there. The first time I was guided towards conducting was when I was 15 years old. I was singing in a choir in the conservatory, and my choir conductor came talk to me at the end of considered conducting? Have you ever thought of it as an option?’ And I had never thought about it, but that made a lot of sense actually. He knew me as a violinist, I also sang solos in the choir, so he knew me musically a bit better than others, and probably identified that it was something that could suit my personality.

When you say it suits your personality, do you mean that all conductors share a bit of something that is inherent for the this profession and can be identified in a person before he/ she gets involved in it?

Conductor Aliisa Neige Barrière, photographed in Musiikkitalo in Helsinki 25.4.2021.

In a sense yes. I think it manifests itself in different ways with different people, thank god not everyone is the same, it would be very boring. But I think that among a lot of these people there’s a sense of initiative in organizing projects, or a sense of duty, a sense of leadership in different ways. I mean, leadership can be many things, and I think especially today this definition may be broadening, which is a great thing. So maybe the profile of leaders will be more and more different, which would be really interesting to see.

Can we talk about what conductors do in everyday practice? The first part is study and preparation, I assume? If we leave out the organizational details, could you describe the actual collaborations at rehearsals and concerts that follow the preparation period?
Well, the first part takes most of the time, as it is the time we spend at the desk reading the score, and getting to know what is in the score. It involves reading and taking thousands of decisions, like interpretation, or finding something that is vague or unclear, and you need to have an answer in case someone asks you. It involves getting familiar with the material, seeing how the voices work individually and interact with each other. And of course it happens to come across pieces that you don’t necessarily like, if you don’t have the chance to choose the program yourself, so that’s always a challenge. I always try to find something that I can relate to or something that I can love, there has to be something that I can defend in the piece. I try to connect with it to be able to conduct it. And then, when you come in front of the orchestra, the atmosphere is very different depending on the ensemble you find yourself in front of. Some ensembles are ready to experiment, if you have some experiments in mind, or are open to what I was saying earlier, the fact of not deciding in advance. A classical symphony typically repeats itself a lot, and so that’s why it is interesting to keep it knowing ahead of time what they are going to do. And, so, typically, if I arrive and they ask me, ‘In the repetition here, should we play louder or softer?’, and I answer that they will have to see in concert, look up and listen to each other, it can be disorienting for some people. It is interesting to see how people react to these kinds of shocks and to expose them to a different way of working.

Photo: Heli Sorjonen

Do you know in advance which places of the score are in your control, do you circle the elements for which you leave some room for improvisation during the actual performance, do you put apart the spaces of your control and of the potential openness?
Usually if there is a place to leave some freedom, in terms of timing or even in dynamics or whatever, it is quite clear in the score. In the concert, it can happen that you suddenly you feel like doing something different, or the musicians offer something that makes you want to try something, I think that depends on the ensemble. Sometimes it can be a big risk to do something very different that you have not rehearsed before, sometimes it might go really well. It is very hard to generalize because every ensemble has its different identity and you always work with what you get, and then it becomes a dialogue.

I’m always fascinated by this feeling of form the conductor has, how in temporal perspective they treat a piece of 5 minutes, a piece of 45 minutes. How do you spread you attention and your energy through time and keep us, the audiences, aware of the form of the piece?
As long as it is clear in your own head, then you can communicate it, that’s the first step. It doesn’t need to be verbalized to the musicians at any stage, but just as long as it’s clear in your own head; I think there always has to be some kind of arch throughout a piece.

Could you compare music schools of New York, Oslo, Paris and Helsinki from your vantage point of having studied in many places?

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

These institutions have different cultures, and I’ve learned to appreciate what I find in all of them. In France there’s a bit of a culture of pushing people down to try and make them work harder. When I arrived to New York, that was a bit of a culture shock because people and the general atmosphere are very enthusiastic, and that was quite surprising for me coming from France. At the same time in New York, people were sometimes over-encouraged when it was not necessarily deserved. All these young people couldn’t face confrontation at all, and you could not give them objective feedback. So, in a way I feel that France made me build resistance to critique, which probably became one of my strengths; question always is at which price.

Photographed in Musiikkitalo in Helsinki, 25.4.2021.

Аfter having spent years in different countries, have you become a global citizen? Could you have easily started work in one of the US orchestras or maybe in a European orchestra, do you feel open to new countries after studying in different places?
The nature of my work requires me to be open. I am in my mid-20s and I’ve lived in 4 countries, that feels like quite a lot, given that I have personal relationships with all of these places and people who have become family in all of these places, so it’s a lot to keep up with, emotionally as well: you’re always far from some people and far from home. But then, at the same time you always leave home to go home which is kind of a nice feeling as well. But unless it were for work, I think it feels a bit difficult to imagine a new country I could move to, at least right now. But, of course, I probably won’t get to choose where I end up. So I have to be open.

You have been studying conducting in Helsinki during several of the last years. You studied with Jorma Panula, the famous maestro and teacher of conductors. Could you venture a guess why the school of Jorma Panula has become almost a world phenomenon, what is so special about him?
When you look at his pupils and all these fantastic Finnish conductors, and also the non-Finnish conductors who have studied with Jorma, I think it’s quite amazing to see how individual all of these people are. He has not tried to mold Panula clones from them. All of these people have really developed their own style of conducting, their own body language and so on. He has helped people find their own paths. One of the basic principles of the Finnish conducting school is that you already have to be a professional, have a background as a professional instrumentalist or a musician. Our professor Sakari (Sakari Oramo) was a world-class violinist, he was the concertmaster in the Radio Orchestra before he was the principal conductor there. Esa-Pekka Salonen was apparently a great horn player, (I didn’t ever hear him play myself but I heard he was pretty good). Jukka-Pekka Saraste was a understand what it is to pursue that profession and to give that level of attention on a daily basis. Most of them play an orchestral instrument, so they understand what it is like to play in an orchestra, what it is that an orchestral player needs from the conductor, and I think those are different sets of elements that Jorma looked for in his students and which has been continued as a tradition at the academy as well.

Can you name the highlights of your experience, what did you take from him that will stay with you for life?
One of the main things Jorma is teaching now is the search for efficiency and not adding too much if it is not necessary. And even though we are very different musicians, I think it’s always good to come back to those basics and look for what is just necessary, and so whatever you add then carries a deeper, more powerful meaning.

Could you also describe your Master program in conducting and the way that your professor Sakari Oramo works with you?
The way it works and also one of the reasons why the Finnish school has been so successful, is that we typically have an orchestra to work with every week, which is a conducting class band, this is a system that was started by Jorma as well. And so we work with an orchestra, we have a different program every week, and depending on the week, we divide the intended program with each other, so that we cover the whole program. We always have some preparatory sessions, either just with a teacher and the class, or sometimes a teacher wants to do one-on-one sessions, sometimes we have pianists there, sometimes we play our own instruments for each other, sometimes a mix of that — it depends a lot on the teacher, they get to decide how they want to do the sessions. And then we have two sessions with the orchestra. So if we have a symphony, we divide up the movements, we divide the time equally, and then we get to run our own rehearsal. Here it’s really up to the teacher as well if they want to interrupt us or just to see us work, or if they have decided there’s a particular skill they want to see us work on, technically, or in rehearsal technique — that’s very individual.

How do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Our field makes it so that it’s totally unpredictable for me to know where I’m going to be 1 year from now, because I’ve seen it happen more than once in my life how just one week or one experience can just turn my life around. Ideally speaking, concerts would keep on coming and I would keep on doing what I love.

I see that you’ve also recorded a disc, you’ve organised a festival Nordlyd, you already begin to champion new music, also as part of your family — like your recent performance Ekstasis at the Helsinki Festival-2021 combining works of Saariaho and Barriere. Do you think that these activities would be enhanced and continued in future?
I hope that these activities will continue because they are a part of who I am, and I think this fact of doing different things and having different interests is a very important part of my identity. I certainly hope it can flourish and continue to develop. The festival (Nordlyd) especially is something that I want to develop because its main purpose is to create, explore and experiment with concert forms and concert programming, as well as concert setting and also maybe sharing music with different audiences; all these are issues that define me as a musician so I certainly hope that’s something I can continue to do and develop, as well as bring to symphonic concerts.

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

What’s your perception of the influence of the pandemic on music? What has been changing through this very unusual, maybe unprecedented time in the music history? Are we getting into a ‘new normal’ or returning to ‘old normal’ perhaps?
I think the concept of normal is both something we’re really longing for and also a slightly dangerous concept, : this whole crisis has also brought up the many flaws of how we are living and the flaws of our world. So maybe instead of looking for going back to normal we need to develop a new normal, a more sustainable and a more healthy way of living, both in our interactions in the world and also in the artistic community. I think it’s a wakeup call for all of us.

Can you give examples? If everybody took their lessons seriously, what could change?
One thing to seriously think about on a practical level is the amount of travelling we used to do, and whether it’s really necessary to cross the ocean for 5 days of rehearsals and concerts. It is wonderful to travel, but maybe there is a way to try and develop, on a larger scale one’s circle of influence on a local scale and be a bit more occasional about other opportunities. That’s for everyone to figure out, but I think that’s one major aspect we probably all should be thinking about.

One disadvantage of locality is that only the local people will see and hear certain great musicians. I don’t think I would like to be given, like, a zero option for the next 5 years of seeing concerts in Helsinki.
I’m not saying that travel has to be obliterated completely. But this is something I think about, our generation needs to think about these things because there is a very real possibility there is no future for us, so of course we try to think about long and short term solutions.

Do you think that we will all tired of the digital resources at some point, or we’ll be used to it being part of the musical world from now on?
I sincerely hope we get back to the live format to the fullest extent possible. Of course, some people have been trying to experiment a bit more, but I wish more people would try to think outside the box. streamed concerts are just not the same as being in the hall. There’s something about being in the same room with the musicians and feeling the vibrations in the air and in the ground. The communication isn’t the same, as efficient. I know it’s very difficult for the musicians as well to put the same amount of effort, and at the same time it’s also unbelievably stressful to play for a stream because you have this pressure that this is going to be recorded for eternity. Here I think also the collages we had: people playing in their own homes and recording their own parts, it felt very cute at the start but we’ve reached our quota, now that everyone has done it.

Digital streams also reduce you to your own devices, because some people have binaural systems, while others just have their phones. So then the streamed concert is a different experience depending on how equipped your home is, while in a real hall we all share our resources.
Exactly, and there’s also something about the space: whatever that place is, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the best, like Carnegie Hall, but just going, stepping into a place which is dedicated for a performance, and just stepping into that moment with other people, there is something so special about that.

How do you see the music world in 50 or 100 years?
I really believe that the way we construct programs is a very important part of the message and of the performance we try to offer to an audience, and I believe quite strongly in the idea that through the programming and the space you choose for a performance, you try to shape an arch between the pieces, tell a story. Whether it’s outspoken or just in your mind, it needs to makes sense in a way, to have a clear message you want to convey and communicate to the audience.
I would love to see a bit more variety programming, in the choice of individual pieces, but also the way they are combined. Sometimes programs make no sense whatsoever. And I really believe that a lot of people would actually enjoy being challenged a bit more; but well thought content is important, and then intelligent presentation as well (this comprises the choice of performers, the locale, the order of the program, transitions between pieces… ). And I think that kind of global thinking and thinking of a message is something that is missing in programming. What we do has become so mystical to a lot of people that we should to have clearer intentions to communicate something genuine.

Aliisa Barriére / Photo by Cata Portin 

Another thing that might be a problem in a lot of places, is how divided the audience and the performers are. Trying to remediate to that, in my festival we found it important to create those moments in between performances which are saved for meeting the audience, so we could just talk about what just happened and exchange, share some thoughts, answer to any questions they might have of course, hear what kind of thoughts or emotions our work provoked in them. What we do is so mystical to many people, so I feel that it’s important to demystify some of the aspects of our work — it can feel very abstract for a lot of them. The fact that you dedicate your whole life and your whole days to playing an instrument (which for many people is only a hobby) can be mind-boggling in a way. I think it is important to have these discussions, and everyone needs to be open. At least I always enjoy understanding more about the things that I don’t know so much about and trying to get a better grasp of the world we live inI think it makes us better citizens of the world, but also, as artists, every experience brings a new layer to our work.

What do you think would happen if classical music (that presumably lasts for some periods of time) wouldn’t be fitting attention spans (that are said to be constantly declining) of any inhabitants of Earth in 50 years’ time?
Hopefully people are starting to be a bit more mindful about those things and trying to reconnect with their mental faculties and concentration. But even for a musician or someone who is used to go to concerts and operas, sometime a full standard classical concert, (a 2-hour concert with an intermission) can feel long, if it doesn’t have a clear construction. I think a 40-minute performance, if it’s a good performance, can be very satisfying. I actually often find myself enjoying shorter performances because they tend to be better constructed. At the same time a long performance, if it is well constructed, if there is a dramatic arch to your program, can grasp people’s attention all the same, it just has to be very well done. At this point you might have understood that dramaturgy is a very central part of my way of perceiving and imagining music and my programs.

So the key is not to take public’s attention for granted but fight for it during the whole time that you are on stage.
Indeed, I think that a big part of the work of the performer is to create these stimuli to grasp people’s attention and to keep people with us in a way, and of course you cannot succeed to do that with every person in the audience, but if you have done it with one or few people then that is already something.

Can you describe the joy you experience when performing, or conducting, or listening to a concert? What is the point of being involved in these activities from a subjective vantage point?
It is this feeling of having connected with someone… I really love playing with other people and that’s also what drew me to conducting: working with other people. The fact of having successfully connected with the others, to create a dialogue. For me, conducting probably feels a bit like a tangible physical fulfillment. Emotions and thoughts are translated into gestures, and you are continuously in dialogue, I find that beautiful.

What kind of physical sensation can you compare it to? Climbing the mountain, swimming in the pool, eating, meeting your loved one, what can musical sensations be compared with?
It can be anything from gut-wrenching pain to ecstatic joy… There are so many spectrums, it can be seeing a person you love, realising that you’re in love, or, I don’t know, sitting in front of a fire on a winter day. The joy and the fulfillment of the music consists not only of the happy things but to be able to convey or to feel all the spectrum of human emotions; also the pain and the heartbreaks. I reach all of these spectrums of emotions, they’re experienced very strongly through music.

We finish by what you were saying at the beginning, that music is the field that is hard to verbalize. It always needs some comparisons or silences, presumptions of the things you don’t speak about, and thank you for trying to feel these muted gaps through this conversation.

Photographed in Musiikkitalo in Helsinki 25.4.2021.