About

MaxSavikangas_photo1_Saara_Vuorijoki

Studies

I was born in 1969 in Helsinki, Finland and started playing the violin at the age of 6 and piano at the age of 9. As a teenager I chose the Viola as my main instrument (or, the Viola chose me!). I received my MMus degree from the Sibelius Academy, Finland in 1998 after extensive studies in composition with Anders Eliasson (SWE), Paavo Heininen and Olli Kortekangas, in Viola performance with Matti Hirvikangas and Teemu Kupiainen and in music theory and electroacoustic music with Andrew Bentley and Jean-Baptiste Barriere among others. Additional studies included courses in composition with Finnish composers Jukka Tiensuu (FIN), Magnus Lindberg (FIN), Jouni Kaipainen (FIN), Kaija Saariaho (FIN), Jean-Claude Risset (FR), Trevor Wishart (UK), Jonathan Harvey (UK), Denis Smalley (NZ), York Höller (GER), George Crumb (USA), Adriana Hölszky (GER), Alvin Lucier (USA) and performance workshops with violist Maurizio Barbetti (IT) singer and percussionist David Moss (USA) and composer and guitarist John King (USA).

Composer Profile

I enjoy contemporary music with its constantly renewing challenges, improvising, listening to the world, experimenting with sounds—and composing. As a composer-musician I have wanted to expand the means of expression of my own instrument with new playing techniques and experimental live-electronics, which has led to studying these possibilities of other instruments as well. The seeds of my compositions often emerge as a result of (instru)mental improvisation, of savouring all kinds of sound events of the world and of tentative computer sound processing experiments. As a rule, some of these spontaneous ideas thus found begin to lead a life of their own in my mind, ending up as the points of departure for my written-out and/or media compositions.

I believe that timbre in contemporary music is equal to melody, harmony and rhythm and it should be understood as an umbrella term, covering all components of a sound event. At best, different hoots, wails, hisses, gushes, whispers, crackles and buzzes are by no means effects or seasoning added afterwards to the music, but they are an organic and sensual part of expression, which is further expanded by the virtual acoustic space created by means of sound processing and amplification.

Oeuvre

I have composed 115 works of instrumental chamber music, orchestral music, vocal music, electroacoustic music and combinations of these. I’m internationally recognized as a prominent composer, especially for my own instrument Viola. Compositions by me have been premiered—and most importantly performed again—extensively in Finland, and over the last decade or so my music has gained growing international attention, having been performed by various orchestras and ensembles in five continents (including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Holland, Ireland, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil and South Africa).

Recent works

Slam Dunk for symphony orchestra and two basketball players 2018 (10 min.). Commissioned by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, premiere 15.9.2018 at the Kupittaa ball game hall, cond. Nick Davies. The work includes a basketball slam dunk battle by two basketball players in interaction with the conductor and the orchestra, led by a master of ceremonies.

Silvertone for oboe and ensemble 2017-18 (15 min.). Commissioned by oboist Keijo Silventoinen. The ensemble includes bandoneon, percussion and a string quintet (2vl, vla, vlc, db). Premiere will take place in September 2019 by Lohja city orchestra, soloist Keijo Silventoinen.

Lintukoto (Isle Of Bliss), sound installation (2018, dur. 10 min. 43 sec., stereo) commissioned by the Tampere Biennale contemporary music festival, premiere March 31th – April 17th 2018 at Galleria Rajatila, Tampere.

Music for Realms for viola, double bass and electronics (2018, dur 8 min. 12 sec., Dolby 7.1. surround sound) to 20-minute short film Realms directed by Patrik Söderlund and produced by Testifilmi (Jussi Eerola). Premiere in the IC-98 artist’s group exhibition in May 2018 in Helsinki at Kunsthalle Helsinki.

Maxams for quarter tone accordion, viola and double bass (2017) was premiered in 30th of September 2017 at the New Music October (Uuden Musiikin Lokakuu) festival, Oulu, Finland by Veli Kujala, accordeon, me, viola and Harri Sarkkinen, double bass.

The Finnish Chamber Opera commissioned in 2016 from me a 20-minute monologue chamber opera entitled El Espejo (The Mirror) for countertenor, flute, piano and viola (2016) for a libretto in Spanish by Maritza Núñez. The opera was premiered at Kanneltalo, Helsinki, Finland in 6th of April 2017 by Teppo Lampela, countertenor, Lauri Toivio, flute, me, viola and Tuomas Turriago, piano.

The Finnish Radio Broadcasting Company YLE (producer Soila Valkama) commissioned in 2015 from me and visual artist/writer Teemu Mäki a 60 minute radiophonic work Refugee Conversations – a Radiophonic Document (2016, stereo), which was premiered on the Finnish national radio in 3rd of March 2017.

Uusinta Ensemble commissioned in 2015 from me a 15 -minute chamber concerto Azonal (2015-16) for viola and 12 -member ensemble. Azonal was premiered in 8th of February at the Helsinki Music Center, Finland by me, viola solo and Uusinta Ensemble, conducted by József Hárs. The premiere was recorded by the Finnish Radio Broadcasting Company YLE and broadcasted on the Finnish national radio.

FRAME Visual Art Finland commissioned in 2015 form me the sound track Music for Hours, Years, Aeons (2015, stereo) for the video installation Hours, Years, Aeons by artists group IC-98, which presented Finland at the Biennale of Venice 2015, Italy. The work was also selected into the program of Sundance Film Festival 2016, USA, (short film category) and shown at the festival in four different locations. For the movie theatre version for the Sundance Film Festival, I mixed the sound track into the Dolby 5.1 surround sound format.

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and The Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra co-commissioned in 2014 from me a Double Concerto for Trumpet, Double Bass and Symphony Orchestra (2014-15), which was premiered at the Queensland Music Festival, Brisbane, Australia in 17th of July 2015 with internationally acclaimed soloists James Morrison (tr) and Edgar Mayer (db) and young Finnish talent Santtu-Matias Rouvali as conductor.

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra commissioned from me a 10-minute orchestral piece Whisked Whistle for Symphony Orchestra (2011) and gave the premiere of it in January 2012 at the Helsinki Music Centre with young Finnish conductor talent Santtu-Matias Rouvali.

Recordings

Uusinta Publishing Ltd. released in 2004 my composer portrait double cd album Extraterrestrial. I also played the Viola on many tracks of that album. So far my compositions have been released on 11 albums, recorded by such performes as Uusinta Ensemble, Uusinta Quartet, saxophonist Olli-Pekka Tuomisalo, pianist Risto-Matti Marin, The Academic Saxophone Quartet,  The Finnish Baryton Trio and pianist Jasmin Fors.

Prices and Nominations

In many of my projects, I’ve been involved in multi-disciplinary artistic collaborations utilizing new technology. My largest work so far is the 7-hour electroacoustic sound installation entitled Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup (2005), which was nominated as one of the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto Prize 2005 winner candidates. My radiophonic work Crash (2013) was nominated as a Prix Italia 2014 candidate by the Finnish Radio Broadcasting Company YLE and my Abendlanmusik (2014) for Double Bass and electronics (written for the HD video installation Abendland (II: The Place That Was Promised) by Finnish artists group IC-98) was nominated as an Ars Fennica 2014 Prize candidate. I have also been awarded many important grants for his artistic work from e.g. The Arts Promotion Centre Finland, The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Sibelius Fund and the Kone Foundation.

I’m a member of the Society of Finnish Composers and the Interdisciplinary Artist Association MUU, Finland. I was appointed as honorary member of the Finnish Viola Society having served as its President during 2008–13 and I was also appointed as the executive secretary of the International Viola Society Presidency for the terms 2008–11 and 2011–14.

Viola Performer

As a Viola performer I like to concentrate in contemporary music. I especially enjoy working together with composers, to encourage and inspire them to write new Viola compositions and/or to find the best possible interpretation of their music. I’m a founder member of the Helsinki based Uusinta Ensemble (with the Uusinta Quartet in its core), which is in growing international demand, having premiered with the group more than 100 new compositions in ca 200 concerts over the last 17 years.  

I have played on numerous contemporary music recordings such as A Madrigal Opera by Philip Glass, released by Orange Mountain Music, Beat Furrer: Works for Choir and Ensemblereleased by Toccata Classics or Hyperorganism, composer portrait of acclaimed accordionist-composer-improviser Veli Kujala, released by Alba Records. All mentioned are world premiere recordings.

I play on a new Laine Viola model from 2002 (424 mm body length) which I’ve been developing in collaboration with the innovative Finnish luthier Pekka Mikael Laine since 1998, applying computer spectral sound analysis and new varnishing techniques. There are now six Violas built, of which four are in professional use and two in stock.

MaxSavikangas_ToukoHujanen_s

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