Light and Matter (2014) by Kaija Saariaho
for violin, cello, and piano

I have written many trios for different combinations, but have been hesitant to compose for a traditional piano trio, maybe because of its long and weighty tradition.

When I finally decided to approach this instrumentation, my first musical ideas were of light and rapid nature, and I started to imagine a one movement perpetual motion piece. During the composition, I developed the form into three continuous sections, including more varied tempi and textures. The starting point for the music is light kinetic energy, which is then developed into more dramatic gestures and rapid exchanges among the three instruments. The piece advances in spinning motion, moving from the original luminous fabric into more thematic patterns or towards the inertia of slow choral textures, before returning into the original weightlessness and starting a new flickering spin. As a result, we hear three musical elements — kinetic texture, thematic motives and slowly moving choral material — in constantly changing combinations and orchestrations.

I wrote this piece in New York, while watching from my window the changing light and colors of Morningside Park. Besides providing me with the name for the piece, perhaps that continuous transformation of light on the glinting leaves and the immobile trunks of the solid trees became the inspiration for the musical materials in this piece.

Light and Matter was commissioned by the Aeolian Chamber Players, the Library of Congress, Britten Sinfonia, and Norrbotten NEO.

— K. S.