Jukka Tiensuu

Finnish, 1948-

Jukka Tiensuu pursued musical studies at the Sibelius Academy, the Juilliard School, and the Freiburg Hochschule für Musik, working with Paavo Heininen, Klaus Huber, and Brian Ferneyhough. Not only a prolific composer over the widest range of musical media, Tiensuu is an eminent harpsichordist, a conductor, and pianist as well. He has been Director of the Helsinki Biennale and was co-founder of the “Time of Music” Festivals at Viitasaari.

Digital technology is an integral component of his work, and he has built a custom studio for himself as an idiosyncratic response to his extensive institutional experience at such centers as Ircam, MIT, and UCSD. Signal processing and algorithmic design complement his routine use of computer notation programs and MIDI-controlled sketching.

Among large-scale works, Alma (1995-98, a Helsinki Festival commission) is a trilogy of independent symphonic compositions which include electronics (Himo, Lumo, and Soma); Tokko (1987), for male chorus and computer synthesized tape, won first prize in the UNESCO 1988 Rostrum. Its text consists entirely of words expressing doubt in various languages. Arsenic and Old Lace (1990), for the Arditti Quartet and harpsichord, as well as Puro (1989), for the phenomenal clarinetist Kari Kriikku and orchestra, display Tiensuu’s mordant mastery of both technical and inferential virtuosity. P=Pinocchio? (1982) and nemo (1998) were Ircam commissions, and exemplify his use of computer generated elements and real-time interaction. Musica ambigua (a suite for Baroque instruments) illustrates yet another facet of Tiensuu’s breadth. “An open mind,” he has said, “is the shortest way to understanding,” and in the skeptical, lucid, and pragmatic intelligence he brings to hear on all aspects of his life as a freelance musician, he embodies this maxim. Tiensuu’s works are published by the Finnish Music Information Centre and recorded on Alba, Denon, Ondine, and Disques Montaigne. Upcoming projects, largely for orchestra, include concertos for accordion, MIDI-clarinet, and microtonal flute.

Tiensuu has said: “I do not write music because of a composer’s perceived duty to add to the concert repertoire continuously. In our age, every single work has to have a specific reason for being created.” In practice, this feeling has led him to change his position and problem-setting from one piece to the next, and it is difficult to see an overall style or linear development in his output.

- note courtesy of the Finnish Music Information Center http://www.fimic.fi
Selected works by Jukka Tiensuu:
“Once when father (George Ives) was asked: 'How can you stand it to hear old John Bell (who was the best stonemason in town) bellow off-key the way he does at camp-meetings?' his answer was: 'Old John is a supreme musician. Look into his face and hear the music of the ages. Don't pay too much attention to the sounds. If you do, you may miss the music. You won't get a heroic ride to Heaven on pretty little sounds!'”
--Charles Ives