Vista • Summer 2010 • Volume 15 • Number 1
Leading Women in the Arts
Kaija Saariaho: One of the world’s preeminent modern composers
Jeannine Oppewall: Film production designer and four-time Oscar nominee
Rachel Rosenthal: Performance artist known for her revolutionary integration of elements
Ann Hamilton: Visual artist renowned for her site-specific works and provocative use of materials
Trisha Brown: Pioneering force in post-modern dance and a leader in abstract choreography
Every year, Mount Holyoke invites a prominent woman from the arts world to be guest artist-in-residence in its Leading Women in the Arts program. In April, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, one of the world’s preeminent modern composers, came to campus for three days filled with master classes, workshops, seminars, concerts, and a colloquium. Sunday morning, Saariaho sat in on a rehearsal of the Mount Holyoke/Smith Cello Ensemble as the musicians put finishing touches on Saariaho’s Neiges for a concert that afternoon. After the rehearsal, the musicians—Diana, Joydita, and Sara—chatted about Saariaho and her music.
Diana: We had a steep learning curve, especially at first.
Joydita: We had to learn all the funky things a cello doesn’t usually do.
Diana: Those are called “extended techniques.”
Sara: It’s a different kind of playing. We’re used to always trying to make things sound beautiful. Anssi [Karttunen, guest cellist and conductor] told us: “You have to learn to love the crunching sound.”
Diana: It’s kind of intimidating. You’re playing her work.
Joydita: We usually play dead composers. There’s a lot of variability in the music. Your instrument will surprise you. Every instrument plays it differently. She understands that.
Diana: It’s more about the sound than the notes. That’s why it was a steep learning curve. It took a long time to control what the music sounds like.
Sara: You’re going to learn a lot about classical music by broadening your horizons with modern music. Any time you’re playing something you’re uncomfortable with, you’re going to become a better musician.
Diana: After we played this morning and she said “It’s great,” I was happy!
Leading the way since 1942
Mount Holyoke’s V-8s are the oldest continuing female collegiate a cappella group in the nation.
Name: Sarah Mauro ’10
Hometown: Burlington, CT
Instruments: Clarinet, flute, piano, and voice
Internship: Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Words of wisdom: “One of the best ways to learn is by doing, so I encourage everyone to pick up an instrument and give it a try."
Latest composition: “The Girl and Her Balloon,” an 11-minute piece that took eight weeks to write
Secret ambition: “What I want most in my career at Mount Holyoke is to have the orchestra perform one of my pieces.”
Dreams really do come true: The MHC Orchestra performed “The Girl and Her Balloon” May 2, 2010.
New secret ambition: To write a rock musical. “I love Rent and Spring Awakening.”
Future plans: A master’s in composition at the University of Massachusetts
Mount Holyoke College • Vista
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