Circle Map

by Kaija Saariaho

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Kaija Saariaho

Circle Map

Chester Music


Six quatrains by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi have been both inspiration and part of the musical material for Circle Map.

Reading these six verses in their English translations, taking in their essence and vivid, yet simple imagery provided me with immediate inspiration. Yet, when studying the recordings of the poem we made, read in the original Persian by Arshia Cont, the abstract rhythm and musicality of the texts themselves struck me.

These recordings became the main material for the electronic part. In concert, these sounds are processed and mixed in real time and are then diffused across six loudspeakers surrounding the audience. All the work concerning the electronics was realized with Jean-Baptiste Barrière.

Each movement of Circle Map has a singular relation to a poem, a distinct orchestration, and a particular processing of the texts in the work’s electronics: the pitch and tone of the original voice modified differently from one movement to another. Each has its own character to bring out.

Indeed, so connected is the work to Rumi’s verse that the very musical material for the orchestra is based on the recorded Persian readings. A clear example of this is the relation of the orchestra and the text in the second movement, Walls closing. This movement ends in a rhythmic unison by orchestra and the voice, and the instruments also follow the pitches and intonations of the original speech.

For the best introduction to Circle Map read the poems by Rumi!

Kaija Saariaho


2232 4231 14 1, pno, cel, str, electronics [pic, afl, bcl, cbsn]


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble




Concertgebouw Orchestra, cond. Susanna Mälkki, Westergasfabriek Gashouder, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 22 June, 2012.

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra.

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