The Rapids of Life

by Outi Tarkiainen

for orchestra

Empty sheet

Outi Tarkiainen

The Rapids of Life

Edition Wilhelm Hansen


Only few people ever experience the Ferguson reflex, and they
are all women. But those who do are sure to remember its magical
strength for ever. I described that enormous surge to my husband as the
rapids of life I had to shoot – as a precipice over which I was pushed;
and in the process I realised how little I knew about the strength of
the human body. This physical command, also known as the foetal ejection
reflex and performed without conscious thought, shot our son out of my
womb and into our arms in the space of two minutes. The Rapids of Life
is a work about that paramount moment, about a female’s instinctive
birth-giving and a little child of nature who opens his eyes for the
first time. The form of the work imitates the physiological delivery and
its different stages, carried along by the ever-shifting waves.

While I was composing the piece, the news reached me of the death of Kaija Saariaho,
a great composer and a person who was very important to me. The
composition began to reflect her as a person; a little flash of her
cello concerto slipped into the cello solo at the beginning, and many of
the instruments that meant a lot to her appeared to bear the flame of
life along. The piece ends with birth and a great new beginning. This
latter is reinforced by the reference in the low brass on the final
stages of the score to the first bar of Sibelius’s fourth symphony.

The Rapids of Life is dedicated to the memory of Kaija Saariaho.

- Outi Tarkiainen


3333 4231 13 2, cel, str


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Pekka Kuusisto, cond. October 4, 2024, Helsinki

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Radio 3, Göteborg Symfoniker and Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Dedicated to the memory of Kaija Saariaho

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