Commissioned by the Wien Modern Festival

  • Soprano/electronics (see below for details)
  • 20 min
  • Jaufré Rudel
  • Occitan (Old Provençal)

Programme Note

The title Lonh, meaning far away or distant, comes from the old Provençal language, in which the text is sung. The text itself, a poem about love from afar, famous among scholars of mediaeval poetry, is attributed to the mediaeval troubadour Jaufré Rudel.
Formally, the piece loosely follows the form of the poem, and is thus divided into nine sections. Some of the symmetrical and repeating aspects are found in the solo soprano part, which as such uses rather freely the elements for the original text, so that the resulting text is rather a collage based on Rudels song.
In the electronic part, one can hear the text in three languages: Occitan (Provençal), French and English. The texts in Occitan were read by the poet Jacques Roubaud - who has intensively studied this poem and also translated it into French - and also by Julie Parsillé, a young French girl. The French version was read by Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and the English text by Dawn Upshaw, whose recorded singing voice is also part of the sonic material heard from the electronic part.
This vocal material, as well as some concrete sounds of for example birds, wind and rain, were processed with a large variety of Ircam transformation programs, such as resonant filters (Chant programme), cross-synthesis and me stretching with the phase-vocoder (AudioSculpt programme), etc.
After a preliminary mixing with ProTools, the sound materials were projected into a virtual acoustic, moved through a three-dimensional space (Spatialisateur programme on the Ircam Music Workstation).
The work for the electronic part has been realised in Ircam with the assistance of Gilbert Nouno, and with the help and supervision of Jean-Baptiste Barrière.
Lonh is a prologue for my forthcoming opera project dedicated to Dawn Upshaw.

© Kaija Saariaho

From afar

When the days are long in May
The sweet song of birds from afar Seems lovely to me
And when I have left there
I remember a distant love
I walk bent and bowed with desire
So much so that neither song nor Hawthorn flower
Please me more than the icy winter.

Never will I enjoy love
If I do not enjoy this distant love
For a nobler or better one I do not know
Anywhere, neither near nor far
So high is its true, real price
That there, in the kingdom of the Saracens
I wish to be proclaimed her captive.

Sad and joyous, I will separate from her
When I see that distant love
But I know not when I will see her
For our lands are too far away
There are so many passages and paths
And in this I am no seer
But let everything be according to God’s will.

I will feel joy for sure when I ask her
For the love of God the distant love
And if it pleases her I will live
Near her even if I am from far away
Then will come our faithful meeting
When I, the faraway lover,
Will be so near
That I will console myself
With her beautiful words.

I really trust in the Lord
Through whom I will see
The distant love
But for something that fails me
I have two sorrows for she is
So far away
Ah, if only I were a pilgrim there
So that my stick and my bundle
Could be seen by her lovely eyes.

God who made everything
That comes and goes
And formed this distant love
Grant me the power of my heart
Soon to see the distant love

Truly in a propitious place
And that the room and garden
Always appear as palaces to me.

He speaks true who says I am avid
And longing for the distant love
For no joy gives me pleasure
Like the pleasure of the distant love
But what I want is forbidden to me
So my godfather endowed me
That though loving
I will not have been loved
But what I want is forbidden to me
So may my godfather be cursed
Who made me not to be loved.

Sample Pages




Sample Pages


  • Kaija Saariaho’s Poetic Montages
    • Kaija Saariaho’s Poetic Montages
    • From the very beginning of her career as a composer, Kaija Saariaho has turned to poetry as a material and inspiration for her music. The forms and logics of poetry have played a defining role in her output since then.



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