Saariaho grew up in Finland and studied music at the Sibeleus Academy in Helsinki. She has pushed to create new timbress and has developed new techniques for instrumental music, at times combining music with electronics. She particularly pushes the computer domain and how it can function within a musical composition (Saariaho 2014).
Timbre and color remain at the center of this work. Mirage is a highly expressive piece. It uses many modern, extended techniques and has an almost etherial sound. The work contains both lyrical lines and very rhythmic, pulsating sections commonly found in modern music. The sense of tonality is not as strong in this work, obviously not based on traditional tonality. However, consonance and disonance are both used to convey a message of the mood of the story. In terms of notation, the notation does not look particularly modern. However, with how specific the composer is about every performacne element in the score, the notation is obviously a product of a later, modern century.
To me, there are many similarities between Bright Sheng's "String Quartet No. 3" and Saariaho's "Mirage." Sheng's string quartet experiements a great dealwith timbre, particularly shifting registers, which can be heard in the pizicatto about two minutes into the piece that jumps around the different registers. All parts interlock and form intricate and interesting composite rhythmic complexity, just as in Saariaho's work. To some degree, Sheng's work feels slightly more tonal in terms of harmony.
Though this is not my favorite work I have studied, I do find it provocative in the way it makes you think. I also enjoy the timbres created and rhythmic interplay between the voice, cello, and piano.
"ANA Saariaho Mirage." YouTube video, 16:20. Posted by "Suggia2." upload April 9, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TfnSqyxyUs
Saariaho, Kaija. (2014). "Bio". Retrieved from http://www.petals.org/Saariaho/bio-english.html.
Saariaho, Kaija. (2008). "Mirage". [Musical Score]