Echoes of the Universe – The Music of Kaija Saariaho

At first, the music felt so big and important that it seemed difficult to think that I could add anything to it.” 
– Kaija Saariaho

Echoes of the Universe – The Music of Kaija Saariaho is a documentary about the contemporary composer Kaija Saariaho who made her career in Paris. The documentary follows Saariaho’s growth from a shy Helsinki girl to the most respected contemporary composer in the world. Saariaho’s education path starts at the Rudolf Steiner school and continues to the Sibelius Academy and from there to Freiburg, Germany, and further to Paris. The documentary also provides peeks into the two master classes that the composer gives to student composers in Tampere and to vocal students in Paris.

Saariaho’s music is widely performed all over the world in concert halls, on opera stages, and at festivals. In the documentary, the initial ideas and the backgrounds of the works are explained by the composer herself as well as her colleagues and family members. The floor is given to the director Peter Sellars, conductor Clément Mao-Takacs, soprano Anu Komsi, writer Sofi Oksanen, choral conductor Simon Halsey, kantele musician Eija Kankaanranta, and folk musician Vilma Jää. Featured are also Saariaho’s husband Jean-Baptiste Barrière (composer, multimedia artist) as well as their son Aleksi Barrière (musical theatre director, dramaturge, librettist) and daughter Aliisa Neige Barrière (violinist, conductor).

The opera about the trauma caused by school shooting, Innocence, made opera history when the piece premiered in Aix-en-Provence, France, in the summer of 2021. The masterpiece is the result of the collaboration between three Finnish female artists: Kaija Saariaho, writer Sofi Oksanen, and conductor Susanna Mälkki. The newest material of the documentary was filmed in the rehearsal of Innocence at the Finnish National Opera in October 2022. In addition to Helsinki and Tampere, the documentary was filmed in Denmark’s Ebeltoft, Paris, Venice, and Barcelona. The documentary concludes in Italy where Kaija Saariaho is awarded Venice Biennale’s ‘The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement’ in 2021.

During her career, Saariaho has received 24 international awards and recognitions. In 2020, in a poll by BBC, Kaija Saariaho was voted the most important living contemporary composer. The New York Times also called Saariaho the most important contemporary composer of 2021. The documentary Echoes of the Universe is also a way to thank and honour composer Saariaho for her impressive gift to the Finnish and international music.

The documentary was released in honour of Kaija Saariaho’s 70th birthday when her career as a composer has spanned 45 years.

The film was shot in 2019-2022. The length of the film is 80 minutes.


Director and screenwriter: Riitta Rask
Head cinematographer: Pekka Uotila
Film editor: Maria Haipus
Sound recorder: Christian Pulkkinen

Sound designer: Salla Hämäläinen
Mixing: Sami Sarhamaa
Graphics: Studio Pekka Piippo
Head producer: Teatro Productions Oy / Kaisa Näreranta


DocPoint Festival

  • Finnish premiere at DocPoint Festival on Friday 3 Feb 2023 at 17.00 in BioRex Theatre and second performance in the Savoy Theatre on Saturday 4 Feb at 14.00.
  • Extra preformances at the DocPoint Festival:
    – Malmitalo Tue 7.2 at 20.00 (free entrance)
    – Lumosali, Vantaa Wed 8.2 at 20.00 (free entrance)

Tampere Film Festival

  • Wed 8 March at 15.45 in Cine Atlas 2. More info on the festival and tickets here.