Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


The Shaping of Time in Kaija Saariaho's Émilie: a Performer's Perspective

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Emily Freeman Brown (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Brent E. Archer (Other)

Third Advisor

Elaine Colprit (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Nora Engebretsen-Broman (Committee Member)


This document examines the ways in which Kaija Saariaho uses texture and timbre to shape time in her 2008 opera, Emilie. Building on ideas about musical time as described by Jonathan Kramer in his book The Time of Music: New Meanings, New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies (1988), such as moment time, linear time, and multiply-directed time, I identify and explain how Saariaho creates linearity and non-linearity in Emilie and address issues about timbral tension/release that are used both structurally and ornamentally. I present a conceptual framework reflecting on my performance choices that can be applied in a general approach to non-tonal music performance. This paper intends to be an aid for performers, in particular conductors, when approaching contemporary compositions where composers use the polarity between tension and release to create the perception of goal-oriented flow in the music.