ABSTRACT

Kokkonen belongs to the generation of composers born just after World War I and who came to prominence during the 1950s; the cohort includes such celebrated names as Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen (to name but four). For these composers and their followers, innovation was a fundamental premise of their music. Although Kokkonen was certainly aware of these composers as well as the major European music trends during the 1940s and 1950s—as early as 1949 the Society for Contemporary Music in Helsinki began performing this music and inviting composers from continental Europe to give lectures—he was never the relentless experimentalist that such modernists have shown to be throughout their respective careers (although as I have identified in numerous analyses throughout this book, Kokkonen's particular approach to dodecaphonic composition is an unusual and fascinating contribution that needs to be more extensively studied). Kokkonen further cast himself apart from mainstream European musical activities through a determined avoidance of electronic music composition throughout his career. Instead, he embraced his country's tradition of orchestral music that begins essentially with Sibelius and has played such a vital role in twentieth-century Finnish culture and never strayed from an aesthetic of narrative structure and expression that has been a part of western art music for centuries—one which was shunned for a time by post-World War II composers—where expression and significance in a composition arise from the presentation of a linked series of events.