Mikko Heiniö
Humanist of the day

Mikko Heiniö

Musicology Professor emeritus Mikko Heiniö has done the most thorough research of our time's Finnish art music. In addition to his academic career, he has worked in two other areas for decades: composing and key positions of trust in music organisations.

Mikko Heiniö

Mikko Kyösti Heiniö
Born May 18, 1948, Tampere

BA 1972, licentiate 1978, PhD 1984 (musicology), University of Helsinki

Freelance composer 2005–
Musicology Professor 1986–2005, University of Turku
Musicology assistant / Acting assistant professor 1977–1985, University of Helsinki

Key positions of trust
Vice chair of the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) 2013–15
Vice chair of the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto 1999–2014
Chair of the Society of Finnish Composers 1992–2010
Vice chair for the Foundation for Creative Art Composition 1989–1997
Chair of the Sibelius Fund 1988–1992

Significant Honours
Tieto-Finlandia Award for Suomen musiikin historia I-IV (‘The history of Finnish music I–IV’) 1997 (with Fabian Dahström and Erkki Salmenhaara)
Finland Prize 2006
Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music 2004
Honorary member of the Society of Finnish Composers 2010
Honorary member of the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto 2014

Photo: Elke Albrecht
Written by Mikko Heiniö (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Even though I had played and written music as a hobby since I was little, my aim was to become a writer – after all, I had managed to publish a novel that I had written when I was 17. I had been making some compositions, too, but I considered myself too old to study music.

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My dissertation, entitled Innovaation ja tradition idea (‘The idea of innovation and tradition’), was on the philosophy of music. It had two mottos: on the one hand, Paavo Heininen’s idea that his research on Finnish composers was ‘extended narcissism: an interest in what happens in this country to a person who composes’, and on the other, Noam Chomsky’s idea that ‘[a] central problem of interpreting the world is determining how, in fact, human beings proceed to do so’.

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Working on operas required plenty of teamwork, which provided an exception to a composer’s usually solitary writing. First the librettist and the director needed to work together, and later on the entire production crew joined in. The opera Riddaren och draken (2000), which I was commissioned to compose for the 700-year jubilee of the Turku Cathedral, I was able to still partly work on as part of my university position. Käärmeen hetki (2005), which I composed for the Finnish National Opera, was finished to a great extent during leaves of absence. After that I decided to plunge into life as a freelance composer. My third opera, Eerik XIV (2010), became the main event of Turku’s year as the European Capital of Culture in 2011, a vast multimedia spectacle filling the new Logomo Hall.

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The makers of music naturally always remain in the shadow of its performers – especially those who only write music and never perform it themselves. Even though Finland has high-quality education in music, operas, symphony orchestras and all kinds of institutions, art music does not have much of a status in the public sphere. In this marginalised music scene, living composers have it particularly tough.

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Mikko Heiniö’s musical ensembles: Maria Suite parts 1–5

  • Maria Suite 1-2: Mary had a baby - La Negrita (Heiniö, Mikko)
  • Maria Suite 3: Maria aber behielt (Heiniö, Mikko)
  • Maria Suite 4-5: Mater, fons amoris - Bogoroditse devo (Heiniö, Mikko)