Marianna Liik : a sound world that is created by combining the acoustic and electronic means of expression


In 2017 Marianna Liik graduated Master’s studies in composition at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre with Helena Tulve and Margo Kõlar. She obtained there Bachelor’s degree in 2014 under the tutelage of Malle Maltis and Margo Kõlar. Liik has taken part in several masterclasses with Wim Henderickx, Fausto Sebastiani, Daniele Bravi, Bryan Christian, Niels Rosing-Schow and Ivan Fedele.

Marianna Liik has written music for orchestra, ensembles and choir as well as electroacoustic works. Her special interest is the sound world that is created by combining the acoustic and electronic means of expression. Liik’s music has been performed by Olari Elts, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Uusinta Ensemble (Finland), Laura Remmel (vocal), Theodor Sink (cello), Eda Peäske (harp), Aare Tammesalu (cello), Arvo Leibur (violin) and others. Her works has been in the program of many festivals in Estonia, as well as in USA, Poland, Germany, Russia, Australia.

Marianna Liik’s composition Mets (Forest) was awarded the second prize at the International Rostrum of Composers in Prague in 2013 in the category of composers under 30 years. In November 2014, Marianna Liik won the Westdeutscher Rundfunk film music award at the competition SoundTrack_Cologne 11. The project “Commentarium” by Marianna Liik and Leika Leemets was the winning work of EK:Labor 2016 (Estonian Concert’s programme for young producers). In 2017, Liik was awarded Lucerne Festival Academy prize Roche Young Commissions.


What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

As a child I heard my father play the flute very often – different repertoire but also his improvisations. He also composed sometimes. I remember one moment in my childhood when I was going to the second floor in our house but on the staircase I heard a sharp clatter. I knew that father was recording and I didn’t want to make any noise and stayed downstairs that time. That sound and the recording process seemed to be very mysterious. Later it appeared that the clattering sound was made by some broken glass that my father had brought to the house inside a basin. 

I don’t know to what extent and how this kind of memory has influenced me but these two memory pictures – flute sounds and fragments of glass came to my mind first.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

My path as a composer hasn’t been long. I wrote my first piece when I was eighteen and just finished master studies in this spring. Before writing my first composition I had listened to Erkki-Sven Tüür’s and Giacinto Scelsi’s music. These two composers are certainly influential or relevant regarding my work. 

I think I am influenced a lot unconsciously. Looking back to my pieces, influences from nature, also city and industrial sounds can be found in them. 

I like to observe different structures, for example tree crowns in the lull, almost stationary but still, when you keep watching then slow motion can be seen. Cranes, electrinc lines, (old) machines – sometimes I see them as pieces of art. 

How do you approach the question of “form” especially for longer works?

A piece can be divided into parts, it is important how the parts are connected and related, and the proportions of the parts. Of course the parts can be divided into subsections and these in turn to even smaller parts. Each part and subsection has to be placed “correctly” into the whole, I should realize what is the function or substance regarding the whole piece. I like the idea of a magnetic line running through the whole piece that knows the direction and towards which everything is anchored.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I don’t have a very regular schedule. So far composing has been in parallel with my studies. The closer the deadline comes, the more regular the schedule becomes. I have noticed that I like constantly changing my schedule. I feel necessity for regularity but if I have achieved that, then quite soon I get tired of routine and I want to break it, for example to work late in the evenings. I would like to compose early in the mornings but so far I haven’t succeeded at it. 

I use a digital audio workstation for creating and editing electronic material, I have used mostly Pro Tools. I create different sounds in many programs by trial and error and then I bring this found musical material (could be called building blocks) into one digital audio workstation. 

For notation I use Finale. It is possible that it can inhibit sometimes, at the same time sometimes it is good to check or test out some rhythmic and sound structures. It is important to learn to use technology in a smart way so that it wouldn’t limit but help you.

Please describe a recent work.

My latest piece is Adapt to prevailing stream and become able to see clearly for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello. 

The springboard for this piece was a flute color trill. I had some flute timbres (achieved by color trills) in my mind when I started creating rhythmic patterns. Later I developed certain pitches and extended the amount of timbres. Rhythmic structures with flute alone at the beginning of the piece is the base for the large part of the composition. Using simple methods – stretching note durations, I got new structures and building blocks that I then placed intuitively in the piece, of course I approached it freely, made changes if I felt it was right. Currently, I am searching and testing methods that can be very simple but what would be a suitable base for my musical output. It offers opportunities for organizing musical material and acts as a backbone and on that base it is good to build new compositions. 

I also use text in this piece. The necessity of using text in this composition came quite early in the creating process. Probably the musical reason why I decided to use text is that the pattern of reading it harmonizes with musical structures. Also, I like the sound of text itself, it can be seen as a sound object. I would see the nature of text in this piece as a sphere of which one pole is text as a sound object (the sound of text with its aleatoric variability has value itself) and in the other pole there is a subtext. I like to see that sphere from one side and from another then rotate it to see the sides working together as a whole.

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