Friday, 9 September 2022

Viljo the Rabbit 2009-2022

 Viljo the Rabbit 2009-2022

Last Sunday my beloved rabbit and friend Viljo died at the animal hospital surrounded by me and my parents. For some reason people always asked me (while he still was alive) if rabbits “can do anything as pets” so here follows a story about Viljo and how special he was.

When I first got to know Viljo, it wasn’t “love at first sight”. My former flatmate Maija in Tampere had had him a few years earlier, given him away, and the new owner couldn't anymore have him and said they would put Viljo down if not anyone would take him, so Maija, who loves animals, asked in the autumn of 2012 if we could take him. I was not super enthusiastic in the beginning to have a rabbit in addition to my flatmate’s dog Dexter, but neither did I want a dead rabbit on my conscience, so I agreed. The first dog Dexter and rabbit became good friends (as seen in the photo below).

Viljo and Dexter 2012. Photo © Cecilia Damström

After half a year Maija took a second dog to take care of. The new dog saw Viljo as a tasty meal all of the time, and once when I came home after a weekend away, the whole kitchen looked like a bomb had exploded. Maija told me her second dog had managed to open the unlocked kitchen door and the rabbit cage and apparently had chased the rabbit all through the kitchen. As through a miracle Viljo had not died of the shock and also survived by hiding behind the motor of the deep freezer until Maija came home. This was the first time I felt really sorry for Viljo, as I saw how afraid he was, he was shaking and looking very depressed. When Maija moved out and my new flatmate Jari moved in, I suggested to Maija she would leave the rabbit with me and Jari, because it might not survive with the new dog.

Jari and Viljo 2013. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Jari at once took to Viljo and suggested we should let him roam free in the kitchen to which I agreed and after a while he was allowed to roam free in the hallway. And what a change this territory expansion did to Viljo! He began lying in the hall waiting for me to come home, behaving just like the first dog Dexter. When I came home he would hop around my feet in circles and make a small grunting noise (those who know, they know), to show how happy he was.

Viljo in Jari's guitar case 2013. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Viljo became a very sociable rabbit. He loved when people would have conversations in the kitchen or hallway (“his” territory) and would jump in eights around both peoples feet, to show his joy. He thought however that it would be best if no-one left the house ever, and clever as he was, he tried to sabotage all means of traveling that he had considered might work: he chewed the wheels of my suitcase, the straps of my backpack and once even the soles of my shoes. In later years he would take to more “passive aggressive” ways to express his annoyance of traveling: by sulking with the back to me (while in-between turning to check if I'm still looking at him).

Vilje and Jari's brother's cat Lipsu. About 2015

Naturally through me and my guitar playing flatmate Jari, the rabbit Viljo became a true music enthusiast. He listened to everything from classical music to contemporary music (preferring Lutoslawski over Messiaen). Jari’s flamenco guitar playing got a special place in his heart. Jari even brought Viljo to my final recital in the Pyynikki hall, the full rabbit review of my concert can be read here:

Vilje and I in January 2013. Photo © Cecilia Damström

The summers from 2013 Viljo lived always with my parents at the summer house. We tried building him a big outdoor cage, but he was just very offended and wanted to stay rather inside and listen to Radio Classic, while eating kale and blueberries. The most elitist personality I’ve known. (Viljo must feel honoured that The Queen has joined him last night.)

Viljo looking at the sea 2013. Photo © Cecilia Damström

When I moved to Sweden, Viljo lived first for about 2 years with Jari after which he moved in 2017 to Helsinki, mainly living with my parents. His territory became the living room, with a corner for his toilet and rabbit food. But most of his time he spent under the living room dining table, among people’s feet, his favorite place. When he got older he started making a bit of a mess, but hugely appreciated when we cleaned up, and would show it by hopping around eagerly on his clean carpets. I bought a white robot vacuum cleaner for my parents to help, and Viljo also got acquainted with it, although always making sure to show the vacuum that he (Viljo) was the boss and was not going to move for the vacuum.

They say cats have 9 lives but it seems also Viljo had at least 6. According to Wikipedia, rabbits become between 7-9 years old (and insurance stops at 7 years), but Viljo became over 12 years old (12 years 8 month and 26 days). In addition to the already mentioned near escapes in 2012 and 2013, Viljo fell for the first time seriously ill in the late winter of 2018 and again in the autumn 2019 and in the spring 2021, but thanks to the superb vet Delphine (and quite huge investments on our part in the treatment) he managed all these times as well. I myself went through a very hard breakup in 2019, fell ill in depression after which I in addition fell ill with Covid-19 in early 2020 followed by serious long covid for more than 2 years. Much of this time I lived with my parents and Viljo was with me through all of it, sitting with me on the sofa while I watched TV and sitting at my feet while I composed. He was the first creature to hear my compositions besides me, while they were written. He was never happy when I dated someone, because I think he thought during the last five years that I was his partner. When I became single in 2014 and 2019 he was overjoyed both times. He was the happiest at the summerhouse, in the late evenings and when I didn’t leave the house (like on days when I composed all day).

Viljo by the sea 2013. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Last Saturday Viljo was getting more and more tired and on Sunday my parents brought him for the last time to the vet. Sadly Delphine wasn’t there this time. Viljo was diagnosed with an inflamed appendix. We paid for the extra treatment they had to offer, but it didn’t help, they said we have to come and say goodbye. He had been given relaxants and couldn’t move well anymore, but with his last energy he dragged himself on the table so that he lay with his head against my father for a while, against me for a while and against my mother. He wanted to show how he appreciated all of us. And then he sat up and cleaned himself.

Last hour of Viljo's life 4th of September 2022

Viljo was such a special rabbit, I doubt I will ever meet such an exquisite rabbit ever again. I am forever thankful to him for being at my side during my most difficult times in life so far. Thank you Viljo for everything.

Viljo's grave 5th of September 2022

Tuesday, 30 August 2022


 This week it's time for the world premiere of Wasteland with Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra and Ville Matvejeff! This 20 minute orchestra piece in five movements is the craziest piece of music I have written so far, my own "Rite of Spring". The rehearsals sounded fantastic and I can't wait for the premiere on Thursday the 1st of September!

Wasteland is inspired by some very complex issues, and because complex issues can't be explained with a few words, hence long program note below:

Every year an average Swede will buy 13 kilograms of clothes and throw away about 7.5 kilograms of clothes. About 60 percent of the clothes that are thrown away are whole and clean, but only 3.8 kilograms of textiles per person are annually collected by charity organisations. At least 0.13 kilograms of clothes per person are sold second hand. In Finland the numbers are even higher. As much as 19 kilograms of clothes are bought and 13 kilograms are thrown away annually per person.  For producing one kilogram of cotton you will need 7 000 – 29 000 litres of water and 0.3 –1 litre of oil.  To produce one kilogram of cloth generates about 10-15 kilograms of  greenhouse gases.

In recent years second hand clothes have become increasingly popular in Scandinavia, and bringing your clothes to a collection is considered a way to “have a clean conscience”. But according to a report by the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle only around 20 percent of the collected clothes can be sold in shops in Scandinavia. Around 10 percent are burnt immediately and up to 70 percent are sent further to sorting units, usually situated in the Baltic countries or Germany. At this point a small part is used for upcycling, such as fillings for car seats. But most of the clothes are sent to some of the poorest countries in the world, like for instance Mozambique. The black market of cheap bad quality clothes disrupts these countries’ own textile industry. As a large part of the clothes are of too bad quality to wear anymore, they end up in landfills.

The first movement “Wear” is about how we use different clothes for different occasions, like for instance certain clothes for christmas parties, maybe other clothes for concerts and again something else when we are going out partying with friends. The clothes might be bought second hand and be used several times, but everything at an increasing tempo.

The second movement “Toss” is the journey the clothes make together with their owner to collection containers where they are tossed in, and from where they are collected by a lorry. The third movement “Sort” is a description of collection and sorting halls. The movement is like a slow “zoom out” during which you slowly begin to realise what a large amount of “Christmas- and party clothes” there are intended to be recycled: in Finland annually around 14 million kilograms and in Sweden around 38 million kilograms, an overwhelming amount.

The fourth movement “Burn” is about what happens to at least 80 percent of all textile waste: it is burned with mixed waste. In best case the waste burning can be used for generating new energy, but it is not a sustainable way to use resources.

The last movement “Flow” is about what we call “Greenwashing”, in other words marketing something as sustainable even though it actually isn’t. In an investigating article by Yle a factory plant of the Finnish firm Fortum is viewed in detail. The factory refines salts from environmentally hazardous APC ashes (APC = Air Pollution Control) from incineration waste. Then these salts are rinsed out together with the wastewater of the process, straight into the Baltic Sea, as there is “lack of proof that it would be harmful for the environment”. The regulations which state that ashes from incineration waste should not be used unrefined, due to environmental risks, are circumvented in this way. 

Wasteland is a shout out that recycling can’t be “one option of many”, as it has to be the only viable choice for our resources to be sufficient. The responsibility for recycling shouldn’t lie solely with consumers, but should also be mandatory for producers. With this piece, I want to make people understand that if we can “afford” to consume, we must also be able to afford to take care of the waste we are creating. This must be regulated by law so that the responsibility cannot be shifted to poorer and / or corrupt countries.

Photo by the fantastic Ville Juurikkala
Composer Cecilia Damström. Photo: Ville Juurikkala

Sunday, 10 July 2022

World premiere of Cura

Just spent 25 hours in Kesälahti at the music festival Latosoitot! The 25 hours included three concerts (one this morning at 7AM!), swimming in a lake (three times!), sauna (two different kinds!) and the world premiere of Cura by the one and only Pekka Kuusisto and Tiina Karakorpi! Thank you to Anna-Liina Lindeberg for an amazing festival and to all her family for superb food, historical tours and heartwarming hospitality! These are moments when you know you are alive!

Happy composer after the premiere of Cura at Latosoitot 2022!


peter vaskThe piano from 1910 which works with a piano roll. Almost like a "disc clavier" but completely without electricity, but with the power of feet.

A still of the piano on which Cura was premiered.

One of the first bibles in Finland!

With two of my favourite musicians.

Selling amazing porridge and coffee at 7AM at Latosoitot. (The porridge was included in the ticket price! And it was one of the best porridges I have ever eaten!)

All the musicians who performed at 7:00 AM at Latosoitot.

Pekka and Tiina performing Clara Schumann at Latosoitot.

Markus Hohti performing at 7:00 AM some Peteris Vasks and Anna Meredith at the barn of Latosoitot on the 10th of July 2022

With Leena and Antti Ihamuotila after the premiere of Cura 9.7.2022.

Pekka and Tiina giving the world premiere of Cura at Mäntyniemen kartano 9.7.2022

Pekka and Tiina giving the world premiere of Cura 9 July 2022

Talking about Cura to a sold out audience before the premiere 9 July 2022.

Monday, 13 June 2022

The premiere of "De vita nätterna"

What a day! Hearing 1300 singers premiere my “De vita nätterna” conducted by the fantastic Elisa Huovinen at this years Sång- och Musikfesten! Awesome singers, awesome location (in front of Helsinki Main Library Oodi) and awesome weather! And an amazing recording that can be found here. What more could you ask for? 😍😭🤩 THANK YOU! 🥳💃🏽

Composer Cecilia Damström and Artistic Director Kari Turunen at Sång och Musikfesten 2022.

Kari used to teach choral conducting in Tampere and I sang three years in the chamber choir Näsi that he conducted then. Through Kari I got to know so much fantastic contemporary choir repertoire that then inspired me to write my first works for choir, that the chamber choir Näsi premiered. By now I have already composed 19 works for choir (of which five have won prizes and the last eight have been commissioned), so what can I say other than THANK YOU Kari for showing me what a fantastic musical world the choir is! 🤩

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

ICE wins the Teosto Prize 2022

I have been so overwhelmed the past week since winning the Teosto Prize* from all the positive responses and wonderful greetings!

Teotso Prize Winners 2022. Photo Jussi Helttunen

Now I would like to share with you a few pictures from the event. It feels unbelievable that I was given the chance by Dalia Stasevska and Lahti Symphony Orchestra to compose a work for them and the European Green Capital Lahti 2021, a work about climate change, and it feels even more unbelievable that this for me so important work also now won the Teosto Prize 2022! Huge thank you to both the pre-jury, who selected my work for nomination as well as the final jury who awarded me the prize!
Also a big congratulations to the other three winners, Yona , Linda Fredriksson and Evil Stöö as well as to all the other amazing nominated composers!

Cecilia Damström with conductor Dalia Stasevska after ICE winning the Teosto Prize 2022

I would also like to give a huge thanks to my family and friends who have been there for me and have supported my choice to become a composer, in both good times and bad. Never once did my parents question my decision to become a composer, on the contrary: it was my mother who suggested I’d study composition in the first place, so an extra huge thank you to my dear mother, who suggested this path that has felt right ever since.

Teosto Prize Winners 2022. Photo Jussi Helttunen.

I’m very honoured, happy and proud to be the first woman within classical music to win the Teosto Prize (which has been handed out since 2003). However I would like to draw attention to the fact that I’m by no means the first woman who could have won the prize. I would like to thank all the amazing women within history who have composed amazing music and have been part of the slow transformation toward a more diverse cultural field. A special big shoutout to Kaija Saariaho who has inspired the whole world through her personal music. Looking forward to an even more diverse future within culture as well as in general!
*Teosto is the Finnish copyright organisation for music creators, composers, and publishers. The Teosto Prize is awarded since 2003 to “bold, original and innovative musical works” and it is one of the biggest art awards in the Nordic countries.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

KRAFT - A world premiere with Akademen

What a concert! What a night!

Last night the Academic Male Voice Choir Akademen together with their conductor Elisa Huovinen gave an outstanding world premiere to my piece Hav, which they had commissioned. Due to a movement in the piece, where the choir is required to clap and stomp, the choir sang the whole 17 minute accapella piece by heart! This in a time when covid-19 has made regular choir practises impossible for over 2 years! I was so impressed!

The whole concert took place in a former steam power plant Kattilahalli, which felt like a industrial cathedral (to borrow the music criticque Mats Liljeroos words).

Hav was one of three commissions by the choir around the theme renewable energies interwoven by preludes and interludes by soundartist Joel James Ward and the whole concert was visually orchestrated by light artist Alexander Salvesen. After Ward’s opening soundscape, Andrea Eklund’s meditative piece Aeon Breath to a poem by James Gilbank filled the domelike hall while the smoke lay heavy and the light scape was hazy. During Ward’s water-inspired interlude soundscape, while the choir re-essembled in the dark.

KRAFT Photo by Melinda Schultz
KRAFT Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

Out of the dim light and haze the intimate beginning of my Hav began to rise, while Salvesen made spectacular visual landscapes through enormous water projections of light upon the ceiling. Hav consists of a total of ten movements which are sung attack after each other. The first movement in Swedish is meditative and describes the sea and how tremendous it is while the second very energetic movement in English discusses the possibilities of wave power plants. Example of the lyrics of the second movement:

There is an enormous energy potential 

that is available around the clock and free of charge. 

A potential, that if fully exploited, 

could satisfy 40% of the world wide demand for power. 

This equals the output of 700-800 nuclear power stations. 

This would mean no high-level radio active vaste 

of seven hundred to eight hundred nuclear power stations. 

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

As mentioned, Salvesen had arranged a water basin of about two times 20 meters, with a small motor spinning a pedal that produced fantastic waves that all was reflected on the ceiling, so the energy potential of waves was literally projected on the ceiling and walls.

In the middle of the piece the choir sings partly in unison and partly in three part harmony with a happy melody in major with vibes from Finnish folk music, accompanied by claps and stomps, the following text in Finnish from the Finnish “Economist” (Taloussanomat), here translated:

Only the demand for renewable energy 

will grow this year, 

predicts the International Energy Agency IEA.

The global energy market and emissions

 from energy production 

will see a historic drop this year 

as a result of the coronary virus pandemic, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.

The prognosis says  

that the energy demand 

is going to fall 

the most it has done in 70 years - 

Emissions could fall 

by as much as eight percent, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After this lighter segment the choir is split up so that soloist came to stand between the choir and the water pool, each with an own lightbulb in front of them. While the choir breathes in and out at a rising tempo like a dying planet, the soloists recite a text about how Finnish firms developing Wave-power haven’t received the needed funding from the state (which somehow just seems incredible to me, and so sad). The ever growing crescendo and accelerando is interrupted by a foghorn, which is followed by some beautiful huge chords by the choir and a lamenting solo sung by one of the first tenors. The choir get’s to whistle and sing overtones as well. The piece ends with my words (in Swedish)

Today wave energy costs 

about twice as much per megawatt hour, 

than electricity produced by wind or nuclear power.

But what is the price for the survival of mankind, 

for the continued existence of our planet? I

magine if you were to invest as much i

n renewable energies as in Olkiluoto 3, almost nine billion. 

What would happen? Where can it take us?



Energy potential


KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After my piece the hall went almost dark again and while Salvesen made an impressive visualsation of red radar lights moving around the space, Ward filled the space with a morse code telling about the piece and presenting the artists. During this time the choir could collect their note stands and sheet music for the final piece.

It felt like Alex Freeman’s A Field of Sunlight picked up where I had left, and the piece began with an amazing chord with overtone singing, which was absolutely stunning. The piece composed to Galileo Galilei’s poetical texts about the sun, was an all time changing mass of sound. 

KRAFT Alexander Salvesen Photo by Melinda Schultz

During this piece the amazing circular projections of water (projected by old overhead projectors) began to fill up with colours and turn blood red in the front (stage) part of the hall while they turned green and blue in the back part of the hall. A total of 8 overhead projectors were projecting different coloured orbs on to the ceiling and walls, while Salvesen walked calmly between them and adjusting the colours in them. The whole piece ended in semi-darkness with the feeling of rotating stars moving around the room. This was achieved by two simple disco balls placed relatively far behind in the room, a simple but genius work of art by Salvesen.

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After the last tones of Freeman’s piece had rung out the audience was allowed to clap for the first time in 75 minutes, and clap they did! They audience gave the concert a standing ovation for about 10 minutes. This was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and its with mixed feelings I say: a once in a life time experience. Of course it would be amazing if this whole concert would be put up again, in for instance a festival! But there is also something very beautiful and special in being part of something so huge and visceral.

Joel Ward, Cecilia Damström, Alex Freeman, Andrea Eklund, Alexander Salvesen and Elisa Huovinen after the concert KRAFT 7th of May 2022 at Kattilahalli, Helsinki.