The music of Märt-Matis Lill (b. 1975) can be characterized by minimal style, poetic aura, mythological subtexts, sonoristic approach to sound, contemplative time, breathing handling of form and references from archaic and orient cultures. His opera “Into the Fire” staged by Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu in 2017 was awarded the music prize of Estonian Theatre Awards. Lill’s next large-scale project is going to be a cross-disciplinary stage work based on the mythology of Finno-Ugric nations.
The output of Märt-Matis Lill reflects a deep interest in Oriental culture and philosophic tradition. His music combines modern Western sonoristic devices as well as refined and concentrated sound perception common to Oriental music.
Instead of architectonic qualities, free-breathing, an unpredictable succession of sound events dominates in Lill’s music. Oftentimes recited lyrics and music is connected in his scores, many of his works have been inspired by poetic images. Pieces of chamber music form the bulk of Lill’s work until now.
Märt-Matis Lill studied composition with Lepo Sumera at the Tallinn Music High School and graduated from the Estonian Academy of Music in 1999 as a student of Prof. Eino Tamberg and Prof. Lepo Sumera. Since 1998, he is obtaining master’s degree at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Veli-Matti Puumala. Lill has improved his skills in composition at master courses with Louis Andriessen, Michael Jarrell, Luca Francesconi and Magnus Lindberg.
In 2000, Lill was granted a scholarship to participate in IRCAM’s summer course in Helsinki; in 2003, he took part in the Centre Acanthes summer course in Avignon. Since 1997, Lill has studied Japanology, sinology and philosophy at the Helsinki University.
Märt-Matis Lill is artistic director of the Pärnu New Music Days Festival, the chairman of the Estonian Arnold Schönberg Society since 2003, and from 2014, the chairman of the Estonian Composers’ Union.
The work of Märt-Matis Lill has been performed at the Estonian Music Days Festival and at the International New Music Festival NYYD. Lill’s ensemble work From Whispers to Screams was premiered in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, France, 2003 by Présences Contemporaines Ensemble. In 2004 in Metz, France, his Fleeting Dreams got the first performance from the Ensemble Intercontemporain with Peter Rundel conducting.
In 2003, Lill’s orchestral work River of Heaven participated at UNESCO’s International Rostrum of Composers in Vienna in the category of composers under 30. Among four Estonian composers’ works, Lill’s Spots of Fire in the Dark was included into the music of the dance performance Myrrh and Cinnamon premiered in 2004 in Netherland, at the Arvo Pärt Festival: astonishing music. Swinging song for organ, written in 2007 while being a composer in residence in the Visby International Centre for Composers, was premiered at the Visby International Organ Festival the same year. When the Buffalo Went Away was chosen to represent Estonia at the World Music Days in Vancouver in 2017.
In 2004, Märt-Matis Lill was awarded the Heino Eller Composition Prize. For the work Sad Joy he got the Composer Prize of the Estonian Music Days Festival 2005 and for My Weeping Voice is the Wind of Autumn the Composer Prize of the Estonian Music Days Festival 2006. In 2007, My Weeping Voice is the Wind of Autumn was selected among the best ten compositions at the International Composers’ Rostrum in Paris. In 2018, Märt-Matis Lill achieved the Estonian Music Council’s Composition Prize as well as the Estonian National Annual Award for Culture for his opera Into the Fire. In the same year, the artistic team of the opera Into the Fire received the Estonian Theatre Annual Award.
Poetry, intensity and poetically peculiar to it, is my artistic ideal. If somebody says my music is poetical, this is the highest praise for me; then I feel I have reached the point.
I want to create fragile music but, at the same time, I like to balance this fragility. This may be my artistic ideal, as like as poetical state of mind I want to create.
(Interview with Anneli Remme in journal Muusika, 2003/10)
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