A Tree, and the Blackbird Singing

An interview with Minna Pöllänen
by Ketty Brocca

First published in Laboratorio,
Lunedi 6 Luglio 2009.


Your lecture was focused on the comparison between architecture and music. Can you tell us something about that?

In Venezia there is San Marco, which is a very special building, with a lot of cupolas.. and there was developed in the fifteenth century the ”cori spezzati”
a music with many choruses they put it different places. And it could only be born in San Marco! Or in the twelfth century, in the Notre-Dame: first there was the building, and then they developed polyphony, there`s where it started. School of Notre Dame, that was there, with for example Perotinus, or the cathedral itself inspired Leonius.

Cregorial chant, in roman churches, was a very humble, one voice, horizontal music: but then, architectures started to grow up, and it`s very interesting to see how music, many hundreds of years later, reached the same kind of complicated structure. Music took much longer, but in the end it became as huge as the cathedrals. In the Middle Age there were the troubadours, used to sing their love songs: but them were not really considered musicians. The musician was a scientist, who knew mathematic, proportions… it is very interesting to see how, Palladio, who wrote I quattro libri dellàrchitettura, he borrowed from music theory, because that was considered science. Architects are always interested in music, and I often heard them saying: ”this building really sings!” or ”it sounds, just like music!”

You are a musician: do you know any building that you feel special?

Yes, there are many. But there is one church, in Finland, that is built inside a rock: it has a very pagan kind of feeling, because of its round ceiling, made of copper, and natural rocks all around. It used to be a shelter from bomb during the war: to play there, is just magic!

Talking about sacred places, do you have one?

Telling the truth, my favourite, holy, sacred place would be a little yard, where were would a tree and on top of the tree a blackbird, a ”merlo” singing. That`s for me the greatest music! A music that really makes me feel religious.

Are there some cultures, which developed more than others this sense of harmony between music and places?

Well, there are some, like Japanese, or Indian, where everything came from the same aesthetical idea. Western cultures are instead more fragmented, we don`t have the same sense of unity. They are more used to see different aspects of life, as well as different arts, as one single, harmonious whole.