Harmony, Counterpoint, and Stylistic Composition

“Satsi(oppi)” or stylistic composition enjoys a long-standing and vibrant tradition at the Sibelius Academy.

It may be broadly defined as the rigorous study of compositional resources as well as their relationships with musical effects, expression, and quality in any given stylistic context. At the core, satsioppi is about the interaction of analysis and stylistic composition. Satsi analysis usually involves multiple perspectives and can focus on any aspect of music that proves relevant to a particular compositional style. For example, satsi analysis may focus on aspects of harmony and voice leading at different levels of organization, motivic and melodic design, phrase structure, rhythm and meter, register, texture, and aspects of special expressive significance. Unlike the kind of analysis often practiced in analysis classes, satsi analysis is not biased toward specific conceptual perspectives but is holistic in nature and practically oriented. Satsi analysis can therefore address the issues and questions students encounter when attempting to compose music in a given style. In contrast to the model-composition approach sometimes taken at some music institutions, satsioppi at the Sibelius Academy does not rely on secondary sources nor does it encourage the imitation of large-scale structures of specific works. Instead, the satsioppi approach focuses on the exploration and composition in specific styles of music.

Content of Satsi courses

Satsi courses are a central part of the composition and music theory programs at the Sibelius Academy. Composition and music theory graduate students typically take several years of satsi courses. The course sequence suggests a progression from rule-oriented to more holistically and aesthetically oriented composition exercises. Students begin with Satsiopin Perusteet, a one-year course covering the basics of counterpoint, harmony, and voice leading; the latter two are also studied from multiple levels of structure. Satsioppi 1, the second course in the sequence, lasts two years and tends to concentrate on the musical styles of the Renaissance and J.S. Bach. Depending on the student’s needs and interests, Satsioppi 2 may last one or two years. This last course tends to focus on a wide variety of tonal, pre- and post-tonal styles such as those of Mozart, Schumann, Debussy, Bartók, and Schoenberg, to mention just a few examples. At any time, the program may be modified to accommodate students with interests in repertoires or style periods other than the ones previously mentioned. With the exception of Satsiopin Perusteet, the courses are offered as one-on-one private lessons and taught by instructors who specialize in satsi instruction and have years if not decades of teaching experience.

Why Satsioppi?

Satsioppi accomplishes two goals: (1) It helps students grasp the complexities of historical styles, but more effectively than through analytical observation alone. (2) It helps students explore and develop their creative abilities within the framework of well-defined stylistic contexts. To achieve these goals, the academy sets high artistic standards for stylistic composition. While satsioppi serves first and foremost to develop and enhance the students’ professional competency in analysis and composition, satsi concerts are occasionally arranged to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of the students. These concerts have proven to be enjoyable and rewarding for both composers and audiences.

Please find below a selection of audio samples from the 2016-2018 satsi concerts

The compositions are usually performed by volunteers from the music theory and composition department and without extensive rehearsals.

Scores of the audio samples