Erkki-Sven Tüür, who was born in 1959 in Kärdla on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa, is one of the most remarkable composers of his generation. Largely self-taught, he later studied composition with Lepo Sumera, among other people. Tüür started his musical activity in the second half of the 1970s as the leader of the progressive rock band In Spe, which quickly became one of Estonia’s most popular rock groups. He worked with this group as a composer, flautist, keyboard player and singer up until 1983. In the second half of the 1980s, he entered Estonian cultural life as a professional composer of contemporary music. Since 1992, Tüür has worked as a freelance composer.
His music is performed by respected musicians and orchestras all around the world. The world premieres of his works often take place outside Estonia before being performed in his home country. Erkki-Sven Tüür was also one of the co-founders of the International Contemporary Music Festival NYYD (the name means “now” in Estonian), which took place in Tallinn every second autumn over a period of two decades.
Tüür employs a broad spectrum of compositional techniques in his work, with confrontations between tonality and atonality and smooth transitions from one kind of tonality to another being particularly important.
Commenting on his work, Erkki-Sven Tüür has said:
“My work as a composer is entirely concerned with the relation between emotional and intellectual energy and the ways in which they can be channelled, accumulated, liquidated and re-accumulated. My pieces are abstract dramas in sound, with characters and an extremely dynamic chain of events; they unfold in a space that is constantly shifting, expanding and contracting, not so much like a mosaic, but rather in the manner of a block of sculpture.”
Tüür describes his most recent works as “vectorial”, saying that the entire composition is encapsulated in a source code which mutates and grows, connecting the dots in the fabric of the work like a vector.