Esa-Pekka Salonen orchestrates a new sound.

For renowned composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, music is the deepest way of connecting with the world. He uses iPad Air to translate everyday moments of inspiration into fully orchestrated scores and share his passion for classical music with others.

01. Engaging a contemporary audience.

“I created The Orchestra app to share my love of classical music. To make it more approachable, especially for the next generation.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor and composer

For over 30 years, Esa-Pekka Salonen has conducted some of the world’s most famous orchestras, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, in interpretations of classical and contemporary masterpieces.

But he recognises there’s an untapped audience that assumes classical music is not for them. “Prejudice is the biggest problem in terms of classical music. There is this idea that it’s something for old people. You have to behave in a certain way, you have to wear certain types of clothes, you have to be kind of hopelessly boring. And none of this is true.”

To open up classical music to a new generation of listeners, Salonen set out to demystify the workings of an orchestra. “I wanted to shed light on the symphony orchestra — its history and its present. To explain how and why it works the way it works,” he says. That led Salonen and his colleagues in the Philharmonia to develop The Orchestra app for iPad.

The Orchestra harnesses the power of iPad Air to provide users with an interactive, immersive look at all the elements of an orchestra. “All of a sudden, what looks kind of odd and distant and maybe a little abstract becomes much more real and normal,” Salonen says. “I’d be delighted if somebody would discover classical music through The Orchestra.”

02. Inspiration in the everyday.

“iPad is the best tool I’ve seen to write down the first impulse. Those moments when your mind is open, free. And then you think, okay, what if?”

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Though Salonen has spent much of his career conducting symphonies across the globe, he considers himself a composer first. Through his orchestral pieces, he’s best able to communicate his thoughts and ideas to others.

Salonen is constantly capturing inspiration from the world around him on his iPad Air. “I hope I never lose this feeling that when I wake up in the morning, I’m curious,” he says. “I want to know more about everything, things that exist, things that I know already.”

For Salonen, ideas tend to come at unexpected moments. “I have no mantras. I have no strict routines,” he says. Salonen always has his iPad Air on hand to capture what he calls these first impulses of inspiration. He uses the Notion app to write bits and pieces of music — chords, melodies, rhythms. Or sometimes he uses Notes to describe moods and feelings in words that he later translates into music.

Salonen gathers ideas over the course of six to nine months. Then, when his conducting season ends, he sits down and begins to determine which of those pieces will help shape a full-length orchestral composition.

03. From concept to composition.

“I enjoy those kinds of sounds where the sum of the parts is so much more than the parts themselves. And iPad is like a partner in my creative process, translating my ideas.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Composing for a range of instruments.

A symphony can feature as many as 23 types of instrument, played by 40 to 100 performers. A major challenge for the composer is to achieve the perfect balance of instrumentation across the composition. Salonen’s iPad Air allows him to play back a full score wherever he goes, and adjust and refine the expressive character of each instrument.

For many composers, a single orchestral piece can take months, if not years, to prepare. Throughout that time of experimentation and development, iPad Air plays a collaborative role in Salonen’s composing process.

“Classical music composing is really slow,” says Salonen. “And it’s intensely lonely.” Salonen may spend hours developing a small section of a piece that lasts only a few seconds when performed. He uses the Pianist Pro app to play pieces of music into composition software on his Mac. Then, thanks to the processing power of iPad Air, he can open the same complex score in Notion to make changes and play them back. The playback function allows Salonen to hear the piece as it evolves, something that wasn’t possible before without assembling an orchestra to perform it.

“I have this total freedom to go back and forth between my full studio and the most portable set-up I can imagine,” Salonen says. That compactness and power is especially important as he travels the world, shuttling between performances and rehearsals.

Once the score is finished, it goes to the orchestra to be played for the first time. “That’s the scariest bit, actually, the first rehearsal,” he says. “That is the first time you hear your piece come to life. Classical music is all about the live experience. The beauty of the uniqueness of the moment. Knowing that when you go to a concert you hear something that will never be played exactly the same way again.”

“iPad becomes like an extension of my mind. It’s like having certain mental and physical functions enhanced, simplified and streamlined.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen