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Celebrity Setup

Technology is Music to His Ears

October 19, 2000

Esa-Pekka Salonen, one of the world's most renowned orchestra conductors, just began his ninth season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Salonen, 42, is married with three children. He and his wife have homes in Los Angeles, London and in his native Finland.

Desktop: I'm a Macintosh person. We have two G3s in London and an older PowerMac. In Finland, there is an iMac and G3. In Los Angeles, I have a G3 and my kids have an iMac. I would like to upgrade to G4, but all my synthesizers and interfaces I use for composing are connected with serial ports, and it would be a big hassle to switch to USB. I am very tempted to get the new G4 Cube because there is no fan. Especially when I write music, I find the sound of the fan is irritating.

Laptop: G3 Powerbook. Also, my wife has an iBook.

Hand-held: PalmV.

Bookmarked Web sites: I read European newspapers--the London Times, leading Scandinavian papers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine--regularly. It's great for me to be in touch with the arts in Europe. Sometimes I know more about what is going on in my home country than here. I don't think the Internet, at the moment, is a great tool for artistic expression. Maybe you can send a short MP3 file, but that is not enough for a serious artistic point of view. But it may become one--the possibilities are incredible.

Last Web site visited: It was a Swedish site,, last night. It's incredible, I think they have links to about 18,000 newspapers around the world and they even have a search engine that's fun to use. If I want a Cuban newspaper, I can find one. If I want one from Southeast Asia, there it is. The only problem is, you get on there and you lose a couple of hours. Also, I frequently go to the home pages of music software companies for updates. I use several different programs to compose, and I am on the board of a company in Sweden called Noteheads that aims to make superior composition software. We just released our first version, in freeware, called Igor.

Screen saver: None.

Cell phone: I have a Nokia for here and one for Europe.

Minutes per month: Hours, especially in Europe, because it is quite practical to have just one number when you are traveling between countries. I never use a hotel phone anymore. I'm waiting for some sort of multi-functional cell phone/computer/PDA that would work around the world. It would make life easier.

Favorite tech toy: I would like to think that most of the high-tech stuff I use is functional, something I need professionally. My wife might have a different view of that. For me, I suppose it has to do with some kind of boyhood dream, the idea of being connected with the world regardless of where you are. There is some poetry in that idea. Whether it makes our lives better or worse, I don't know. But I think the most beautiful thing is that much of this technology cannot be controlled, politically. It's a tool for democracy. There is no dictatorship that can control the Internet.

Home audio system: Nothing fancy, except I have very good loudspeakers made by Snell.

Everyday technology uses: I use music notation software to write my compositions. I e-mail a file of the new material to my publisher in London--they edit it and send it back, and I make changes. This happens every day. I'm working on a new opera [based on the Peter Hoeg novel "The Woman and the Ape"]. When it is done I will have a musical instrument digital interface, mock-performance version that one can listen to before the actual performance. And, of course, I e-mail. I'm far from home in Finland, where my mother and many of my friends live. E-mail is a fantastic way to keep in touch with people, almost like seeing them.

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