Evija Skuķe (1992) is a dynamic and vibrant Latvian composer, whose effervescent talent for composing has been apparent since her early studies. Her oeuvre includes pieces for various chamber ensembles, choral music and symphonic opuses.
Skuķe has been composing since the age of 10, and is a graduate of the Riga Cathedral Choir School and the Music Theory programme at the Emīls Dārziņš Music School. Her first composition teachers were Pauls Dambis and Pēteris Vasks. Evija gained a bachelor’s degree from the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music under Selga Mence, while her master’s was obtained under Jānis Petraškevičs.
Skuķe’s music is intense and full of movement, always enriched with imaginative ideas. Her scores are full of an elemental energy, surprising with their cheeky jokes and expressive rhythmic vocabulary. Taut drama gives the composer’s pieces an intriguing and unpredictable musical flow.
Skuķe’s signature musical style can be recognised immediately; it possesses an archaic power and directness, a youthful rebelliousness and a prismatic vibrancy. The importance of a sound in itself, its process of exploration, precision and details are important to the composer. Her pieces often challenge the performer’s limits. She enjoys heavy metal (Rammstein, Slayer, Sleep) and is musically close to Carlo Gesualdo, György Ligeti, Gérard Grisey, Fausto Romitelli and Giacinto Scelsi, among others.
While still a student, Skuķe gained recognition with her untamed works, taking part in projects alongside established Latvian and international composers (two cycles of new works commissioned by Youth Choir Kamēr…, Amber Songs and The Moon Songs; the children’s opera Potato Opera). In 2014 she was awarded the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music and Swedbank Annual Award for Young Musicians . In the same year, Skuķe’s piece for string quartet, Trans(S), was recognised as the best of 392 pieces in the instrumental music category at the 10th Città di Udine international composition competition.
The composer sang for nine years with Youth Choir Kamēr…. Skuķe herself says that her time spent in the choir served as an upbringing for her, teaching her passion for the stage and cooperation with others to reach a higher goal. Thanks to Kamēr…, the choir has become Skuķe’s favourite instrument. In her choral compositions, she has a keen sense of the choral texture, using a wide range and large spectrum of colors to be drawn out of the choir’s voices with great skill. In her pieces, the composer has uniquely combined a folk singing style with a contemporary musical language—Mēness vokalīze (Moon Vocalise), Zvīdzi, zvīdzi (Neigh, Neigh), Naraudavu, Gods (Honour)—while also viewing the choir as an instrumental entity, bringing it close to an orchestral sound: Vēja vokalīze (Wind Vocalise), Viļņi (Waves). Skuķe achieved an impressive expansion of the choral and orchestral sounds in her choral symphony Ainulindalë, which uses motifs of the work of English writer J.R.R. Tolkien to portray the creation of the world. The piece was also performed at the international composers’ exhibition ROSTRUM 2015.
In her chamber music, Skuķe excites with her creation of apt images and colourful narratives: Mazās serenādes. Kukaiņu Meditācijas (Little Serenades. Insect Meditations), Piecas dziesmas ar Jāņa Baltvilka dzeju (Five Songs with the Poetry of Jānis Baltvilks). Meanwhile, in her symphonic music, Skuķe turns to conceptual ideas, exploring sounds and their ability to play with one another, resulting in pieces with an unusual timbral palette and tension: Tramvajs (Tram), ...you send shivers down my spine.
Her pieces have been performed by ensembles such as the State Choir Latvija conducted by Māris Sirmais, the chamber orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga conducted by Normunds Šnē, youth choirs Kamēr… and Sōla conducted by Jānis Liepiņš and Kaspars Ādamsons, the professional wind orchestra RIGA, as well as well-known instrumentalists and singers. Skuķe also keenly participates in interdisciplinary projects: in 2015, in collaboration with composer Armands Aleksandravičus and librettist Dāvis Lācis, Skuķe was part of creating Barista, a chamber opera/happening, which was performed at one of Riga’s Coffee Inn cafes, gaining extensive audience interest.
Skuķe has had several successful collaborations with performance artist Anda Lāce. Their performance Atindēšana (Detoxification) was nominated for the highest honour in Latvian art: the 2017 Purvītis Prize.
Outside of Latvia, Evija’s music has been performed in Vienna’s Arnold Schönberg Center, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia and Japan.
Since 2015, Evija Skuķe has worked at the Emīls Dārziņš Music School as a composition, solfege, basic theory, polyphony and instrumentation teacher. The composer is a vibrant person with colourful hair, crazy ideas and a bubbly laugh. In her free time, she practices Bujinkan, the Japanese martial art, and experiments in the kitchen.
Text by Lauma Malnace
Translation by Māra Walsh Sinka