Commissioned Big Music for Small Cities  
Dedicated to Anyone who suffers from mental illness in any form
Opus Number 75
Category Orchestral music
Year 2020
Duration 10 min
Orchestration 4444 – 4431 – timp – 3perc – piano/celesta – strings
Orchestration 2 2222 – 2201 – perc – piano/celesta – strings
Availability Gehrmans Musikförlag

Program note

Mental disorders, also called mental illnesses, affect people in very different ways, sometimes for a short period of time and for others it is a struggle throughout their life. Altogether 970 million people around the world suffer from mental disorders, according to the World Health Organization. The most common mental disorders are depression and anxiety, which annually affect 264 million and 284 million people respectively around the world. Mental illness is nothing you can imagine before you have experienced it yourself, and even then the experience is personal, and every experience is unique and equally significant.

The piece Nixus was finished on the 10th of September (at 4 a.m.), which also happens to be “world suicide prevention day”. This coincidence feels very symbolic. Every year around 800.000 people commit suicide and the connection between mental illness and suicide is demonstrable. Despite the fact that 13% of the world population suffers from mental illness, and one out of four people are affected at some point of their life by mental or neurological disorders, it is still taboo to talk about it, and probably in part therefore many people feel very lonely with their problems.

The Latin word “nixus” can translate as effort, pressure or strain. Nixus is dedicated to anyone who suffers from mental illness in any form. In this work, I try to illustrate how thoughts jump back and forth at a rapid pace, and often form a kind of hamster wheel, a vicious circle from which it is difficult to break out. I try to describe how the thoughts often lead to very gloomy moods and anxiety, which can even become physical manifestations in the body, like palpitations and pressure in the chest.


Nixus –  Listen on Soundcloud

Nixus Symphony Orchestra Preview

Nixus Chamber Orchestra Preview


There is so much gunpowder in Damström’s musical language that there even is to spare. […] Like it or not, the essential thing is that Nixus is not meaningless music but leaves a mark of remembrance. That is the thing that matters. […]

Strong dynamics, richness of color, high contrasts – those are a few remarks about Damström’s composition. Also rhythmics were used skillfully.

The work moreover conveyed something remarkably visual. Fascinating per se.

Damström’s use of the orchestra is impressive. Thus, it is also reminiscent of what a spectacular “instrument” the symphony orchestra is in skilled hands.

Jyri Ojala, Karjalainen 27.2.2021

Truth be told, at least Cecilia Damström’s fierce but merited work Nixus would have deserved a larger audience.

I therefore argue that you cannot obtain new friends of contemporary music with an emphasis on mediocrity or ease but with a determined, tireless supply of prime quality and uncompromising compositions. Nixus is a great candidate for the latter category.

Jyri Ojala, Karjalainen 26.2.2022

The winding and swaying melodic progressions, thought distortions blurred by glissandos, and the rhythmic compulsiveness trouble the mind. Then, a sudden transition led by the celesta calls for a magical Wonderland. The awakening from the dream of inquisitive timbres high above is a cruel return to the initial obsession, hinting at a brass carnival before an unresolved ending. Cecilia Damström, who passionately composes on serious subjects, offers convincing, multilayered contemporary art music in Nixus, Op. 75. The mental images created by the themes never shackle the listener’s freedom to sense the opportunities offered by the captivating music. The splendid piece flourished, thanks to the meticulous dedication of the young promising conductor, Jiří Rožeň.

Jari Hoffrén, Keskisuomalainen 13.10.2022

Cecilia Damström. A composer frequently in the spotlight both here and abroad, she is remarkably prolific, and her music is performed a lot considering the field of contemporary classical music. This is no surprise. Her musical language, partly but certainly not entirely reflective of its concrete foundations, is easily approachable even at its most complex. The structural aspects are generally clear, the texture rich and colourful, and the dramatic tensions fascinatingly tuned. Regardless of her themes, her compositions are not solemn one-dimensional pamphlets but often convey to us an invisible solution or demand that speaks to us on a deeper, aesthetic level. 

Jari Hoffrén, Jälkikaikuja Korvakäytäviltä Blog 12.10.2023


26 February 2021 World Premiere by Joensuu City Orchestra conducted by Eero LehtimäkiMore info

24 February 2022  by Joensuu City Orchestra conducted by Eero LehtimäkiMore info

11 October 2023 by Jyväskylä Sinfonia conducted by Jiří Rožeň More info