viernes, 29 de octubre de 2010

Composing or retweeting? Whazza diff anyway?

If Bach were still alive today I am sure he'd use the Blackberry, not only to have a chat with Georg Friedrich Handel in London but also to squeeze inspiration out of it. Of course he'd also have less children (Bach still holds the record of the composer with the most children : 22, from 2 wives, although prolifically --I mean in musical production-- Telemann still holds the record according to Guinness book of records. What Guinness couldn't measure is of course the quality, not quantity. For me, Bach still holds the record for quality).

You have the whole world in your hands, literally, if you have Blackberry. Including that apparently time-wasting social network called Twitter. At Twitter, one can write for a maximum of 140 characters. And the art of literature has succumbed to it, like what happens with one of my favorite poet, M. Aan Mansyur. He has written "Twitter poems", which in fact not far from writing haiku. I am a keen follower of his twitter poems, they have a special flavour since it needs a particular sharpness to touch and move you in less than 140 characters. And needless to say, he achieved in making exquisite poems, each complete in itself in his tweets....
... which challenged me to do something with them. I have done the same with the haiku of another poet friend of mine, Abang Edwin, in my piece "Bangwin's Haiku", for soprano, clarinet and cello. It was done for the Dutch Trio "To Be Sung" (talking about peculiar combination of instruments!). So, I just finished "Retweeting @aanmansyur", a 4-minute piece for medium voice & piano. I admit, I do feel more at home making music from Aan Mansyur's twitter poems, since unlike haiku, they have more free forms.

Limitation is always a source of inspiration for me. It has been for other composers too. Stravinsky's Serenade had 4 movements, each of a duration designed so that they would fill one side of a 10-inch record. And of course we are always commissioned with the limitations as conditions : the (sometimes strange) combination of instruments, its duration, its background and in case of film, choreography or theatre we are limited in doing practically everything. In limitation I find freedom.

I am still new to the twitter world, just a few months ago that I start to join it. Am sure there will be more inspirations I can squeeze from it. If you wanna follow me and tweet me, my twitter address is

lunes, 4 de octubre de 2010

False start, lucky ending, Narcissus dying

This had happened several times in my composing life. No matter how well you plan a piece of music, sometimes one "steps with the wrong foot" so to say. Especially in a work of many movements like "Vega and Altair". One movement, which was planned to be a love song had a false start. It was planned for flute and harp only, while the cellist and violinist could have a break (but too short time to have a Kit Kat; it should be only about 2 minutes!). Apparently it turned out to be too sad to be a love song (except if the lovers are saying goodbye or even encountering death!) and it would fit better for a piano instead of a harp. I'd also like to have more than 2 minutes for its development, since the main melody is based on a small motif. The simpler the motif, usually the more potential the development can have. What I need for Vega & Altair's love song is a long and winding melody which would just be repeated.

Anyway, I had to discard what I have written and wrote a new love song. During my younger days, those discarded notes (and even entire pieces) would just end in the trash bin. Not anymore now. I know now what to do with it, especially I discarded it exactly because I want to develop it and bring it to another piece.

A few months ago I promised the flute-piano duo Wendela van Swol and Emilio Garcia a piece for them to complement my older piece, "Rescuing Ariadne" that they brought in their Spanish tour earlier this year and ended at the International Flute Convention in Madrid. It was them who introduced the work to Spanish audiences, and especially flutists. Apart from that, I always felt that "Rescuing Ariadne" is not really complete in itself ; it needs to be a part of a suite. Somehow the sections are too short and the ending needs to be "continued". Although if one likes, one can still perform it as an independent piece, as well as the new piece since they both don't share the same material.

So this is the exact material for "their" new piece. Every piece has its own time to be born, just like babies! This new 4-minute piece for flute & piano is slow, brooding and not techically difficult. The motif invites me to play with reflections : either imitations, not so exact canons or inverted ones, and it even begins with two same notes which go up a minor third and down in its inverted interval, a major sixth. In developing it I needed something visual to inspire me, which I later found in that incredible painting of Narcissus by Caravaggio. Not only the water reflection, but also I derived the curve made by Narcissus' hands which are not symetrical into my main melody.
The water on which Narcissus sees himself also inspired me to do a distorted reflection of the melody, sometimes appearing together both in the flute and the piano in different speed, which is quite new for me.
Anyway, "Narcissus dying" will suit young flutists and pianists, not only technically but also because of the "youth" theme : the incredibly handsome Narcissus who is suffering from love .... with himself. No, no, it's not autobiographical ! At least I hope not.