sábado, abril 26, 2008

Faces of Circomper: Sadiel Cuentas

Kindly translated by Jimmy López.

1. How did you get started in music? Why did you choose to become a composer?

I got started in music at 15, after watching a couple of friends play the acoustic guitar at school. Until then I had wanted to be a filmmaker or a novelist. I became fascinated by watching my friends play the guitar, so I started to learn immediately thanks to my great friend Alvaro Torres, who lent me a guitar and started teaching me a few chords.

After finishing school my dream was to go to Berklee School in the United States and study electric guitar. I played in a few bands, but I didn't have the faintest idea of how to reach my goal. After a couple of years, and as a means of preparation, I started studying classical guitar. My teacher Jorge Caballero (senior) was great at making arrangements, which interested me very much, and I asked if he could teach me. That is how I got in touch with Enrique Iturriaga with whom I started studying harmony and counterpoint, and it was thanks to Enrique that I started to learn how a composer thinks. Finally, I got into the National Conservatory of Music in 1995.

I chose to be a composer because I was passionate (and still am) about musical creation. I suppose it is, in addition, an emotional need to express myself. During my education as a composer I have been discovering many new things which make me interest myself even more in this job and which, I belief, define my profile better within this profession. One of them is the discovery of the existing parallels among narrative and musical discourse. Another important is the recent, and a little silly discovery that I do not depend on anybody's approval to write music. I can write whatever I want.

2. Which composers do you admire and/or have influenced you?

I think that my greatest influences have been The Beatles, Pink Floyd (or rather David Gilmour, the guitarist) Bach, Beethoven and Lutoslawski. Recently, I have discovered that Blues influences my melodic writing, with its constant use of dominant seventh chords and melodic turns that these chords generate. Some of that can also be found in Bach. In fact, I don't like Beethoven as much as I like other composers, but I have dedicated plenty of time to studying his symphonies and piano sonatas, and I have learned a lot, especially due to a particular analytical focus that I learned from Dante Valdez.

I have almost dedicated myself to copying Lutoslawski. I was really interested and intrigued by his expressive language, while at the same time I was trying to understand how did he organize his music, what was it that set it in motion. I studied his scores in order to understand how did the "chain form" worked, and after learning the technique I started to apply it to my own works. I have also imitated Lutoslawsi's work based on small motifs. I have set aside his work through intervals and his harmonic technique. Concerning motivic work, I imitate more Bach, and in the harmonic arena I am making a more general use of jazz chords, in addition to chromatic clusters.

I must also mention that since 1999 I have the privilege to work with Carlos Espinoza and Hugo Alcazar, who are two of the greatest jazz musicians of our country, and from whom I learn a lot on a daily basis. I guess that's why I have so much interest in the harmonic language of jazz.

3. How would you describe your compositions? What are the characteristics of your compositional language?

I have mentioned a lot about that in the previous paragraph. I would only like to add that, at the moment, I am experimenting with pantonal techniques and with mixtures between classical forms and "chain-form" technique. In particular, I have just finished the second work in which I have combined sonata form with chain form, making use - in addition- of harmonic characteristics proper of sonata form, that is, basing the structure and discourse of the music in the classic harmonic structure of sonata form.

4. What is more important for you when composing: emotion or technique?

For me the most important is technique. But not because I consider it more important in the results, but just because I take emotion for granted. I believe all human beings feel emotions of the same depth and beauty. We need the training to be able to materialize these emotions in a musical product.

5. In which piece are you working on right now?

I am working on a sonata for cello and piano and a couple of songs for chamber orchestra and mezzo-soprano based on texts that I wrote myself. The texts are not too bad, but it brings me great satisfaction to put them into music.

6. What in your opinion is the role of composers in our society?

In reality I think it is the same role that I would propose for every other job. To satisfy the needs of the market, open new markets in order to diversify our culture, contribute to the free flow of information for all human beings equally.

With satisfying the demands of the market I mean that, our society being a great consumer of music, there is a great work offer that corresponds to the demand of some specific services. For example, there is a need for composers, arrangers, producers, instrumentalists and music teachers. We, as composers, can contribute in all those fields.

When I talk about diversifying the market I refer to the fact that, according to my own perception, the Peruvian musical market is too small in respect to its diversity of genres. This impoverishes the amount of musical information that circulates in our society and with that, our general creative possibilities are being cut short. I believe that creativity is the ability to join pieces of information in a novel way. The less the number of pieces available, the less the possibilities of obtaining new combinations. In my opinion, we live in a world on the dawn of the economy of information, and I believe that the excessive homogeneity of our musical market does not play in our favor in this new world.

When I talk about a contribution to the free flow of information I refer to the role of all people in our society. Information generates material wealth, when it flows in a society and the society has the possibility to respond to it, information generates more information and greater wealth. Information in Peru flows, but only to a limited extent. Only a minority has access to the basic infrastructure and the majority of relevant information is in English. I believe that if we want to enter to the world of information economy we must solve current conditions. It corresponds to the state to create the necessary infrastructure (with projects like the OLPC, for example), but it corresponds to us, the people, to make contributions so that information may really flow within all of our society. Each professional can contribute in his own field.

7. What do you think is the future of our music?

At the moment there is a great amount of young composers who are creating a truly impressive body of work. I think that the immediate future is working toward having all these compositions premiered, video recorded and uploaded on the Internet with no exceptions.

On the mid-term I honestly believe that working conditions are going to improve a lot for all of us. Some improvement can already be noticed in relation to the 80?s, for example. I believe there?s great potential in the Internet, because it will allow us to have access to international markets. This could be especially interesting when offering services.

On the long run? on the long run I believe the world will be in constant change and I think we must be very flexible not only to be able to continue being relevant to society, but also to continue being connected with our surrounding world and avoid ending up ostracized. I believe contemporary classical music composers, at least to the extent which I have been able to notice, have the tendency to be a little conservative. In the next decades we will see astonishing technological and social changes, and in an extreme scenario we could be witnesses to the moment in which the composer will be replaced by the computer in most of his functions. Good or bad, there is no turning back. I believe we must be prepared to be very, very flexible in every sense.

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