This past weekend, Friday May 21 and Sunday May 23, 2010, Janet Paulus, my duo partner and I premiered a concerto for two harps and orchestra by Mexican composer Armando Luna. (Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, Carlos Miguel Prieto conducting, Auditorio Blas Galindo-Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City).
This is a long story. Professional music life is too, it´s a journey of absolute patience. You all know it! So I will try to write part one to this, even if the master degree has not yet started and will until August. I post this now because my project in Sweden will have to do with working with composers, new music, collaboration between players and composers, etc. Writing it now prepares me for the workshop and seminar I will have to share with the compositions students in Stockholm.
This saga started many years ago, when I asked Armando to write pieces for two harps, with different levels of difficulty. My interest was that these pieces could work as etudes for my students at the conservatory and I asked that they were written in a similar format to Bartók‘s Mikrokosmos, but adding attractive Latin American rhythms and elements of 20th Century languages, so young harpists could approach new music from the beginning of their training and loose fear of music they were not used to.
The result of these pieces was that they were not only accurate etudes which accomplished what I had asked for, but they showed to be brilliant music. Besides, students learned to play non predictable music, to count, to focus on playing in a different rhythm, tonality or pattern than the other harpist. Playing with others is especially important for harp players, since there is usually only one position for harp in orchestras, and many harpists don´t have enough ensemble training which is so important in professional life when joining an orchestra. Listening to others seems to be vital in our planet. Not only musically speaking, but as human beings too. But that´s another story.
After the success of these pieces, our recording them (Carnaval/Urtext) and spreading them out of Mexico, Janet and I thought about how to find the right institution and person as for commissioning Armando a double concerto and benefit from his experience writing for our instrument.
Politics is always behind these decisions, so we had to wait two changes of government to get this commission from Tere Frenk, at that time director of Fine Arts Music and Opera, and the programming of the concerto with the Sinfónica Nacional under Carlos Prieto conducting.
It is a crucial factor that the conductor really likes the piece. That does not happen all the time, regardless of how good or professional the conductor is. In this, we were incredibly lucky, since Carlos Miguel was completely hooked and passionate about the score.
Another important part of reality is that some orchestra musicians are not always interested in new music. It takes more time, it´s difficult to put together, since there are no previous references to it as most of the traditional repertoire. In my experience, it is orchestra musicians who do play chamber music, solo recitals and new music which are more open minded and know what it takes to be in stage in adventurous premieres. I advice to look for those if you are a composer!
My impression this last week of working with Carlos Miguel is that his passion for music was contagious, and so was the hard work that the score demanded from us harpists. Little by little, during the four rehearsals, people who at the beginning had complained about the concerto, started dropping comments such as “it´s not as bad as I thought”. That, for new music, is already a positive achievement and a good change of attitude.
I could write about the social impact of a piece, and how nobody really knows what the emotional reaction will be in the audience at a world premiere, but my train of sleep is coming back this very warm night full of mosquitoes and ideas that fly above my brain. I want to write later about how computers have made work so much easier for composers, but also, how some of them need to go back to the old times when it was completely indispensable to work very closely with players and listen to what they had to say!
So I will write more about the process of work between composer and players later. It´s part of my favorite part of professional life. I feel it´s a privilege to work with a composer, and if necessary, to fight in a friendly way and negotiate a little to find exactly the best balance to honour good music!
Create: to cause to come into being, as something unique
that would not naturally evolve
or that is not make by ordinary processes.
Verb: any member of a class of words
that are formally distinguished
in many languages, that typically express actions, state,
or a relation between two things.
the state or quality of being creative.
Bureaucracy: Excessive multiplication of,
and concentration of power in
administrative bureaus or administrators.
Excessive governmental red tape
1 Referido a algo existente, producirlo de la nada o realizarlo
a partir de las propias capacidades:
Según el Génesis, Dios creó el mundo en seis días y el séptimo descansó.
2 Establecer, hacer aparecer, instituir o introducir por primera vezETIMOLOGÍA: Del latín creare (producir de la nada).
1 ETIMOLOGÍA: Del latín verbum (palabra, verbo).
s.f. Facultad o capacidad para crear
prep. Contra, frente a
1 Actividad administrativa, esp. la que se realiza en organismos públicos: los trámites de la burocraciaa
2 Exceso de normas y de papeleo que complican o retrasan la resolución de un asunto: Con tanta burocracia es imposible que cumplan ni un plazo previsto.
ETIMOLOGÍA: Del francés bureaucratie, y este de bureau (oficina) y el griego krátos (poder).
A verb is a word.
It has a sound.
It means something.
It makes, does, moves, produces a result.
It is action.
I am looking forward to verbs. I watch them.
And follow them and keep going after them.
Because taking decisions with verbs is vital.
Creating new ways of deciding is meaningful.
It takes people to places.
One travels with verbs. One goes and arrives.
Choose a sound.
Pick up a verb.
Place it in the middle of the universe.
Create a family for that verb.
Paint a context.
Accompany it with sharps and flats.
Listen to the silences in between.
They are thoughts related to other verbs.
And other universes like rhythm.
Write, compose and play those verbs.
Wake up, see and listen and start your verbs da capo.