Archivos del mes: 8 septiembre 2010


Juan Pablo Contreras* is a young Mexican composer who currently is studying for a Master degree at Manhattan School of Music, after finishing his studies in Cal-Arts. His composition teacher in California, Anne LeBaron, contacted me some months ago recommending Juan´s work. After some e-mails, Juan Pablo and I agreed that he would come to Mexico City for a session. That became a perfect rehearsal for my workshop for composers next October in Stockholm.

Get ready, future composer-victims of the harp workshop! It all  starts with a sewing class where composers will (must) prepare a cardboard model of how the harp pedals are placed and are moved in order to make this instrument modulate – when music needs it.

Here is a sample of the work that I enjoy so much after a first session with a composer interested in writing for the harp.  I do think a composer should have a very close communication and trust with his-her interpreter. This, I believe and repeat, is the key to a well balanced piece where the original ideas of the composer are respected by the player, and the idiomatic aspects of the instrument are also taken into consideration by the composer following the interpreter´s suggestions.

Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 10:39 AM
Subject: I did have time to take a look at your questions about Regina Coeli before my trip to Germany and Poland.

Dear Juan Pablo, querido jóven ilustre compositor mexicano en Nueva York:

I am writing in English, since I just thought it would be a great idea to include this correspondence in my creaverbu blog, since it´s exactly what I intend to do in the workshop for composition students and composers in Stockholm this fall. Would you mind?

Please let me know! Also your teacher´s comments are welcome, I think it would be very educational for everyone if we can show the old version of your piece, the changes I suggested when you came to my class here in Mexico,  what you have done in NY, and how you are developing the piece in it´s new format now. What do you say?

Answers in English: (in case you say yes, otherwise, we switch back to Spanish in our next e-mail).

1- First measure, it´s good for the left hand to be preparing the next chords in the measure, that´s why I suggested to play all the notes of the first chord with the right one. Also for ringing purposes.

2- Measure 3, second beat: you could break the triplet so it does not look like a phrase grouped in 3 and then 2 notes, no matter where the stems are indicated, and-or use a written way to indicate that the specified notes should be played with the right hand. It it´s not possible, let the harpist figure it out and choose her-his own fingerings. This is a very personal thing, just like the way of writing pedals. Suggestions do help, but if you get good players who think and make smart decisions, no problem! What might be comfortable to me might seem awkard to others and viceversa!

3-Measure 20, 3rd beat: Yes, it´s okay to reach that chord with Bb and G with the left hand after the previous sixteen notes.

4- Measure 23, first beat: It´s possible to play these notes crossing under the thumb in the left hand, there is sort of a breathing afterwards, so no problem.

5-Measure 23, fourth beat: Get rid of the harmonic, it only complicates even more the passage for  the left hand. Leave the Bb as an eighteen note and that will give the left hand time enough as for jumping to prepare the next notes in measure 24, which do need an open hand position.

6-Measure 25: Yes, it´s possible to play the last sixteen note in the fourth beat and connect with the first note in the next measure.

7-Measure 26: It´s correct, and it´s even better to also give that Bb note to the right hand, which starts the second beat, and place it  with the right hand and the stem needed to make it clear, just as the Db which follows.

8-Measure 26: it´s a little uncomfortable, but it will be okay if the left hand jumps a bit in order to prepare the next notes and-or uses a fingering that requires two combinations of fingers. All of that will need a little tiny microscopic time, but I would not suffer a lot about it since, the music in that spot is slow and with a sort of free spirit, as thoughts in a prayer. Please correct me if I am wrong! I want to keep your favourite notes and ideas!

9-Measure 31: Leave it like you want it, it´s a molto rallentando. So no problem. A lot in the harp has to do with the timing and the “breathing” that hands need. It´s some times difficult to composers who are piano players to understand this and not forget we harp players do have only four fingers working per hand, and need time to articulate the very tense string after also placing the hand in the right spot. In the piano you have gravity in your favour, no pedals to be changed, no vibrating strings that can make a passage dirty or noisy, etc, etc. Lucky you!

10-Extra comment: Measure 29, put right hand stems on the first two sixteen notes of the third beat, it rings better, cleaner and helps the perdiéndose diminuendo indication. Good idea to place the fermata above the silence. The prayer will fly to heaven!

Please let me know if this is all clear! Bravo, Juan! I am looking forward veeeeeeeery much to your final version, and feel honoured to premiere it! MUCHA SUERTE! I would love to know what your teacher in NY thinks about this.

Abrazos grandotes, big hugs, I will see if I still have time to record some of the passages, but maybe not now! If you let me know this before I leave, I can post it in the blog before leaving to my trip.
Big hug,

Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 4:55 PM
Subject: Regina Coeli

Querida Mercedes,

Te escribo de este correo, ya que es el que voy a estar usando más seguido, porque el de CalArts ya no lo estaré frecuentando tanto. Ya tuve mi primer día de clases en MSM hoy y entré directito a trabajar en la Regina Coeli para que ya quede lista. Hice muchos cambios, porque ya entendí un poco mejor cómo funciona el arpa. Aun asi, creo que todavía se le puede trabajar mucho. Te adjunto la versión en la que trabajamos en tu casa con tus correcciones, en la cual cometí el error de trabajar en la misma partitura y luego se me olvidaba cuáles tachones eran tuyos y cuales mios, y una versión más actualizada. Se me presentaron los siguientes problemas, espero que tengas unos minutitos para leerla de nuevo y ver qué sugerencias tienes. Me gustaría dejarla lo más arpística posible y si hay algo que te incomoda, porfavor házmelo saber para corregirlo. Si de suerte tienes alguna grabadorcita, de esas que se pueden transferir a la computadora, para que me mandes el audio de esta nueva version para escucharla, estaría increíble, pero no te apures, si no se puede, no importa. 


– Primer acorde, ¿cuáles notas toma la mano izquierda? 
– c. 3 – segundo tiempo – corregí las plicas para indicar que la mano derecha toma esas tres notas, pero ahora parece que la frase está agrupada en 3 y luego 2 notas en lugar de 2 y luego 3 notas, no sé si se te ocurra alguna otra manera de escribirla.
– c. 20 – 3er tiempo – ¿Se puede llegar a ese “acorde” de si bemol y sol en la mano izquierda después de las semicorcheas anteriores? 
– c. 23 – 1er tiempo – Según yo, esto no había dado problema, pero quería rectificar si se pueden tocar ese pasaje de las primeras 6 semicorcheas.
– c. 23 – 4to tiempo – Creo que esto está imposible por el salto que hay que hacer hacia el siguiente compás, pero puse esa última semicorchea con armónico. No creo que se pueda tocar, pero ahí tú me dirás, jeje. Creo que va a ser mejor opción dejar el si bemol anterior como corchea.
– c. 25 – ¿Se puede tocar la última semicorchea en la mano izquierda? (do bemol), dado lo que viene en el siguiente compás? Según yo, no hay un salto grande y sí se puede, pero no sé cómo te quede acomodado en la mano.
– c. 26 – Puse un re bemol en la 5ta semicorchea para que la toque la mano derecha, no sé si se pueda, suena muy bien en mi opinión, jeje. 
– c. 26 – Otra que según yo no había dado problema, la última semicorchea de el compás en la mano izquierda (sol bemol), se puede tocar? ¿Te acomodaría más un re bemol? (Aunque preferiría ese sol bemol)
– c. 31 – Cambié la 3ra y 4ta semicorchea, ¿se pueden tocar agusto? 

Creo que son todas las dudas que tengo por el momento. Surgieron otras incertidumbres de escritura/ortografía musical que veré con mi maestro, pero si ves algo raro por favor dime. Si tienes alguna otra sugerencia o algún otro pasaje incómodo que se nos pasó, también avísame para corregirlo. Quiero hacer la pieza lo más arpística posible, entonces no me importa hacerle los cambios que se necesiten. 

Tengo clase de composición el viernes, si me puedes mandar tus notas antes del viernes, estaría genial, pero si no, no importa. Tengo otra clase el lunes que entra, entonces si te acomoda mejor para entonces, perfecto. Si estás muy ocupada, no hay prisa, aquí yo sigo echándole ganas. Cuando las tengas, está excelente. Aprecio muchisísimo que me estés ayudando tanto con esta pieza y que me hayas inculcado la curiosidad de seguir intentando entender cómo funciona el arpa, para seguir escribendo para ella ¡y para ti! Te mando un fuerte abrazo y cualquier duda, aquíi estamos en contacto.

¡Un abrazo y mil gracias!
Juan Pablo

*Composer and tenor Juan Pablo Contreras was born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1987, where he began his violin studies at an early age. At the age of twelve he became a member of the Zapopan Youth Orchestra, which awoke his interest for orchestral music. In the year 2002, he began his opera studies as a tenor with Engelberto Aguilar, and became a member of the choral ensemble Coral Regina Pacis. He then studied composition with the renowned Mexican composer Hermilio Hernandez, and discovered his true passion for composing. In 2006, he was granted a scholarship to pursue his musical studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where he received his BFA in Music Composition and furthered his studies as a tenor as well. His most influential composition teachers include Richard Danielpour, Michael Pisaro, Anne LeBaron, and Daniel Catán. His concert music has been performed by groups such as the Formalist Quartet, Inauthentica Ensemble, the CalArts Orchestra, and by other great artists in the United States and Mexico. He is currently pursuing his Master of Music degree in Composition at the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Richard Danielpour.