One Is Too Few, for prepared piano, belongs to a series of pieces inspired by the essay ‘A Cyborg Manifest’ written by Donna Haraway, in which I propose a hybrid process that allows to explore the conceptual confrontation between organism-machine, physical-non-physical, and natural-artificial. In this case, the author explains how to be one is to be autonomous and powerful, while being other is to be multiple, without clear boundary—one is too few, but two are too many; and how high-tech culture challenges this dualism. Following Haraway´s reflection: ‘Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert’, the piano preparation aims the creation of a timbral experience that responds to these perceptual experiences of disturbance and frightening, explored through the antagonism of live-inert from the instrumental techniques and the performer’s skills. Consequently, the piece presents three evident sections that are thought as the cycle of an old washing machine, which stops abruptly to start another action; however, there is an intended delicacy that wraps the whole piece and is appreciated through the fragility of most of the techniques and the filtered/muted resonance of the piano.
This piece was especially written for the British pianist Kate Ledger, who premiered it on 8 September 2022 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
After three years of intense work as a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, it is my pleasure to share with you the results. The PhD thesis is now available on White Rose eTheses Online, thus you can download the whole document as well as the scores of the pieces that integrate this research: https://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/30305/
Additionally, you can listen to the compositions on this SoundCloud playlist, where I have collected live recordings of the premieres, reading sessions and rehearsals:
I highly appreciate the generosity of all the composers who inspired my research and allowed me to include their works in my thesis. I had the opportunity to share my study on timbre with some of them and those conversations definitely enriched my perspective.
During this period of time, I was funded by the University of Leeds through an AHC Doctoral Research Scholarship granted by the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Cultures. I can’t thank enough to my supervisors Prof Martin Iddon and Dr Scott McLaughlin for their invaluable support and guide during this process, all my admiration and gratitude.
The recordings of the last two pieces that I composed as part of my PhD research are now available on SoundCloud. Both are focused on the study of texture as one of the semantic dimensions of timbre and explore the correlations between tactile, visual and timbral perceptual experiences related to rust and dryness.
In 2020, I had the amazing opportunity to be commissioned by Illuminate Women’s Music to compose a piece for amplified cello and piano, which has been performed by Ivana Peranic and Rachel Fryer across the UK during the last two months.
Composers Sarah Westwood, Angela Elizabeth Slater and Blair Boyd work together on this fantastic project that seeks to support and promote women’s music through commissions and a series of concerts that actually allow us to develop and share our work.
I have shared some thoughts about me and this particular composition, which is part of my current research on timbre from a textural perspective. Finally, I extend the invitation to get to know other composers that have been also part of this season.
The Shimmer Beneath: A Scattering Attempt (2019), for cello duo, is inspired by an imaginary scene of light breaking through thick layers of dust with great difficulty. Dust has two different qualities in the piece. The first one is the initial timbral experience in which it is perceived as an almost solid and visible cap over timbre. The second one refers to the lightness and emptiness that allow it to drift. Then, the shimmering beneath finds a way to escape in dust itself, scattering through the refracting power of its rising minute pieces. Consequently, all the instrumental techniques were developed in order to study timbre from the ‘inside’ through a process of dusting. Some unpredictable events reinforce the idea of light in timbre desperately looking to escape from the layers of dust that cover it. This piece is part of my current research on the multidimensionality of timbre, specifically from the study of luminance as one of its semantic dimensions.
Now, you can listen to the recording of a fantastic reading session with Gaia Blandina and Ali Baumann (The Chimera Ensemble) at the University of York in June 2021. Available on SoundCloud:
It’s an enormous pleasure to have the premiere of my piece and it comes like a piece of light through the dust, for solo bass clarinet, which will be online on December 19th 2020 at 8:00 pm (ETS) by the clarinettistChuck Furlong as part of the Verdant Vibes Concert Series.
This work is part of my current PhD Research on timbre, specifically on the study of luminance as the semantic dimension that describes timbre in terms of how brilliant it is. This association with the visual perception led me to propose a scale of two phases that measures the amount and intensity of light in timbre as a compositional strategy. The words used to mark each level reunite the most common descriptors for the perception of luminance that have been recognised through the literature review, the analysis of instrumental repertoire, as well as my own experience and compositional criteria. Thus, the descriptors work as structural points to be reached in the timbral process. The composition was developed through the study of specific clarinet techniques that were recorded and spectrally analysed to recognise the acoustic correlations given in the perception of luminance. The next step was structuring the piece from the articulation of the instrumental techniques in a process of transformation of timbre from the flickering experience of light. Consequently, the piece responds to a transitional process in which timbre seems to be covered by dust, so its unrevealed identity manifests the instability of a faint light that can’t cross. Rather than timbre going to the expected clearness, it is suddenly distorted by an exposure to excessive light, at the end part of it just remains veiled while subtle transformations occur under the volatile presence of dust.
Thanks to Collective Verdant Vibes for giving me the opportunity to be part of this fantastic series of concerts. Thanks to Chuck Furlong for bringing my music to live in this premiere. Cheers!
I had the amazing opportunity to present part of my current compositional research at TIMBRE 2020 2nd International Conference on Timbre during the session of poster presentations on Friday 4th of September.
This solo cello piece is part of my research on mass as a semantic dimension of timbre, specifically from the concept of weight. I explore how weight can be constructed, built, created, controlled, morphed or conducted. Then, the only source of sound becomes multiple through the technical approach and preparation that work as extension of the timbral possibilities of the cello. The structure presents two contrasting points that mark the beginning and the end, understanding the compositional approach as a process of mass (weight) reduction. The weightlessness process works by the division of timbre in several tiny, light pieces that spread away until being lost. However, the unstable nature of the timbres produced by the techniques developed for the piece doesn’t allow to create such a linear process. Instead, fluctuations are given over time, sudden interruptions produced by cycles of energy accumulation that tend to reach the heaviest point of timbre before exploding, leaving its lightest reminiscence.
This composition is the third one in my study of mass as a semantic dimension of timbre, in which I explore the concept of depth as a spatial experience and its consequences in the perception of timbral mass. The title is a verse of the poem ‘The Wind Sleepers’ by Hilda Doolittle (HD) that I take to work on an association between the sleeping experience and depth; so ‘no longer sleep’ means to coming out to the surface of ‘reality’. As a poetical image, wind is a force and, at the same time, space for movement, thus, the title is also a reference to this process of close-up in which timbre disintegrates as distance is reduced, in opposition to the expected revelation of its voluminous expression.
We no longer sleep in the wind, for solo Paetzold double bass recorder, was especially composed for Sylvia Hinz.
This picture was taken in early January while working on the preliminary ideas for the piece. Berlin, 2020.