Monthly Archives: February 2013

Juan Manuel

ABRAS-Photo-1

Juan Manuel

What motivates you to compose?

Composing is, for me, an inner necessity: music is a fruit of the spirit that can sometimes lead us to the Absolute. When you compose, it becomes possible to fulfill the desire to create a world of your own, a personal microcosm where you set the rules and also make their exceptions. Along with my constant goals, there are everyday events that, providentially, act for me as inspirational triggers: I unconsciously absorb these stimuli before combining them spontaneously into the seed of a musical whole that may not necessarily resemble its primeval components.

Through inspiration, during an ‘inner vision’, one’s mind often hears and sees fragments of a new work before even writing its first note, as if the piece was already finished; knowledge and experience then help me to process them through work and intuition (something that reminds me the way in which alchemy processes the prime matter). And, somehow, this seems to be connected to a sense of duty: one is moved to compose what it needs to be composed (thus, avoiding superfluous initiatives), focusing on oneself as the first listener of a new own piece, but bearing in mind its future audience as well.


How would you describe your music?
My music is a faithful reflection of myself.
Within the frame of classical music, my output embraces many styles, techniques and genres while keeping an inner unity that can be often found in a sonorous discourse which dialogues with past and present towards future. You could say, in Chomskyan terms, that my music tends to manifest itself through varied surface forms which are often derived from a common deep structure. At the same time, some of my compositions are frequently nourished both by elements taken from Argentine folk music and urban dances-which I then incorporate into the classical music I write, often related to Viennese trends due to my relationship with Austria-and concepts like ‘numinous’, ‘anamnesis’, ‘unity in variety’ and ‘union of the opposites’, while containing references to fields that can range from theology to biology. By the use of different approaches and perspectives, including intertextual and ekphrastic ones, as well as by employing new technologies.
I always try to give my music a balance between emotion and thought.
Can you explain a bit about your cultural influences?
UNESCO reaffirmed in 2001 that “culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”.

Within that context, I have been always exposed to cultural diversities since I came to life, receiving influences from both my family (rooted in the present states of Spain, Italy and France, but recently settled in Argentina) and the countries where I lived and studied: Sweden (where I was born), Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Austria, Germany and Poland. At the same time, I must also add to this those influences coming from my multiple objects of study, which I gladly absorbed as a composer, in this case, and not a as researcher (thus, avoiding any possible positivist controversy).

How does cultural influences inspire your music?

I think the way that this happens is mainly due to the interaction of the previously mentioned cultural influences I have received during my life and the generative process related to musical composition I have just described in my answer to your first question.
Are you interested in any particular kind of world music?
 In 1994 Carl Rahkonen stated that “World music means different things to different people […]. It is not Western art music, neither is it mainstream Western folk or popular music. World music can be traditional (folk), popular or even art music, but it must have ethnic or foreign elements”. In that case, I must confess that my interest comprises every possible kind of world music available: from Greenland to Antarctica and Alaska to Kiribati; from the settlements near Mount Everest to those communities close to the Dead Sea. However, in my compositional output you may usually find those elements taken from Argentine folk music and urban dances I previously cited, which I often integrate into my classical music works (as I already said, frequently linked to Viennese trends, given my relationship with Austria) without neglecting, at the same time, those elements coming from the aforementioned different cultures I absorbed.

Simultaneously, I have been always fascinated by some world music historically linked to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions.

All this explains why some of my works are entitled “Chacarera meets the Puna”, “Pésame (Actus contritionis)”, “Huayno meets the Milonga”, “Pentecostés (Veni Sancte Spiritus) “, “Chacarera endebussyada”, “De coelesti hierarchia”, “Chacarera beatboxera”, “Dialogos between Moses, Demosthenes, Virgil and Turing”, “Milonga meets Malambo”, etc.

Who has influenced you as a composer and why?

A considerable source of influences came directly from the composers I studied with during my studies and courses at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Krakow Academy of Music, ‘Manuel de Falla’ Superior Conservatoire of Music Buenos Aires and other institutions: Krzysztof Penderecki, Kurt Schwertsik, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm and Roberto García Morillo, among others.

Other classical music influences came through some of the many composers whose works I have studied, conducted, played and listened to: from medieval plainchant to current contemporary pieces of different trends, passing through Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th-century music. And, within this context, I must also mention the influences I also received from some folk and popular (including film) music I have been in contact with. All the influences I referred to previously were absorbed by me during a natural process of interaction; I consider them beneficial to me and hold them in esteem.
ABRAS-Photo-3You won the Grafimuse Prize (Brussels, 2011). Can you tell us a bit about this prize?
The Grafimuse Prize (Lachert Foundation Brussels, Deposito dei segni) is the latest of more than a dozen awards and scholarships that, thank God, I have won during the last decade (three of them in Vienna, Austria). Its artistic director was Piotr Lachert, the jury was headed by Joerg Gruenert and its organizers (IRIC Thracica was one of the partner organizations of the competition) stated that the “first contest/festival of Grafimuse is open to all musicians around the world, professionals and students, of all ages. The purpose of the contest is the creation of two-dimensional works of visual art”. The “winning works will be printed […] and will be exhibited in the following places: Chieti, Fermo, Kraków, Pescara, Sambuceto, Santos, Sofia, and Warsaw. During this exhibition, concerts/artistic happenings (instrumental, dance, vocal, and movement) will take place using the winning entries. The works will be treated as sources of artistic inspiration for improvisation, as well as graphic scores”.
Can you tell us a bit about your current composing?
I am currently working on a ‘birthday’ piece for the Ensemble Aleph (France), whose members kindly asked the composers who took part in the several editions of their International Forum for Young Composers (Program Culture 2000 of the European Union) to compose a work to celebrate the ensemble’s 30th anniversary, a composition which will be premiered in Paris during June 2013 at the Théâtre Dunois. At the same time, I am sketching a new concerto while giving shape to a number of symphonic, choral and solo works which are planned to be premiered during 2013-14 in Europe and the Americas. Last but not least, I also keep on working on various pieces related to one of my two ongoing PhDs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.
Any exciting plans for 2013?

Yes! God willing, moving back to Europe, where I was born and raised, to continue there my work and studies as composer, conductor and researcher. However, in order to do so, I must call a halt to my teaching activities in Argentina, where I hold five chairs, in total, as Professor at the National University of Lanús (Techniques and Chamber Music of the 20th-Century) and the Superior Conservatoire of Music of the City of Buenos Aires ‘Astor Piazzolla’ (Analysis, Performance Practice, Contemporary Stylistics, Classical-Romantic Stylistics); and the same applies to my activity as researcher at the ‘Carlos Vega’ Institute for Musicological Research of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. Nevertheless, I hope that going back to the Old World will contribute to consolidate and widen my current international career. May God grant it!

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Filed under Composers, world music styles