Cecilia Arditto Delsoglio

Post Term: composición

Phitoprakta by Xenakis: The algorithmic elephant

When following the graphic score of Pithoprakta by Xenakis, along with the recording we can see that the piece is based on mathematical structures. In the graphical score, these structures looks very organic, as if the mathematical designs were drawn by hand. This is something very valuable when composing. If the strings were to enter one by one, orderly, we would see a straight line in the score (graphic or analog) bringing an extremely predictive musical behavior. It is important to break the straight lines of the design to achieve more organic shapes, and consequently a more organic listening. The score is still going to be schematic, but the structures will be as calculated as a tree can be, not a refrigerator. Pithoprakta is never reduced to ideal squared forms, which would be uninteresting for the ears.

The graphic notation that can be inferred from Pithoprakta is visually beautiful. The analog score has both musical and visual value.

When I “see” graphic scores by other composers, I experience different things:

  1. The score has nothing to do with the effect; it is randomly connected, usually in a very simplistic way. It seems to me that the performers do whatever they want. This could be worth doing. But usually not.
  2. The scores are very rigid, especially those that use graph paper. The music sounds like coming from a mechanical piano made from a roll inspired on a geometric delight without musical heart.
Pithoprakta –  Graphical score by Pierre Carré

Xenakis´music is organized and visceral at the same time. And quoting the Greek (sorry for the easy association!), Xenakis breaks the commonplace conception of Apollo as an opposite of Dionysus. The guts of Dionysus and the arrow of Apollo converse. The warmth of wine, the dance, the beast come together with the intellectual distance, the direction, and predetermination of the archer. Gabriel Valverde, my composition teacher, used to say when talking about Xenakis: “An elephant has passed.” An algorithmic elephant, I would say!

Xenakis, Pithoprakta score excerpt: The algorithmic elephant

As a composer I am interested in the mathematical construction of organic forms. Not rooted literally in the heart of mathematics, but in its concept. There are many contemporary composers who work with mathematical organic forms derived from nature, with sonic results that are generally highly schematic. Especially in our century, where organic forms are closely related to ecological concerns, the translation of data into music seems to be done by pushing a square button without guts and also without premeditation. Xenakis was overall a musician, who, guts and brain, ultimately assigns the parameters and decides what each algorithm means in the realm of music. A monster with two heads.

Following this line of thinking, there is, however,  a question about the mathematical structures in Xenakis’s music related to his approach to musical form. In Pithoprakta, the different scenes succeed each other in blocks. These blocks are in dialogue with each other, like successive blocks of concrete (or other more fragile materials, like “blocks of gas” or “blocks of fluids”). Block, massive or ethereal are also melting into one another. But they are solid, concrete, clearly defined blocks. In the manner of Stravinsky, Gubaidulina, Ustvolskaya, Nono in his string quartet, and many others, the discourse in blocks attempts to disrupt centuries of a Western linear narrative discourse. Urgent matters in the mid-20th century.

I borrow the question of organic forms previously discussed in Pithoprakta, but now, applied to the general form of a piece. And also, bringing the use of organic mathematical forms in other aspects of the composition like sound structure and orchestration. Also into overall rhythmic organization, a complete new extensive chapter.

Somehow in my mind, unconsciously, an as unaware I could be of the influences of such a composition monster,  I pay tribute to the beginning of Pithoprakta with my Música invisible for trombone, Water wonderfully played by Dalton Harris. In Water, I am using the rhythmical structures of water drops to create musical structures (listen with headphones please! the beginning is very soft).

I listen to Pithoprakta with nostalgia, like someone watching a Tarkovsky film. There is still so much to learn, but at the same time, it feels so far away, a blurry dot back then in the 20th century. Good old times.

The art of combining things

para Gabriel Abellán

Today, I began my day by reading a post on Gabriel Abellán´s blog (in Spanish), a blog devoted to physics and music under both a very smart and poetic perspective. In his latest post, Gabriel shares with us, how a logic class, taught by an inspiring teacher, changed him forever. Emphatically,  I remembered my father teaching me math when I was in kindergarten.


Science and science-fiction
From my last visit to Argentina (I live in Amsterdam) I brought a suitcase full of books: 23 kgs of precious books. I “stole” from the family bookshelf the science-fiction collection that belonged to my father. I also brought a very inexpensive (but super heavy!) collection of science books that I bought in calle Corrientes, a street in Buenos Aires, very well known for its amazing bookshops.

The two piles of books talk to each other, being the “real” science pile the crazier one (verdad Gabriel?).

I am sure that the pioneers of relativity theory with their wild imagination deeply pleased Asimov and Bradbury. Wells traveling on time, and Philip Dick, with his multiple worlds, both of them speak the same language than the realities glimpsed by quantum physics scientists.  In the corner of the music, Stockhausen comes to my mind too… maybe it is true that he comes from Sirius.
People from these two piles of books have in common that they could see a world beyond the everyday facts. They saw it, they believed in it, and they went for it. Each pile requires a different tool: some of them build new realities with the calculator, others with the typewriter. Just nuances.

It is easy to associate the capacity of dreaming about new realities with artists, something that scientists also do. They have to.
It is easy to associate the idea of science changing the world (I think about the discovery of electricity or the atom partition) but is something that artists also do. The world of art and the development of the human race have been spinning out together since the beginning of our times, feeding each other, making each other.

The architecture of cloth.
I also brought from Argentina in that same suitcase a pile of sewing patterns that belonged to my mum, and previously to my grandmother: a collection of Burda magazines. My grandma, Beba, taught me to sew when I was really very little. From a very early age, I could make clothes for my puppets, and for myself, following the instructions of these patterns. La abuelita Beba let me use her sewing machine, brand Singer, actuated with a pedal, that, in those times, was just at the tips of my small feet. I didn’t care less about the dolls; I was more interested in the confection of these intricated mini designs with sleeves, zippers and pliers. Believe me, still not easy. I was also, amazed by the mechanism of the sewing machine. I still am.

Now I am writing scores, with instructions, sometimes in several languages, like in Burda magazine!

Varese said that music is organized sound.
I say that music is the art to combine… a lot of things.


 Gespleten piano (2010)- stage design



My recent piece Boxes belongs to a collection of pieces under the name  “Acoustics of everyday” focused on explicit issues related to classical acoustic: resonance boxes, strings, mutes, filters, microtonality, and other subjects to come.
I had a wonderful adventure with ensemble Modelo62, which included 3 concerts + a recording session, plus shared rehearsal time. In all those instances I could deepen my questions about this new chapter in my music.

Boxes is mainly focused on the subject of space. Different resonance boxes are in dialogue between themselves, but also, in dialogue with the big box around that is the room itself.

In a series of concentric layers, my first concern about space starts with the same architecture of the piece.

1. Composing different spaces within the piece by grouping instruments by color and/or behavior (orchestration).
2. Establishing the role of the instruments (solo, tutti, ensemble)
3. Composing their interaction in a combo music/space (soloist, duplications, hoquetus, etc)
4. Boxes ask what is sounding, when, and where at the same time.
5. Choosing the musical materials both in terms of time and space: repeated notes freeze the time, while ever looping scales move the time in circles; repeated notes made by one instrument “freeze the space” while the hoquetus form opens it.
6. Proposing the question of what sounds inside or outside.
7. Handles and metal appliances of the boxes were reacting to some frequencies of the guitar amps located inside. Finally, the boxes were singing on stage beyond being only resonance containers!


The music as a holistic unity brings together different purposes, perspectives, and a multiplicity of diverse energies into one and only one perceptual experience, into one logic.

Space is experienced as an unconscious unity rather than as a collection of recognizably separable processes.
Spaces speak, are you listening?
B. Blesser and L.R. Salter

Post-concert questions.

  • How concrete is the space of the piece in terms of composition? And how is the dialogue with the architectonic space of the concert hall?
  • How aware are the listeners of space? Is it possible to design a space that is moving instead of sound events traveling in it? Therefore: how to differentiate the movement of the events rather than the movement of the space itself?
  • How much should be seen? The visual aspect of a concert is always very influential. In previous works, I used the visual aspects of a concert as part of the music (music to see). But in Boxes, on the other hand, I was longing for a concert hall in the shadows.

To be continued.


Minimalismos 2

Multitud de puntos organizados en un espacio discreto

Estos últimos años estuve viajando muchísimo, armandome unas cuantas casas, una atrás de la otra, en diferentes países. Por lo que no tengo más remedio que reflexionar sobre la liviandad y el despojamiento. ¿Qué es realmente lo necesario para esta obra? ¿Necesito en realidad esta olla de hierro de mil kilos? ¿Voy a leer este libro? ¿Otro par de botas? ¿2 kilos de papas, really? Me estoy volviendo más sintética. Indispensable cuando se vive en un quinto piso por escalera. Ojalá me sirva esta gimnasia del despojamiento para mis obras.
Schumann ideo un sistema de pesas colgantes para fortalecer algunos dedos de su mano debilitada  y poder tocar el piano. Tal vez yo debería usar algo parecido cuando compongo, el mecanismo de Schumann atado a la mano que sostiene la pluma, para poder pensar en cada nota con sudor y lágrimas. Y ahí si me compro la olla de mil kilos.

Escenario 360

Mi más intensa gimnasia minimalista se pone en marcha cada vez que tengo que presentar mi ciclo Musique Concrète. No en términos de composición, ya que la obra tiene ya su doble barra, sino en términos de puesta: como organizar los objetos en escena. .Si bien las secciones del ciclo Musique Concrète son austeras en su estética, el conjunto forma un entramado saturado. El espacio de Musique Concrète no es el espacio escénico teatral sino el espacio de una instalación/concierto.  Pensándolo en una retrospectiva, veo que este ha sido también el espíritu de mis trabajos de cámara de los últimos diez años.

Link al proyecto Musique Concréte

Hay una diferencia entre lo teatral clásico y el espacio de tipo instalación. La cuarta pared del teatro, propone un espacio partido: los intérpretes estean obligados a actuar en dos dimensiones y media. Los músicos, si bien son tridimensionales pero siempre se ubican de coté, como en las comedias de la tele, donde un familión está sentado sumamente apretado en un sólo lado de la mesa para no tapar a la cámara que los filma.

La idea de un espacio conceptual más amplio, más 3D me permite patear el tablero de la caja italiana y volver a ubicar los objetos en un un espacio que es de otra índole.

Mis obras no son instalaciones ni improvisaciones. Son eventos manifiestamente performativos, a ser producidos en vivo. Su cualidad performativa no significa que no puedan a su vez compartir un concepto de curaduría más cercano a las artes plásticas que la idea de puesta que propone el espacio dramático del teatro.

Out Loud is back

Out loud is music with the shape of a strainer where most of the sounds are missing. The pre-omposed piece is filtered so only the leftovers of the piece remain: the unwanted, the de-classed sounds.

The ensemble plays tacet only gestures without sound.

The music vanishes and we can only hear/see what remains: breathing, movements, mistaken notes, eye contact.

To be played in silent mode… a couple of accidental sounds are welcome!


To be played in silent mode… a couple of accidental sounds are welcome!

And the no-piece becomes a piece! Hard to escape the void.

The music is defined for what it is hidden instead of for what it shows, in a post-Cage experiment the piece asks to remember the forgotten sounds in the own mind.

I wrote a silent piece with a lot of notes.
The musicians and the audience are present, occupying the hall, facing a full nothingness. The audience and the musicians, nevertheless, are holding to the concert rituals with the hope of recovering some sense.

Tired of following instructions…
Tired of solfège…
Tired of abstraction…
even not the intention, the resulting piece is quite humoristic.

The ensemble conforms a half circle on stage with eye contact.
Diagram of the choreography of the whole piece

The musicians are asked to build a piece around the piece. In this version, the trombone, at the very end, plays the only real note of the piece.

The first version of this piece was written for Aleph Ensemble, France, in 2013 for violin, violoncello, piano and percussion. It lasts only one minute! Even Out loud is a piece basically to be seen, I’ve got an audio recording of the concert that I find very interesting.  The recording of a silent piece is acknowledging all the sounds around the piece, so it is possible to hear everything except for what is written in the score.
Listening to the audio follows somehow the same logic of building sense for what is around instead of for what is shown. Listen to Out loud maximum volume!

I am working now on a second version, a bit longer (3 minutes!) for the New Mexico Ensemble, for violin, violoncello, percussion plus accordion and trombone.

Hello “Goodbye, Dragon Inn”

Quería compartir algunas capturas de pantalla de la película “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” del director malasio Tsai Ming-lian. Este tipo de cine ayuda a pensar la música. ¡Mucho más que el ropaje de las técnicas extendidas, ja ja ja!!

Vemos la película dentro de la película … y somos la audiencia dentro de la audiencia…
El claroscuro next door
El ojo que filma.
La eternidad del vaivén de la puerta suspendido en un cielo de azulejos
Escena silenciosa y larguísima que nos muestra el cine vacío por última vez. Naturalismo de neón.
La gravedad y su liviandad
Líneas de fuga, direcciones, perspectivas, sombras
Composición 3D
Afuera llueve

Locura inducida

“Dos” detalle de la partitura

Estoy escribiendo una obra basadas en la música de Schumann y por la ventana veo su mismo barrio unas centurias mas tarde. Me encanta Düsseldorf, por lo feo y por lo lindo. Al principio me parecía una ciudad espantosa y ahora cada día la quiero mas, me gusta de verdad. A diferencia de Amsterdam que es bonita de entrada y se va afeando cada día que pasa. Buenos Aires es siempre un misterio, que país de locos. Visto desde afuera no se entiende nada, y desde adentro me imagino que menos. Me parece que nadie sabe donde está parado, pero con una convicción tremenda. Y al final del día eso es lo que cuenta, porque cuando los sistemas funcionan, nadie se los cuestiona y viene el vacío… nadie le presta atención al tren cuando viene a horario. Igual, por suerte, eso nunca pasa en Alemania.

Las piezas que escribo son para dos tocadiscos que están reproduciendo música muy similar. Es una operación mental sumamente inquietante cuando las dos grabaciones tocan casi en sincronía. Hay una especie de armonía dada por La música de Schumann brinda armonía (en el sentido musical del término), tonalidad y proporciona el orden de un lenguaje conocido, que es el discurso de la música del siglo XIX. Pero cuando los tocadiscos suenan casi simultáneamente, en un delay casero, el resultado es una cosa literalmente de locos, una confusión inducida.
En mi pieza llamada Dos, el cello y el violín en vivo tocan en sincro con dos tocadiscos que reproducen vinilos pregrabados. Cada instrumento sigue uno de los tocadiscos, en un juego de duplicados.
La pieza es un mini caos, la armonía y la tonalidad rápidamente fracasan. Y cuando fracasan, triunfa la pieza. Esta idea suena mucho mejor en palabras de lo que es. Es una pieza modesta, que me gusta muchísimo. Produce emociones intensas cuando se escucha, un tanto angustiantes. No es cualquier caos, es ese caos.

Es un homenaje a Schumann. Sabemos que el principal homenajeado es siempre el que lo hace, nunca el que supuestamente lo recibe, que, como en este caso, no sólo no tiene manera de enterarse, sino que si pudiera tal vez se sentiría triste. Dos trata de la bipolaridad. De los mundos conocidos que se vuelven intransitables. Escrito así me da pudor meterme en la vida de Schumann. Aunque sé que en realidad él es un espejo de la mía, o peor, de una persona amadísima cuyo nombre no puedo ni escribir, no  pudor y por un intenso dolor.

Il pleut…

Jaume Plensa (recomendación de  Abel Paul) dibuja el espacio…

Jaume Plensa “Silent Rain” (2003)


… en diálogo con Guillaume Apollinaire.

Guillaume Apollinaire “Il pleut”; Calligrammes (1918)