Cecilia Arditto Delsoglio


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.


The cheese grater’s five seconds of fame

A cheese grater is being played with a toothbrush. After a while, we completely forget the cheese grater and we can focus only on the sound. The continuous fricative noise is colored by mini sparks of high frequencies, short and loud.

That sound progressively becomes a ghost, a bunch of confused energy not attached to a specific physical body. The sonic outcome is different from the sounds produced by the object when in the kitchen. The grater-thing, as a lost map, with its metallic perimeter,  embrace new sounds floating in the sea of abstraction.

Deep listening is in conflict with what the eyes and/or the ears have to offer: is it really a cheese grater or a camouflaged synthesizer? It is known that synthesizers can efficiently produce a broad variety of sounds, they may also change the way they look,

“not what it sounds, the car, the instrument, the voice, but what sounds as sonic materiality and sense

I like the conflict that the grater brings on stage when not performing “spaguetti” but the most beautiful sounds ever.


La râpe à fromage doit être frottée avec un baguette de Triangle/
The cheese grater should be rubbed with a Triangle mallet
M. Ravel , L’Enfant et les Sortiléges


About notation

Casi cerca (2004)- score fragment

I like to think of written music as an entity that originates itself every time it is invoked. Different from other arts, where the physical object is always there, music exists only when someone reads a music score.
Music uses a foreign language to express itself, and that is not sound waves but graphical signs. This oblique mechanism gives to the music, both in sound and discourse, an ambiguous condition. Ambiguity brings fragility and strength at the same time.
The history of western music has always been dancing together with the development of musical notation, one feeding the other, in an indivisible relationship. Musical notation is not only a tool to preserve the right sound waves in the correct order but a way of thinking and creating music. Most of the written music would have been impossible to be conceived without writing down ideas on paper. Music notation is both a registration and generation activity at the same time.
Music scores are meticulous, specific, and obsessive with details. The wonderful paradox is that the manifestation of this accuracy is a live act. Written music has its full expression in the present moment. Fresh and fragile. This imperfect-perfect, defined-undefined, precise-imprecise double-sided coin is the fascinating arena that provides music its abstract condition.

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.


Para la macrobiótica el equilibrio no un estado absoluto que se alcanza per se, sino una acción continua y constante de fuerzas. El mismo principio se aplica para preparar una cena o para organizar la existencia.
El yoga propone algo parecido. Mantener el balance en las posturas implica una suma de fuerzas diversas, opuestas, complementarias y confluyentes.
En el arte, el balance se relaciona con una idea amplia del concepto de armonía: los eventos o materiales se organizan equilibradamente con la combinación cuidada de parámetros y variables.

Pensar el número 2020 conlleva a pensar en un futuro de ciencia ficción, lejos de ese lugar geométrico y aséptico de superficies platinadas. Nuestro presente es un futuro más a la Philip Dick, lleno de basura y miseria, de vieja tecnología y también de invenciones sutiles.
El flujo histórico no es una línea recta donde una ley armónica sigue a la otra y donde el ruido sigue a lo tónico. La historia es una melange  donde todo convive a la vez. Se legitima el pasado a la vez que se lo neutraliza. Los antes y los después son categorías mezcladas y a veces simultáneas.

Volviendo a los lenguajes artísticos, la pregunta es:  ¿Cuál es el sentido de tanta abstracción en un mundo que se cae a pedazos?
Una respuesta que me consuela es considerar la abstracción como una herramienta poderosa en una realidad salvaje. Es crucial seguir haciendo juegos mentales en un mundo hostil, como antaño dibujaban en la cueva de Altamira, mientras afuera se morfaban unos a otros y los meteoritos decoraban la tierra. ¿Antropología casera para justificar un par de multifónicos machucados? Y ojalá que no.
El equilibrio de las cosas, como en el cuerpo, se da de manera compleja. Diversas fuerzas se relacionan en el entramado infinito de causas y efectos. Los pequeños gestos también influyen en la maquinaria compleja del mundo. No me imagino un mundo sin arte.
Paradójicamente, el arte es especialmente importante para aquellos que no lo consumen explícitamente. Ellos, sin saberlo, se benefician de los efectos de su existencia (¡sí, ustedes, cabezas huecas!).
El arte hace un futuro mejor de verdad, no como el mundo mejor marketinero de Silicon Valley. Porque lo inservible del arte, su falta de utilidad y de propósito, es lo que lo hace esencial. El arte no tranza ni consigo mismo, y si lo hace, se convierte inmediatamente en otra cosa que ya no es arte.

Seguiremos trabajando, incansables al pedo y militantes de lo ínfimo.
Feliz año.

La intimidad a los gritos

En el año 2008 comencé a escribir este blog. Recuerdo el pudor inicial de compartir escritos nacidos en la intimidad, que con un clic estaban expuestos a todos los que quisieran leer.
Más de diez años han pasado y los límites con respecto a lo público y lo privado han cambiado exponencialmente, sobre todo con el crecimiento de las redes sociales.
La vieja internet, aquella de las páginas webs y blogs, todavía proponen una vieja escuela, donde uno va a un sitio a buscar algo, lo lee, lo comenta, se escribe con más caracteres y se necesitan de párrafos completos para expresar ideas.
Escribir un post en un blog es un acto menos espontáneo que reaccionar rápidamente en las redes sociales. La paradoja es, que el escrito meditado, permite una libertad y una sinceridad que en la interacción de las redes sociales es imposible. Lo espontáneo no es sinónimo de verdadero.
Lo público y lo privado ha sido siempre un tema interesante para los artistas, acostumbrados a expresar emociones o pareceres íntimos a grandes grupos de gente (¡no hay tanta multitud en la música contemporánea, ja, ja!).
Encuentro que lo que se muestra en las redes, en apariencia más expuesto,  es de una intimidad más evasiva. Una evasión sin misterio, con cierto aire de estafa.