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.

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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


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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.


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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


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Esta tarde leo a Adorno/This afternoon I read Adorno (2013)

based on a poem by  Bárbara Belloc for bass clarinet, viola, percussion + record player, ventilator and spinning chairs commissioned by KNM Berlin  


1. Now     Esta tarde leo a Adorno – by Cecilia Arditto based on a poem by Barbara Belloc   Mini music theater piece in 6 scenes for bass clarinet, viola, percussion, pickup player and a electric fan

Scene #1 “After a while, it is difficult to recall what that really was. I remember the tapping though”


Scene #1 “After a while, it is difficult to recall what that really was. I remember the tapping though” Scene #2 “The past is printed on a vinyl that is getting more and more wasted every second” Scene #3 “Memory has holes, and also the present, no matter we experience it as a continuum” Scene #4 “Bass clarinet playing with a past version of itself” Scene #5 “Present and past move at different speeds” Scene #6“…Anyhow, I remember the spring”

2. Before  

At café “Lidos”, in Buenos Aires, the Argentine poet Barbara Belloc orally recalls her poem “Esta tarde leo a Adorno”. She remembers and forgets different parts of it, quoting it and reinvent it at the same time, and then she talks about Adorno, Brahms, vinyls and typewriting machines.

It is summer in Buenos Aires and the coffee is great.  

Back in Holland, I start exploring Barbara’s palace of memories to write my own piece. Even in spring, the weather is really cold.  

I decide to stamp the music on vinyl: the soundtrack of my childhood, like Barbara’s, comes in a vinyl envelope. Vinyls are similar to memories: they get more wasted every time we play them. My music is about distortion when time passes. Memory has holes, and also the present, no matter what we experience it as a continuum.

Was it my memories or hers?   It is difficult to know what something really was in the past. Like in the language of dreams, things appear blurry and mixed. I remember some typing… was it a vibraphone or a gigantic typewriting machine? I recall the spinning air… was it a pickup player or a ventilator? In my theater, three musicians are listening to a record player, and everything turns around together with the vinyl: memories, sounds and the air surrounding, like a drunken boat on the sea of music.      

In the palace of our memories, all rooms are related in new ways. The same doors are connected to our present through impossible corridors from the past.

We are moving from time to time in a different version of ourselves: in my piece, the clarinetist plays a duo with himself in the past and the percussion player recalls Barbara’s poem in a different language. Memories are blurry and vivid in the same proportion; this seems to be their quality.

 3. Even before

Barbara’s poem 

La casa en llamas Lo poco o mucho que hubo: corazón de ceniza

 Esta tarde leo a Adorno como si leyera las cartas póstumas de mi padre, si mi padre hubiera sido visionario, célebre y furioso. Lo leo como un secreto familiar se lee en voz alta o se rompe un pacto de palabra. Miro a los costados: la cantidad de papel impreso que tiro a la basura me revuelve el estómago. Pienso: debería ser inversamente proporcional a lo que escribo, ‘o no ser nada’. Leo a Adorno. Y mientras tanto repito: Adorno, Adorno, Adorno… como un ronroneo. Lo leo espantada, tan espantada que a cada rato dejo el libro y ando por la casa vagando, espantando a las arañas con un plumero. Y vuelvo. A encontrar un mensaje que creo dirigido a mí y, más allá del asombro, bien interpretar por: una cuestión de consanguinidad. (¿?) Léase: leo a Adorno como si recordara (como recuerdo) los acordes de la Tercera Sinfonía de Brahms, que mi padre me asegura que le pedía una y otra vez en la infancia, con Bartok, Górecki y Saint-Saëns, y no las brumas de sinusoidales y los engranajes rotos que día y noche sí mecían la casa como un barco ebrio en el mar de la musique concrète. Adorno, ¡vaya decorado! ¿Me vas a decir que acaso no sabías que la música hace estragos? ¿Que la música que se escucha en el vientre de la madre no hace mella en el feto que no es sino todo oídos, huevo-sin-cáscara? Importa poco. Esta tarde leo a Adorno como un biólogo lee un programa de forestación artificial en el ojo de un claro de una selva en peligro, en el tercer mundo, en este mundo, cuando la flecha del tiempo clava el cartel en la corteza del árbol: SE ACABÓ. O como un huérfano cae a pique sobre las fotos de sus muertos en busca de aquello que lo desate de su pena. O como un minero japonés que apila una piedra, y otra, y otra más. Algunos hablan de la guerra, otros de quién será el soberano. La sombra vengadora está en la sombra y se despereza. Ahí viene. Adorno, Adorno, Adorno, Adorno: tu nombre es fósforo Fragata prendido al borde de un terrenito de provincia en sucesión perpetua. Dice el testamento: “El único pensamiento no ideológico es el que intenta llevar la cosa misma al lenguaje que está bloqueado por el lenguaje dominante”. De noche duermo y sueño con un campo que es una partitura de vacas que mugen cosas que entiendo. Después del saqueo: el pozo está vacío. (potus)     • Download tape • Video   Related post/s in my blog “Poesía” (Spanish)   Related works:
• Gestalt (2014)
• Time machine (2011)
• Gespleten piano (2010)
• Split piano (2011)
• El libro de los gestos / Book of gestures (2008)
• La arquitectura del aire / The architecture of air (2009)


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Distancia de rescate (2018)

for 8 low strings based on the homonymous novel by Samanta Schweblin
commissioned by Innovations in Concert, Montreal

Distancia de rescate is based on the homonymous award-winning novel (“Fever dream” in the English translation) by the Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin. My piece is inspired by the psychological atmosphere of the novel and its fascinating polyphonic structure, which inspired me to write a piece for a big ensemble.
In the novel, the characters are attached to each other by a “psychological string” which expands and stretches depending on emotional content, mostly related to fear. In my composition, the cellos are physically attached to each other by strings, one resonating on another. Extra pieces of strings tied to the instruments bridges and tailpieces connect literally each other occupying the stage.
Distancia de rescate is also a trip inside the deep heart of the string. Its sound world is based on the natural harmonic series, finding unexpected patterns in the upper harmonic series of the string. These bright and fragile sounds are like crystals found in the earthy residual tones of the strings.
• Video

Related works:

• Música invisible for cello (2008-2018)
• Calder´s circus (2000)
• #4. “Electricité” from Musique Concrète -project page

Download score PDF

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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.

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Anatomy of a jar (2020)

for female choir (SMA) and glass containers
commissioned by Zembla Music

Anatomy of a jar explores the sound quality of discarded objects, making music with bottles and jars literally rescued from the glass container. These objects refer clearly to a known and familiar world, that through the composition process acquires an abstract and a poetic condition. This piece explores the subtleties of sound, both in the choir and in the objects. These sounds free themselves from their sources, having their own musical value independently of coming from the vocal tradition or the trash can.
Anatomy of a jar makes chamber music with objects converting them into refined musical instruments. Objects are now empowered on stage, and their sounds are written in a music score, acquiring thanks to the music notation “eternal life.” The act of re-appropriation is not related to the idea of nostalgia but to resistance and change.

• Audio   • Video instructions
• Practice guides

Download score PDF

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Related works:

Cuarteto (1996)
Las ciudades y los signos (SATB)
• Introducción a la zoología fantástica (children´s choir)

• Anthropology of trash (2020)





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Out loud #1, #2 and #3 (2013-

Out loud is a music piece in the shape of a strainer where most of the sounds have gone away. The main composing was intentionally erased and only the leftovers of a gone piece survive, the unwanted, the declassed sounds.

I say voiceless: I don’t want to write one more piece.

The music vanished and we are facing now its remains: breaths, movements, mistaken notes, eye contact. As if it were junk spread on the beach, this “new piece” invites to draw the shape of a missing party from the waste.

The music is defined for what it is omitted instead of for what it shows, like a post-Cage experiment reloading the forgotten declassed sounds.

I write a silent piece with a lot of notes.

The musicians and the audience are still there, occupying the hall, facing a full nothingness a bit silly. Both audience and musicians are repeating its concert rituals with the hope of recovering some sense.

Tired of being told…

Tired of solfège…

Tired of abstraction

Talk to me in my face!

The musicians are asked to play the shell of the egg, better said the air around the egg and the trombone return the notes from the outside in, blowing comebacks. Hopefully, the audience laughs, filling the air around like a breath of spring.


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El libro de los gestos / The book of gestures  (2007 revised 2008)

for violin, cello, piano, percussion and lamps
commissioned by Ensemble Musas, Santa Fe

There are four people in a room making music. Each one has a lamp. They play their musical instruments, and they also play the lights, on and off, creating with this action different atmospheres. The staging of the piece is constantly changing, in real-time, by means of the lights.
The book of gestures proposes a counterpoint of different layers: the rhythm of the music, the rhythm of the lights, the rhythm of the room
There are spaces to be seen, spaces to be heard, spaces to be imagined. Some of the music is played in the dark, in a room full of presences.

• Video
• Notes for performance (English)

• Analysis (Español)

Related works:

• Gestalt (2014)
• Esta tarde leo a Adorno/This afternoon I read Adorno (2013)
• Time machine (2011)
• Gespleten piano (2010)
• Split piano (2011)
• La arquitectura del aire / The architecture of air (2009)

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