Cecilia Arditto Delsoglio


2/3. The big guitar – talk about my music at the University of Berlin, May 27th 2010

Conference about my music at the University of Berlin, May 27th, 2010. Part 2/3

An often-cited definition of music, coined by Edgard Varèse, is that “music is organized sound.” In my perspective, music not only deals with the organization of sound but also lights, colors, objects, words, movements, and the space around. Music is everywhere, music can be anything. Music is something that can be heard, but mainly can be thought. The world had been always there, but it is this particular angle on its perception which makes it musical. And music is therefore everywhere, inside and outside: the world itself becomes a big guitar.


The percussionists were the first in extending the instrumental setup a step beyond because it is idiomatic for them to play row materials and objects. And then, came the others.

I was progressively extending the habitat of chamber music to other experiences that are not necessarily based on sound but can be perceived as music. We know that music is something that can be heard but also can be seen and thought. Music is a way of understanding the world. And sometimes it sounds.


The music in this extended land is equally made of lights, gestures, movement. Image, texts, graphisms. Theater, jokes, anecdotes, and the vast space around. Because I am academic, my glasses have staves.

Links to some examples of this expanded language in my music

Around music

El libro de los gestos

To be continued…

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1/3 Wood, stones and leaves – talk about my music at the University of Berlin, May 27th  2010

Conference about my music at the University of Berlin, May 27th, 2010. Part 1/3

I will initiate this talk with some excerpts from an interview I had during the Aleph Ensemble Forum for Young Composers, in 2004 in France(1).

“First, there is the material condition of music, which is represented by the physical laws of sound. Sound constitutes a material like stone, grass, water, a material with its own weight, color, speed. […] I have always been struck by the sensuality of sound. […]
Another aspect of my work consists of classifying sounds by criteria such as weight or color. I find a relationship between the expansion of the temporal line and the materiality of the sound: the temporal line is like an extension, a dilation of the material in time. In this way, you obtain a relationship between form and material.

It always fascinates me how to read the materials, how to deeply listen to them, understanding not only their wavelength but their intimate behavior, their inner truth. I think my ideas about music change throughout my life. But then I realize I have always had the same ideas. In fact, I recall similar ideas about things since I was eleven and I was not still a composer. I can remember the way I experienced the world.

When I was a kid, I used to go camping with my family during our summer holidays. Together with my sisters, we liked building houses in the woods. Our initial task was to sketch the various rooms on the ground, drawing their perimeters with a wooden stick. Those areas would be supplied with occasional furniture and proper decoration, everything made with pieces of wood, leaves, and stones. Our designs were complex, including different floors, stairs, and imaginary artifacts.
Seen from the outside, it may have looked like three little girls playing with stones and sticks, drawing lines on the dusty earth. But for us, our house was as hard as cement. We were carefully walking through the doors withdrawn on the floor and never through the walls; we were climbing imaginary stairs to finally enjoy invisible lunch on a table crowned with a flower pot.


Composing is the same thing: it is about determining the materials, organizing them according to their particular properties to build imaginary spaces.
Sound and form are intimately intertwined. The physicality of sound expands in space and time. Some materials are fast, others are heavy. And certain sounds possess a remarkable complex structure that can be perceived as a whole composition in themselves.
The classical tradition routes sound to musical instruments. From a contemporary perspective, we know the piano artifact can be perceived as many different pianos depending on the way it is used. In my music, there are, of course, differences between sounds coming from objects or from musical instruments, but there is no hierarchy. The orchestration priorities are decided upon the sound qualities.

In 2002 I initiated a project under the name “Música invisible/invisible music” based on the exploration of new sounds and techniques for solo instruments (2). My research didn’t focus only on the technical aspect. I strongly believe that extending the instrumental skills brings unavoidably new ways of listening. A melody in 1/32 tone in the flute not only deals with micro-tonality but also defines a new listening context; a trumpet player submerging the instrument into a tin of water not only brings distorted sounds but also changes the theatrical role of the player in a concert. The catalog of physical curiosities is subordinated to a particular way of conceiving certain musical instruments, working in the abstract zone where the sounds lose their bound with tradition and become out of the radar. They become Música invisible.
This metaphor invites us to place our focus in a slightly unusual angle, focusing on those frequencies that we ordinarily don’t see. We know that music is always invisible. But this metaphor encourages us to perceive something that doesn’t exist: a small displacement that places our conception at a slightly different angle.


(1) Link to full interview Aleph Ensemble Forum for Young Composers, 2004 France (PDF).

(2) Link to “Música invisible”

To be continued…

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Economy of means – Maastricht preparations



My piece Gesleten piano has lamps, tapes, and a broom. It is a piano piece with “simple” added objects; everything is fully notated on a very clear score.

The usage of materials is organic and simple but the reality of life is much more complex. Explaining to performers extra-musical actions takes a lot of energy and rehearsal time. It is easier with percussion players because they are used to deal with objects (and carrying them!)

The usage of extra-musical resources on chamber music will improve in its implementation with the practice (in fact is already improving a lot!), but we, composers, should think and re-think the usage of each extra material we employ. In the concrete practice (rehearsals, transportation, stage set up, explanation to new musicians, sharing the piece with other pieces in the program) each gesture out of the ordinary becomes exponential. Anything we think is complicated, will be very complicated. Unusual is generally not practical.

We can write, of course, whatever we want. We can write a string quartet with only one single note of a flute, for example, or we can write a long piece for a triangle that includes 5 seconds of timpani music (I am thinking more about transportation than in the music). It is like buying a very expensive dress to use only one time. .. why not? These beautiful extravagant and “non-purpose” gestures can be very relevant if we want to go that way. My point is that composers should acknowledge the complexity of apparently simple things when included in the usual practice. Not as a restriction but as an act of responsibility, getting to know our musical materials and their possibilities better. Working with props and extra-musical actions the same way we do with the traditional practice.


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Gespleten piano (2010)

mini piano theater for piano, tapes, three lights and an optional mirror
comissioned by Festival Música contemporánea Palma de Mallorca

When I was a child my father had built a door in the yard of my apartment with the lid of an old washing machine. Once through it, the little door led to a parallel yard –which in fact was the same one. In appearance the yard was alike, but if one paid attention, the same things started behaving in a strange, a rather magical way. The drawing of the tiles had the power to hypnotize you, and the insects from the plants could read your mind. Not to mention the effect if my mother showed up with a snack… she terrified me because I thought she was a “double”. I only could stay for a few seconds in that parallel world and then, running and scared to death, went through the little door back to the “authentic yard” to have a snack with my real mum. While I was composing Gespleten piano, I remembered this story from my childhood because in this piece there are real objects and their duplicates. A mirror duplicates the visual space, the cassette players emulate the aural space. There are also extra-musical “twin” objects.  I like to think that in the game of the piece it is not clear which is the original and which is the copy.

Lately, I like to explain my music through anecdotes because they are as confusing as the program notes but they are more easy-going.

Cuando era chica mi papá había construido una puertita de chapa con la tapa de un viejo lavarropas, en el patio de mi departamento. Una vez atravesada, la mini puerta te conducía a un patio paralelo – que en realidad era el mismo. En apariencia era un patio igual, pero si uno prestaba atención las cosas se comportaban de una manera extraña, casi mágica. El dibujo de las baldosas, por ejemplo, te hipnotizaba y los bichitos de las plantas te leían la mente. Ni que decir si aparecía mi mamá con la leche… me aterrorizaba porque pensaba que era una doble. Solo me podía quedar unos instantes en ese mundo paralelo y luego, corriendo y muerta de miedo, a través de la puertita volvía al patio “de verdad” para tomar la leche con mi mamá real.
Mientras componía Gespleten piano recordé esta anécdota de mi infancia, ya que en mi obra hay dos realidades paralelas: los objetos reales y sus dobles. El espejo repite el espacio visual, los grabadores de cinta duplican el espacio auditivo. También hay objetos gemelos extra musicales Me gusta pensar que en el juego de la obra, no se sabe cuál es la copia y cuál es el original. Me gusta explicar mis obras con anécdotas, porque al igual que las notas de programa, son confusas. Pero son más llevaderas.

• Video (excerpts) by Nora Mulder

Gespleten piano is mentioned in the following article (English and Spanish version of the same article):
My house in a score. Low-tech paraphernalia in chamber music (English) – The ear reader (Dutch online modern music magazine) August 2014 – Link to article in PDF
Mi casa en una partitura. Parafernalia low-tech en música de cámara (Español) – Revista Espacio Sonoro nº 32. Camilo Irizo, editor. Enero 2014Link to article in PDF

Related works:

• Gestalt (2014)
• Esta tarde leo a Adorno/This afternoon I read Adorno (2013)
• Time machine (2011)
• El libro de los gestos / Book of gestures (2008)
• Split piano (2011)
• La arquitectura del aire / The architecture of air (2009)

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La arquitectura del aire and the program notes

[gtranslate]Initially, I thought that “La arquitectura del aire” was about tension and the space between things. In other words, how emptiness can shape things from the outside in.
Three musicians are widely spread out over the hall, with the organ located on top, close to the ceiling. They communicate with each other by playing string telephones – when I was a child, I used to play with those telephones with my sisters.
The usage of the term architecture, in the title of my work, refers both to the architecture of sound and of the building.
My piece is also about air. The organ has one motor and pipes. The vibraphone has also one motor and pipes. The percussionists play a ventilator, a melodica, and an old radio: they manipulate air in different states and frequencies. The title refers to the air too.
This music also speaks about fragility. It is music made of air and threads, basically, made of nothing. It is a nothingness full of intensity, solid and ethereal at the same time. This is the way that sometimes I feel about myself, both very strong and very fragile. Probably some of this sneaked into my score.
But the truth is that I don’t know how to explain my music, or in fact, any music. However, the funny thing, is that I love to do it.

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