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Alberto Bernal
A tempo, for 4 tenor saxophones and video.

Victoria Cheah
Tell: Quartet, for saxophone quartet

Hachè Costa
SPECIES || an essay on evolution of sound & animals

Helga Arias
Milk spilt on a stone, for saxophone quartet

Georges Aperghis
Signaux, for 4 similar instruments

Alex Buess
Hyperbaton, for 2 tenor saxophones and 2 barytone saxophones




Notes to the program
By Marina Hervás
June 2019.

A simple exclamation, taken from Gloria Fuertes, is the backbone of the concert: the past is not enough for me!  Three elements converge here at least. On the one hand, the renunciation of that type of daily desire is announced, in which we believe we can “have time at hand” to organize it in the past, present and future. On the other, that this provision is "sufficient" - which is the equivalent of "enough" -. And finally - and perhaps, this time, more importantly - two questions: What does it mean that the “past” is not enough for us? Can the past not "suffice" us? Both questions are fundamental to understand the complexity of the relationship of sounds - called music - with tradition. In art in general, it happens that you can't talk about progress without it being problematic. We see it with an example in the form of a question: is Picasso more advanced than Velázquez because chronologically Picasso lived after Velázquez? Something that we would not hesitate to affirm between a 1990 computer and a current one, is not obvious in art. In addition, everything we call past in art obeys a series of beliefs, principles, postulates and strategies that dictate, with more or less success and justice, what deserves to be part of that past and what does not. Therefore, the past is not available in a full sense, but only that which has managed to pass through the dense mesh that allows some elements of the past to slip into the present. In music, moreover, it happens that time is the fundamental element that constitutes it. This time is peculiar, because it is not exactly that of our daily experience or that with which we relate our experiences (precisely, those coordinates of "past", "present" and "future"). In music it is possible to dilate or accelerate time, focus a moment, think about the relationship between time and space from textural compositions or introduce repetition. Thus, music casts doubt on one of the fundamental beliefs in any form of time management: time can be possessed. Be the owner of your time! Time is gold! Do not waste your time! Our experiences, thus, work from the fear of losing something that should be our main property, time, which organizes and enables all of them. The past is not enough because music puts at the same time in question and invites us to think, with and through it, almost everything we take for granted with respect to it. And, this proposal is about all of that.

One of the first objects that tried to organize the musical time was the metronome, which coexists with music -at least- since 1814. Its own name already announces that every way of organizing time entails the making of a law: “measure” (meter) and "norm" (norm), precisely, are the two words that form it. That time, as a rule, as an abstract regulatory principle, is the one that Alberto Bernal problematizes in A tempo. Four metronomes organize, from the beginning in a rigorous way- like when studying a musical piece-, the musical course of the four voices. However, little by little the deviations from the norm show the coldness and machine-like way of only measuring time, impassive before divergent forms - and not reducible to the normative of running. The paradox that opens here is that there are only divergences in time if there is a structure that remains. The new can only exist if something stable exists. There can only be transgression if there is a rule to transgress.

The static seems the theme of Tell: Quartet, by Victoria Cheah. Sound planes briefly separated from each other build the piece, like breaths. Cheah seeks, at least, two things: on the one hand, to think about how what is repeated (as with the routines, habits, train schedules) is organized, chronological time and that allows us to live with the security of what is stable. On the other hand, the rapid belief that, in reality, "nothing happens", allows us to listen more closely to what returns as merely repeated: everything that changes it on a small scale, because that is perhaps where the fundamentals are. Cheah thus invites the listener to approach the sound event from the emptying of the concept of "event" and, in general, renouncing fullness thanks to the interaction between sounds and silences. There is, therefore, an essential tension in this piece. While in life we end up looking for routines and anchors, in art we want many events to happen. That explains the box office and frantic superhero movies, which leave few event gaps. When supposedly "nothing is happening", all of a sudden something emerges, something that we had missed from the beginning. That which could jeopardize our long-awaited stability, our available time. The expansion of sound is the central issue that Helga Arias occupies in her Milk spilt on a Stone. The title comes from a Yeats poem:

Spilt milk

We that have done and thought,

That have thought and done,

Must ramble, and thin out,

Like milk spilt on a Stone.

In Spanish, "spilled milk" doesn't tell us much. The translation always leaves something along the way. However, "Spilt milk" refers to irrevocable errors. In terms of time, which is the main problem of the proposal, it is about not being able to go back. The Ctrl + Z proposed by computer science is a fiction about our daily life. One cannot clear an error. Maybe, at best, one can just let time go by. "Spilled milk," like any other liquid, spreads over a surface and prevents it from being picked up forever. It merges with the surface that engulfs it. This is the sound figure that appears in Arias' work. Oscillating sounds are passed from one voice to another, which converge until almost gradual indistinction. The work is built in three large blocks, always marked by slow timbral micromodifications. Thus, the first of them is characterized by the emergence, as in slow motion, of the sound from the initial chords, with a very careful vertical texture. The second part would be the expansion of the sound material hidden in these initial chords, as if they were gradually displacing its constituent elements, through a precious work of the bell. The work ends with the dissolution of sound. Perhaps because the surface that absorbs the sound is silence, like stone to milk. In several places Hachè Costa has worked specifically, the problem of time, such as Passato, Presente, Futurismo (2018), where the issue is how to deal with and dialogue with the construction of a tradition, which has so much weight on the definition of music. With SPECIES || an essay on evolution of sound & animals, by Hachè Costa, two themes -at least- appear in the foreground. On the one hand, the problem of evolution and, on the other, and directly related, how existence has been organized from it. The anthropomorphic organization has imposed itself to determine which forms of existence are placed above and which below and how, from the superiors, everything else is understood. It has already been a matter of debate for a few years why music has been defined from the human and how it has been imposed from that human what is more or less musical according to whether or not it obeys human demands. Zoomusicology, in this sense, has been a pioneer in the reflection on whether or not animals would have music and how to respond to it, in one way or another, would question what we understand by music. So through this piece, the meaning and scope of evolution is problematized. This happens in long periods that go beyond the individual lives of humans, which we live without knowing very well how we participate in evolution, which happens through and in spite of us. What we do know better, then, is how we name what happens in the evolution that is presented to us when we look back. But, as we have already pointed out in the introduction, in art, progress cannot be determined uniquely. Perhaps in evolution, in what affects the arts, either. Thus, Hachè Costa's proposal is to critically work on the meaning and scope of the evolution of musical material, influencing its proximity to the biological from categories such as “mutation” and “survival”.

There is a great distance between what led Aperghis to compose Signaux and the sound result. And is that the first idea for the piece came from the change, rarely full of meaning to us, from the lights on the runways of the airports. However, Signaux goes beyond trying to capture the fascination with those moving light lines. The entire piece is built on three series of eight notes, but arranged for the free choice of the performers, who can start on the same page or on another and order the scores as they like. This exercise of freedom of the interpreter was something essential since the 60s, when the centrality of the composer began to be problematized to have the last word on the arrangement of sound as musical. It was considered that the interpreter and also the listener had to be fundamental parts in the composition process. The interpreter, then, ceased to be a mere player of a brilliant and distinguished idea of ​​a genius - as he intended in romanticism - but a re-producer, that is, someone who did it again. The listener, according to the listening that develops before each piece, acquires a commitment or another with respect to it. The simple material of this work allows us, thus, to see the process of re-producing the interpreter and also to find different paths for our listening. So, what we could initially call as an exercise of mere chance, that is, what is absolutely unexpected, rather resituates us as full participants in the temporal process that opens a work. The sound event is not accidental, but the effect of the cause propitiated by us when we have our time situated with that of music.

Hyperbaton, by Alex Buess, is also built from a very simple material. That allows you to find many gaps from which to expand, modify and misrepresent that material. As in the Aperghis piece, there is something of a fascinating encounter with the possibilities of the material, reminiscent of the relationship of children with music, that explore objects without prejudice. However, the path taken by Hyperbaton is aimed at thinking about the complexity of the linguistic structure. The hyperbaton is a rhetorical figure where the syntactic order of phrases is altered to emphasize or enhance the meaning of a phrase. Perhaps for many, this hyperbaton is just a philologist's tool, but soon you will see that there is a type that we use often - and that, in fact, has already appeared numerous times in this text -: parentheses. What the hyperbaton, on a temporary level proposes is, therefore, to interrupt, alter or reorganize the order of appearance of the elements that forget what is supposedly correct - according to the norm, given by the formal, as in the case of Bernal's work - for the expressive, which always exceeds the normative. In this way, Buess tries to thematize time as a computer and ordered in favor of a qualitative experience of time, thinking about what fills it with content and not only as an indifferent way to what it carries. To do this, he works from the rhythmic vacui horror where deviations occur, as if the musical discourse constantly interrupts itself.

In the poem from which the verse that titled the concert comes, Fuertes confessed to us that "the past steps on me and poses / and in the end it possesses me." The concert, precisely, goes about how time, through music, renounces all forms of possession and, rather, puts into play the fragility of the definition of time from the chronological, which is where we experience ourselves. In this way, it is shown that everything temporary, also musical, is always provisional. The past is not enough for us because it is always in danger of what names it as such.