Pregàries del desert (Prayers from the Desert) (2020)
Anders Clemens, guitar
In 2018, I finished my work Desert, for shakuhachi and symphony orchestra, commissioned by the Spanish National Orchestra. During the rehearsals and the premiere, I rediscovered the main theme, which closes the work and dissolves it in silence: a simple melody played by the harp, with a mechanical feel, without human expression, as if it worked through a celestial mechanism. A need arose within me to write music for solo guitar that would elaborate on different perspectives of this theme, with an intimate and humble mood, like the voice of an anchorite praying in the desert.
Each prayer uses a peculiar microtonal scordatura, and the resonances of the open strings are placed at the forefront, tuned in intervals of just intonation according to the harmonic series. The resulting harmony, with a crystalline, transparent color, recalls the purity of the harp’s timbre in the original version of the theme, supported through different procedures: bending, slider, and various positions for the right hand.
The E fundamental in the first movement opens the work with a set of energetic phrases that turn into clockwork. The second movement, with the A fundamental, introduces the theme in its most diaphanous state, like a music box with variable playback speed. The D fundamental articulates the third movement, where there is an alternation between a descending figuration with bending and static, calm chords that go after the main motif. The fourth movement introduces the overlap of three fundamentals and their respective harmonic series: D, G, and C. The last movement, based on the C fundamental, uses a glass slider that modifies the previous descending motif but without tonal stability, as if it were suspended in the air.
The prayers are linked to interludes that have a double goal: to prepare the new scordatura of the instrument for the next movement and to dissolve the end of the previous prayer. This dissolution has a perceptive function: to blur the limits of movement in order to favor a timeless experience, a contemplative hearing that is projected towards infinity. At the same time, the pragmatism of the string tuning process roots the listener in an earthly, corporeal, and physical dimension. The interludes represent a union point between the earthly functionality and the celestial intangibility
This work has been written during the spring and summer of 2020, with the enthusiastic support of the guitarist Anders Clemens, who has been testing various segments and scordatura that I have been proposing during the composition process. I have also been able to enjoy the valuable comments of the guitarist Maria Camahort, to whom I’m very grateful for her generosity and the meticulous review of the score.
Prayers from the desert is dedicated to Anders Clemens, with joy and friendship.
Profund (Deep) (2016)
Percussion (nine Tibetan bowls) and electronics
31 March 2017
Festival Mixtur. Barcelona, Spain
Miquel Bernat, percussion
For some years now, Tibetan bowls — and resonant metallic instruments, in general, such as gongs and bells — have represented a particular point of interest among my preferences as a composer; a stimulating fount, offering a wealth of resources with which to create full and deep sound spaces. In this piece, my creative research with these instruments has been given form and been expanded by the use of electronics in real time and surround sound diffusion.
The work is organised in seven main rhythmical movements, connected by six resonant interludes that serve as contrast and repose. The whole, therefore, constitutes a sound continuum that traverses different scenarios, travelling towards an original energy through sounds that recall gamelan music until eventually achieving the vibrant and fluid atmosphere of the last movement.
A number of the bowls are struck upside down, placed with their opening on a mat on the ground. This inverted position produces a brief resonance of between three and eight seconds, depending on the size of the instruments, with what can be called, subjectively, a ‘broken’ or ‘dirty’ effect. It is a colouring that, owing to the brief tail of resonance, provides fertile rhythmic activity. The use of tremolo, syncopation, different kinds of mallets or even the wah-wah effect caused by damping the vibration with the hand, generates a rich palette of timbres that are very different from the usual resonant sound of the Tibetan bowl.
During the interludes, the bowls are placed in their normal, upright position and the group undergoes a progressive metamorphosis: from energetic rhythmical gamelan to a collection of ethereal resonant bells. The title comes from the deep-rootedness of the principle movements - with their energetic, lively rhythm - and the intangible resonances of the interludes, projected into the space. The work’s double, earth-air condition culminates in an ending in which electronics (modernity’s sophisticated artifice) and resonance (beautiful sound envelope) disappear, giving way to the simple, humble presence of the single ancestral Tibetan bowl, its sound damped by a blanket.
In the interludes, pre-recorded tracks in quadraphonic format fuse with the sounds of the instruments, creating an ambiguous atmosphere and ubiquity of sound. The spacing of the sounds increases the Doppler effect, creating varied distances, close and afar. Given that the electronic sounds are derived exclusively from recorded samples of the instruments themselves, the apparent shifting of the aural focus generates an environment in which space and time go hand in hand.
The work can also be enjoyed as a sound meditation. To contribute to the experience, the lights of the performance space should be extinguished, and illumination provided only by three candles placed in front of the percussionist. “Profund” (“Deep”) was commissioned by the Mixtur Festival and premiered by the percussionist Miquel Bernat on 31 March 2017 at the Fabra i Coats centre, Barcelona.
The work is dedicated to Miquel Bernat, with affection and a smile.
Ramon Humet. Vilanova d'Escornalbou, 24 December 2016
At the recurrent end of the unending (2014)
Five canonic soundscapes for piano
I. In My Beginning Is My End
II. The Point of Intersection of the Timeless
III. Time and the Bell
IV. Quick, Said the Bird, Find Them, Find Them
V. At the Recurrent End of the Unending
12 june 2015
Sampler Series. Miró Foundation. Barcelona, Spain
Escenes del bosc, 5è quadern (2013)
(Forest Scenes, Volume V)
XII. Alba (Sunrise)
XIII. Neu (Snow)
XIV. Estel (Star)
2 March 2014
Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall. Tokyo, Japan
Meditacions sobre un motiu de Mompou (2013)
Palau de la Música Catalana
5 November 2015
Auditorio de la Fundación Hispanoamericana. Santiago de Cali, Colombia
Petites catàstrofes (Small Disasters) (2010)
19 October 2010
Festival Ritmo Vital. Madrid, Spain
Escenes del bosc, 4t Quadern (2008)
(Forest Scenes, Volume IV)
IX. Campanes (Bells)
X. Llac (Lake)
XI. Joc (Game)
Caixa Catalunya Foundation
9 February 2009
La Pedrera. Barcelona, Spain
Alberto Rosado, piano
CD Caixa Catalunya Foundation. Estrenes a la Pedrera, volum IV
Meditació (Meditation) (2007)
Associació de Concerts de Reus
4 June 2008
Teatre Fortuny. Reus, Spain
Gerardo Salazar, marimba
Vent de l’Oest (West Wind) (2007)
Escenes del bosc, 3r Quadern (Forest Scenes, Volume III) (2007)
VII. Pluja (Rain)
VIII. Arc de Sant Martí (Rainbow)
Escenes del bosc, 2n Quadern (Forest Scenes, Volume II) (2005-2006)
IV. Marinada (Sea Wind)
V. Calma (Calm)
VI. Mestral (Mistral)
Xavier Gols – Tarragona City Council Composition Award 2006
18 December 2007
Sala Beckett. Barcelona, Spain
Sílvia Vidal, piano
CD Ars Harmonica AH182. Sílvia Vidal, piano
Escenes del bosc, 1r Quadern (2004-2005)
(Forest Scenes, Volume I)
I. Picot (Green Woodpecker)
II. Gamarús (Scops Owl)
III. Rossinyol (Nightingale)