As this year comes to an end we will see many people sharing lists of all kinds. Best movies, best athletes, songs of the year, etc. will be some of the superlative titles we will find. I decided to make my own, not aiming absolutes, but to simply share great music I found during this year. Some of this music helped me with my creative process, some other was a reference, while other I share to simply please the ears. Here you’ll find American colleagues, Latin American and European composers and a couple of current stars. Thanks to my composer friends on this list, your music is great and I am happy that we crossed ways this year. I hope to see you around during 2016, enjoy!
While working on my string quintet Looking for the Clave – and at the same time watching some of NFL playoffs – I discovered an amazing piece by the Cuban guitarist/composer Lew Brower. His fourth string quartet has this energetic power of Afro–Latin rhythms, repetitive patterns, and a delightful Bartokian duality between tonality and atonalitiy. He also uses several musical quotations (small chunks of someone else’s music) – a practice also used by Ives, Druckman, and Berio. I feel like this quotations transform the piece into a sort of time machine that takes the listener through different time periods. This is the performance by Cuban players form Havana String Quartet.
My friend Nick Omiccioli shared a link to the band ShoutHouse on FB and I simply fell in love with the group. This band is a very interesting combination using a pierrot ensemble (fl, cl, vln, vcl, piano, perc) plus voices. It has catchy melodies, intricate rhythms, and a delicate and balanced post–minimalistic structure. Easy to enjoy for both trained and untrained listeners. More info about these guys here.
In the search for what Latin American composers based on the US have written, I found Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lórenz. The colorful orchestration together with the energy of influences of Latin music is amazing. He is also a great thinker about identity through music. More info here.
This one is perhaps the oldest on the list, and I discovered it last year while learning more about the roots of Latin jazz. It showed up again to my ears while working on my piece Illegal Cycles. It is impressive to me how Cuban arranger Chico O’Farrill expands Gillespie´s original tune Manteca to a 16+ minute suite, his technique is as remarkable as any other great classical composer. His exquisite orchestration and Caribbean style are equally danceable and listenable, a delightful balanced combination.
I discovered Zoe Keating this month. Yes, some people think it’s just a cellist with a computer and a contact microphone, in fact I agree. But, there’s definitely something about this lady I really like. It’s perhaps her passion managing her career, the simplicity and effectiveness of music, her use of Ableton, the catchy melodies, her bright sound on the cello… whatever it is, this lady and her cello rock! Check here website.
During the last days of May (yes, I am cheating!) I participated in LA Phil’s National Composer Intensive, (check the link NCI). The orchestra selected ten young composers from all around the country and I had the pleasure to be one of them. It was an overdose of great music where I got to listen to fantastic pieces and to meet a lot of big names in the fine art music world. I would love to share all nine pieces written for this program but afraid of being unfair with the other eight composers, I am choosing my friend Daniel Allas’ piece Smear’d as my favorite (but believe me the other eight were just great!) I loved Daniel’s piece and his writing is exquisite. Enjoy his website too here.
First time ever in Europe for me. Valencia, Spain was a great place to meet new composers and enjoy their music during the Valencia International Performance Academy – VIPA. Again, lots of music to choose from. One of the may great pieces I heard was Alarido, from Spanish composer Pedro Gomez . This pierrot ensemble piece was written based on a photograph of a Islamic woman holding her child. If I am not mistaken, his idea was to communicate with music this woman´s feelings restrained underneath her traditional clothes. We also became good friends with him and I just simply liked his stuff a lot. Bravo Pedro! His website here.
Searching online for music for marimba and live electronics I found the work of Payton McDonald – previous member of Alarm Will Sound – and his project called “Super Marimba.” One day I’ll make my first marimba+electronic record and this is is going to be an absolute reference. Just let it roll on the back of whatever you are doing. Check his website here.
Trying to never forget how I start making music – banging the drum set while playing heavy metal – but having in mind that I no longer want to be (if I ever was) a metal head, I keep following some particular bands. One of them is Between the Buried and Me. I saw them perform twice already and they’re as professional as it gets; their energy on stage is also marvelous. They released Coma Ecliptic on July, but I only got it until September. The albums is really great but I have to confess that not as good as the previous one, which is a masterwork for me. They released a really intense video for their first single and this is what I am sharing with you. Don’t like metal? Please, give it a try, this guys are really good!
I got stuck while working on my piece The Spiral on Your Back and needed some help. Then my friend Jason Thorpe Buchannan shared with me his piece Walkside, Lost and blew my mind! After this my brain got a lot of ideas I could do to complete my work. (Thanks Jason, you didn’t know but you helped me a lot man!) Jason’s music is that kind of thing you NEED to hear and then sit, think, take a breath and listen to it AGAIN! It keeps you on the edge of your chair, for me it is something like “a necessary gentle punch on the face” (I hope you like that Jason…) His website is here.
In the search of schools for my DMA program I listened to many of the different professor’s music. Among many good pieces, there was one that spoke to me immediately. It was IU professor John Gibson’s piece for Cello live electronics Red Plumes. It is a fantastic discourse between cello and many sounds from the computer. Check it out.
Few times I care about music on films – it has become a total predictable and boring industry –from time to time I find something remarkable like Johnny Greenwood’s (Radiohead) soundtrack for the film “There will be blood.” It’s an oldie from 2007 but man, those strings and all the things involved in the score are totally awesome. Actor Daniel Day–Lewis and Greenwood on the same project makes it totally worthwhile. Check it out, it’s on Netflix!