Interview with Juan Trigos by Andrea Aguzzi (January 2010)

How would you describe your music?

All my music is based on a new concept, created by me, which is called Abstract Folklore. This concept is based on principles such as the primary pulse (understood as tempus primus), the resonance and the obsessive use of joints of events between them of different densities and durability. Inside Abstract Folklore we shall say then that I developed an inclination for large format’s works, with large instrumental equipment characterized by the structural use of plenty percussion instruments, including piano. My work is divided into two basic sections: vocal music (opera and sacred music) and instrumental forms with preference for the concerto. One of my more representative compositions of the concept of Abstract Folklore are the cantata concertante Magnificat Guadalupano, the Missa Cunctipotens Genitor Deus, six Ricercare da Camera, a large production for guitar, including two concertos for guitar and orchestra, and one for four guitars, the concerts for small, for double bass and two triples concerts. Of particular importance are the Symphony No. 1. Another important factor, then, is the creation of a new genre called Ópera de Hemoficción. Hemoficción (Emofiction) is a literary aesthetics invented by my father, writer and novelist Juan Trigos S., creator of the texts of my works.

How did stat your interest about the contemporary repertoire, and what are the stylistic currents in which you recognize yourself most?

The interest in music, so for the contemporary repertoire, usually comes with everything that one hears and it depends most likely from his education at home. I recall that my father listened to many authors, authors not only Europeans but also Mexican, American, etc., in addition to folklore and folk music from different parts of the world. The interest also depends greatly on the personal tastes, so you feel more or less close to a certain current. The composer or the art’s creator are the product of many other influences. I recognize myself in so many authors, for example, I feel close to my dear friend and teacher Franco Donatoni, more about the structure of sound that comes out, in fact I have to Donatoni largely the internal structure, this rigor that he artigianato musicale. Using a metaphor it is a cocktail where you put a little by Beethoven, a bit of Stravinsky, Revueltas, Chávez, a bit of folklore, a bit of Donatoni … basically you put a little of all those I love you shake it … et voila Trigos comes out ah … ah … something like that…

Berlioz said that composing for classical guitar it was difficult because to do it you must first be a guitarists, this phrase was often used as a justification for the limited repertoire of classical guitar with other instruments like piano and violin. At the same time it has been increasingly “undermined” by the growing interest for the guitar (whether classical, acoustic, electric, MIDI) collected in contemporary music. As a composer and guitarist do you think that this phrase of Berlioz is even true?

Well .. in part, not being a guitarist, I can not agree with Berlioz because it would be a contradiction. On the other hand, I agree, because in reality it is as if I play the guitar while I’m not playing it. I have behind, in fact, a large study of this instrument, as it is built and how it sounds. The first time you write a piece for guitar you meet all the difficulties that this instrument brings and then somehow we become guitarists, at least in spirit, to understand its technique and sound. My love for the guitar, probably comes directly from my father because he played it and it was this my first acquaintance with her. It’s in my soul forever. Then, we must say that in my country, Mexico, there are many types, modes and styles of playing it .. There are the classical guitar, the requinto, the Jarocho, the marana, the Guitarrón, the tiples, the cuatro, the tres, the vihuela, those built specifically for the performance of virtuosity, what we are called guitarras de golpe ( guitars hit), which are those that develop rhythm, etc. .. Talking about the question of repertoire, we say that the guitar, like the saxophone, was always considered inferiorior because its popular origins. For me refusing it would be like to reject the music itself. The guitar has evolved much from ‘8oo in Mexico, as in Latin – America and of course in Spain. Through time it has seen an impressive growth in folklore and music mainly from the twentieth century to the present days.

As a composer how do you face the difficult task of writing for instruments that you don’t play or for ensemble that you don’t know thoroughly?

As I said regarding the guitar, you need to became the ensembles or the instruments that one doesn’t known to write well for them, or better to make them sound good. This statement “ensemble that doesn’t know in depth” called attention because it implies the problem of commissions. I believe that a composer writes things for what he has an interest and that he makes a choice, which may be aesthetic or simply an experiment, anyway if he decides to write a piece for his own or if he decides to accept a committee. In any case, if you do not know and have never written for a particular instrument you must first try to know it very well, this is the basis to write good compositions for that instrument in particular.

Listening to your music I got the idea that you come from a great variety of plays and influences, how to manage these fragments of memory in your musical compositions? Do you use them consciously or …. lets freely flow?

I am convinced that all composers are the product of so many plays and the result of an assimilation of culture in general along with the various experiences of life of its own, which is a little what I mentioned earlier. All these things that live inside of us, are processed reflected themselves in the composition, some are controlled by the head and not others, are unconscious. The really important thing in art is that they play both these aspects and that the act of creativity they work together.

I know you studied with Nicolò Castiglioni and Franco Donatoni, of which you were also his assistant .. how do you remember them, their teachings, their musical poetic?

After being for some time in Rome at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music where I studied Gregorian chant, ancient polyphony, etc., I moved to Milan. This was a first confrontation with a more international environment, so to speak. At that time, we are talking of 1987, I studied at the Conservatory G. Verdi in Milan with Castiglioni which was not completely unknown to me, I well knew that he was a great composer and a remarkable pianist. He has contributed to my education giving me wealth regarding orchestration’s fantasy, fluency in writing and transmitting this richness in the musical figures to make music more agibile. A figure much more important to me, without reducing that of Castiglioni, was Franco Donatoni. He represents to me the internal structure intended as rigor of writing. Above all I care about him about pulse and rereading. Rereading not only in the sense of technique but the concept of reading understood as a spiritual position towards art, which means having a continuous vision of oneself in different times under different points of view, it is self reflection. This was one of the most important lessons of Donatoni, which for me was a kind of musical father or guardian music very important in my training as an artist, beyond it he was also a great friend. This is not to say that my music sounds to him, let’s say that we all get something to someone and I, to Donatoni, I have this part. He has been the ultimate solidification of my musical personality, not just for the technical part but also in the spiritual one.

Berio in his essay “Remebering the future,” wrote: “.. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, it is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. ” You play both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire … do you recognize yourself in these words?

Berio was referring definitely to the question of tradition. In fact, we all come from a certain tradition and this is crucial in our training, both as performers and as composers. Donatoni also agreed with this. We composers, for example, try to write as accurately as possible, but without a tradition behind us, even the oral one, we would not have the resources needed to represent the music exactly. Take for example the baroque music, at that time there were a number of conventions that composers and performers were well acquainted with respect to the implementation of ornamentation, phrasing, etc.. and not everything was written. For contemporary music is the same, although there is the tendency to perfect, almost too far, the notation. It must be said, then, that the term “contemporary” does not clearly define a style, time, country we are referring to. For some times, in the twentieth century, there was some tendencies to set aside those differences and to universalize everything, but this is not possible because we are all a product of ourselves as individuals and the product of different cultural influences. Even if the interpreter has to play some music should be familiar with the tradition to which it is linked and it is for this reason that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to perform music that you do not know the origins. To perform Brahms, for example, must take into account all the great German tradition but also of the Hungarian side. Same for Gershwin, Magnus Lindberg, the authors like Mussorgsky, De Falla, Stravinsky, etc.. Every school, every person, every composer from a certain country carries within his cultural richness that is transmitted in the score, that the interpreter gets inside .

Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?

It’s difficoult to say. For me the most important thing is first of all to great the opera and then you can sell. I mean that sometimes I have the impression that everyone has as first target the marketing and not the music. I don’t see anything wrong in marketing, the difficoult thing is being able to sell ourselves, you need to create a particolar image and things like that, but I think also that things works this way. I don’t believe in a false creation of an artist. Everyone is looking for what I call a “kind of recipe” for the success, idea that usually is misunderstood and that in art is “translated” in the mass production of what we believe the mass like. This has nothing to do with art. An artist, a painter, a musitian, has the need to promote his work, but this doen’t mean the corruption of his own essence.

What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possibile to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?

Creativity is related to its own expression and to what every composer has inside, therefore we invent a ad hoc language in the service of the expression itself. I do not believe in pure speculation language because it lacks about contents. I rather think that the composer invents the language for a personal need for recreation of ourselves, as Donatoni would say, which is what I referred above with the concept of reading. It’s a way of reviewing themselves all the time, to reinvent themselves. But speaking elusively about language is somewhat superficial and this is the evil of our times when there is a tendency to focus the attentino on the type of language used or to be used. Talking about my music, the invention is located in my imagination and not in writing and is also influenced by my heritage. In Mexico, my country of origin, lives a rich musical tradition that has given us many important authors. Let me mention three of the largest Ponce, Chávez and Revueltas, although there would be many more to mention especially in our days, not forgetting that there is a very rich culture not only in music but in literature, theater, painting, culinary etc..

What is your composition which you are more connected?

It’s difficult to answer this question. I am very tied in different ways to all my pieces and I do not think any one of them might be considered in absolute the one to which I’m closer. It’s actually like I wrote always the same piece but with different angles, so I can not say that it is tied to a single composition, especially as in each of them I left part of myself so I could not choose.

What do you think about the discographic market crisis, with the transition to digital downloading in mp3 and all this new scenario?

I must say that for me is hard to judge this situation because in this sense I’m a little bit old fashion. I see that kids today have no records, they have no books because they download them from Internet. But I have such a nostalgia for old vinyl records. On the other hand, the transition from vynil to the CD was very desired because the sound quality that it was a great improved. Nevertheless, there was a physical product … one goes in the closet, pulls it off, he listens to it, you carry multiple versions of this or that music, one creates his own discoteque, which is the same thing to the library. We talk about this when I was studying, we were told … do not be providing the books, make your library! Choose the books that you want to have and read. I’m not saying it’s wrong to download from the internet, but it’s alittle difficoult to me to get used to this new concept. About the real crisis of discography, I think that is due more to the fact that everyone wants to sell the same product in every sense. Globalizing, generalizing and universalizing brings a sense of lost of identity and diversity. Record companies have tried to manipulate the culture or at least they thought they could do it and that is why the market is exploding. The fact of bribing this position is leading the record companies to pay the consequences.

Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
Well, for me there is not this concept, because I think that if you go on a desert island you bring with you everything you love and all that one loves is what he has learned, which takes into himself, that is what he has assimilated, so I won’t give a number .. then, thinking in the abstract I could not name give just five, because citing those I will miss another five and so on ..I prefer to include all those I love, that there are many more!

The blog is read also by young graduates and graduates, what advice can you give to those who, after years of study, decided to start a career as a musician?

Well, an advice that I can give to composers and performers is to try to devote himself to make his own art, which is that music coming from inside their own, to be disciplined, have lot of patience, not corrupt themselves and do something that really arises from themselves. Reflect and try to be serious in what you do. Serious and not solemn, which is completely different

What are your next projects?

Among the most recent scores are a Concert for Double Bass performed in December 2008 in Rochester (NY-USA) by Scott Worthington with Eastman BroadBand Ensemble. This piece features by a bit special instrumentation, in fact I used among other instruments, as in almost all my pieces, a a lot of percussions: piano, electric piano, harpsichord, piano vertical, to give a particolar color. Another special feature is also the use of English horn and contrabassoon as they are and not as substitutes for the oboe. Instead a few weeks I made my last job, a guitar quartet called Guitar Quartet commissioned by the American Tantalus Quartet. This is a piece of important dimensions, will be approximately eighteen minutes. As a conductor I have directed in November 2009 an opera by Victor Rasgado Il Conejo y el Coyote will be on tour to Washington (USA) and Oaxaca (Mexico). Also in November I have directed, along with other musics, my Symphony No.1 with the Orchestra Filarmonica of Aguascalientes (Mexico). As a composer, however, this year I’m part of Sistema Naciónal de Creadores de Arte de México and among the projects in the near future, of course, some small works, committees and work routines that are part of the work of all years and that never end as the revision and correction of older scores, I plan mainly two important jobs. I will begin, well let’s say that I have already started writing a new work of Hemoficción, the kind I mentioned earlier. The work will be in two acts, for singers, actors, chorus and orchestra, and will be called Contra-Sujeto (Counter-Subject). As always will be based on a play by my father and I believe that it will take me a bit of time, a year and a half, two years or so. Then, I will work to my Second Symphony and a concert for four guitars and orchestra that will be played in 2010 with the Orchestra Sinfonica of Lecce which I will conduct for the occasion. Durino this concert I will perform, among other pieces by other authors, my Concerto for Four Guitars (world premiere) and Concerto No. 2 for guitar and orchestra “Hispano” (First time in Italy. Registration of the two pieces will be used to develop the first monography on my music for guitar.

Thank you very much!