Interview with Joseph Perez Mirandilla
The first question is always the classic one: when did you start playing guitar and why?
I started playing guitar when I was in high school. I was listening to Beatles songs and wanted to be able to play them so I asked my father to buy me a guitar. I didn’t know how to play it then so I had to study the chords little by little. After a while, my interest in rock music grew and started playing the electric guitar. I performed with friends doing covers of songs we liked. I never really had any formal education in guitar up until I entered the conservatory. And before I had my formal training I’ve never played the classical guitar.
What did you study and what is your musical background?
I wasn’t aware that you could get a degree in music when I was in high school, so I never really considered studying guitar in college. So my first year in college was spent studying fine arts. After learning that you could study music in college, I dropped my arts course and changed my major to music. I studied with one of the best guitar teacher in the Philippines – Ruben Reyes. And after graduating from college I worked in the conservatory for two years. I decided to continue my graduate education in Japan with Norio Sato to focus on the study of contemporary music.
With what guitar do you play and have you played with?
For most of the music I play, I use a Yuichi Imai guitar. Before that, I was using a guitar by Armando Derecho – one of the finest Filipino guitar luthier. Although, I sometimes use a Staufer replica, made by Frank-Peter Dietrich, on some pieces. For electric guitar works, I use a customized Ibanez RG470 or a Washburn archtop, and I recently acquired a Squier Stratocaster which I will be using for a new microtonal work of Agustin Castilla-Avila.
I know that you have studied with Norio Sato, what impressions did they leave to you and to your music?
Norio Sato has been a significant figure in my exploration and study of new music. He introduced and taught me different styles of music, and has continued to encourage me to discover and perform new music. His group, Ensemble Nomad has also been instrumental in my study of music. I’ve learned a lot collaborating with them in concert.
I was impressed by your interpretation of Addio a Trachis II by Sciarrino, why did you decide to record this passage in your cd?
I love Sciarrino’s works! The way his music manipulates texture, timbre and time in a sonic landscape really has a profound effect on me. For me, it is something new and is not just for the sake of being unique and avante-garde. Although Sciarrino didn’t write any work for solo guitar, Maurizio Pisati did a “translation” of it and I think it works very well for the instrument. I first heard of it in Youtube where Elena Casoli did a very moving performance.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
Improvisation has always been part of music, probably since the very beginning. It just changes the way it is assimilated, whether it is in the context of contemporary (popular or classical) or early music. If it is done carefully and competently it complements the music, whatever genre and period it belongs to.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
Instead of using the word “error”, in my opinion, “unorthodoxy” would be a better way to describe it. In any work, whether it be music, fine art, literature, etc., thinking outside the box has led to further developments of the art forms. As a performer, of course, it is important to be mindful of the basics (in regards to technique) but finding ways to achieve a certain effect for the music I am performing would be most important. It doesn’t matter if the method used is not the norm as long as the effect is achieved, for me, it is acceptable. Although, there would probably be some conservatives who may think otherwise. In other art forms perhaps it is also the same, in my opinion.
What kind of music do you listen to usually?
I listen to different genres of music. As long as I like it I listen to it. In the meantime, I’m listening to Radiohead, Bill Evans, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, and the Beatles.
You are teaching at Sichuan Conservatory of Music in China. How is the situation in China about classical guitar? Do you think they will develop soon a school by their own like it happened in Japan?
I’ve been teaching in China for almost nine years and I think the development of the classical guitar has been really quick. More and more people enjoy listening and playing the instrument. At the moment, there are a lot of amateur players and guitar enthusiasts, which I think is great for the classical guitar. Having a large number of them would provide an audience base not only for international concert artists, but also for aspiring local ones. In the span of just a decade, I’ve noticed that there are more students now who go abroad for joining competitions or festivals. Others decide to continue studying abroad, too. Also, there are more activities – like concerts, competitions, etc., – held in several cities around the country.
As to developing their own school, I think it is a possibility. But for now I think they are still in the process of assimilating knowledge from all over the world. Developing their own school would probably be the next logical step.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
I am currently working on a new work written for me by Agustin Castilla-Avila. The piece is for microtonal electric guitar and singing bowl.