Monday, March 27, 2017

Hilda Paredes: Revelations in Time

The Center for 21st Century Music welcomes guest composer Hilda Paredes later this week for a masterclass and lecture with graduate composition students. Her visit coincides with the Arditti Quartet’s residency at the Center, during which the quartet will give a concert featuring Paredes’s 2014 piece Bitacora capilar (Capillary Log). More detail about the Arditti Quartet residency is available on a past post on this blog.

Paredes is one of the leading Mexican composers of her generation. Based in London since 1979, her music has been recognized with awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Rockefeller Fund for Culture Mexico/USA, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Sistema Nacional de Creadores (FONCA), performances by ensembles such as the Arditti Quartet, Aventure, Court Circuit, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Signal, Ensamble Sospeso,  London Sinfonietta, Lontano,  Neue Vocalsolisten, Ensamble Sospeso, L’Instant donné, London Sinfonietta, Lontano, and the English National Opera, at festivals such as Huddersfield, Edinburgh, Eclat, Ultraschall, Musica, Wien Modern, Akiyoshidai, Takefu Festivals, Archipel ans Music monat, Warsaw Autumn, Ultima, Melbourne, Ars Musica, and Festival Internacional Cervantino. She has been visiting professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya en Barcelona, and in 2007 was Darius Milhuad Visiting Professor at Mills College, a prestigious position previously held by Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, Gordon Mumma, and Alvin Curran.

Paredes’s piece Revelación (2010-2011) for ensemble offers a clear introduction to how the composer approaches material and form. The excerpt above thematizes a dialectic between a linear, accumulative harnessing of kinetic energies on a local level and a paratactic, non-directional succession of contrasting panels on a global level. The opening panel (0:00-1:41) presents an increasingly directed accumulation of melodic mobility. By 1:41 the energy disperses, and in a seemingly unmotivated yet entirely convincing transition, a cross-fade of sorts, the staccato texture of the second panel enters.

As a musical space, the second panel is entirely “other” to the first panel, building kinetic energies from isolated gestures of pure physicality (i.e. a bouncing violin bow) rather than from  melodic figures. The second panel is in no way an “organic” outgrowth of the first; it is wholly exterior to it, punctuating and relativizing it, dispersing and redirecting its energy; the revelations of the title might be connected to this temporal experience. To this listener, the subtle sleight of hand through which Paredes traces convincing local continuities between seemingly disconnected objects is a strikingly successful feature of this piece. Her strategy of connecting disparate musical spaces by maintaining rhythmic momentum links her work to her former teacher Franco Donatoni, but the strategy is applied in a wholly personal way. The combination of goal-oriented local syntax with a discontinuous, non-goal oriented global syntax lends the former—despite its conventionality within the past three centuries of Western art music—a distinctive and unexpected weightless. The conventionality of local materials and syntax is put in quotation marks as their formal frame emerges, lending them a surprising freshness. Far removed from, say, the driven expressionist pathos of Ferneyhough or Rihm, the gestures of Paredes’s piece coalesce into linear accumulations only to evaporate, forgetting their identities and reformulating into something wholly new.

To learn more about her work, check out her website, with numerous links to recordings, and also have a look at the numerous videos of her work available online.

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