Entrevista a Paulo Brandão / Interview with Paulo Brandão
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Compositional Journey


The path I’ve trodden… there’s a kind of aesthetic conflict here, because in looking over my work as a whole, one can distinguish between pure music, film and theatre (and their interconnection), which has been in fact an aesthetic journey since 1976, when I did Ah Kiu, which was my first project with the Teatro da Cornucópia. It was a very important experience, aesthetically multi-disciplinary.  Indeed, I always have the feeling that this was only yesterday; it hardly seems that so many years can have passed…  the feeling that one is always beginning and always re-doing things already done…


There’s a journey in writing music which is always an inner journey.  Not going outwards, but going inwards.  I look at all this and, in 1976, when I did Biálogo, which was actually my Opus 1, and look again at that same year and I did Ah Kiu, which was another world, completely different.  And I see in this capacity that I had at the time (and I think I still have it in some ways) of being in various disciplines at the same time.  And a composer’s life is a bit like that.  It’s an experiment, something of the eternal, you could say.  We are always talking of things of the past, but things are now.  All this, for me, could be now, could be of the present moment.


Even today I’m working on pieces or reworking things… I don’t know… Noite Tranfigurada (Transfigured Night) was an important piece for me, in that I needed courage to give the piece this name, taken from a composer much greater than I.  I look at this work that I did at the time, comparing it rather, and see perfectly well that I would not do it today in the same way, but there are others of mine which are of now, and are always present.




Like many other people of my age, I was always a serialist avant le lettre.  Later, analysing above all Le Marteau sans Maître, I soon arrived at saturation point as far as serialism was concerned.  I still emply a serial way of thinking today, but I am not in reality a serial composer.   I use processes which have to do with the heritage of series, but I don’t use series as the Second Viennese School conceived of them.


However, there are composers who had an influence upon me, such as, for example, Wolfgang Rihm and Morton Feldman.  Feldman, for example, is a composer whom I admire greatly.  I don’t have much in common with his way of writing, but I do with his way of thinking about music, pure music, the phenomenon of the interval, the evolution of the interval, the climate, the spontaneous melodies, and so on.  There’s one work that made quite an impact on me, Essays.  His Essays, his book and meeting him personally were very interesting experiences for me, because Feldman, at the end of his life, became rather minimalist.  I find that he has extraordinary taste from the orchestral point of view, a taste in terms of atmosphere, of texture, of the network of sounds...  Personally, I see much of myself in that ambience.  And, of course, I cannot forget the classes I had with Ligeti.  Above all in Germany, there’s the idea of a neoclassicism, of a neopolyphony, which I believe is quite apparent in my music.


When I look at Luigi Nono’s work, and see a piece constructed with only the note G - No hay caminos, hay que caminar, which is G, G sharp, G flat, G natural, G quarter sharp - it’s always G throughout the piece, and I am puzzled.  And from this he builds a work of extraordinary coherence.  It’s as though he’d said that “it is the interior limit” of musical creation.  The manipulations of the note G itself, the journey to the interior of that sound - I try to do the same thing.  This idea is one which excites me more and more, because… It’s funny, this, because in the things I’ve done more recently, I have used luxuriant sonorities, with a tremendous multiplicity of sound, something highly atomized, and then I had big problems with what I’ve been doing, and the tendency now is to go back again to very distanced sounds, pppp, ppp… No more than that.  The feeling I have, when one writes that “the piece’s energy is inside”, is that whoever plays it must understand very, very well that, when a sound is about to be played, it is at that precise moment that the sound has its place.  And so the sound has a gigantic size.  This side, the contemplative side of sound and silence, is very important for me.  Naturally this also creates a formal problem.  We talk about form, but I think much more about microform, of the modules that cross with each other, in the construction, the etching, the lacework.  This is, of course, obviously the microform, and it is from these microforms that we build large forms.  But at other times it happens that I do not know what form the work has or will have.  I don’t know how, but it will have a form. 


At times, there are kinds of music which are absolutely essential for me… For example, at the moment I am absolutely fascinating by non-European music.  It’s what I like to listen to most right now… I’m discovering the Arab lute, for example.  I heard a popular singer, very famous in Egypt, Umm Kolthoum, and I was completely captivated by her capacity for vocal modulation, her capacity for drama, her capacity to seize an audience with music that initially seemed to me… completely static, with an almost musical mannerism.  And it’s that mannerism that causes the audience to go wild.  When I was a child, I used to like to listen to short wave in order to hear Arab music, that parallel civilization… There was a time when we all used to listen to Indian music, and we wanted to know how it was made.  There was another period in my life during which I listened to nothing but Gamelan; I liked Indonesian music.  I liked, above all, the transformations produced by the music.  I remember going to concerts in the museum of instruments in Amsterdam just to hear what the musicians were doing at that moment.  It was a group of performers who played the museum’s instruments, and there were concerts every Sunday morning.  It was fantastic, fantastic, simply fantastic.


On the other hand, recently I’ve been investigating Wolfgang Rihm, who is a composer I like to come back to, and Luigi Nono.  Very often I immerse myself in this way in certain composers…


Aesthetic experiments and orientations


There’s an important thread that runs throughout my work, which is my collaboration with the Lisbon Contemporary Music Group.  There are many pieces which I wrote during a period of my life that are indissolubly linked to the members of this group and the stimulus that the group provided.  But my later work with the Teatro da Cornucopia is also important; there were several years of collaboration with Jorge Silva Melo and Luis Miguel Cintra, and also collaborations with the Teatro da Malaposta and the Teatro de Almada (where I worked on another project recently).  Later, I worked on films with Paulo Rocha, our travels to Japan, and the material that gave rise to A Ilha dos Amores, which was extremely important in my work.


Looking back over many things I’ve done, it’s true that the paths I’ve followed have been very much marked by different experiences.  If I go and see A Ilha dos Amores, that whole weight of distance that the film has, of silences and of the function of sound in infinite space, it’s certainly not the same as I did in Ah Kiu, which was a luxuriant work.  And these paths, which cross at some point, I’m not sure where, are all different, but have a line in common with my thinking, and my way of writing.  This is interesting because, though to begin with I was very much influenced by the Second Viennese School - somewhat as a result of the work I did with Álvaro Salazar and with Jorge Peixinho – which was, shall we say, the world of Post-Viennese atonality, very soon afterwards I began to appreciate sound for itself, and began to work with polytonality and pantonality.  Looking back, perhaps the one thing has to do with another, but today we’re somewhere else, of course.


Musical Grammar


If we look at the traditional C major and C minor, we are looking at series… The idea of organizing a group of sounds is a serial idea.  Diatonicism is an idea of a series, of another kind of series with other operations and, as Schoenberg said, things are taken up again.  In his famous book, Style and Idea, the idea behind the series is indeed that of taking up again the thinking behind tonality and modality - it’s the idea of organization in space.  Obviously he went beyond the question of cadence and that of dependence, which is indeed a significant step, but when we think of a series with two sounds, we are in reality thinking of an interval, or of three sounds and two intervals.  And this principle of tension and relaxation between a group of forces, of energies and dynamics, which exists between sound and silence, can lead very quickly to the series.


There’s an idea in my music which is always very present, as though I composed with binoculars, and said that there somewhere is a score which I didn’t see immediately, but was there all the time, even though I had never seen it.  Suddenly, I switch on the radio and it exists.  It’s something that’s somewhere, I don’t know exactly where, and that I detect, almost like a radar.  This idea of distance, the idea of a distant space, is very much present in my work, as though we had to be very, very quiet and listen, very calmly, in order to begin to listen.  We can take as an example Nono’s last works, such as No hay caminos, hay que caminar… - it’s just as I imagine the things I’ve been doing most recently.


Formally, you can see two things.  If I write music based on a text, or use a text, necessarily...  Where’s the formal revolution?  After Bartók there are no new forms.  There are micro and macro forms, but after arch forms, what can one say?  Faster here?  Slower there?  These can all be ways of organizing the thing in another way.


Form is something very dependent on the material that attracts one.  When you’re working on a piece and searching for complementary material, it’s almost as if in some way these things come into existence, and very often, in my music, the form comes after writing, or is born from the work itself.  When I have a text, though, such as O Senhor do Leste, which is very organized, with eight parts at a time, it’s really the actual text that determines the form.  But we need to be careful: there are other works, such as, for example, Primavera e Sono, in which it was precisely the other way round.  Since I don’t pay much attention to phonetic matters, but rather to semantic questions, the text is diluted and also dilutes the actual form.  So, O Senhor do Leste is a work performed using a score and a number of cards.  Though the combinations are limited, there’s also a limit which is the memory factor, a very interesting thing.  At one point, some of the musicians experiment with fractals, using a computer, which have repetitions very late during the course of the process.  And the memory of the spectator doesn’t retain it – it forgets in the meantime, during the course of the work – the way it was in the beginning.  The idea that the spectator has is that the work has no end.  But in fact it was repeated somewhere so very distant that we no longer know how it began, and then there appears the idea of a gigantic search...  And here too, in the case of Primavera e Sono, this form also appears diluted in time and space, and is in the end a commentary on the form itself.  Though the form is there, and is implicit, it is so big and so distant...


The music of words


When I began to discover the function of the word, word as music, which is a dimension of the word, or word as metrical organization, or word as idea, and idea that’s beyond the word...  Recently, I have begun to read a Portuguese writer who impresses me enormously.  I didn’t know her at all, only her name - Maria Gabriela Llansol.  Well, I think she’s fantastic!  She manages to fill my head with hundreds of ideas, sounds, things which are not written, with a pleasure in words and meanings.  And it’s somewhat in that way that I imagine musical composition!  It was a discovery...  It’s Christmas!  I began reading Gabriela Llansol and was absolutely entranced.  And the great relationship she has with that great Spanish mystic of the Carmelite tradition... The word has a strength in and of itself.


When, for example, I looked at Fernando Pessoa, and wrote the music for 2nd Fausto, it’s clear that whoever hears the music for these texts has actually to read the text in order to understand what’s behind it all. Not all musical motivations – though it’s a piece which stands on its own terms – are obviously comprehensible in the text and vice-versa.   The text is a pretext, in this case.  But there’s an entire construction of tensions, and of darkness/light, illumination, shadow... There are all these emotions that the text may allow me, which are indeed the motor for all that.  At other times the opposite might happen.  For example, I have a very short piece, also on a text by Pessoa, called Visão, which uses a text from Lisbon Revisited.  When I wrote that piece, I did something very strange: everyone knows the Tagus, when in Lisbon.  We’re on the riverside and know the Tagus.  But when we travel along the Tagus and are no longer in Lisbon, the Tagus becomes something else.  Lisbon is far away, we no longer hear the traffic.  We hear a moving cyclorama, with far away sounds, very far away.  So I was on a boat on the Tagus, but Lisbon was very far away.  And I suddenly saw it the other way round, that is, I was not seeing Lisbon, but a vision of Lisbon.  And the whole score was born from that, from a microcosmic and temperamental vision. Not temperament in the sense of melodic construction.  This outside stimulus is something that’s very much present in my music.  Visual stimulus, emotional stimulus, the stimulus of words, the stimulus of the meaning of words.  Of course, having worked so much in the cinema, so much in the theatre, it’s natural that the world of the theatre is the world of the theatre and the world of the cinema is the world of the cinema, but there are things that cross over.  For example, what an actor describes as “speaking with a particular tone”: when I was in Japan I discovered in theatre that it was possible to say a word in a particular way, and that’s pure music.


This sonic relationship of the word is also very much part of Chinese – this musicality of saying a word here, another there, and in the end these things are all very interconnected.  Imagine that we’re saying words with no meaning at all, no meaning except a musical meaning – purely and simply things, as in concrete poetry, playing with words.  The meaning is no longer present, and we are left, tout court, purely and simply with music.  For this reason, this relationship with poetry, which is music in another form, can also be seen the other way round.  It’s as though one put the idea of poetry, that of Herberto Helder, for example, within music.  But, in another sense, it’s the spinal column of music, though music is something else.


Music as self-knowledge


It’s obvious that many people think – and indeed, I don’t deny it – that there is a great deal of mysticism in my music and my way of thinking.  I don’t deny this; it’s clear that I always have an idea of the transcendental in everything I do – and this is increasingly present in my writing.  I talk of this idea of feeling, of the sweetness of feeling, of what causes one to stop, to be silence, of what causes one to observe, of what obliges us in some way to take a path that doesn’t coincide with the path we’ve known previously, which creates the adventure of entering into a zone of unknown existence.  It’s like that idea of people who are between life and death and they recount what they’ve lived near to death, and not near to life!  It’s when we discover that life and death are the same thing!  It’s the same side of the same thing!  And it’s really that that’s always somewhat present in my music!   And it’s somewhat motivated by the text, by the word, and that whole journey...  Pessoa, for example, took me very much into that. Fernando Pessoa is...  for all of us, I think it’s difficult to say that he marks a great moment in the history of mankind... He’s such a musical writer, and takes us on such extraordinary journeys.


Perhaps text is in the end something for us to lean on in order to reach the music.   But I think this came, actually, from cinema and theatre.  When you work with cinema, which is such a musical art, you’re obliged to transport, to work with different atmospheres.  I recall, for example, that in A Ilha dos Amores there’s a scene in which Wenceslau de Moraes comes back home in the midst of the snow.  Paulo Rocha would say to me: “This scene is musical! This scene is musical.  Let’s see!  Look, this scene is musical too.  There I can change the scene if I like the music a lot...”  They used to do things like that – it sent shivers down your spine!  Somebody would alter what he’d made if the music changed.  But at the same time it’s interesting.


Well, after thinking a great deal, I went to the space in which this happens, and the music was in the space.  There was in the distance a Buddhist monastery, with an enormous gong which was only played at certain times.  It was enough to remove the surrounding sound, leaving just the gong.  So then all that is projected outwards.


There were other times when this happened to me...  When I studied ballet in England, every day we had to make a musical work, a new project every day.  Where did that lead us?  It led us to the edge of paranoia.  People ended up without any ideas at all.  And suddenly, I had a fantastic idea: something that would be done at the University, which had a church with bells with a beautiful sound, that played every hour.  And suddenly I realized that those bells were part of the project.  We had to begin the project at two minutes to nine.  And at nine, the trombone was making sounds similar to those of the bells.  Suddenly, the sound of the bells carried into the room, and there it was, the music of the surrounding atmosphere was part of the project.  It was something....  I think this was a discovery.  It was something... I was quite exhilarated with how the idea worked, and worked well.  Things really are in nature and in life!  That’s it.


Yes... the individual path on which the object itself develops.  I take a long time before writing a note of music, bringing together ideas, influences, what comes from where, what’s interesting and what doesn’t work...  What’s good and what might not be, which instrument works best...  Only after this whole process do I get out the paper and begin to write.  Sometimes it’s the other way round; I can’t say that it’s a process in itself.  I write every day.  Every day I try to write.  At night, in my house, until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m always writing.


Canto para Beatriz, Senhor do Leste and Acqueos Fire


If we look at this sequence, we have here Canto para Beatriz, which I wrote for the Lisbon Contemporary Music Group and which is none other than Dante’s Beatrice, or at O Senhor do Leste, for example, or Acqueos Fire – which is a piece that won a prize, and is important too – I see that, at a certain point I began to find a lyricism within myself.  Lyrical is poetic.  At the beginning, my music was very much of another kind, with intervals as its motor.  Suddenly, I began to discover the pleasure of the ornament, which led me to something rather neo-baroque, if I may describe it so.  At the same time, I think this was a desire to destroy time, a desire to squeeze sound into the bar, to put things where they didn’t belong.  It’s not exactly “putting a quart in a pint pot”, but it’s forcing time as such.  This obviously implies making the bar very elastic – and, in my opinion, that’s the way it should be.  The bar is a method of control, and not an attentive and almost determinant observation.  This desire almost of “forcing time” obliged me to work much more on scores, thinking, for example, of the “tempo of a second”, and not the “tempo of the bar” – I mean the tempo of the bar as an organizing structure.  At other times, I think there’s something else related to this, with the systematic non-utilization of regular bars – quaternary, ternary, binary – but rather, forcing, mixing and going against other bars, as, for example, Stravinsky does in his melodic transformations. 


It’s really this idea of a certain “we may say”, that whoever reads a lot of music and makes a lot of music comes to a point at which he can almost foresee what is about to happen.  And this was also motivated by successive analyses that I’ve done during the course of my life (and continue to do), in which I foresee what’s going to happen.  The structure is more or less worked through, and then one says, almost as if one had a memory bank of known repertoire, at the moment when one is composing, “anything but that”.  To write anything but that, anything but that process.  Which indeed leads me to find another grammar, another aesthetic.  And I’d say that this had to do with a particular moment, I don’t mean that tomorrow it will necessarily be like that tomorrow.  My recent works, for example, are much more fluid metrically, much firmer, because I’m writing more for orchestra and larger groups.  The bar, there, is indeed a help in the sense of accuracy, of being absolutely certain of how things should be done.  In chamber music we can have a little more freedom, and discover other things.


One positive thing was a commission from the Gulbenkian Foundation - O Senhor do Leste.   This was really positive.  I was able to have good singers, to have the orchestra, to provide a score which I think worked well.


Ne Vas Pas au Jardin des Fleurs and Comunicações


There’s a piece for clarinet quartet, Ne Vas Pas au Jardin des Fleurs, in which the use of vertical space and detailed work on time are in evidence... This piece is, in fact, a kind of point of arrival and also a starting point for other things.  It’s a clarinet quartet in which I use almost twelve clarinets, because each player has to play two instruments at certain points in the piece.   In other words, there’s a timbral transformation within the instrument’s actual family, which, shall we say, amplifies the almost symphonic idea of it.  It’s as though there were an ever-increasing range of timbres, and at the same time texture and colour.  In the last moments of the piece, there’s an abusive, almost violent, use of microtones – which is also something of an experiment, in a traditionally tempered instrument, to find intermediate timbres with quartertones, eighth-tones, which are also much in evidence.


This piece was a kind of discovery of the world of the microtone – but at the same time the formal structure is completely different.  There’s the idea of forcing the instrumentalist to have to use another timbre on his own instrument, of forcing him to use multiple techniques, for example, always on his instrument.  And here I don’t take the instrument apart, as I do in other pieces in which I use only the mouthpiece of the instrument, or what I called a “half clarinet” – just the upper section, with the bell, a smaller instrument, with uncontrollable sounds.  There is, for example, a work in which I use this, Comunicações, in which I use walkie-talkies making feedback, and the clarinets are placed in the middle of these sounds, with half clarinets...  Here I don’t use it in this way, I don’t touch the physical aspect of the instrument, but I enter zones in which it doesn’t usually play.  The performer has to adopt another attitude within the instrument of its own family, and has to change embouchure in relatively short spaces of time – as you know, this is an extremely difficult thing to do.


In Ne Vas Pas au Jardin des Fleurs, it’s completely different. It’s a work with two clearly demarcated sections, the second being mirrored in the first, but nor mirrored in an organizational sense, but rather in the sense of colour and the sense of opposition – it’s a deformed mirror of the first part.  There, I use wide intervals, with vast sounds, and in the second part I use microtones, with very virtuosic passages and with changes of speed, but all shared between the instruments.  The idea that the spectator has is of an instrument making many sounds, but all separated.  It’s a great atomization of the material of the first part – atomization and at the same time contraction and dispersal.  The intervals become narrower or wider, still using the idea of microtonality within or without.  It’s the idea of wide intervals, with microtones, or extremely narrow intervals, with microtones.  And there is, obviously, a duality.  It’s almost like inverting the microtones of an interval – a binary idea, of two parts, of inverted intervals, which is already a binary process in itself, positioning a sound in that way and exchanging it.  It’s a binary idea, as is later the idea of setting out the piece – the number “2” really dictates that.  The idea of the major second as the preferred interval, the minor second treated of timbrally mixed, or widened...  Well...


A Árvore Metálica


In A Árvore Metálica I go further. A Árvore Metálica is dismemberment... It’s the opposite: it begins with the dismembering of the instruments; a wind instrument may be taken apart.  It has a number of pumps, it has this tree, all these branches – that’s why it has this name.  In other words, the opposite happened – there is the surprise, at the beginning of the work, of an unconventional sound, made with “pieces of instruments”, as though they were “twigs” of an instrument.  At the end of the piece, the instrument is demonstrated as it is, as though it were being attracted...  It’s a film run backwards, a film of things which come apart and then join back together again....  The idea here was the opposite.  It has much to do with this phase of my writing, dealing physically with the material, transforming it, seeing what it allows you to do.  At the same time, it was something of a “provocation”, of experimentalism and provocation at the same time.




Urantia was an interesting experience, because it was a book that is very much in fashion in some circles.  Of course I never read it, and never had time to.  Today I was reading it, and it’s a book with four or five thousand pages.  What I liked in Urantia was the fantasy, the excitement – I think it’s exciting.  The Book of Urantia is almost that idea that Holst had, with The Planets... It’s almost the generative idea of something that’s close to the harmony of the spheres, isn’t it?   It’s the traditional idea of music in the time of Plato, of the sounds that were present and that weren’t heard but that were dependent.  And this also has to do with something I read, one day many years ago. Once again I paraphrase Schoenberg.  He said that “People don’t know the responsibility they have in the world when they play a sound”.  I felt very much that this sound could be a rewarding connection...  If sound can be something that comes and goes, that exists, if it’s something that can be made to work, then who knows...  Moving forward to the free idea, to the excitement of that, I found this wonderful.  And as exciting things can be very dangerous, people begin to imagine things that don’t exist.  This was exactly the idea behind this strange and dreamlike work – setting off, actually, towards the same thing, the same excitement in music.  And generative, of course, utterly generative, because those intervals are always moving and are always dependent upon each other.  It’s as though there were a basic sound, with a group of notes moving around it and that is a spiral form of tonality – a fundamental tone that has a groups of notes that depend on it.  But now I don’t use the same kind of intervals as the tonal system, the diatonic system, I use other notes, but which also depend upon each other. It’s as though we had various dependencies, something constellated, we could say – in itself independent, but with reference that gravitate around it.


Primavera e Sono


Primavera e Sono is a text by the poetess Joana Ruas, in which there was the challenge of thinking in semantic terms.  Using words simply as semantics is not like a phonetic idea – the sense being more important than the phoneme.  This led to creation with words, always present, but radically transformed, by means of various manipulative possibilities.  At the time, I constructed my scores with modules – Primavera e Sono is an example of this, made up of several modules...  I have three or four modules which may be performed, modules which correspond or otherwise to other modules of text.  If I use module A, B, C or D, I use module A, B, C or D in the text.  But I can also use module A and mix it, I can trust to luck, and the result is always predictable -  it’s almost like a game, something one pulls out of a box and interprets.  This is an idea that Mozart used, dice and chance being a product of the brain.  In Primavera e Sono, as all the phonetic elements are controlled and there are common elements in each deal, there arises a kind of trunk, a spinal column which runs through them all and creates unity among them.  Even if I use A with C, C with D, or B with C, they are always related to each other, although one does not know what is going to happen.  My control is a control over timbre or words, or else there’s always an element that connects the piece and creates unity within it.




In Seistento there are, of course, six performers, and it’s based on a very Iberian idea, the ricercare, the idea of imitation.  The idea of imitation is that of rediscovering a way of writing with contemporary language.  It’s an homage to the tento, an homage to Rodrigues Coelho – a kind of appeal to the past.  There was a time in my life when I began to look for mediaeval and renaissance music very much, and I’m still very much interested in that.  There are ways of writing and thinking which I think have a great deal to do with the music of the 20th and 21st century.  It was really that; there was a strong attraction to that way of writing, which corresponded more or less to the great form of the fugue.  The idea of a theme with transformations, but in an Iberian fashion. Something from here, which has to do with our Mediterranean way of being.   And this also helps to understand what Bach was doing in Germany (which we all know) – but here in the Iberian Peninsula, how was it done?  What was the system?  What were the influences here?  Everyone knows that this existed, with various origins, for various reasons, for geographical reasons but also by reason of motivation – and the kinds of writing, naturally in imitation.


Seistento is a piece of music of the purest possible kind, in which I avoid and draw back from the use of a text – which is something very much present in my music.  It’s not a text, a literary idea, an image, and in that sense it’s pure writing, the purest possible, with no meaning.  Music per se.  This spatial idea is much beloved of southern European composers, the idea of spatial music in St Mark’s, Venice, the utilization of musicians in different spaces, and it’s rather the idea of spatial disposition that reinforces imitative writing, whose high point is the fugue.  In Seistento, there are various possibilities of different spaces.  In other words, it’s not just the normal idea of having the musician always performing in front of the audience, but rather, in each space, of a detailed study of how one builds the work, so that the relationships of resonance are understood.  In fact, there is a project, in this work, in which the musicians move - but normally musicians have platforms on which they move amongst the audience.  As though we had motorized trolleys, and the audience is aware of music coming near, and going away – something like Xenakis’s stochastic idea, of music whose origin one does not know. 


In the last version I made, I used trolleys, with various performers playing in the audience, so that the audience experiences the presence of things that are not like that...  There’s also a motor dynamism.  There’s a generative process as far as the material of the tento is concerned, which is as though a fugue for four voices had been written, over which, at a certain point, I lost control – but it continued to write itself, and to multiply itself.  So, it’s almost the idea of the composer “setting the machine in motion”, and afterwards watching what he’s produced, because it no longer belongs to him.  It’s something that multiplies itself many times over...  Of course in the end it’s not possible, is it?




Estigma is a work that, as its very name (“Stigma”) indicates, is a wound.  The first thing that happened with Estigma, and which motivated me, was a kind of catharsis in my life which I had to get over – motivated specifically by the death of my father.  So I began a difficult period of my life, a complicated time, and the only way I had to free myself from this pain was by writing.  At the same time I had a conversation with my dear friend Lopes e Silva concerning writing pieces for guitar; he wanted very much to have pieces of mine for guitar.  It was the beginning of a collaboration which continues.  The idea of Estigma, of a pain which is ours but which we have not asked for, a pain which comes from us – the idea of pain itself, of suffering, of a sore -  is at the same time the idea of the actual wound of the guitar, of the stigma which is its very mouth.  As though the guitar were a hand which has a stigma on its own mouth – the idea of the guitar stigmatized.  Of course there is also another important idea there, which is the Franciscan image – the image of St Francis, of the man with a universal image who achieved a mental reform of his own time, but at the same time is an individual able to strip himself of everything, even his own clothes, for his ideal.   So this idea is the idea of stigma, of pain, but it’s also the idea of victory over pain.  It’s also that.  It’s a pointillist work, utterly pointillist – I’d say that it’s a super-serial work, in which the actual dimension of the time of waiting is foreseen in various ways.  Or rather, my first idea was that the attack of the note could be sharp or smooth, and could make somebody move from his place.  When you play, for example, a Bartók pizzicato on the guitar, which is something very hard, we have the idea that the guitar broke...  I’m talking about this side of things, but on the other hand... There are echoes from the other side, like a mirror with various sides.  Something exists, at this moment, which is a pain, but, on the other hand, a certain eternity, which dissolves.  This is partly the idea of the piece, and so it becomes very complicated.  There’s a complicate problem, which is dominating time.  I control all the gestures, the multiplicity of gestures, and you could say that I make a catalogue of language: tremuli, pizzicati, glasses on the strings, rasgeado...  A whole series of things that one must do; let’s put it that way.  But then, all this material and its organization is indissolubly linked to intervals.  What’s the idea?  For example, arpeggiato: we have a reference, a “stigma” of another kind, which is the arpeggiato in the fashion of Tárrega.  Let’s imagine Tárrega with eight intervals that he would never have used and with most as arpeggiato.  We know it’s an arpeggiato, but it’s never the one we are expecting.  This is the idea of the spectator or listener, to imagine that he is hearing something he knows but “played wrongly”, if one may put it that way, or played differently.  One may note that this work also bears the influence of work I did with Ligeti, of the analysis of Monumente for piano, which has loud notes simultaneously in the five fingers.   In other words, playing louder with the five fingers – new clothes, one might say, in piano technique, something which initially looks unnatural.  But when I heard the instrument played as though the performer had made a mistake and instead of playing on the keyboard had instead had played on the wood...  It’s something one doesn’t expect in piano technique.   I always use this like the guitar, not only trying to find effects, such as, for example, harmonics near the bridge, on the other side.  It’s as though we were near the bridge and found a harmonic there, with a completely different timbre.  So, there’s a considerable research there, which was made in that way, step by step, with my ideas and suggestions.. I constructed gradually the grammar of the piece, talking with Lopes e Silva – “do this, do that, I prefer this, I like that better” – and so all that work was lived through and thought out.


Of course then there was a problem: as Lopes e Silva knew the piece very well, his performance was fantastic.  I’d say that the recording of his performance is “the performance”.  Other guitarists have played the piece, but they never had the “feeling without limits” of that space as an uncut straight line, something situated within infinity – and that’s what it is, an uncut straight line.  So it’s something which is beyond us, and we cannot dominate something that doesn’t belong to us.  A straight line with no divisions is infinity; that’s why we have to divide it.




When I thought of Nocturne, I thought of writing a “diurnal”.  Why “nocturne”?  Chopin wrote many nocturnes, why should I write another?  Because in the night there exists something, or at least there used to, determined by silence...  Today people at night look more for noise than for silence.  But night, particularly the Moon, influences life more, especially that of women, than the Sun, which influences that of men – in general terms.  One usually checks the moons, to see when babies will be born...  So it’s the moon that determines birth.  This moon is a reflection, a luminous reflection. And produces another ability to generate any other thing.  So to speak... symbolically at least.  Well, it was in this way that I thought of writing a nocturne, which is a romantic idea.  Nocturne is a romantic idea in itself: it’s the idea of a musical moment throughout the world, in silence and listening to music.   That’s precisely the idea of a nocturne – expectation.  It’s a piece in which I want, above all, to silence people.  To silence them and experience this spirit which is hovering above.  That’s really the idea.