Respirar, “to breathe” in Spanish, focuses on airy sounds and their relation to pitched sounds. In our prior joint piece, “Siete Dolores,” we discovered air-sound relations while exploring sounds produced by different mouth positions and that different positions played with different amounts of air and embouchure pressure create interesting and distinct airy-sound pallets with varying amounts of airy-sound to clean-sound relations. Respirar is built around these sound objects while incorporating better control of the newly defined sound pallet.
The piece opens and ends with big breathing gestures in its simple ABA form, mainly using the airy side of the pallet, recording, looping, and eventually layering those recorded loops to create a more complex texture. The middle section uses the full spectrum of this pallet; a looper is applied too, yet only in specific points for short durations. These recordings are manipulated in real time by a spectral filter.
All in all, Respirar is a direct descendant of “Siete Dolores”; nevertheless, it is shorter, conceptually clearer, more expressive, and more communicative work.
Respirar is the second piece born out of my cooperation with Gil and a great example of the kind of work I find essential to the craft of contemporary music and to the benefits such work holds. The piece started as a direct continuation of “Siete Dolores.” As we tried to implement our conclusions into a new mold, able to carry the theoretical facet on which the piece was based, we decided to work with automated processes activating two live electronics processes: the first was a “fancy looper” that recorded the breathing sounds on the piece’s opening, slowly accumulating to something resembling the “sounds of a sea.” The second one was the use of an FFT device which was coming into use in the central part of the piece, recording two kinds of sound samples, one to be the source note and others to be analyzed. Then their spectral properties would be projected on the source note, creating a synthesis to be played through the loudspeakers.
To facilitate all these processes, we decided Gil would deliver me the FFT device, and I would write the Ableton session, which will follow the partitur’s ideas. This is usually “the composer’s work,” but I suggested taking it upon myself so I will have an intimate knowledge of electronics, tweaking them as I practice.
This decision defined hundreds of hours of work adjusting the session’s automatization so sounds would be recorded in time, later clearly enough, to be analyzed correctly, then finding the correct sample sizes and length. In addition, the acoustic aspects were also constantly tweaked: microphone positioning, my playing technique, dynamics, and special fingering were added so more or less energy would reach the microphone, and lastly also, the score was adjusted.
It might sound frustrating, as searching for ways to perform the seemingly simple partiture with sufficient stability and proper artistic delivery should be my “bread and butter” and not an endless struggle that might not sound nice after all. Yet for me, this path and challenge are at the core of contemporary musicing, which allows me to accumulate particular and valuable experience and, with some luck, to discover something new to share with others, to bring to light and ears unheard-of delights. And for this opportunity, I feel very grateful.