Gustavo Díaz-Jerez has released Metaludios II, his newest CD of piano pieces!
This is the second CD of the Metaludios project (the first was released in 2018), and encompases Metaludios books IV and V (12 pieces). Gustavo is also the performer in both CDs.
Composers Edition’s Késia Decoté talks with the composer about Science, the compositional processes, and the composer-performer dynamic behind this set of Metaludios.
Késia Decoté: These are the 4th and 5th books of the Metaludios series Can you tell us a bit of the story of the Metaludios project?
Gustavo Díaz-Jerez: It all started in 2013. My friend Marta Zabaleta, one of Spain’s leading pianists, asked me to write a set of piano pieces for her. This is how the first book of Metaludios was born. After she premiered them I kept on writing pieces and, as of today, I have published five books, each with six pieces.
KD: I find it fascinating that you draw from scientific ideas and translate them into musical structures. Can you comment more about this process?
GDJ: I’ve always been very fond of science, especially biology and astronomy, and of course, mathematics, the common language of science. Part of my compositional language involves translating scientific structures to musical notation through a process called “mapping”. Xenakis pioneered this technique back in the 20th century. This process generates musical “prime matter” which can later be modelled to create the work of art.
KD: As a pianist and a composer as well, you say it’s important for you that the piece is comfortable ergonomically yet faithful to the original idea and not sacrificing virtuosity – what kind of strategies do you explore to make this possible?
GDJ: Yes, I think this is extremely important. The musical material generated through the mapping process must be “filtered” to fit the possibilities of the instrument you are composing for. To a certain extent, it involves “pruning” the original material to make it playable. This in itself is a very practical and creative process.
KD: In your compositional process, you mention techniques and elements such as psychoacoustics, fractal structures and “overpainting”. Would you like to comment a little about it?
GDJ: Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of sound perception. In the Metaludios many sonorities are crafted by carefully combining specific pitch and dynamics sets with precise timing to give the illusion of new, sometimes electronic-sounding sonorities. Fractal geometry is a branch of mathematics that can be used to model many natural phenomena. I use fractal structures to create musical outside-out-time structures that mimic those phenomena. Overpainting is a technique developed by artist Gerhard Richter in which he paints over an existing photograph, generally blurring it in artistic ways. I use a similar technique but with sound. In Cassini’s dream, modelled after a 15-second sound file captured by NASA’s Cassini-Huygens probe from Saturn’s magnetic field, the live piano part “paints” over the electronic part, using numerous inside-the-piano extended techniques.
KD: While many musicians fear the advance of technology in the process of creating art, you embrace and seems to enjoy it, as in Hidden States. What creative and technical potentials you see in machine learning for composers and performers?
GDJ: I think of AI more as a tool. If it is used the right way it can enhance our creativity. A key feature of AI algorithms is the dataset: the information from which the algorithm “learns”. Trained correctly, the algorithm will be able to generate (“mimic”) new data based on the original dataset. I trained an AI algorithm with a musical dataset consisting of existing Metaludios! Even this is a very creative process because it involves lots of personal decisions: what to include in the dataset, the size of the neural network, the type of AI algorithm, training time, etc. After the training was complete, the model is able to generate musical material that mimics the style of my Metaludios. Even at this stage, I must decide which material is useful and which is discarded, so it too entails a creative process.
KD: As a pianist yourself, the piano universe is sure very familiar to you. In the Metaludios there is a richness of use of extended techniques and electronics, however it all sounds very organic. What is your relationship with the instrument as a composer, regarding to knowing so deeply its sonority and technique, while also exploring new possibilities?
GDJ: I think that organic feeling you are talking about arises from the fact that all pieces draw their source material from scientific processes that are themselves very organic (fractal geometry, for instance). Statistical self-similarity (non-exact pattern repetition at different scales) is a common feature of the construction of all Metaludios and is applied to all musical parameters. Most Metaludios also have a formal organization that mimics biological systems: a statistical bilateral symmetry structure. I’m positive this is felt both consciously and unconsciously.
KD: I made the exercise of first listening to the CD without reading the notes and was fascinated by the imagery that emerged, sometimes very unrelated to the elements mentioned in the programme notes, sometimes very close indeed! How important is it that the listening (or even the performance) of your pieces is linked to their original context, or how independent the experience can be from their background information?
GDJ: I think you did the right thing. Of course, knowing about the piece (either before or after listening to it) will enrich your experience, but I believe that a priori background information shouldn’t be necessary in order to appreciate and enjoy any work of art.
KD: Are there plans for performances of Metaludios IV and V?
GDJ: Yes. Actually, most of the pieces have already been premiered independently. The Metaludios can be performed separately or combined freely. I expect to perform them in several concerts here in Spain (Madrid, Granada, etc.) and hopefully abroad next year.
KD: Can we be expecting a Metaludios VI sometime sooner or later?
GDJ: Yes, indeed! I have already written three new Metaludios belonging to Book VI. I expect to finish the book sometime next year. In any case, this is an open project, so there could be more books in the future — who knows!
KD: Thank you so much for this conversation, and bravissimo for the wonderful music and brilliant recording!
Full information about the Metaludios project can be found in its dedicated website:
The album Metaludios II is available as physical CD from IBS Classical, also as digital streaming.
We at Composers Edition are proud to present all Metaludios books available for perusal and purchase through our website.