Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
I have learned a lot from ideas in disciplines outside of music, and I enjoy when artists in different mediums, working with different materials, share common conceptual ground and/or processes. Decir is an example in which both my music and the words as well as the visuals were all created through similar techniques of pattern development—we approached the piece as if it were a fractal. I love exploring those connections, and I enjoy realizing how differently other creatives think of things like rhythm, or form. Learning to overcome jargon and yet speak the same language is a delightful and enriching experience.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
It depends. If I’m close to a deadline, or just very excited with something I’m writing, I will spend almost the whole day at my desk. I don’t normally enjoy the early stages of the composition process, and each time I start a new piece there is a phase during which I’m in a bad mood—there is this feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing whether the piece will succeed, of facing a mountain so to speak, that to me is plain awful. But when the puzzle starts to come together, then it is heaven: once I catch an idea I love, I can work 20 hours a day and not care about much else.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Decir holds a special place for me because it is the music whose final result most resembles what I set out to achieve when I started to write it, and because it represents the outcome of a deeply collaborative endeavor. This song cycle originated in a homonymous recital of music and poetry commissioned by the Teatro Argentino de La Plata in Buenos Aires, co-created with Argentine poet Victoria Cóccaro and augmented with visuals by Maximiliano Bellman. Lyrically it explores notions of migration, memory, and the territoriality of the voice—how a voice becomes a place. It is also probably my most direct work so far, hence the title— “to say”.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Again, it depends. A silent workplace obviously helps a lot, but I somehow taught myself to be able to write in less-than-inspiring conditions (places where I have no privacy, etc), so I don’t think I have an ideal anymore.
I enjoy being receptive to certain illuminations that happen randomly when one is not working (e.g., immediately upon waking up, or while taking a shower), although I’m far from knowing how to catch those illuminations more frequently or efficiently. That said, I usually take great benefit from going out for long walks and recording voice memos on my phone: more than once I came up with the definitive algorithm for a piece while walking outdoors, as opposed to sitting at my desk.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I am a bit skeptical about any actual healing properties of sound, but it is true that certain musics can amplify our emotions for better or worse. I have had the experience of being at a concert and hearing a piece whose composer seemed to be willing to torture me instead of talking to me, which might count as a harmful experience. Conversely, some pieces invite us to dream, to dance, to be super attentive to the evolution of certain details or to enter a meditative state, which are all beautiful ways to engage with sound.
I would say that writing music can certainly acquire therapeutic qualities—it can be a refuge, it can be cathartic, and above all it provides an opportunity for communication. I mentioned hockets before: in light of COVID, and its consequent forced isolation, writing hocket-based music took on for me the added meaning of expressing longing for the experience of sharing music and collaborating with others, of building something with others, and that process was comforting.
Lastly, and coming back to the second question, I have always felt that writing music is as much a craft and a way of thinking as it is a path of self-discovery. Becoming a composer involves not only the acquisition of technical knowledge but also a gradual revelation of the mystery of who one is. Sharing that journey with an audience can be terrifying, but in the long run, nothing is more rewarding.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This is not a subject that can be addressed succinctly. Coming from a periphery country I believe, with Borges, that ideas are born anywhere, sometimes in different places at once, and that all artists have legitimate access to a multiplicity of cultural traditions. But, of course, ethics and integrity must be the foundation of any exchange, and the richest and more developed countries have the most responsibility to be respectful in their engaging with other nations’ cultural heritage.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I guess most often those connections come from personal recollections that trigger a flow of associations, but I’m not sure they tell us anything intrinsic to the actual music. I might be wrong, though. As a matter of personal taste, I relish the correspondence between different sensorial experiences when there actually is a discernible correlation, be it material or processual. And I’m also fine with only listening.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I’m not the kind of musician that has a stance on being an artist. And the way I see it, there isn’t much one can do to separate the artist from the everyday person. If one is thorough, one’s work will probably be thorough too; if one cares about what others feel, one’s music will likely be sensitive as well. All this also works the other way around, of course. So my approach not to art, but to being in this world is trying to be, among other things, generous, responsible and gentle. And since I happen to also be a musician, I guess my work might probably reflect those endeavors.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
From a technical point of view, the mere fact that it can suspend time, or warp our experience of time. From a more personal perspective, I believe everyone has at least once in their lives had a glimpse of eternity while listening to their favorite music—such is its power, and its mystery.