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NWEAMO festival in morelia

28 de enero del 2020

In the Purepecha lands, in the central plateau of Mexico is Morelia, a calm city with a large music tradition: one of Mexico's most important music conservatories, the Conservatorio de las Rosas, has been there since 1743. Yet the music landscape in Morelia has been traditional and, somehow, conservative. I should say that in Mexico contemporary music and technology music concerts have rarely a crowded audience. That is why it was so surprising and interesting to see the NWEAMO concerts and the reaction and acceptance of the audience.

Concerts took place at the CMMAS (Mexican Center for Music and Sonic Arts), a technology art center directed by Rodrigo Sigal, that allows instrumentalists, composers, video and installation artists to meet and work in a creative and rich environment.
First of all, it was striking to see the concert hall in it's capacity crowd. Not only were all the seats were taken but there were people standing here and there, listening with attention the entire concert.
The CMMAS received more and more people every day; all kind of people, from experts in technology and art to people who came for the very first time to know this thing called contemporary musical art.

In the NWEAMO festival the music of twelve composers was presented, with a very large range of aesthetic and technological approachments: from a cello piece (the traditional all-writen-in-a-score) to the dance-video-cello-computer music proposal of Kinesthetech Sense. All of them performed over a four-channel speaker system array.

I'd like to write about the pieces and performances that have contributed, from my point of view, to the Mexican music scene.

Le Repas du Serpent, by Mexican composer Javier Alvarez and vigorously performed by cellist Iracema Andrade, was the first piece in the festival to create a multimedia ambiance, including the cello, played in very different ways, computer sounds and video. The video of Le Reaps du Serpent is an old french recording of a snake eating a rabbit. It must be into a zoo or a biology class, because we can see the people looking at the snake, it is as interesting to see the snake eating the rabbit as it is to see the reactions of the people in the video.

The piece has a delicious variety and development of timbre, and spacialization that locks in music the audience's attention. The cello performs several glissandos to which the tape responds with changes in the size of grains so the tape's sound's texture changes in a glissando way, creating a dialogue between them.

Another very interesting work was the one presented by Mexican-Dutch group Presidentes con Bigote, Presidents with Moustache, created by Carlos Iturralde and Keir Neuringer, playing several instruments and sound devices. The first piece they performed was a very surprising guitar-sax-tape composition (with large improvisational parts) that used several non-standard techniques, for both the sax and the guitar. They begun with a loud shout performed by both musicians, and suited by a very deep and complex net of instrumental and synthetic sounds. The second piece consisted, entirely, in non-harmonic sounds, all kinds and colors of noise worked and presented in balanced doses in order to make it violent but easy to listen to. It was surprising that the Morelian audience, who rarely hears but traditional sounds in concert halls, was very attentive and vigorously applauded the work of Presidentes con Bigote.

Two performances were particularly interesting in this festival: one was the Japanese-Irish group called Ibitsu and the other one was Kinesthetech Sense, an American duo that masters equally the computer processes of sound and video, the use of instruments and the consciousness of the scene through dance and movement.

Ibitsu performed a piece named Hystère for an especially innovative instrument, created by themselves called E-clambone which is a technological hybrid of clarinet and trombone, although it uses also a saxophone mouth piece. Hystère consists in a mostly improvised music for the E-clambone with it's computer music (live electronics) counterpart and the video, created in real time, which responds to music, but in a non-linear way so it's not predictable and easily holds the attention.
While Satoshi Shiraishi on his E-clambone and Alo Allik in the computer create an inner and contemplative sound design, Yota Morimoto gets the view of a camera set in front of the stage, and transforms it using both video and sound information, and outputs the result in a screen set behind the stage.

In my opinion, Ibitsu has attempted the right balance between music and sound, viewing and hearing interest, and, maybe the most difficult, challenge of all between balancing the artistic guidance of the audience and the unpredictable changes that makes the entire piece something you want to keep watching and hearing.

Kinesthetech Sense performed in the same concert a work called The Color of Waiting, in which they used also a video, projected on a non-continuous screen in whose "holes" where set the cellist and the dancer. The Color of Waiting is a truly multimedia work, not just a juxtaposition of different media works (not the kind of a music piece with a video added or a choreography added) but a work in which the parallel development of dance, video, instrumental and computer music is obvious. And there's still another art's field involved in this creation: the video part is made out of the design of a graphic artist, which is "sliced" and the alternation of this slices produces a particular sense of movement. As the image taken is a water design, the resultant movement of waves is not the usual behavior of water nor a computer emulation of that movement, but something that deals with the audience's time perception.

The NWEAMO festival in Morelia was a surprising contemporary art (not just musical) event that people from Morelia and visitors enjoyed and profited from. It is now up to the Mexican artistic community to continue with these kinds of festivals and to expand the research of technological applications to art in order to create a truly contemporary Mexican art.

Text by Jeronimo Rajchenberg

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