About my music
Music is the most powerful tool I have to tell my own story. As a composer of both opera and instrumental music, I find myself constantly telling stories about places that do not exist. Sometimes these places are imagined, other times they are remembered or misremembered. Writing music about these imagined locales help me think deeply about my own identity, and the multitude of “homes” I have had as an immigrant. I like to tell stories that matter to me, and that resonate with an audience. For me, every artistic experience is at its core about communication. Opera is one of the most powerful ways I have found to tell these stories, and I believe that opera has incredible potential to speak to a new audience. The way I see it, music should entice the senses, tickle the mind and move the soul.
The concept of “home” is flexible for me, it constitutes a place that is constantly being re-created and re-interpreted. My operatic music is often placed in imaginary spaces. My opera Generalissimo takes place in the after-life, immediately following the death of a fictional Latin American dictator. He cannot remember the circumstances of his death, and through his recollections, the audience becomes witness to his life, relationships and eventual death. By situating the action in a fictional, unknown place, the story becomes universal, the characters become archetypes in their larger-than-life actions. In Memory Boy, my upcoming new opera, the story revolves around lost homes. The central family in the story must leave its comfortable home in Wayzata, Minnesota because of a natural disaster. They are forced to work together in a journey to an unlikely (and improvised) new home. Even my purely instrumental works are centered around imaginary places, from my violin and piano duet titled Imagined Archipelagos, to my orchestral piece Siempre Lunes, Siempre Marzo (Always Monday, Always March) which is a character sketch of Melquíades, the gypsy who visits the fictional town of Macondo in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. In Caracas Counterpoint, I revisit the city of my birth and upbringing, from my perspective as a thirty year old, now living in a different place. The Caracas depicted in my piece is not the real geographical city, but rather the one that I carry with me, a nostalgic vision filled not only with echoes of Latin music, but also infused with new influences— everything from the minimalism of Steve Reich to Radiohead, to funk music.
For me, music is about connecting and sharing. One of the most apparent aspects of my music is its preoccupation with rhythm. Often times, there are several competing pulses displayed in my music, all connected subliminally through an often unheard, but certainly felt beat that is common to all pulses. Sometimes, the result is a delicious groove, other times it is a sense of suspended time. Rhythm is an essential part of music, and we connect with one another through a shared sense of beat. Music can be delightful yet probing, fun but also deep. It can come from the body, the brain, the heart, or all three. The type of music that inspires me and that I want to write is the kind that embodies all of these things. Through the creation of imaginary worlds I give the listener room to enter into these spaces and, once inside, find versions of themselves, or their stories. And only by telling those stories that matter deeply to me can I hope to make those connections that translate into rewarding and meaningful artistic experiences.