Guzmán: “This work really feels like the start of something new.”

Composer Guzmán Calzada Llorente has been maker in residence at Festival Dag in de Branding for the past two years. In the June edition of the festival he presents the final piece of his residency, titled Portraits of fictional spaces. In this interview Guzmán reflects on the past two years, the challenges he faced and what he plans for the future.

How do you look back on your period at Festival Dag in de Branding?
‘In retrospect, my residency feels like one process. I presented three pieces and of course I worked intensively on those individual pieces, but underneath there was a continuous line. Last winter I had a small crisis: I tried to understand better what I was doing, where I wanted to go. Besides composing, it also involved a lot of thinking, going back through my notes. When I heard my string trio piece in the March edition, everything fell into place. I feel that I have reached a level of depth and reflection that is truly the fruit of such a long and intensive process.’

What was the click that made everything fall into place?
‘An important theme in my work before I started my residency at Festival Dag in de Branding was spatiality. How does sound behave in a space? I even wrote my master’s thesis about it. For my residency I came up with a new concept, inspired by my interest in architecture and Renaissance music, namely that of the ruins of old material. I wanted to contrast old and new music, old and new instruments, and unpick and reuse the fabric of old polyphony. For these interventions I chose Renaissance polyphony that I found on scores used as wallpaper in an Spanish church. The click this spring was that I suddenly understood how those two concepts, ruin and intervention versus sound in space, are related.’

You’ll have to explain that.
‘My current work is actually about what happens to sound over the centuries. While I was working on the idea of ruins and interventions, the spatiality of the sound did not let me go. In the first place I didn’t understand how it relates to the old materials I was working with, but for example I chose to have musicians with modern instruments playing the reverb of historical instruments live. At my first presentation I told the anecdote about a superamplifier that would be strong enough to filter and make Goethe’s voice sound in a room in which he once spoke: according to the law of conservation of energy, theoretically, the reflections of his voice still reverberate there of the walls. Now I think: hey, that Renaissance polyphony once sounded in the church. Its reflections still bounce around. What would that sound like if I had that super amplifier at my disposal? In Portraits of fictional spaces I depart from this inspiring idea and I imagine these fictional resonances of music that we cannot hear.’

What was the most difficult hurdle in these two years?
‘The biggest challenge was: how do you make a work of 50 minutes or an hour? I recently had coffee with Myrto Nizami, the new maker in residence, and she had exactly the same reaction as me: as a young composer you are not used to that length. You rarely have an opportunity to write such a long piece anywhere, at festivals or at the conservatory, for practical reasons. And putting three short pieces together is not enough, it is not linear. For me it was the reason to start drawing. Drawing gave me a way to organize such an amount of time, and the visual component has boosted my composing. I suspect that would not have happened without the challenge of the residency.”

What will be your next step?
‘There is still a lot to discover on the path I have taken. This work really feels like the start of something new.’

Curious about Portraits of fictional spaces by Guzmán performed by Ensemble Modelo62 in collaboration with ensemble Heliosfero? Come to De Regentes theater on June 1 at 9 PM. Tickets and info.

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