4/9/1951, Buenos Aires, Argentina. British citizen since 1994.
Alejandro Viñao studied composition with the
Russian composer Jacobo Ficher in Buenos Aires. In 1975 he moved to Britain
where he continued his studies at the Royal College of Music and the City
University in London. He has been resident in Britain since then. In 1988
he was awarded a PhD. D. in composition at the City University.
Viñao has received a number of international
prizes and awards including the 'Golden Nica' Prix Ars Electronica (1992),
1st Prize at The International Rostrum at the Unesco World Music Council
(1984) and many others.
Viñao's music has been played and broadcast throughout Europe and
the U.S.A and has been featured in international festivals such as the
Tanglewood Festival, the Warsaw Autumn Festival and the London PROMS.
He has received commissions from various performing
groups and institutions around the world such as I.R.C.A.M, in France,
MIT in the USA, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Kronos quartet.
During the 80’s Viñao worked at Ircam
at regular intervals and 1987 he was composer in residence at M.I.T. in
In 1994 Alejandro Viñao was awarded the Guggenheim fellowship in
composition. His piece Apocryphal Dances was premiered by the BBC Symphony
Orchestra in London in 1997. The same year Viñao was invited to
Japan to present his music in a Portrait Concert. Later that year, his
chamber opera Rashomon was premiered in Germany. This work was commissioned
by ZKM for the opening of their new building in Karlsruhe. Since then
Rashomon has been produced in Paris, London and Gothenburg.
Following the success of his choral work Epitafios,
Viñao was commissioned a new piece ‘La Trama’ for mixed
choir and computer by the German Sudwestrundfunk. This latest work was
premiered in February 2003 by the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart.
Alejandro Viñao's music is characterised
by the use of pulsed rhythmic structures to create large scale form, and
by a melodic writing which -as in the case of much non-European music-
develops through rhythm rather than harmony.
In addition to instrumental and Electroacoustic compositions he has also
been involved with the creation of multimedia works, has composed music
for some 20 films and produced several radio programmes for the BBC.
During 1994 Viñao was Research Fellow at the Music Faculty of Cambridge
The first 3 pieces in this CD form a trilogy for soprano and computer
which explores the relationship between melody and timbre in 3 different
contexts. Both #Chant d’Ailleurs’ and ‘Borges y el Espejo’
are concerned with melodic processes based on non European singing models,
seeking to extend the syntax of these models beyond their Oriental origin.
‘Chant d’Ailleurs’ takes as a model the chanting tradition
of Mongolia and ‘Borges y el Espejo’ that of the classical
Arabic singing. ‘Hildegard’s Dream’ functions as a connecting
point between these Eastern traditions and the more recent melodic tradition
of Europe. The piece, as the title suggests, draws its melodic material
from the monophonic singing of the Middle Ages. In those early days, the
European melodic syntax was not as different from its Eastern counterpart
- as it was to become after the Renaissance - enjoying a rhythmic freedom
which had not yet been subjected to the constraints of a rigid meter.
It was in ‘Cu’ (1980) that I first managed to articulate my
interest in non European compositional models in a way that satisfied
me. This composition marks the beginning of my exploration of melody and
timbre which culminated, some 10 years later, in the 3 pieces forming
the trilogy. All four works were influenced by the writings of Jorge Luis
Borges and his labyrinthine view of the world. His influence was imprecise
and diffused and yet I experienced it as something very real. If I try
to define it in my own words it is the words of Burges that come to my
mind: “luckily we don’t owe ourselves to one tradition. We
can aspire to all of them”. A.V.
(Chant from Elsewhere) for soprano and
computer is a set of 3 song-like chants from a fictional culture. I imagined
this culture as one which had developed technology in spite of having
remained rural. This improbability accounts for the ritualistic and at
times monodic nature of the singing, coupled to a computer part which
seeks not to harmonize or orchestrate the songs but rather to extend the
phrasing and timbre of the voice beyond its natural acoustic means. Our
culture has used each new technological development to further its original
musical concerns: harmony, large scale form and timbre. My imaginary culture
too, used technology to develop its rural and ethnic singing tradition.
Based on this idea, I developed an imaginary singing style, with its own
melisma, its own
ornamental identity, the identity of a chanting ‘tradition’
that I invented. In this tradition, the tune of each chant is less important
than its ornaments, which can have a much stronger musical profile. Such
a tune is difficult to remember. We may recall the ‘style’
of the phrasing but not the phrase itself. The computer is also part of
this imaginary style. The vocal sounds it manipulates and the new timbres
it creates are articulated and ‘performed’ in a way which
is consistent with the chanting style of the singer. When the computer
takes the vocal sounds and transforms them into new timbres, it does so
following the ‘stylistic constraints’ of this imaginary culture.
I based the invented singing style on one Mongolian folk tune which I
like for its beautiful use of melisma and glottal vibrato. I wrote the
text in ‘Chant d’Ailleurs’ to suit the musical needs
of the piece and it has little semantic meaning beyond the occasional
appearance of the words ‘Chant d’Ailleurs’. Most of
the phonemes that I used should be understood as words of an imaginary
language. Yet, the phonemes have been chosen for their musical qualities
vis a vis the particular melismatic phrase they are attached to as well
as to blend with the implicit phonemes in the computer part. ‘Chant
d’Ailleurs’ was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture
for G.R.M. The computer part was produced using a Syter Computer to process
original vocal sounds.
Hildegard von Bingen, the legendary visionary, composer, poet and religious
figure of the Middle Ages was continually plagued by illness throughout
most of her life. In 1141, these afflictions receded and gave way to a
series of religious visions which were recorded in the book “Know
the Ways”. When I was composing ‘Hildegard’s Dream’
I imagined that amidst these visions, Hildegard had a dream, too awesome,
too frightening, too beautiful to be recorded or even to be acknowledged
to anybody, perhaps not even to herself. It was a musical dream: the armies
of the Islam are overrunning Europe. Hildegard is attending a performance
of one of her vocal compositions which the Lord had ‘revealed’
to her in one of her visions. The piece is being sung by 80 nuns of her
own convent. Half way through the
performance the nuns start singing long notes which unfold micro tonal
intervals and motifs which no longer speak of God but suggest the forbidden
modes of the infidel. The original melismatic rhythms had now turned into
figurations with no clear meter, the text, still in Latin, features both
the names of Christ and Allah in it. The dream would be an intolerable
nightmare if the music were not so overwhelmingly beautiful. Hildegard
is suddenly woken up by her own singing.
From the technical point of view ‘Hildegard’s Dream’
could be described as a study on the relationship between melody and timbre
in a micro-tonal context. I wrote the text using words and phrases in
Latin taken from different texts by Hildegard von Bingen. I combined these
words freely to suit the musical needs of the piece. ‘Hildegard’s
Dream’ was jointly commissioned by the Groupe de Recherches Musicales
in Paris and by Frances Lynch with funds provided by the Arts Council
of Great Britain. The computer part was created at the composer’s
private studio in London.
Borges y el Espejo (1992)
‘Borges y el Espejo’ (Borges and the Mirror) for soprano and
computer is loosely based on a Turkish semi-classical song. I was primarily
interested in the rhythmic complexity of the melismatic singing in the
Ottoman and pre-Ottoman music traditions of Turkey. In this type of singing,
the melisma seems to be the centre point from which repetitive rhythms
are triggered and multiplied, creating complex and diverse phrases and
yet, retaining a great sense of unity. In ‘Borges y el Espejo’
I used the simple repetition of melismatic singing to generate complex
rhythms and to create an ever changing perception of pulse.
The Turkish melismatic phrases are copied, repeated
and transformed by mirrors which multiply them into the perfection of
symmetry or the abyss of obsessive repetition. Mirrors and the Islam:
two of Boryes’ favourite subjects and in a metaphorical sense, the
subject matter of this work too.
The text in ‘Borges y el Espejo’ has little
or no semantic meaning. Most of the words are in Turkish and have been
rearranged according to the musical needs of the composition and do not
necessarily follow the syntactical rules of the Turkish language. The
text is a fiction which I have invented.
‘Borges y el Espejo was commissioned by Groupe de Musique Expermentale
de Bourges, and was premiered by Frances
Lynch during the 1992 lnternational Music Festival at Bourges, France.
The computer part was generated at G.M.E.B. and post produced at the composer’s
Principal voice used as sound source: Sue Bickley.
Other voices used as sound sources: Frances Lynch, Tracey Williams, Alan
Belk, Ian Cross, Bruno von Ehrenberg.
Based on a text by Ian Cross.
‘Go’ uses as its sound source both voice
and percussion. Though processed and transformed by electronic means,
the original sounds are not electronic. Nearly every single note was recorded
independently with a different reverberation amplitude and sound quality
and later edited to articulate the musical phrases.
‘Go’ is based on a ten-chord chorale. The text consists of
ten phonemes, of which ‘go’ is one. In the first draft of
the piece the phoneme ‘go’ was not the most important one.
As I started production of the piece in the studio I found myself more
and more interested in the sound-word ‘go’ and gradually departed
from my first draft of the score and the text, so that I could centre
the composition on the action suggested by the word ‘go’.
I was concerned with the feeling of going, moving, being active as an
action, without stating a particular direction for this action. The subject
and object of the action were left for the listener to fill in or leave
empty according to his mood and imagination.
‘Go’ was commissioned by Elms Concerts
with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and was produced
at the City University Electroacoustic Music Studio in London.
Frances has developed an interesting and diverse career
as a soloist in Opera, Music-Theatre, Oratorio and on the concert platform.
Much of her operatic work has been with the composer Judith Weir, most
notable in ‘A night at the Chinese Opera’ (Kent Opera), and
as ‘Fortuna’ in Scipio’s Dream (BBC 2, Not Mozart).
As Artistic Director of Vocem electric voice theatre, she has explored
the music-theatre genre, working with voice and electronics, combined
in a theatrical presentation, It was with this company that she first
performed ‘Son Entero’ by Alejandro Viñao. The subsequent
composition of ‘Chant d’Ailleurs’ became the inspiration
behind ‘1 X Electric Voice’, a project within which trances
experiments with solo vocal repertoire in an Electroacoustic and dramatic
context. With both “electric” ventures she has toured Scandinavia,
Britain & Europe (East & West), giving live performances, radio
and television broadcasts and an extensive range of workshops. In oratorio
she has collaborated regularly with Scottish composer Karen Wimhurst,
beginning with ‘Songs for the tailing Angel’ - A Requiem for
Lockerbie (Edinburgh International Festival and Scottish Television).
On the concert platform she is at home in music by Monteverdi through
Schubert and Debussy to Tavener and Weir working with a variety of solo
instruments and ensembles.
In addition Frances has sung for Drama (Communicado),
Dance (eq. Extemporay Dance) and Rock & Pop Bands (eq. Fun Boy Three
The Skids); composed music for children; co-produced 12” dance singles;
and works as Music Director for Solent People’s Theatre.
Recorded at the City University Studios, London, from the 4th to the 7th
of January 1994. Mixed and post produced at
the composer’s private studio.
Recording engineers. Alejandro Vinao & Sebastian Castagna
Cover and graphic design: Horacio Monteeerde
Alejandro Vinao wishes to thank the following people and institutions
for their advice and technical assistance:
Dr Simon Emmerson, Bob Aims, Chris Miller and the Electroacoustic Music
Studio of the Music Department at the C ty University, London. François
Bayle, Daniel Teruggi and the Groopr de Recherches Musicales INA-CRM.
Ian Dearden and Kicca Tommasi.