Irene Galindo Quero : working along the threshold of music and language

Irene Galindo Quero

Irene Galindo Quero is a Spanish composer, born in Granada in 1985.

Linguistics, literature and theories of perception have, from the beginning, played an important role in her work. She enjoys working along the threshold of music and language. Close observation of their common spaces often reveal the actual distances between these worlds.

She studied in Granada with Pedro Guajardo, at the Musikhochschule Freiburg with Cornelius Schwehr and Mathias Spahlinger, and at the Musikhochschule Köln with Johannes Schöllhorn.

Her works have been performed by, among others: Ensemble Surplus, Aleph Gitarrenquartett, Linea Ensemble Strasbourg, ensemble aisthesis, ensemble, ensemble alarm, and hand werk ensemble at Klangspuren Schwaz, Baden-Württemberg Literatur Sommer, Akademie der Künste Berlin, Mehrklang Festival Freiburg, Newcomer-Konzerten der Wittener Tagen für neue Kammermusik, new talents Köln, e-Werk Freiburg, Concertgebouw Brugge, Kulturbrauerei Berlin, and the Acht Brücken Festival Köln.

She is also active in the fields of film and installation, with performances at the Kommunalen Kino Freiburg and participation at the exhibition Regionale 11 Kunstverein Freiburg.

Her work has been recognized by several fellowships and awards, including the Alexander von Humboldt Scholarship, La Caixa-DAAD, Association des Amis de Royaumont, Composer- in residence at Brahmshaus Baden-Baden, Artist-in-Residence of the NRW Kunststiftung and the Goethe Institute in Mumbai.Composer-in-residence at Künstlerdorf Schöppingen 2014.

2014 resident at the Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid. 2014-16 scholar at the Akademie Musiktheater Heute der Deutsche Bank Stiftung. She is teaching composition (with focus on audiovisuals) at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragon.

She is currently working on two opera productions: for the Opera Stabile Hamburg (premiere 2017) with a team of the Deutsche Bank Stiftung, and for the Deutsche Oper Berlin (premiere April 2017) as a selected composer for the “New Szenen III” opera contest.


What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

One of my very first memories, at barely six, is of playing “Reflections” by Thelonious Monk with a children’s chamber orchestra – which meant playing my 2nd violin part of an arrangement in which I had merely to pluck the open D and G strings. It was not only a beautiful, delicate arrangement but also an astonishing opportunity to discover how music could merge out of all these separate small actions. It was one of my first true listening experiences and also a first time “putting together” (isn’t this composing?) the piece in my mind, understanding how my G was a part of a whole.

Later on, when I was about 12, my first harmony lessons were determinant. I remember a great pleasure in analyzing some excerpts of the Magic Flute and forming an idea of the harmonic thinking. This was a very significant experience for me and from then on music was truly important.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work? Has this changed over time?

There is a long list, often from other disciplines, of influences, from Simonides to Kiarostami – also much from non-written musical traditions, particularly northern India. My relationship to other composers must remain more critical, even if based on great love and respect.

How do you approach the question of “form” especially for longer works?

It really depends on the journey. A 1000 km trip by plane can be straighter than the path to the supermarket around the corner if one is for some reason afraid, or the wind is blowing furiously and it’s also raining obliquely. Also even if it happens to be shorter; time is not an absolute experience in music.

I am very interested in montage techniques from cinema, so sometimes I like to think of a piece as a compendium of several pieces that are interrupted or merged into one another and never heard entirely.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process? What other technology, if any, do you use?

I used to work at night, but switched to days some years ago and I like starting early. I cross this bridge to go to my studio.  I write by hand. I am slow. I do many transcriptions of recordings of sounds, speech and other music before composing. Sometimes even transcriptions of written music which I try to fix by ear – this “transcribing” is already a selecting as I don’t always focus on all aspects of the source. And I write it in a different measure than the original, to force myself to think about metre in a different way. These transcriptions are like a ritual of deep listening before getting into work.

Irene Guero Studio

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip.

Ziffer H Hut, for Aleph Gitarrenquartett

It was an experience of silence, that of literature, which first brought me to writing music. The apparent similarities of the two fields had interested me from the very beginning, above all when I brought myself to the fine line between co-existence and friction of certain categories: Literary vs. Musical meter, or emphasis, syntax – resemblance is not the same here.

When the Aleph Guitar Quartet asked me for a piece, I concerned myself with different aspects regarding minimal units, and the meaning and structural potential which they contain though not yet capable of the perfected emanation of a completed word.  The work is developed from these considerations.

I proposed to myself the situation in which one would find the sign “4” in, for example, an archaeological excavation of an unknown civilization, but also from any everyday situation, written on an unremarkable and crumpled paper, lying in a bus stop.  This openness to the possibilities of interpretation and, at the same time, the difficulty in observing already assimilated signs fascinated me.  I wanted to treat three tendencies preferentially in my interpretation:


Someone  had noted down the quantity of something; it could, however be a trace of writing, “h”, a letter or phoneme depending on the linguistic context (in Spanish, by the way, “h” would be a silent consonant and would not be spoken aloud).

And this sign could also be a drawing, and so the question: is this the representation of something (namely a hat) or not.

The piece takes different paths which investigate the metric, the linguistic or depiction.  The question of a culture-laden manipulation with perception had interested me very strongly at the aural level.  How can the principel of a plucked string bring about such a rich musical palette?  When does plucking turn towards the koto, flamenco  guitar, lute or sarod, and becomes defined as such?  I saw before me not four guitars, but this one plucked string, both the unformed instrument and the ruins of other instrument, pre-formed and discarded things which could hardly be distinguished from another.

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