Germán Alonso : thinking music in terms of rhythm and energy

Germán Alonso was born in Madrid (Spain) in 1984.

He studied Guitar and Composition (specialization in Electroacoustic Composition) at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid, obtaining the highest marks. At the same time he studies electroacoustic composition with Alberto Bernal.

He continued studying composition at the Strasbourg Conservatoire with Mark André, a Master in Mixed Composition at the HEM in Geneva under M. Jarrell, Luis Naon and Eric Daubresse, and new technologies at IRCAM with Mauro Lanza.

He holds a Master degree in musicology in Paris 8 University, where he studied with Anne Sèdes and José Manuel López. He has attended master classes and courses held by composers Alberto Posadas, Hèctor Parra, José María Sánchez-Verdú, Aureliano Cattaneo, Brian Ferneyhough and Yan Maresz, among others.

He has been selected for Domaine Forget’s “Musique Nouvelle” in Quebec, “Voix Nouvelles” of the Royaumont Foundation in Paris, the “International Composer Pyramid” in Canterbury, the “Contemporary Music Meeting INJUVE” (Spanish Youth Institute), Cátedra “Manuel de Falla” in Cadiz (Spain) or the European Musical Creation Workshop in Madrid (Spain), among others.

His works have been played in Europe and America by Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Xasax, CrossingLines, Vertixe Sonora, Contrechamps, Asko|Schönberg, Grup Instrumental de València, Sigma Project, Patrick Stadler, Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach, Ums’n Jip, Interensemble, Zahir Ensemble, Taller Sonoro, s’ensemble or SequenzaSUR. He had thus the opportunity to work with conductors like Lorraine Vaillancourt, Baldur Brönnimann, Clark Rundell, Bernardino Beggio, J.M. Sánchez-Verdú, Andrés Salado or Joan Cerveró.

He was prizewinner in composition competitions 9th Composition Competition “Città di Udine”, II Seminario Permanente de Composición de Valencia and II Concurso de Composición “Carmelo Bernaola” and finalist at the Gaudeamus Prize 2013.

He has received commissions from the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung / Ensemble CrossingLines, Vertixe Sonora, Institut Valencià de la Música, Government of Andalusia, Encontre Internacional de Compositors of Mallorca, etc.; and scholarships from the Swiss Confederation, “la Caixa” Foundation, the Spanish Government-Ministry of Education and the Association des amis de Royaumont.

Currently Germán is teaching Orchestration at the Conservatorio Superior de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). His scores are published by BabelScores.

THE QUESTIONS

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

I have many musical memories from my childhood since my father was an amateur pianist and listened to music all the time. I started studying guitar and tried to write my own little neo-romantic guitar pieces quite soon (they were pretty bad, as far as I remember). But it was around the time I was 17-18 that I decided to take it more seriously. It was thanks to the influence of my harmony teacher, Gabriel Fernández Álvez, who was an active composer and used to invite us to his premières and other concerts including performances of his pieces. I immediately had the feeling that I also wanted to have my music played by other people, which I felt like a magical ritual of communication.

Besides, this teacher broadened my knowledge of 20th century music – which I only knew through the pieces of the few guitar-composers I used to play – and opened a world of possibilities for me.

So this is not my first musical memory, but it probably is the one that most significantly led me to become a composer.

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

Even if I consider myself to be a little iconoclastic, there are quite a lot of musicians who influenced me at some point, I am no exception in this sense. Some of them remain as musical references in the present, some others don’t.

In general terms, we can say that I discovered 20th century music through the “French connection”, starting from Debussy and reaching to post-spectralist composers, from whom I took a few ideas about fusing rock and New Music, among other things.

I mostly think music in terms of rhythm and energy, therefore Stravinsky and Bartók had to be on the list. More or less for the same reasons, I’ve always been interested in rock and, a little later, in jazz, so we would have to include Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or Miles Davis as well.

There’s no particular order of importance in the musicians I’ve mentioned and of course I’m missing a lot of them. (Actually, speaking about influences is always awkward for me. Pretty much everything that shakes your thinking is an influence in creating music.)

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

Form is a capital issue in music: I’m always rethinking it through and I certainly don’t have a definitive answer – should I be worried?

I used to formalize my pieces thoroughly and I think it could be useful when you are a beginner since it stimulates creativity. But I’ve reached to a point where I prefer letting music flow inside a flexible limits. These limits are usually established by the idea of the piece itself, be it musical or extra-musical.

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?

My working process is not as regular as I would like it to be because I do a lot of teaching lately, so I have to take advantage of weekends and holidays.

Concerning the technological side, the computer is an essential tool for the generation and exploration of the musical materials, and sometimes the form of the piece too. In this sense it is not inhibiting at all: on the contrary, it is a very inspiring instrument.

I use the computer for the edition of the score, but I never – and I mean NEVER – write directly in the software, I definitely need to write my music by hand.

Please describe a recent work.

Here’s the recording of This is a piece about your fucking mother, written for Vortex Ensemble from Geneva. The piece explores widely the idea of “cover”: it contains several quotations from rock songs which have in common the expression some sort of existential malaise or discontent.

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