EarShot Charlotte Symphony Readings: Composer Spotlight – Felipe Nieto

Composer Felipe Nieto (b. 1988), originally from Bogota (Colombia) has received first prize at the annual PUBLIQuartet Composition Competition, first prize at the Exit 128 Ensemble Composition Competition, Honorable Mentions at the Buffalo Chamber Players Call-for-Scores and the Boston Guitar Festival Composition Competition, and is a two-time recipient of the Smadbeck Prize for Music Composition at Ithaca College.

Recent engagements include his assignment as Assistant Artistic Director of Las Americas en Concierto (New York) and collaborations with Brower Trio (Spain), Vox n Plux (New York), and the Bogota Chamber Orchestra (Colombia). Felipe holds a Bachelor of Music in Composition from Oklahoma City University where he studied with Edward Knight and a Master of Music in Composition from Ithaca College where he studied with Jorge Grossmann and Dana Wilson.

Felipe was selected for the EarShot Charlotte Symphony Readings for his piece Artesania Sonora, which will be workshopped and conducted by Assistant Conductor Christopher James Lees in a final read-through on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 10am. Details here.

Felipe spoke with us about the piece and what he looks forward to at the readings.

Composer Felipe Nieto. Photo by Hugo Mantellato

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out that Artesania Sonora had been selected for the EarShot Charlotte Symphony Readings? What are you looking forward to about the program?

Felipe Nieto: I was thrilled!! I have never work with a professional orchestra. Insight into how things work at that level is very valuable.

I look forward to really digging into the score and fix it as much as possible with the aid of everyone’s input. There are so many sides… the orchestra, the conductor, the mentors etc. I am really looking forward to compile everything they have to say.

ACO: Your bio mentions political commentary as one of the themes you aim to address with your music. Does Artesania Sonora make any kind of political statement, either directly or indirectly?

FN: I have written works that make some commentary regarding politics. I think most prominently my string quartet, which is a sort of offertorium to a man that influenced me a lot ideologically but that was assassinated as a consequence of his outspokenness. His name is Jaime Garzon, a political satirist from my native Colombia with a talent of proportions that I have not seen since his death. Jaime was a true activist. He used humor to change and challenge things. In my opinion, he was very very funny but he wasn’t joking. I dedicated my quartet to him.

That being said, my “artisanal” pieces are not to be interpreted politically. At least not in essence considering that it is hard for me to imagine something being completely “apolitical” but, Artesania Sonora is a work that is purely focused and inspired by the idea of creating a sonic entity that is the result of actual manual work. I work a lot on the paper designing the different structures that will appear in the piece. Shape and gesture are very important as well as rhythm.

ACO: You write that Artesania Sonora is inspired in part by gold artisanal work from the indigenous cultures of South America, particularly the Colombian territory where you come from, where “form and content are earned and not exposed from the outset.” Can you talk about the ways in which this idea is presented in your piece? Are there any other influences from Colombia or South America in the piece?

FN: Lately I have been very interested in composing pieces that borrow the approach that indigenous people’s from Colombia used to carve their gold figures. Their artisanal craft is so remarkable, expressive and mystical all at the same time. I take a look at what they do and try to apply this to the music and, most importantly, to the score. The result, is music that has the qualities of the figures: imperfect symmetries, repeated patterns, continuity (since these figures are not assembled but are made in one piece), angular shapes and so on…

In regards to the idea of “form and content being earned”, this came about because of the unavoidable issue of music happening over time. The artisanal figure is, for us, a finished product; but in music I had to come up with a way to get there. So, I decided that the orchestra was going to carve the piece in real time in front of the audience. In this piece the music starts with a very open texture that we slowly start to break into different shapes and forms until the work achieves a complex layered structure.

ACO: What aspects of Artesania Sonora do you hope to improve or fine tune during the readings?

FN: I think the readings will help solve many of the technical difficulties of my proposal and will also help reveal wether or not I am close to achieve my ideal. I am really looking forward to hear the orchestra execute the work and see if it is translating well.

The EarShot Charlotte Symphony Readings culminate in a final read-through which is free and open to the public — Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 10am. Details here.

Learn more about Felipe at www.facebook.com/FelipeNScomposer

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