Underwood New Music Readings – Composer Spotlight: Tomàs Peire Serrate

Tomàs Peire Serrate was born in Barcelona. He studied piano at the Sant Cugat del Vallès conservatory, where he grew up, and history at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. After few years performing and teaching he decided to focus on composition, first studying at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (Barcelona) with Salvador Brotons, and in 2009 at the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki (Finland) with Tapio Tuomela and Risto Väisänen. In 2011 he moved to New York with the La Caixa Fellowship to pursue a Master’s in Scoring for Film and Multimedia at the New York University, where he graduated in 2013 obtaining the Elmer Bernstein Award. That year he moved to Los Angeles to explore the film music industry and participate as a composer in different projects including writing the music for the films The Anushree Experiments and Prism, and orchestrating and arranging music for If I Stay, Minions, and Love and Friendship.

In the fall of 2015, Tomàs initiated his PhD studies at UCLA, where he is having the privilege to study with Bruce Broughton, Richard Danielpour, Ian Krouse, Mark Carlson, Peter Golub and David S. Lefkowitz. His research at UCLA is about music, space and media, with particular interest in new technologies and virtual reality. His concert works have been performed in Europe, US and Asia, and is currently working on a short opera-monologue that will be premiered at the Off-Liceu series in Barcelona next June 2018.

Tomàs’ piece Rauxa was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it was workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Tomàs received the $15k Audience Choice Commission to write a new piece for ACO to be performed during a future season. He spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Composer Tomàs Peire Serrate

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings? 
Tomàs Peire Serrate: I was very happy, of course! I knew it was a demanding selection process because of the amount of composers applying. The thought of having the opportunity to work with an orchestra such as the ACO, and getting feedback from both the performers and the mentors of the program was already extraordinary. 
ACO: Your write that your selected piece explores the duality of two Catalan words: Rauxa, meaning “a sudden determination,” and Seny, meaning “balance and sensibleness,” which together are used to describe the Catalan people and their character. Can you talk the musical elements you used to represent both Rauxa and Seny in your piece? Did your native Barcelona influenced your piece in any other ways?
TPS: The piece begins in a very passionate mood, with a lot of intensity and motion. But this doesn’t last long as the music evolves and delves into this intensity by exploring it more carefully, from different perspectives, reaching unexpected places. I like to think as Rauxa and Seny as intrinsic to each other. In a way, I perceive the relation between these two concepts as similar to what happens in the creative process of an artist, in which there’s a component of inspiration but also a lot of reflection, study and hands-on work. This process sometimes can culminate in something quite different from the initial idea or sketch, and I find this quite appealing. 
I have been living far from Barcelona since 2009. I miss my family and friends every day, but I visit as much as I can. Nowadays it’s easy to be in touch with people, as well as being connected to what is going on there. That’s and advantage but sometimes it can be complicated. The political situation has been very unsettling in these last few years and I find it very difficult to avoid being constantly updated. It can become quite an obsession and difficult to deal with when trying to compose. More than explicitly referring to anything in particular, or using any Catalan music reference, I believe that this feeling can be somehow present in my music.
ACO: You are currently working on a PhD at UCLA with a particular interest in new technologies and virtual reality. Can you talk the ways you’ve seen new technologies and virtual reality already influencing the music world? In your opinion are the effects always positive, or can there be negative effects as well?
TPS: New technologies are making composers and musicians’ life easier in many ways, but they also require a whole new set of skills and knowledge that take time and willpower to acquire. What interests me the most about virtual reality is the potential of exploring music in different ways than we are used to, although I must admit that I am still in the process of researching how those ways will influence music. This means to perceive music from the audience or participant’s perspective; but also to create it as composers, using these new tools and platforms that are already available. 
ACO: What did you do to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you made to your piece before or during the readings?
TPS: Of course, I went back to the score I submitted month ago and I reviewed it very carefully. Every time I look again to a piece of mine I find small things to modify or details to add trying to improve it. This time was no exception. Besides that, I tried to minimize any possible mistakes in the parts or confusions with indications and tempi, and added a few expression marks in order to help and ease the performance. 
ACO: What was the most valuable experience, advice, or lesson you gained from the Underwood New Music Readings?
TPS: I couldn’t dare to mention only one thing because everything turned out to be a very positive experience where I learned a lot. If anything, perhaps the fact that even thought the reading went very well, and that mentors and musicians liked the piece, it’s always possible to find things to improve. That’s not new, but it’s really something to keep in mind in every work in order to be demanding and critical with it.

Learn more about Tomàs at www.tomaspeire.com

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