The conceptualization of “Las Flores del Encino” was a mix of artistic experimentation and my personal life. I was going through some hard times after a break-up and my mother recited “Si por haber estado enamorado” by Argentinian poet Francisco Ruiz Bernárdez to me. The impact was such that I still know the poem by heart and I wanted pay tribute to Bernárdez’s words.
The aesthetic choices, both in terms of harmonics and in terms of the score, came from artistic experimentation motivated by Dimitris Andrikopolous (my teacher and coach at the time). I had a limited amount of time to write the piece and I needed something simple but effective. Instead of imposing a rhythm and melody extracted by the words in the poetry, which would be the usual thing to do, I divided the poem into eight fragments and then came up with eight chords. Each chord would belong to one of the eight fragments of the poem, and the players, including the singers, would be free to choose which note of the chord to play and how to play it in each event. The conductor would freely choose when to move from event one to event two and so forth. Because there was no melody to the piece, it was important to look for something that would make the chords in each section more interesting in terms of “timbre color.” My teacher suggested that I experiment with harmonics, which produce very light, pure sounds. I followed his recommendation and included that element in the piece.
To drive the piece forward to a climax, I used dynamics and created a very basic arch that builds on a continuous crescendo to an apex and then slowly goes down to a resolution. Rather than trying to control all aspects of the piece, I provided the musicians with the necessary elements and allowed the piece to develop organically in performance.
As I reflect on it now, the piece was about letting go more than anything else. I had to let go of rhythm, harmony and melody, which are elements that I usually employ to impose my ideas into the music, and relinquish control over aspects of the piece. The piece became a lesson on how love should be treated: we can’t control its development or impose ourselves on it but must allow it to develop organically as well.
A recording of “Las Flores del Encino:”
“Las Flores del Encino” is the third piece of three-piece set titled “Three Miniatures of Love” or “Tres miniaturas de amor” in Spanish. The other two pieces will be recorded next year.
Cristóbal Martínez Yanes is a junior at NYU Abu Dhabi.
[Photos: Top: performing “Las Flores del Encino”; bottom: Cristobal and Dimitris Andrikopolous.]