Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection

Javier Alvarez, Papalotl, 1987

Recording time: 13 min 14 s.
Instruments: For piano and electroacoustic sounds
Remarks: Philip Mead, piano.

Other resources available:
- About Javier Alvarez
- Compositions by Javier Alvarez

About this composition:

Papalotl is concerned with rhythm, but rhythm understood as a force of motion, as in dance - the world from which it takes its spirit.

The work is constructed by means of nearly 200 rhythmic patterns which are combined to produce the larger phrases and sections. The determining process however, is a constant rhythmic modulation throughout its duration which results in a continuous shift of accents and musical punctuation. The percussive piano part contributes to the process but is juxtaposed against the tape. The pianist is thus required to synchronize exactly with the tape in order to create the toccata-like polyrhythmic “feel” that characterizes the piece.

The sounds on tape mostly come from inside of the piano, but were processed on a Fairlight computer to create an imaginary “gigantic piano” sonority with which the live instrument interacts. Whilst the tape takes care of the fundamentals, the piano itself touches upon the higher partials of the spectrum.

The work was composed at the Electroacoustic music Studios at the City University in London and was first performed by Philip Mead at the South Bank Electric Weekend in 1987. The work has won the 1987 CIME Prize (International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music) in France as well as the First Mention at the Prix Ars Electronika in Austria in 1988. More recently it has been awarded the “Euphonie d’Or “ at the 1992 Bourges International Festival.