Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection

Javier Alvarez, Así el Acero, 1988

Recording time: 9 min 09 s.
Instruments: Tenor steel pan and electroacoustic sounds
Remarks: Simon Limbrick, tenor steel pan.

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

About this composition:

In Así el Acero I have attempted to marry two very distinct sound worlds: that of the steel pan, usually associated with Caribbean music, and that of electroacoustic music, usually associated with technology, computers and synthesizers. In order to find common ground for the two, I did research into the music which the steel pan normally inhabits, a music of a very "clangorous" nature, of highly rhythmic and repetitive strands. From this I took the idea of using short rhythmic cells to accommodate sticking patterns idiomatic to the instrument. With regards to the electroacoustics, I intended for these sounds to work as extensions to the live instrument, acting as a sort of meta steel pan which could play the double role of accompanying the player, and of articulating the rhythmic structure by providing strong accentuations - giving a the piece its rhythmic "kick". Many of the sounds on tape come from recordings of the pan itself, but were sampled and processed, some others are synthetic sounds coming from an FM synthesiser and from a big old Vax computer using the Chant environment which was programmed by my friend Ian Dearden.

Rhythmically, the piece explores the use of the medieval talea and colore. In plain language this means that short rhythmic patterns are combined with sound patterns of non equivalent durations. Therefore, the sticking patterns the performer plays are often shifted in respect of the underlying pulse, and are subsequently syncopated, juxtaposed or superimposed to the electroacoustic part. This organizing principle was applied to the generation of Midi files, the generation of pulses, the sticking patterns, the relation between the parts, etc. The patterns transform continuously, giving the piece a "toccata-like" character which is unlike Caribbean music, but very much like my own interpretation of it. The player is asked to learn the music by heart so he/she really listens and plays with the computer. The score is only intended a guide to learning the part, and is usually not used in performance.

The piece was written for Simon Limbrick who commissioned it with funds provided by the Henricshen Foundation in London and was first performed at the London 1988 International Percussion Festival.

Acerca de la obra:

Así el Acero (1987), tenor steel pan y sonidos electroacousticos

En Así el Acero traté de emparentar a dos muy diferentes mundos sonoros: el del steel drum asociado a la música del Caribe con el de la música electroacústica, usulamente asociada con tecnología, computadoras y sintetizadores. Pero para llegar a un común denominador para los dos, partí de la idea de hacer una pieza que sonara metálica y "clangorosa", que utilizara cortos patrones rítmicos pero donde el solista pudiera apoyarse en los sonidos electroacústicos para extender la resonancia de su instrumento. Estos sonidos de la cinta - pregrabados unos, sintéticos otros - actúan como una especie de steel drum "gigante" que ayuda al solista a articular el ritmo e impulsar la pieza a un constante ir y venir. En su textura, podría yo también describir a esta pieza como un rompecabezas de sonidos metálicos que poco a poco se arman en fragmentos melódicos reconocibles. A mi oír, este aspecto le da a la pieza un carácter de tocatta lo cual, debo de admitir, no suena demasiado a música caribeña pero sí como una música imaginaria y de mi propia invención.

Así el Acero fue escrita para el percusionista Simon Limbrick por encargo de la Fundación Hinrichsen y fue estrenada en el Festival Internacional de Percusión de Londres en Abril 1988.