Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny

AVANT #5. Josep Maria Mestres Quadrenyr

Part I.
Interviews with José Manuel Berenguer and Joan Saura. (In Spanish)

Part II.
Music selection

The first instalment of the monographic dedicated to Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny is an interview that looks back over his whole career, with the testimony of Oriol Pérez and Carles Santos.

If you had to name one Spanish composer who embodies the ideals of rupture, modernity and the avant-garde that shook the foundations of Western music in the 20th century, Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny would probably be your best candidate. His unusually multifaceted output perfectly integrates the different currents of thought and the most advanced methodologies in the field of composition over the last few decades, resulting in a body of work that is highly varied, extraordinarily cohesive and honest. His innovative spirit has led him to work in a wide range of formats (vocal, orchestral, electroacoustic, chamber and theatre music), to alternate and mix traditional instruments with new electronic media and to transcend genres (poetry, theatre, opera, visual arts), along with other key names in Catalan, Spanish, European and Universal culture – Brossa, Tàpies, Miró, Prats, Villèlia. And above all, to approach sound from a perspective that is more commonly associated with a research lab than with old-style composers like Homs, Morera, Gerhard, Montsalvatge, Guinjoan and many more of his predecessors and contemporaries.

From his promising first work, the Weberian "Sonata per a Piano" (1957), Mestres Quadreny made it clear that his life's aim was to unconditionally regenerate the dominant musical language. Mestre's work soon hinted at his clear intention to radically break with everything – including the twelve-tone system and serialism, true symbols of new music in the mid 20th Century - in order to start practically from zero, following only his own aesthetic and technical ideas. Over fifty years later, it's hard not to acknowledge the resounding success of this "clean slate" that he cleverly filled with concepts from fields as diverse as mathematics, probability, programming and abstract art, while always maintaining the unmistakable mark of a sound that has been difficult for audiences and the music establishment to digest over the years. Even today.

Born in Manresa in 1929, Mestres Quadreny's personality and energy were key to bringing in the necessary rays of light at a time of total political and social darkness - not just through his compositional activity, but also as a catalyst and motivator in a cultural context that was a wasteland. His crucial involvement in important organisations and institutions such as the Fundació Joan Miró, the Centre for Catalan Studies at the University of Paris, the Auditori and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra consortiums, the Conjunt Catalá de Música Contemporània and the Phonos Foundation, are a perfect example of his tireless work towards spreading and regenerating culture. At all levels.enguer was drawn to electronic media by a pure need to express a complex and disturbing musical discourse that would allow him to pose questions from the perspective of composer and listener. Having forged a career between Barcelona and Bourges in France, he is now one of Spain’s leading electroacoustic musicians – a key figure in the Spanish new music scene who continues to be interested in blurring the divisions between installations, acoustic experience and robotics. The first instalment of the monographic dedicated to Berenguer is an interview that looks back over his whole career.

Several decades separate the classical guitar that José Manuel Berenguer almost chanced upon in the backroom of his mothers chemists' and his recent installation "Lucy", based on the bioluminescent behaviour of glow worms in Kuala Selangor. But both bear symbolic witness to a career guided by an analytical, critical spirit, which has led Berenguer - a doctor and an expert in neurophysiology, psychoacoustics and electronic circuits, but, above all, a musician – to approach different disciplines and aspects of arts practice and gradually develop a discourse based on the unexpected and the exploration of the limits of sound experience.

Fascinated by the creative possibilities of programming and just as much by natural phenomena like wind, light and waterfalls, Berenguer has been able to draw on a large range of different kinds of work, from acousmatic pieces and audiovisual performances to music for theatre, soundtracks, multimedia installations, robots and sculptures, allowing him to pose questions to audiences and to himself.

Berenguer had an ongoing relationship with the French city of Bourges, where he imparted classes and worked as a composer at the prestigious Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique for many years, but at the same time he has been a key figure in the history of music experimentation in Spain. His political consciousness and commitment led him to initiate numerous projects that aimed to promote networks of grassroots organisations and create a regulated infrastructure for the Country's electroacoustic community. Extensive teaching experience in various fields of multi media arts, sound and perception round off a curriculum that confirms the co-director of the Orquesta del Caos as one of the most multifaceted personalities in the last twenty years of Spanish sound art.

Produced and edited by Roc Jiménez de Cisneros for Radio Web MACBA
From AVANT: Music of The Spanish Avant-Garde

Presented in collaboration with Radio Web MACBA

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