Martín Letelier | “Music does not live only in the traditional concert hall”

Martín Letelier Eltit started studying composition at the age of 18 in the Universidad de Chile, and two years ago he moved to Cologne, Germany to perform a Master’s degree in Instrumental Composition, with the professor Markus Hechtle at Cologne University of Music, Germany (HfMT Köln). His stay at Europe has shown to him that the composition world can be wider than how is live in Chile and he has worked with important ensamble sand directors.

Given that, at a general level in Chilean society, little is known about composers of contemporary music, at Arte Al Límite we have decided to open this space for the dissemination of this profession that requires deep, constant and intense studies. On this occasion, the Chilean composer explains how the experience of studying abroad has been, the work done with the Ensemble Musikfabrik and the results of the premiere of the first movement of the play “Ya no van a haber robots”, based on the poetry by Florencia Edwards, which was made in a collaboration between the HfMT Köln and the Ensamble Musikfabrik, within the framework of “Adventure“, two days of concerts that took place between 27 and 28 June.

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How has the experience of studying composition in Germany been?

It has been a necessary experience. Taking the artistic product out of the Chilean context and exposing it here, makes the response of the environment totally different, generating other types of dialogues that have strongly impacted the ideas that used to have about contemporary music and its scope.

In addition, it has been interesting to observe the variety of spaces that exist to exercise the composition. In Germany, music does not live only in the traditional concert hall, there is also a strong platform activity, such as the Musiktheater, Performance, Pocket Operas, among others, which have the same importance as the conventional string quartet concerts. orchestras. In this sense, the concept of composer is broad and versatile, and you can learn a lot from it.

“The work process was the best one could expect as a composer”

What difficulties, aside from the language, have you experienced?

The biggest difficulty has been getting used to the rhythm of work involved in working as a composer here in Cologne, while maintaining active professional contact with Chile.

For example, before this premiere with Musikfabrik, the premiere in Chile of my work El Eremita Licencioso and quartet of clarinets, commissioned by the bassoonist Gonzalo Contreras, took place in March. And just a couple of months before this, it was the premiere – in Cologne – of my choral work 0 / P Prometheus, written for the Studienstiftungschor Köln. So it goes on and on, the next assignment I have to give is for mid-August, which consists of a new choral work commissioned by Chorakademie Dortmund and will be published as part of the commemoration of Beethoven’s birth in 2020. The dialogue Between both countries, time differences and constant work while studying have been somewhat complex.


How was to compose Ensemble Musikfabrik like?

The work process was the best that one could expect as a composer. In the first place, I was allowed to invite the singer María Portela, an excellent Portuguese soprano who is forming in Cologne with Christoph Prégardien. I wanted her to sing, because in addition to having a privileged voice, she can sing in Spanish perfectly. I also had the possibility of choosing the instruments that I needed for the work, within the performers’ list of the Ensemble Musikfabrik, made up of contemporary music specialists. With them I kept in touch during the creative process, which partly guided the result.

The interesting thing is that, having plenty of time for rehearsal, I was able to risk and try sound ideas that, with suggestions from the musicians themselves and their in-depth knowledge of the extended techniques, we could try in different ways before defining a solution. This allowed to continue touching up the work during the rehearsals, something like a workshop, with which I learned a lot. Having abundant rehearsal time is an unusual privilege. In other contexts, such as symphonic music, the time of rehearsal is extremely limited and it is better not to take risks, which tends to be between trying new ideas and staying in a safe orchestral writing framework.

How was the crowd reception?

At first I was afraid that, being the work in Spanish, it might not be interesting. However, and to my surprise, I received positive feedback from both the public and the musicians themselves. Especially Elías (the director) and María (the singer), who were delighted with the idea of ​​continuing to compose other sections of the poems.

“The composition premiered last Thursday, 8 minutes long, would be only the first of several movements that I would like to compose based on this text”

In which way the idea of work with the book by Florencia Edwards came up?

I had read some poems and stories by Florencia Edwards, and I was always attracted by the apparent normality in which her stories unfold, surrounded by disturbing objects and scenarios, in an atmosphere that can range from the childish to the sinister breaking with every moral paradigm. That is why, in my search for a text, I thought of Florence and asked her to send me more of her writings. That’s how it came to my hands “Ya no van a haber robots”.

What things of the book attracted you to create this composition?

I immediately knew that I wanted to work with that text. Especially because it is a collection of poems that tells a story from beginning to end, and are not isolated poems. This gives a potential to generate a work of greater magnitude. In fact, the composition released last Thursday, 8 minutes long, would be just the first of several movements I would like to compose based on this text.

In addition, the book has a fantastic universe so authentic and suggestive that it induces me to expand my own limits in the conception of musical ideas.

Portada libro "Ya no van a haber robots" de Florencia Edwards
Book cover “Ya no van a haber robots” by Florencia Edwards

In which way do you reflect the confusion and horror feelings that in the story “Ya no van a haber robots” exist?

The music enhances the tension existing in the text, through an accelerated pulse and moments of great sound volume, with musical motifs that are repeated quickly. However, there are times when I wanted to reflect this tension in a more latent than explicit way, so there are also slow and quite lyrical sections, which provide more subtle nuances but maintaining a general sense of uneasiness. It is in this type of situations that the musical work is especially interesting, being able to present different emotional layers simultaneously or highlight aspects of the text that are not so evident on the surface.

Directors, did they managed as you expected?

The director Elías Peter Brown, a young director who currently resides in London and was specially invited for this project in Cologne. I have rarely worked with someone of such sensitive and fine musical intelligence. He had an instant clarity of the work, and that made from the first trial knew how to balance the assembly in the best way, enhancing the work to a level beyond imaginable. The address could not have been better.

The piece “Ya no van a haber Robots” was composed in 2019 with a homonymous text by Florencia Edwards (1987, Chile). 
Instrumentation: Soprano and 7 instruments (Alto flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, piano, percussion, violin and double bass). 
Length: 8 Minutes. 
Premiere date: June 27, 2019.
Premiere place: Konzertsaal HfMT Köln. Cologne, Germany



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