Press review


A new sound for the chamber and orchestral music in XXI century

Reflections on Mixing up by José Luis Campana


Marc Battier – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana and on Etorkiz eta izatez by Isabel Urrutia

The works composed by José Luis Campana and Isabel Urrutia are part of a movement, nourished by instruments from diverse cultures, often permeating music in this new century. Numerous examples can be found among Eastern Asian creators. In China, Japan, and Korea, the blending of contemporary Western forms – instrumental as well as electroacoustic – with traditional instruments takes place more and more frequently. It is often a question of composers seeking out their roots in their own traditions, so different from those imported from the West.

But here, this is not the case. The quest for exploration of timbre, an approach that has accompanied music since the beginning of the twentieth century, leads over a still little-travelled path. As a guiding light, it draws on the concept of timbre maps, such as those in research explored in the
1970s by John Grey in the United States, and pursued by David Wessel at IRCAM. That work is further illuminated by new categories allowing a better understanding of the dimensions of timbre, providing composers a vocabulary and new concepts, as researcher and composer Jean-Claude Risset has so clearly demonstrated. Navigating with a map of timbres is creating a palette of sounds that enrich instruments played live – it can lead to halos, masses, and textures, or all sorts of often- dense alloys that shift perception to unknown soundscapes. It is also a triumph for late twentieth century researchers that today's composers are extending that research by way of new musical creation.

What stands out in scores such as José Luis Campana's Mixing-up as well as in Isabel Urrutia's Etorkiz eta izatez [By origin and by nature] is orchestration that escapes all models. The composers assemble an unimaginable variety of instruments from very different cultures,
weaving their sounds into those of the western orchestra. Listeners recognise an accordion here, a chamber ensemble there, but from these familiar instruments emerge textures that are in themselves new and unique. But this is not through resorting to electroacoustic processing techniques, which as we know profoundly transform timbre and sound form through studio technique, but rather through subtly blending instrumental sound sources. Thus creating sound matter that is at the same time
akin to expectations of what concert music can offer, as well as creating wonder in the presence of these never-before-heard sound fabrics.

Marc Battier-Musicologist, researcher at IRCAM, and professor emeritus at the Sorbonne-Paris


Ivanka Stoianova – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana

José Luis Campana’s ‘Mixing up’ (2017), for live wind sextet (oboe, clarinet, trumpet, horn, bassoon, and trombone) and recorded ensemble of 29 instruments from different folk music traditions around the world, is the continuation of his vast collection of works for different instrumental, voice- instrumental, electronic, and mixed formations, as well as lots of research work in the electronic music studio. It initiates a new phase in his work as a composer.

‘Mixing up’ responds to the need for radical renewal in sound matter. To put an end to the historically charged sounds and compositional techniques for acoustical orchestral instruments. To put an end to the particular tones and techniques of folk music that inevitably introduce an exotic effect in the context of western music. To put an end to recent techniques and technologies rapidly turned academic and repetitive – like the 60s pieces for flute which all became ‘Gazzelloni pieces’, bearing the name of the exceptional flautist who had premiered them, often accompanied by real-time sound treatment, all of the same fabric since they were generated using the same software. ‘Mixing up’ reflects the desire to invent a new sound universe – uncharted, unprecedented, fresh – while drawing on the wealth of popular traditions (the instruments with their distinctive timbres) as well as the classical tradition. Not one timbre has been modified or tampered with by the computer sound transformation programs. The extension higher and lower of the tessitura of certain popular instruments, as well as the halos of rich timbral resonance, contribute to creating the impression of distant spaces, dreamlike dimensions, and infinitude. The composer’s intention is not in contrasting alterities, as it has always been in the past, nor the appreciation of individual timbres, but in their interaction and fusion creating something different. Schoenberg had shown the way with his piece Farben [Colours] from Six Pieces for Orchestra (opus 16 – 1908), which became the very definition of his Klangfarbenmelodie, melody of timbres. But it is often forgotten that the concept of Klangfarbenmelodie integrates not only instrumental timbre, but also pitch and dynamics, as well as fundamental principles of western composition: harmony and polyphony. The new sound matter invented by Campana is also, like all artistic discovery, a strong synthesis: the characteristics of timbre of folk and classical instruments absorbing the compositional techniques of recent music to the benefit of a new musical universe, liberated from the shackles of technical and technological traditions, stereotypes, and automatisms, and open to today’s compositional imagination.

After Stravinsky, de Falla, Bartok, Berio, Ravi Shankar, and Menuhin..., it seemed there was no longer any place for continued research into the field of folklore. The experience of Campana masterfully proves the opposite. Bolstered by the advances of spectral music and recent technology, he discovers in the timbres of folk instruments a new unexplored realm for the invention of infinite sound material, constantly reinvented.

Klangfarbenmelodie, the term was too limited with respect to Schoenberg’s compositional discovery in Farben. The forceful ambition of the composer J L Campana is to create a unique mix of not only folk and classical instrumental timbres, but to also execute a convincing mix of these timbres with compositional techniques and the formal thinking of this early 21st century.

Ivanka Stoïanova – PhD in Musicology and Doctor Honoris Causa


Pascal Contet – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana and on Etorkiz eta izatez [By origin and by nature] by Isabel Urrutia

Bravo to both of you… it’s exalting, amazing, curious yet self-evident to grasp, modern, innovative, and nevertheless deeply rooted in past centuries.
It makes us journey, we allow ourselves to be carried away on a beneficial cloud. Each passing second creates curious and avid anticipation of the next.

Pascal Contet – Accordionist and Composer


Claude Delangle – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana

...wonderful work, exciting research!
These sound syntheses bring previously unheard combinations to our ears!

Claude Delangle – Saxophonist, Professor at the Paris National Conservatory of Music

Walter Boudreau – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana
I listened intently to the recording of Mixing Up.

Not only does this ‘acoustic’ approach (yielding ‘electroacoustic’ results) produce unexpected music and reveal unsuspected colours of timbre, but it is executed entirely without resorting to the often ‘heavy-handed’ technology that tends to become obsolete as soon as it becomes available!

I fully intend to bring your Mixing Up to the top of the list of planned projects for the 2019 Montreal
New Music festival, whose theme will be ‘Open Spaces…’

Walter Boudreau – Composer and Artistic Director of the Quebec Society for Contemporary Music (SMCQ) and of the international Montreal New Music Festival


Michèle Tosi – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana

The Mixing up project is singular and its realisation is never before heard! It is an adventure José Luis Campana has embarked upon, bringing together 29 traditional instruments from all across the world and from every epoch – among the most fabulous let’s mention the launeddas, didgeridoo, shô, aulos, gaita, veena, or the trompa de caracola – and uniting them with a “live” wind sextet.

The key, the real challenge, is in linking together these two lutheries, making them cohabit and even interact – on one side, classical orchestral winds, performing amplified on stage, on the other, instruments offering a palette of sounds and an infinite variety of timbres for Campana, the lover of sounds.

The first phase consisted in compiling sound matter from these 29 world instruments. Campana extracted them from multiple sound banks, digitalising to obtain samples as numerous as they are pliable. They are used to develop the ‘audio part’, i.e., the ‘audio support’ projected through loudspeakers intended for this purpose.

In listening we can detect the overall form in three parts leaving a brief silence between them, movements two and three as well as after the fourth. At 5:10, indeed (end of movement two) the density increases to saturate space, like a full-out meta-instrument where two sound sources interpenetrate and merge together.

A subtle hybridisation of sounds, in the form of fluid wefts relayed by tiling, constitutes the sound matter of the 3rd movement, just before the extraordinary theatre of sounds established in the 4th movement (traditional instruments are the story in the beginning) renews the instrumental composition and gestures, while preserving some surprises.

After the dazzling 5th movement, the final section bores into the sound space, stretching the registers and letting loose with a veritable polyphony of finely sculpted lines where oboe, clarinet, shakuhachi,
and bagpipe imitate one another... in reverberating space engraved with the patterns of the distinctive
trompa de caracole, the conch shell trumpet.

A rare detail concerning the ‘audio support’, it is entirely represented – in traditional notation of registers and pitches – directly in the score performed by the “live” musicians.

Michèle Tosi – Musicologist


Jean Geoffroy – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana and on Etorkiz eta izatez [By origin and by nature] by Isabel Urrutia

Sound as matter is a well-known concept today, through which numerous composers work exploring live electronic transformations, new performance techniques, meta-instruments, and developments of all kinds.

José-Luis Campana and Isabel Urrutia’s approach is different, exploring sound that has forever accompanied humanity, whether through popular musical traditions or the timbres associated with them, like as many signatures sealed across the ages.

This is the ambition of this new research: recreating a new dimension, a new sound space. This approach creates an inspired new sound space. It sounds really good!

I intend to make recordings by instrumental family, Chinese bowls, wood, metal, etc., study their resonance using the computer, create new techniques for ‘playing’ them, and then rework them, in order to enrich the ‘sound bank’ of our ‘sound palette’ for application to musical composition with instruments from popular traditions.

Jean Geoffroy, Percussionist, Professor at the Paris and Lyon National Conservatories of Music


Bertrand Dubedout – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana

I’m astonished by the amount of work you have amassed in this piece.

I’m quite receptive to the sheer richness of textures shaping a truly new landscape.

I am also quite receptive to the harmonic richness, the work on the wakes and trails left behind by each new texture.
It is also an authentic piece for orchestra, with only six live instruments, which is also an extremely rich trail opened up for composers, at a time when orchestras perform – under the guise of ‘contemporary’ – nothing but neoclassicism. Even in terms of music economics, I believe the idea has a promising future.

Bertrand Dubedout – Composer, Professor at the Conservatoire de Toulouse, and Co-Director of éOle


Marie Ythier – on Mixing up by José Luis Campana

Bravo, what a success!

I love the matter and the depth, the murmuring bass, the more contrapuntal motives developing in the second half of the piece with garlands of sound somewhat resembling the cymbalom or plucked strings.

Marie Ythier – Cellist


François Bayle - Composer and ancient director of INA-GRM

on Mixing up by José Luis Campana and on Etorkiz eta izatez by Isabel Urrutia

Thank you very much for this beautiful production of WTM («World Timbres Mixture»).

I was delighted with EVERYTHING, both with your orchestral "Mixing up" and with the work
I discovered from Isabel Urrutia: "Etorkiz eta izatez", very successful.

New sounds and concrete ideas and reciprocally! New ideas that emerge from a renewed, displaced, globalized hearing ...

A very cordial greeting to each of you, carry on this beautiful route.