Wilfrido Terrazas: The Torres Cycle
The Mexican artist releases his latest album of experimental music.
On September 12, we will host this concert in person, and tickets are free.
Online ticket reservations are closed for this event but walk-ins are welcome with proof of vaccination and a mask.
Video of this concert will be released at a later date. Remember to follow us to watch this and other exciting performances. All guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination and wear masks.
Roundtable discussion with Wilfrido Terrazas, Álvaro Díaz Rodríguez, and Madison Greenstone, moderated by Sebastian Zubieta.
- Tótem II, Miro hacia el cielo for piccolos
Teresa Díaz de Cossío, Alexander Ishov, Wilfrido Terrazas, piccolos
- Torre del Sur for strings
Ilana Waniuk, violin, Stephanie Griffin, viola, Rocío Díaz de Cossío, cello
- Torre del Oeste for woodwinds
Wilfrido Terrazas, flute, Madison Greenstone, clarinet
Wilfrido Terrazas is a flutist, improviser, composer, and educator whose work explores the borderlands between improvisation, musical notation, and collective creation. He has performed over 380 world premieres, composed about 70 works, and recorded more than 40 albums, eight of them as a soloist or ensemble leader. His recordings have been published in Mexico, the United States, and Europe, on labels including Abolipop, Another Timbre, Bridge, Cero, Creative Sources, New Focus, New World, Umor, and Wide Hive. Terrazas has presented his work in Europe and the Americas. He has been a guest performer at international festivals such as Creative Fest (Lisbon), ¡Escucha! (Madrid), Festival Cervantino (Guanajuato), High Zero (Baltimore), MATA (New York), NUNC! (Chicago), and TENOR (Hamburg), and at venues and series for experimental music including Auditorio Nacional (Madrid), Bowerbird (Philadelphia), Teatro Nacional Cervantes (Buenos Aires), CCRMA (Stanford University), Splendor (Amsterdam), Flagey (Brussels), Littlefield Hall (Mills College), Unerhörte Musik (Berlin), St. Ruprechtskirche (Vienna), The Wulf and REDCAT (Los Angeles), Soup & Sound and The Stone/New School (New York). He has also carried out residencies at Omi International Arts Center (New York), Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida) and Ionion Center for the Arts and Culture (Greece).
Terrazas is a member of two Mexico City-based ensembles: the improvisers’ collective Generación Espontánea, widely acknowledged as one of the pioneering groups for freely improvised music in Latin America, and Liminar, one of Mexico’s leading new music groups. Since 2014, Terrazas co-curates the Semana Internacional de Improvisación, an improvised music festival in Ensenada, his hometown. Other current projects include Filera, a trio with vocalist Carmina Escobar and cellist Natalia Pérez Turner, and the Wilfrido Terrazas Sea Quintet, an Ensenada-based creative music group. Recent collaborations include projects with Amy Cimini, Angélica Castelló, Michael Dessen, Lisa Mezzacappa, Roscoe Mitchell, Abdul Moimême, artist G.T. Pellizzi, and poets Ricardo Cázares, Nuria Manzur, and Ronnie Yates. Additionally, his compositions have been performed by José Manuel Alcántara, Anagram Trio, Aldo Aranda, Daniel Bruno, Ensamble Süden, Ghost Ensemble, in^set, International Contemporary Ensemble, Omar López, Low Frequency Trio, Kathryn Schulmeister, Alexandria Smith, Albane Tamagna, and wasteLAnd, among many others. Wilfrido has also published more than 30 texts about music, among them four book chapters. Some of his writings have been published by Pendragon, Routledge, and Suono Mobile. He has been an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego since 2017.
The Torres Cycle
Composer Wilfrido Terrazas presents a seven part, album-length work, The Torres Cycle, which explores ritual, indigenous tradition from his native Mexico, alternative notation, structured improvisation, spatialized live performance techniques, and an evocative instrumentation layout to explore questions of social connection and the mysterious relationship between tradition, history, and the present. A virtuoso flutist, Terrazas presents a musical language in which the power of expression frames the palette of techniques, creating a fresh and urgent soundworld.
Structured around four movements invoking the four cardinal directions and three interstitial "totems" for smaller forces, Terrazas draws on Mesoamerican conceptual traditions to examine the relationship between the absolute quality of direction and the relative nature of perception. Through a score that relies heavily on improvised elements and spatialized performance instructions, Terrazas delivers a powerful message, that our understanding of a place, idea, or event is framed by where we stand in relation to it.
Terrazas took advantage of timbral diversity, highlighting different instrumental groups through the various movements. The cycle begins with "Torre del Norte," performed by a brass sextet with electronics. Opening with a series of unison pitches that are subtly bent and timbrally modulated, Terrazas invites the listener immediately into a world of communion. As "Torre del Norte" evolves, the texture becomes disjunct and parts individuated, a hive of percolating energy.
The first totem in the collection, "Tótem I, Camino sobre la tierra," features oboe and percussion. The oboe glides fluidly between pitches with glissandi, bends, and grainy multiphonics while the percussion primarily plays light bell sounds. It is patient, searching music, until the texture shifts briefly to agitated, rhythmically fragmented material.
Three percussionists perform "Torre del Este," an atmospheric movement highlighting wood blocks, chimes, and cymbals. Energetic gestures swirl through the trio, building on each other towards a dense midpoint before receding to the sparse texture of the opening.
"Tótem II, Miro hacia el cielo" is for four piccolos, including Terrazas, and evolves similarly to "Torre del Norte," opening with subtle microtonal discrepancies between sustained pitches. Terrazas creates musical scenarios that increase tension through stretching and pulling at central pitches. Fluttering lines suggest agitated bird song as the music moves into more active material. A gentle, disjunct chorale follows, independent voices circling each other to produce a pulsing sound mass.
"Torre del Sur" is for string quartet plus double bass, and is built on a fragile scaffold of high pitched cries and whispers. Malleable, expressive lines establish a contrasting layer of activity in the middle register and propel intensification. One gets the sense we are hearing universal sentiments expressed in an extinct language, or one not yet cultivated. The movement charts two large arcs, with a second climax exploding into furious collective improvisation.
"Tótem III, Estoy en el centro" pairs trumpet and contrabass in an energetic duo dialogue. The movement inverts the trajectory of many of the others in the cycle, opening with active and dense material and gradually moving towards a sparser texture before becoming more active again. The alternation between different trumpet mutes and between arco and pizzicato on the bass create the illusion that there is a quartet inside the duo.
The cycle’s final movement, "Torre del Oeste," features a wind quartet with Terrazas on flute, leading the movement with a rhapsodic solo that embeds short melodic fragments inside spiraling, sinewy connective material. As the other three winds enter, the composite texture takes on an undulating quality. The movement provides a cathartic close to a work which achieves cohesion from the patient unfolding of its component parts. If Terrazas’ message is that our perspective on ideas is shaped by where we stand, The Torres Cycle is a musical prescription for our limited capacity to see the big picture, a ritual path seeking collective wholeness.
– Dan Lippel
The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation.
The Fall 2022 Music program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and the Howard Gilman Foundation.
Additional support for this concert comes from New Music USA’s Organizational Development Fund in 2022-23, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and The Amphion Foundation, Inc.
Additional support for the Fall 2022 season comes from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ ArtsForward program, made possible through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.