Juan talks about his thoughts about silence, why he likes experimenting and he gives advice to young listeners to just enjoy the music.
It means everything to me. Music is possibility. 1) The possibility of finding meaning to existence. 2) The possibility of the discovery of the yet unknown. 3) The possibility of experience in joy, sorrow, amazement, awe and logic. 3) A true catalyst and vehicle of cathartic understanding. 4) A continuum of organized life and a way to understand organic methods and affairs.
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
Yes, to a certain higher degree. In the historical sense, it is through the ‘canzona’ (an earlier process of the ‘fantasia’) that the larger and standard forms came into existence as functional and solid processes. In a more practical way, I do feel that it is through the imagination and the fantastic world that ideas flow with a considerable amount of freedom so that the organization of music tends to proceed smoothly. The fantasy allows the material of music to circulate in such a way that the barriers of the mind are less likely to get in the way of the organic phenomena.
If you were not a professional musician, would you have been?
I probably would have chosen to be a movie director or an astrophysicist, or a mathematician or an archaeologist. I like many things.
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?
I’m not worried about my future in that respect. I have always found myself giving concerts for less than 50 people and sometimes it feels all right. I have seen, however, that, through the incorporation of the other arts, and the inclusion of popular idioms into my compositions, younger people have been attracted to attend my classical music concerts.
What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?
If I have understood the question properly, I have experienced this transformation within myself, as I have included a interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach in my concerts but I feel that classical music has still a very strong impact on historical values that I believe the transformation is still positive. The one aspect that must change for a better course is education. As long as there is good education and classical music is treated as an important element of it (being music a provider of good physical and emotional health or a great provider of invaluable experiences) the transformation will have a far more positive outcome than we think.
When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?
Classical music has always been in the search of the new. It is like a historical curse. Every composer wants to be different. All music seems to patronize the ‘new’. Here I can reflect on something important: the age of the ‘avangarde’ is beginning to be tiresome. I feel that the freshness will be impossible to avoid; after all, every human being is capable of expressing his/her own uniqueness. When I teach composition, I am not interested in the student being capable of mastering a technique (he can do that in his own time) I’m interested in providing a way for him/her to bloom whatever good intentions can flourish out of their creations and I believe the ‘avantgarde’ have already sacrificed both, the emotional and the rational mind in order to manufacture Frankenstein that are completely different from the beauty around the intuitive. I sincerely hope that the people in power make a change in classical music for the better.
Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? What’s the role of creativity in the musical process for you?
Creativity has a deep relationship with experience. I am afraid that the internet is fracturing real experiences in our society. I have already know of 12 year olds who do not know what it is to climb a tree or let alone hug one with a loving heart! It is preoccupying that the experience is taking place more so through the interaction with a tablet or a cellphone. Creativity is crucial for composition and it is also for interpretation; even more so for improvisation. Creativity is at the core of every way of communication; it is a most important aspect of human behavior.
In my process, creativity is essential. It is more so like a path, or a way of channeling options and working with solutions that were not available in previous thinking processes. However, creativity is not to be overused or the end result can be much like a mess. For me, creativity is the art of breathing; it has to be exercised every day but treated with upmost respect and refinement. Creativity is but an ingredient of what craftsmanship really is.
Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?
Yes! We need to get involved with them. We need to be an example to them. We need to understand them but we need to find a way for them to understand us. This is only going to be done if we communicate with them; if we have meaningful experiences with them. We might need to become their mentors preferably at a very early age. We need to write more music for them. Sometimes it is not about having them come to us but the other way around.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?
I have a multidisciplinary theory –called the JLPER Theory- it relates music with astronomy and archaeology in unprecedented ways. The core idea of my theory is that the intervals resemble with precision the order of elements in our Solar System and the seven spectral classes of stars. When all the numbers in the sequence (G = 7 for example) are added together they result in 365; so this system works very much so like a Solar Calendar. In 2005, I found that the ancient Mayans and Aztecs did depict the same mathematical sequence I have been working for years, in their most relevant cities and stone carvings which indicated that they knew about astronomy far more than their European counterparts in those days; more importantly it revealed a unique aesthetic which sounds very Mexican, somewhat modern but with a preoccupation with harmonic beauty –like such we can find in flowers. In recent years, I found the same sequence in the recording of the XP module that landed on the Rosetta comet which made my research and compositions take on a turn of interest by the scientific community in Merida, Yucatán. One of my favorite pieces composed with this JLPER Theory is an orchestral piece in one movement that I composed in 2010 to celebrate the centennial of our Mexican Revolution. It has not been performed yet but I have a special feel about it. Another piece which I do love is named: Xoctlamique Nuxochiltzin - Ah Tlamiz Noxochiuh; a piece for choir, piano, contrabass and gran cassa, that was premiered and recorded by the San Antonio Chamber Choir. The audio is on my Soundcloud platform and on my website as part of my JLPER Theory album that I have displayed there. Most of those pieces are a real fascination to me. Alenka, my chamber strings and piano concerto is also one of my favorite works which work with this JLPER Theory.
We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?
Perfect combinations! I wish I could do some things like those; I just have not find a learning time to understand light and film in the correct way. I did several concerts in Merida with poetry and theatrical arts. I believe they were a success at the time I presented them.
The interdisciplinary is wonderful and I believe that the multidisciplinary is also great.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
Yes! Start with a deep listening of whichever composer has made you cry, or laugh, or feel goosebumps. I started very young, so that does not count, but I do remember the awe I felt with the symphonies of Jean Sibelius. Dedicate every day to a recording of music and try not to criticize it, just enjoy! Be aware that some of the tracks you’ll listen will be disgusting for you; pay close attention and remember their titles because later in time those same pieces will be among your favorites!
Now it is a common practice that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?
Horrible. I have often recorded my music with a very bad sense of recording to avoid getting into that. In fact, all of my registered compositions are available for free in the internet. But one thing is clear to me; I feel it will take a long time for my academic music to be music for consumption; maybe my Rock pieces but that is another story. The only bad thing this can offer is ‘bad taste artists’ dominating the scene; but eventually only time will favor the brilliant and the dedicated to the craft. I will put my efforts into that even if I have to eat on a diet.
Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?
It has been at times very difficult for me to perform to audiences that tend to emanate a sense of unease or criticism; specially when they are too close to my piano or my guitar. I expect them to enjoy but of course sometimes audiences can be very difficult. I also find that silence does affect positively my performances but sometimes that is hard to come by. I usually tend to expect my audiences to have a great time and to enjoy the music and ideas. Lately I have been thinking of making live broadcasts to share my music.
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I usually write several pieces at the same time. Now, I am writing a very easy piece for a student of mine that has asked me to write a piece for his guitar and his piano friend. He has been such a great student that I am planning to finish it by Christmas as a gift. I am also writing some pop electronic music to distract myself and to make myself dance and keep some high spirits! I’m also writing some sacred pieces for guitar. Most of my performances can be seen at the YouTube Channel by the name of: Cuauhxochitzin
I do experiment always. Each piece is in fact an act of experimentation, which is a key element in the process of composition. If the project is all about improvisation it is all about experiments. Sometimes is proper to experiment and some other times is proper to go with caution. In the end, experiment is hand in hand with experience; so in any case I give it a thumbs up at any time.
Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your musical experience. It is always so rewarding to find people like yourself in this world, which makes life even more beautiful and meaningful. All best,