Composer Tomás Gueglio releases "Duermevela," a collection of solo and ensemble works that reflect his interest in microtonality, extended technique, and blending musical lineages and styles. Metaphors central to his recent work are private languages, the slippery logic of dreams, and states of disorientation and intoxication.
|Austin Wulliman, violin||7:21|
|02||Apostillas a Mil Panaderos|
Apostillas a Mil Panaderos
1901: Un Oiseau
|Mei Música para Flautas|
|03||Un Oiseau I|
Un Oiseau I
|04||Un Oiseau II|
Un Oiseau II
|Ben Melsky, harp|
Canción en Duermevela
The title of Tomás Gueglio’s debut portrait album, Duermevela, is the composite of two Spanish words for sleep and staying awake. It captures Gueglio’s aesthetic perfectly — his music lives between evocative dream states and a taut sense of vigilant attention. This collection of chamber works written between 2013-2017 is reflective of that dichotomy, as well as the duality in Gueglio’s artistic life between his hometowns of Chicago and Buenos Aires.
Violinist Austin Wulliman performs the opening track on the recording, Mil Panaderos. An initial, skittering jété sets the tone for this impetuous piece. Quick swells, glissandi, fast arpeggios, and scalar passages are combined in a linear counterpoint of motivic ideas. Deliberative pauses between ideas frame the content, a component that moderates the manic unfolding of material.
The opening solo violin work is the seed that grows into the second track, Apostillas a Mil Panaderos, a sextet for soprano sax, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, and cello, written for and performed by Latitude 49. The process of transcription and adaptation softens the original musical material, as if rough edges of an uncut gem are being polished by the added color from the ensemble. Gueglio makes beautiful use of the punctuated attacks of percussion, piano, and pizzicato in the strings to articulate endings of sustained phrases and create hybrid instrumental gestures. As the piece evolves, the initial idea of expanding upon ideas from the solo violin piece grows into a more symbiotic texture. A high register ostinato grounds the final two minutes of the piece, as the characteristic swelling figure is passed around the ensemble.
1901: Un Oiseau for two bass flutes follows, a sensual work in two movements that incorporates an extended technique vocabulary on the instrument and in various vocalizations. The two flutes open the piece with very similar pitch and textural material, mapped onto different rhythmic contours. Not unlike Mil Panaderos, the result is a contrapuntal organization of information, with various threads defined by timbre, register, and central pitches. We can hear the weaving of these two lines as a sort of loose, arhythmic canon, wherein material that happens in one part will emerge non-systematically at some point in the other. Towards the end of the second movement, the texture briefly turns toward a contemplative drone before a brief, playfully lyrical coda.
After L’Addio (a reference to Sciarrino’s solo harp work, L’Addio a Trachis) opens the work with one of the harp’s most recognizable gestures, the glissando, combining it with a technique developed with harpist Ben Melsky, cheekily dubbed the “Guegliando,” involving a calloused finger dragging across the strings. The dry, obscured contour of the Guegliando is splashed with the color of fully pitched glissandi, trills, and accented notes, creating a multi-dimensional, multi-registral texture. Felt (referencing material used by the harpist to produce a modified attack on the strings as well as a subtle sustained sound on the body of the instrument) stands in opposition to the opening work in its use of mitigating material between the player and the instrument. The music is spacious and introspective, unfolding in contemplative phrases, each separated by a brief pause.
The final work on the album for guitar quartet, Canción en Duermevela, was written for the Nuntempe Ensamble. Gueglio binds the four movements of the piece together through a shared cantus firmus of sorts, presented in chromatic clusters. A range of scraping sounds, glissandi, tapping techniques, and plucks behind the nut create a multi-dimensional pad around which this processional melody unfolds. Gueglio occasionally embeds brief polyrhythms into these background textures, injecting the music with rhythmic direction. The prevailing affect is one of delicate wonder, as the intimate timbres of the four guitars intersect with an ever emerging composite melody.
Tomás Gueglio creates musical environments that facilitate subtle examinations of timbre, phrase, and gesture. He eschews bombastic surface activity in favor of substantial multi-layered textures. The results are beguiling and moving, music that lives in a space that is balanced between the visceral and tactile on one side and the curated and meticulous on the other.
– Dan Lippel
Mixed And Mastered By Peter Leonard
Mil Panaderos: recorded At Experimental Sound Studios, Chicago
Recording Engineer: Alex Inglizian
Apostillas A Mil Panaderos: recorded At Britton Recital Hall. University Of Michigan
Recording Engineer: Peter Leonard
Latitude 49: Jason Paige, clarinet; Andy Hall, soprano sax; Chris Sies, percussion; Jani Parsons, piano; Timothy Steeves, violin; Jacobsen Woollen, cello
1901: Un Oiseau: recorded At Concepto Sonorus Estudio, Buenos Aires
Recording Engineer: Jorge Chikiar
Mei Música Para Flautas: Juliana Moreno And Patricia García
After L'addio/Felt: recorded At Experimental Sound Studios, Chicago
Recording Engineer: Alex Inglizian
Canción En Duermevela: Recorded At Estudio Puntoar
Recording Engineer: Ariel Gato
Nuntempe Ensamble: Ariel Elijovich, Manuel Moreno, Pablo Boltshauser, and Andres Vaccarelli
Tomás Gueglio is an Argentine composer currently based in Chicago. His music has been described as ‘immediately captivating’ (I Care If You Listen), ‘touchingly harmonic’ (Chicago Classical Review) and of ‘an exquisite weight’ (Best of Bandcamp). In his creative work, Tomás strives to devise surreal and unique sound worlds through purposefully blending a variety of musical lineages and styles. Metaphors central to his recent work are private languages, the logic of dreams, and, as of late, melodramas and radio soap operas
His music has been performed across the Americas and Europe by renowned ensembles and soloists like Ensemble Dal Niente, eighth blackbird, MEI, Pacifica and Spektral string quartets, Nuntempe Ensamble, Latitude 49, Marco Fusi and Ben Melsky. Recent and upcoming projects include the devising of a piece with Delfos Danza presented as part of Dal Niente’s ‘Staged’ series, a trilogy of works based on Tango’s star Libertad Lamarque, and the release of his first portrait album, ‘Duermevela’, in the Fall of 2020
In addition to composing, he works as Ensemble Manager and Artistic Consultant for Chicago-based Ensemble Dal Niente, and as Music Theory and Aural Skills Lecturer at Northwestern University. Tomás holds a PhD in composition from the University of Chicago, a MMus from Syracuse University, and a BMus from the Universidad Católica Argentina. Born in Buenos Aires, a major influence in his musical upbringing was Gerardo Gandini whose workshop he attended between 2003 and 2007.
My introduction to this Argentine-born composer was his piece After L'Addio/Felt on Ben Melsky's marvelous New Music For Harp, which is also included here among a kaleidoscopic array of his other chamber works. JACK Quartet's Austin Wulliman kicks it off with Mil Panaderos for solo violin, a spiky, spicy rush of plucks and scrapes that serves as a tonic for the ears - tart and bracing. Some of the same material is repurposed for a sextet, Apostillas a Mil Panaderos, played with flair and nuance by Latitude 49, before things slow down slightly for 1901: Un Oiseau, a duo for bass flutes with some impish vocalizing. Ending the album is Cancion en Duermevela for four guitars, given an assured performance by the Nuntempe Ensemble, a shimmering piece that seems to turn the quartet into one large instrument, not unlike a harp. Duermevela is a Spanish word that can refer to the line between sleeping and waking and also means "restless sleep" - and there is a restlessness to Gueglio's music, a refusal to take instruments at face value and a need to keep moving. This excellent collection is an invitation to take the pulse of his creativity at a moment in time. When we next check in with Gueglio, he could be somewhere else entirely.
— Jeremy Shatan, 9.29.2020
The debut portrait album from Tomás Gueglio, Duermevela represents the artistic qualities of Chicago and Buenos Aires, which are both hometowns for Gueglio, where his unique approach to chamber music intrigues us immediately.
Mil Panaderos starts the listen with solo violin from Austin Wulliman, where the artist mesmerizes us with bare, effective flashes of string acrobatics, and Apostillas a Mil Panaderos follows with cello, violin, piano, percussion, soprano sax and clarinet from Latitude 49, who use each instrument sparingly but with much impact.
At the midpoint, After L’Addio/Felt: After L/Addio recruits Ben Melsky’s stunning harp prowess on the finger dragging technique that often twinkles with a dreamy quality, which continues to After L’Addio/Felt: Felt, where a calmer approach unfolds amid the introspective song craft.
The final track, Canción en Duermevela, exits the listen with 4 movements, where a guitar quartet utilize plucking, tapping and scraping gestures that align with rhythm, intimacy and melody, which arrives at a very unpredictable place.
A very precisely layered effort where tone, timbre and technique are all tweaked, manipulated and illuminated in Gueglio’s inimitable vision, you’ve probably never heard a chamber record quite like this one, and that’s a big part of the charm here.
— Tom Haugen, 1.28.2021
The Argentine-American composer is represented here by a collection of recent chamber works, exploring crystalline textures and unfamiliar timbres. Mil Panaderos and its companion piece, Apostillas a Mil Panaderos (marginal notes on Mil Panderos) sums up much of what the composer is about; Mil Panaderos is a bravura exercise in harmonics and different types of articulation, for solo violin, while Apostillas a Mil Panaderos is a transcription of the work for sextet, the instruments played more conventionally yet saturating the colors and filling in the etched lines of the violin piece and producing a subtle timbral counterpoint that the violin could only suggest. Un oiseau divides similar material (including vocal effects) between two bass flutes played in diverging rhythms, leading to a playful heterophonic texture. After L'Addio / Felt's two contrasting tableaux each explore a specific harp technique. The first movement focuses on the idea of glissandi, varying the pressure between hands and strings and by performing with knuckles, nails, fingertips, and palm, while the second movement focuses on the performance of harmonics. What is surprising in this technical tour de force is the dramatic scena that emerges, the first part vigorous and active, the second serene, resonant and glowing. The guitar quartet Canción en Duermevela (combining the words ‘asleep' and 'awake') is in four movements, connected through a kind of cantus firmus distributed between the players, harmonized in chromatic clusters, and accompanied by timbres produced by extended techniques and microtonal clashes.
— n/a, 9.15.2020
Although the booklet notes with this release are minimal, a trip to the composer’s website reveals not only biography and background but links to the full scores themselves, something invalu- able and all too often prohibited (financially, that is) in the normal run of things. The QR code on the inside front cover neatly takes you to the disc’s page on the composer’s website. An Argentine in Chicago, Tomás Gueglio lectures at Northwestern University and is Manager and Artistic Consultant of the Ensemble Dal Niente.
A violinist in the JACK Quartet, Austin Wulliman will be saturated in new music. So it is hardly surprising that he excels in Gueglio’s Míl Panaderos, a work for solo violin written in 2013 and re- vised in 2017 especially for this recording. Described as a “study for solo violin exploring limited amounts of material in a rather systematic way,” the piece is of variable duration with a suggestion of around six and a half minutes; here, it is 7:21. Following the score confirms the accuracy of Wulliman’s performance, while the otherworldliness of his flautando just resonates on. The dynamic range is calibrated so that sounds that are intended to hover in inaudibility really do so; and yet we hear every little sound of the bow against the strings, and register the not infrequent outbursts and crescendos to fortissimo.
This first piece actually forms something of a template for Apostillas a Míl Panaderos (“apostillas” means “addendum” in Spanish). But moving the work from solo violin to a sextet comprising soprano sax, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello (expressly for the present group, Latitude 49) meant changing the character substantially. As “orchestrations” go it is somewhat miraculous. The ability for notes to sustain in a way unavailable to the violin creates a softer, more phantasmagoric soundscape (the way the a percussion tap coinciding with the highest note of a glissando can then enable the highest note to resonate on, for example). The care that clearly went into this performance is similarly impressive, an object lesson in how careful listening plus knowledge of the score by the performers can bring a piece to vibrant life. One might wish to describe this piece as a sort of “Modernist Impressionism” in that, despite the clearly disjunct gestures and pointillism, there remains a sense of an Impressionist wash of color. The sheer beauty of the harmonies at times, too, is truly touching. It would be untrue to suggest that there was a direct analogy here to, say, an orchestration of a Bach solo violin partita, but nevertheless the idea of taking a solo piece and taking what is there to a new field of possibility via an ensemble setting is exactly what has happened here.
Written for two bass flutes, 1901: Un Oiseau begins heterophonically before expanding to include a barrage of Modernist techniques. The two flutes diverge until a brief drone leads to a coda. With its plethora of vocal effects (some of them avian), the piece certainly sounds as if it is scored for more than just the two musicians, and the close recording enables every key click to register. The two artists that comprise the duo Mei Música Para Flautas, Juliana Moreno and Patricia García, are consistently excellent; I find it hard to believe this was in one take, so one has to acknowledge the producer and editor, too. The technical explorations of After L’Addio/Felt for solo harp are a little more focused: the first panel exploring glissando, the second harmonics. The first is marked Freely, with intensity, and the splendid Ben Melsky manages to honor both aspects stunningly. The second piece, “Felt,” indeed indicates a felt pick and is marked flotate, freely and “pppp to pp sempre.” Sonically, it is gorgeous, at times even implying (to my ears) a Balinese steel pan.
A melody acing as a cantus firmus connects the four movements of Canción en Duermevela for guitar quartet. The trajectory of the piece is from the chordally filled out opening upwards through to a “suspended, landscape-type ending.” Commissioned by the Centro do Experimentación del Teatro Colón for the Festival Antidiáspora, this 2016 work boasts a score notated in tablature, so that only fingering is provided. All four guitars are tuned CJ-FT-CT-GJ-BJ-EI. Indeed, in the first movement there is something of a slow processional in the opening laying out of the cantus firmus, a procession that is decorated by myriad effects. Notating a lunga pausa between movements integrates the intention to let the music of one movement sink in before the next. The second is a vast plain (completely contradicting its duration of less than two minutes) of beautiful sonority, occasionally interrupted by more adamant gestures before the more overtly resonant third section leads to the “high plateau” of the final movement, that “suspended, landscape-type ending” to which the composer refers. In a sense, this piece could only be placed at the end; it seems to head off into the heavens.
The title of the disc is Duermevela, a word that itself combines two words: “dormir” (sleep) and “velar” (to stay awake). Whether Canción en Duermevela’s final ascent is meant to convey a rising up to Heaven or a new type of heightened wakefulness is presumably deliberately ambiguous (some might contend they are one and the same, of course). Recordings from New Focus are coming across these days as uniformly excellent and stimulating; this one is no exception. Tomás Gueglio has a fine, individual voice and is fervently championed by the musicians here.
— Colin Clarke, 11.15.2020
A collection of instrumental, experimental pieces that focus on that space between awake and asleep make a sonic impressionistic riff on how those feels must sound when you are traversing both worlds. Surreal soundscapes worthy of Zappa’s experimental moods, these pieces in various combinations are ear openers for the true egghead.
— Chris Spector, 9.04.2020
— Dave Lake, 12.28.2021