Fonema Consort: Vistas Furtivas — The Music of Juan Campoverde

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Chicago based ensemble Fonema Consort releases this beguiling recording of music by the Ecuadorian composer Juan Campoverde. This collection of music highlights his innovative compositional approaches to music for voice and guitar in both solo and ensemble settings, featuring soprano Nina Dante and guitarist Samuel Rowe alongside their fellow Fonema members.


Ecuadorian composer Juan Campoverde’s deeply personal music is steeped in sonic ritual. On “Vistas Furtivas”, Chicago based Fonema Consort presents four works for ensemble and two for solo guitar that excavate internal spaces, manifesting psychological and emotional impulses in sound.

The recording opens with the first work Campoverde wrote for Fonema, Umbrales I from 2013, while his newest work for the ensemble, Umbrales II is the second in the series, and is heard later in the recording. Scored for two sopranos, flute, and guitar, the pieces establish complementary expressive spaces for the different instruments in two settings of the same texts by Ecuadorian poet Efraín Jara Idrovo. In her notes, soprano and co-director Nina Dante describes Campoverde’s vocal writing as giving “performers the sense of speaking the language of the subconscious landscape.” Taut sotto voce vocal phrases build intensity before they emerge in brief hyper-expressive utterances. The guitar, in microtonal tunings, tolls bell-like harmonics and open strings, providing quasi-tonal pillars surrounded by brief gestural flourishes and timbral filigree. The flute acts as the glue between the percussive attacks of the guitar and the vocal melismas, with lines that expand and contract in dimension as the timbre is enhanced with trills and flutter tongue techniques. The works have an incantation quality, with each phrase renewing a sense of self-reflection and prayerfulness.

Topografias (1996) is the earliest work on the recording and the first of two solo guitar works, both played with sensitivity and virtuosity by Samuel Rowe. The guitar writing expands upon the language established in Umbrales I, with extensive use of notes between the fretting hand and the nut, pitches that are adjusted with the tuning peg, and left and right hand tapping. The result is a multi-dimensional texture within which Campoverde builds hybrid instrumental gestures over an expanded registral and timbral landscape. The second solo work, Muna II, opens with an accumulating electronics gesture that envelops a crescendo of right and left hand tapping. The electronics sometimes create a halo of pitch that extends the sustain of the guitar, other times one hears distant quasi-vocal sounds and pitch shifts within the immersive texture. While the relationship between instrument and electronics in Muna II is not a dialogue per se, their presence allows Campoverde room to create an expansive counterpart to the rarefied sound world he has discovered on the instrument.

Basalto integrates electronics into a duo of flute and soprano. Setting another poem by Idrovo, the work is inspired by the plight of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific in the face of over tourism and environmental degradation. The electronics part is generated from manipulated recordings of whales off the coast of the island, as the flute and soprano swim through the distorted whale song.

The final four movement work on the recording is a setting of erotic love poems from a collection by Zapata, “La miel de la higuera.” Breathless trills, tremolos,and multiphonics bind soprano, flute, and clarinet sounds together in a sensual anti-dance in the first two movements. The third movement for solo voice is performed with an in-ear electronic track only audible to the performer; her sung responses are heard as a monologue to a dialogue only she is aware of. Guitar and percussion join for the final processional movement, a lyrical dirge closing this powerfully introspective recording.

– D. Lippel

  • Producer: Pablo S. Chin
  • Engineer: Alex Inglizian
  • Editing and Mixing: Juan Campoverde
  • Mastering: Chris Mercer
  • Photography: Marc Perlish
  • Layout: Pablo S. Chin

Fonema Consort

consort: a group of instrumentalists and singers performing together

fonema: (Spanish, phoneme) the smallest unit of speech, which distinguishes words according to their sonic quality.

These concepts define the essence of Fonema Consort as they commission, perform, and record new music that explores the possibilities of the human voice in an avant garde chamber setting. Known for their “enthusiastic embrace of daring new music” (Chicago Reader) Fonema is driven by a fascination with pieces that foster rich interplay of voices and instruments and that are characterized by deep expressivity. The ensemble is highly committed to presenting works by Latin American composers to US audiences and encouraging musical exchange between these regions.

Nina Dante

Soprano/vocalist Nina Dante is a soloist, chamber musician, improviser and composer based in New York City. Musical experimentation and the continual discovery of the voice’s technical ability and emotive power are the inspiring forces behind her work.

Hailed for her “amazing performance of vocal versatility by a uniquely gifted young artist” (Chicago Classical Review), Dante has performed at Resonant Bodies Festival, BAM, Lampo, Issue Project Room, Roulette, the Kitchen, National Sawdust, the University of Chicago’s Contempo, Performa, Indexical, Visiones Sonoras, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, the Experimental Sound Studio, New Music Miami, the Latino Music Festival, the Frequency Festival, Festival Interfaz, the Poetry Foundation, and the Renaissance Society, among others.

Dante is co-founder, manager and soprano of the avant garde chamber ensemble Fonema Consort. With Fonema and as a soloist, Dante has given been in residence and given performances at Oberlin Conservatory, Harvard University, UC Berkeley, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, Scripps College, UNAM, the 113 Composers Collective, and New England Conservatory, among others.

Dante’s recent compositions have been featured on the Resonant Bodies Festival, Indexical, the Center for New Music, the 113 Twin Cities New Music Festival and the Essential Indexical recent release Early MMXVIII.

Nathalie Colas

Hailed for her “floating, silky soprano” and deemed “a standout in acting and voice” (Chicago Classical Review), Nathalie Colas was born and raised in Strasbourg, France. She is a current soloist and founder of Third Coast Baroque, Petite Musique Collective, Liederstube, and new music ensemble Fonema Consort. Nathalie was recently heard in Chicago’s Haymarket Opera Company production of Cavalli’s Calisto, in Handel’s Messiah with the St Louis Bach Society, and in the title role of Rita by G. Donizetti in Switzerland. An avid recitalist, Nathalie studied art song with the late German baritone Udo Reinemann and regularly performs such repertoire (Symphony Center, Pianoforte Foundation, Omaha Under the Radar, Chicago Arts Club, Driehaus Museum). A graduate of DePaul University School of Music and of the Brussels Royal Conservatory, she completed her opera training at the Swiss Opera Studio/Hochschule der Kunst Bern. She was awarded 1st prize in the Music Institute of Chicago competition last winter.

Dalia Chin

Chicago-based Costa Rican flutist Dalia Chin is a founding member of Fonema Consort, the Chicago Composers Orchestra, and the Dante-Chin Duo, all of which are dedicated to performing music by living composers. She has been in residence and given performances at institutions including New England Conservatory, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Oberlin Conservatory, Harvard University, the Universidad de Costa Rica, Scripps College, UNAM, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the 113 Composers Collective and North Central College; and in festivals and at venues including Visiones Sonoras, the Florida Flute Convention, Festival Interfaz, Omaha Under the Radar, the Ear Taxi Festival, the Festival Internacional de Chihuahua, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, the Teatro Sucre, and the City of Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion.

She has performed Pablo Chin’s flute concerto Inside the Shell with the Chicago Composers Orchestra, the Costa Rica Orquesta Sinfónica de Heredia, and the University of Wisconsin Whitewater Orchestra. She is the featured soloist on the album Three Burials, and can be heard on Fonema Consort’s albums Pasos en otra calle and FIFTH TABLEAU.

Dalia earned a Post-Masters degree from DePaul University, a Masters Degree in Flute Performance at Florida State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Flute Performance at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Samuel Rowe

Samuel Rowe performs a wide range of music from the guitar’s recent repertoire. He studied at Oberlin Conservatory with Stephen Aron, and has performed in master classes with such luminaries as Lorenzo Micheli, Matteo Mela, Benjamin Verdery, and Seth Josel. Recent projects have included the music of Helmut Lachenmann, Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, Franco Donatoni, and Milton Babbitt. In addition to performing the guitar, Sam appears with Chicago’s Javanese Gamelan ensemble.

Sam is a graduate student in the English department at the University of Chicago where he is a Humanities Teaching Fellow and studies the relationship between narrative form and social and economic history during the long eighteenth century. His book manuscript, Imaginary Wants: Avarice, Luxury, and the Rise of the Eighteenth-century Villain, is about villain characters and political economy in British fiction. He maintains an interest in poetry, new and old, and has published essays on Charlotte Smith and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Emily Beisel

Emily Beisel’s most enriching artistic experiences involve extended collaborations characterized by in-depth comprehension and interpretation of musical works. She is fascinated by the communicative possibilities of joint composition and free improvisation and the potential for reaching otherwise unexplored territory.

She is greatly interested in the parallels between the ideas in contemporary music and genres that fall outside of the classical academic sphere. She feels that mining these relationships can provide deeply current means of relating to sound both physically and intellectually as well as serving to erode problematic value hierarchies in our culture.

Emily find the greatest satisfaction in working in a wide range of musical styles and groups. She is the second clarinetist with Orchestra Iowa, a member of the contemporary ensemble Fonema Consort, and performs regularly with the Marriott Theater. Emily is also an avid free improvisor, particularly as it contributes to collaborative composition. These collaborative projects range widely from her work with Fat Pigeon to incubating a new death metal band.

Emily has a private teaching studio and studios at Harold Washington College and the British International School. She appreciates the reciprocal relationship between her dual role as performer and pedagogue.

Ryan Packard

Ryan Packard is a percussionist, composer, and sound artist based in Chicago. His recent projects and collaborations explore the sonification of lived experiences through their accompanying objects and interpersonal relationships. A curiosity towards listening environments, physical space, and psychoacoustics drive the work as it seeks to promote a heightened state of consciousness even in the most understated spaces and moments.

Featured performances include appearances at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, High Concept Laboratories, Galeria Labirynt, Experimental Sound Studio, Constellation Chicago, Elastic Arts, Random Walks Festival, B-Sides Festival, Montreál Nouvelles Musiques, the Frequency Festival, Visiones Sonoras, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, Oberlin Conservatory, Northwestern University, Scripps College, among many others.

He is a member of the new music ensembles Fonema Consort and Arkiteck Percussion Quartet, and bands including Skeleton$, Wei Zhongle, Nestle, ZRL, Gunwale, kiTTybOOst, SWAM, and 4eyes.

He can be heard on the following labels: Parlour Tapes+, New Focus Recordings, Kohlenstoff Records, Shinkoyo Records, Aerophonic Records, and No Index Records.

Ryan has a Masters of Music from McGill University and Bachelor’s of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.




"Vistas Furtivas,” a collection of work by composer Juan Campoverde, is the third album from the Fonema Consort, a Chicago new music ensemble specializing in performing the work of Latin American composers. Campoverde, an Ecuadorian native living in nearby Evanston, Illinois, has developed a long-running collaborative relationship with the consort, having written for them since 2013. The rapport they’ve built is evident in these deft and assured performances of Campoverde’s dramatic and often delicately constructed work.

Campoverde’s compositions here are mostly driven by forceful vocal lines but for all of that, they turn on nuances of sound color alone and in combinations. The composer masterfully brings forward and updates the kind of spacious, unconventionally orchestrated chamber music pioneered by composers like George Crumb in the 1960s and 1970s. And, as could be expected by a composer mentored by Roger Reynolds, whose imagE-imAge series of solo works meticulously capture the timbral ranges of the instruments for which they were written, Campoverde pays close attention to what might be thought of as timbral harmonies and dissonances,

The album contains four works for small chamber ensemble built around the unusual but compelling combination of guitar, flute, and soprano voice, as well as two for solo guitar. Campoverde’s inspired choice of instrumental colors, which he artfully arranges against a stark canvas of silence, makes for a music of startling fusions and contrasts of timbre in an uncluttered environment.

Umbrales I and II (2013 and 2019, respectively) for two sopranos, flute, and guitar, offer two different perspectives on the same texts by Ecuadorian poet Efraín Jara Idrovo. Both iterations rely on extended vocal and instrumental techniques and scordatura to draw out the color possibilities of guitar, flute, and voice. Typical of Campoverde’s work on the album, the pieces are constructed as decentered bursts of sound. Here the main contrast is between the sustained tones of flute and voice on the one side, and the staccato attack of plucked strings on the other. The guitar’s microtonal dissonances are an essential component of the overall sound, which is dominated by the asymmetrical phrasings of sopranos Nina Dante and Nathalie Colas.

Basalto (2014) strips the ensemble down to Dante and flutist Dalia Chin, here on alto flute, supplemented by prerecorded, electronically manipulated whale song. A highly expressive work, its urgency is underscored by a collision of extended vocal technique and the flutter tongue and plosive air notes from the flute.

The two works for solo guitar, Topografias (1996) and Muna II (2012), demonstrate Campoverde’s ability to elicit a wide range of color from a single instrument. Both make extensive use of microtones and tone-altering gestures up to and including turning the gears to detune the instrument. The resulting episodes of sheer sonic materiality give one the feeling of being on the inside of the intimate process of playing. Guitarist Samuel Rowe’s performances realize these difficult pieces with clarity and precision.

Los Lugares del Deseo of 2017, the four-part suite that closes the album, brings together flute, bass clarinet (played by Emily Beisel), both sopranos, guitar and percussion (Ryan Packard) in combinations ranging from solo soprano to the full sextet. In its unhurried juxtapositions of exactly delineated timbres the suite captures in microcosm the sound of the album in all its sharply etched fullness. It’s a bracingly beautiful collection of music.

— Daniel Barbiero, 2.26.2020



Juan Campoverde is an Ecuadorian/American composer who earned a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, San Diego. This disc has a (sub?)title, Vistas Furtivas, but these are individual, free-standing works. Campoverde has no Wikipedia listing. Even his website doesn’t give any personal information; it does cite many performances of his works by ensembles worldwide. Chicago-based Fonema Consort, an ensemble specializing in avant-garde, often Latin-American vocal works, includes Samuel Rowe, guitar; Nina Dante and Nathalie Colas, sopranos; Dalia Chin, flute; and, in the final piece, Emily Beisel, clarinet, and Ryan Packard, percussion. They mix and match through these six pieces. There is no mention of electronics anywhere in the package, but if Fonema Consort has created this disc without it, its members are a new breed of musician. The packaging has just track listings and performer credits; there are supposedly liner notes on, but they are not there yet.

Each piece has its own character: Umbrales I and Basalto could be Pierrot Lunaire stoned on electronics. Voices and instruments are heard directly and in electronically altered form, making the texts (if there are texts?) difficult to follow. Topografias is a guitar solo, with a ghost of Spanish classical guitar hiding behind the modern techniques. There is a mismatch between the performer credits and the track listings: Guitarist Rowe is credited for every track except four, Muna II, which is a guitar solo (with electronics), and neither soprano is credited for track five, Umbrales II, which certainly has one or both of them (depending on the electronic manipulations). No performers are listed for tracks eight and nine. Everyone joins in Los Lugares del Deseo, a four-movement work with the clarinet blown so hard as to produce distorted, unclarinet-like sounds.

To one reared on sonata form, the well-tempered scale, and cadences, Campoverde’s world is a fascinating wilderness, bursting with new experience.

— James H. North, 7.15.2020

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