Wilfrido Terrazas: The Torres Cycle

, composer

About

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.

Audio

Ritual and collective experience lie at the heart of Wilfrido Terrazas’ ambitious seven part work, The Torres Cycle. Structured around four movements invoking the four cardinal directions and three interstitial tótems” 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 — our understanding of a place, idea, or event is framed by where we stand in relation to it.

For the realization of the work on this recording, 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 multi-phonics while the percussion primarily plays light bell sounds. It is patient, searching music until the texture shifts briefly to agitated, rhythmically fragmented material.

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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 Torres Collective

Wilfrido Terrazas, artistic coordinator

All music composed by Wilfrido Terrazas

Produced by Wilfrido Terrazas

Recorded by Andrew Munsey at Studios A and B, Warren Lecture Hall, UC San Diego, 2020-2021

Additional recording by Michael Butler, Filiberto Villavicencio, Sarah Belle Reid, Weston Olencki, Berk Schneider, Mattie Barbier, MB Gordy, Ryan Streber, and Alexandria Smith, 2019-2021

Mixed and mastered by Ramón del Buey at El Palacio de Asturias, Mexico City, September-October 2021

Cover art and design by Esther Gámez Rubio

Liner notes by Amy Cimini

Wilfrido Terrazas

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 around 70 works, and recorded more than 40 albums, six of them as a soloist or leader. His recordings have been published in Mexico, the US and Europe, on labels like Abolipop, Another Timbre, Bridge, Cero, Creative Sources, New World, Umor, and Wide Hive. Wilfrido has presented his work in 20 countries 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 (NYC), NUNC! (Chicago), and TENOR (Hamburg), and at venues and series for experimental music like 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 (NYC). He has also carried out residencies at Omi International Arts Center (NY), Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida) and Ionion Center for the Arts and Culture (Greece).

Wilfrido is a member of two influential 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, Wilfrido co-curates La 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, paradoxically formed by six people. 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, Ensamble Süden, Ghost Ensemble, in^set, International Contemporary Ensemble, Omar López, Low Frequency Trio, Kathryn Schulmeister, Alexandria Smith, and wasteLAnd, among many others. Wilfrido has also published more than 30 texts about music, amongst them four book chapters. Some of his writings can be read in the Pendragon, Routledge, and Suono Mobile presses. He has been an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego since 2017.

Víctor Hugo Fuentes Ramírez

Víctor Hugo Fuentes Ramírez is a trumpet player, composer, and music teacher based in Ensenada, Mexico. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, and his musical experiences encompass different genres, from classical to big band, jazz combos, salsa and pop music. Currently, he works as a freelance trumpeter and recording session musician in Ensenada and Tijuana.

Pedro Morales Ortega

Pedro Morales Ortega is a trumpet player and educator. His musical experiences range from orchestral and experimental music to jazz and pop. Convinced of the multiple benefits that music can bring to young people, Pedro has taught in community orchestra projects like Esperanza Azteca and Redes 2025. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, campus Ensenada, and his master’s degree in music performance from the Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Iván Trujillo

Born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, trumpeter Iván Trujillo is known to be one of his region’s most versatile musicians, playing in various ensembles in genres ranging from jazz to electronica and free improvisation. He is artistic director of La Covacha Big Band and the Iván Trujillo Ensamble, and a co-founder and director of La Semana Internacional de Improvisación in Ensenada. In 2018, Trujillo released his first album, Part Zero, in trio format with the Iván Trujillo Ensamble under the Castor & Pollux Label. He has performed in many festivals around the world such as FONT (NYC), FONT West (San Diego), Glastonbury (UK), and the Cervantino Festival (MX).

Sarah Belle Reid

Sarah Belle Reid is a performer-composer who plays trumpet, modular synthesizer, and an ever-growing collection of handcrafted electronic instruments. Her unique musical voice explores the intersections between contemporary classical music, experimental and interactive electronics, visual arts, noise music, and improvisation. Often praised for her ability to transport audience members through vivid sonic adventures, Reid’s sonic palette has been described as ranging from “graceful” and “danceable” all the way to “silk-falling-through-space,” and “pit-full-of-centipedes” (San Francisco Classical Voice).

Weston Olencki

Weston Olencki is a musician, composer, and sound artist. Their work is centered around questions of instrumental music and its contexts/constructs, various mediated practices of listening and improvisation, and the technological, material, and cultural histories of rural space/time. Weston has performed and presented work at the Borealis Festival, ISSUE Project Room, REDCAT, bludenzer tage zeitgemäßer musik, Ghent Jazz Festival, Blanton Museum of Art, philharmonie luxembourg, Squeaky Wheel, Festival Musica, kalvfestivalen, the American Academy in Rome, Roulette Intermedium, Frequency Festival, Indexical, and the OPTION series, and was awarded the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis from the 2016 Darmstadt Ferienkurse.

Berk Schneider

Berk Schneider, trombone (berkschneider.com), serves as an advocate for the arts by cultivating educational research-creation projects that incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to technology and analysis of social meaning-making devices, promoting prescriptive methods that bring communities of musicians closer together. His collaborations are varied, having worked with musicians such as Joshua Bell, Josh Groban, conductors Valery Gergiev, Brad Lubman, Enno Poppe, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Helmuth Rilling, Robert Spano, composers Beat Furrer, Philip Glass, Helmut Lachenmann, Alvin Lucier, actor Alexander Fehling, the Akron, Firelands, and Houston symphonies, Ensemble Modern, Schauspiel Frankfurt, as well as creative director Heiner Goebbels. He is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, Rice University, Frankfurt University of Music, and has been a finalist and honorably mentioned in numerous international trombone competitions, including the Robert Marsteller Competition and Lewis Van Haney Philharmonic Prize.

Mattie Barbier

Mattie Barbier is a sound maker focused on experimental intonation, noise, and the physical processes of instruments. They’re a member of RAGE Thormbones, wasteLAnd, wildUp, and are an active soloist on low brass instruments. They primarily work with trombone, as well as euphonium, bass trumpet, electronics, and bagpipes, and teach at CalArts and LA City College.

Juliana Gaona

In 2021, Juliana Gaona joined the music faculty of the University of Texas at El Paso, where she teaches oboe. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Ms. Gaona is an oboist, chamber and orchestra musician, and improviser. Since moving to the US, she has performed with La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, Meridian Symphony Orchestra, Redlands Symphony, and Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Universidad Central (Bogotá, Colombia) and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where she studied with Euridice Álvarez. She holds an Artist Diploma degree from San Diego State University as a student of Sarah Skuster. Ms. Gaona is a doctoral candidate in Contemporary Music Oboe Performance at the University of California, San Diego, where she studies with Anthony Burr. She has been exploring different tone and sonic possibilities on the oboe by expanding its performative language and exploring the reactionary and unexpected dynamics of improvisation.

Rebecca Lloyd-Jones

Australian-born percussionist Rebecca Lloyd-Jones has performed professionally across Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania, pre- senting at several focus days for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention and attended the Roots and Rhizomes program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Canada. She has presented at the Transplanted Roots Research Symposium and was a guest artist at the VI Semana Internacional de Improvisación 2019 in Ensenada, Mexico. Rebecca graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts and is an alumnus of the Higher Degree Research Department at Queensland Conservatorium. Rebecca is currently a doctoral candidate at University of California San Diego under the tutelage of Steven Schick.

Michael Jones

Michael Jones is a percussionist, improviser, and conductor based in San Diego. His work focuses on new works by emerging composers as well as the canonical repertoire of the 20th century avant-garde. He has performed on the LA Philharmonic’s Noon-to-Midnight Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the Dog Star Orchestra Festival, and the Hartford New Music Festival. He can be heard on the New World, Naxos, and Wandelweiser Editions labels. He regularly performs as a member of the percussion group red fish blue fish and the William Winant Percussion Group.

Cory Hills

Multi-percussionist, composer, and Grammy award-winning artist Cory Hills thrives on breaking down musical barriers through creative, interdisciplinary projects. An advocate of new music, Hills has individually commissioned and premiered over 150 new works for percussion. Percussive Storytelling, a program that brings classical music and storytelling to kids in underserved communities, was launched by Hills while a fellow at Institute Fabrica. The program recently marked its 700th performance and has reached more than 180,000 children in ten countries. Through Percussive Storytelling, Hills was named as the first-ever fellow in children’s music at the Fred Rogers Center for 2021-2022.

Teresa Díaz de Cossío

Teresa Díaz de Cossío is a flutist, improviser, and educator. Currently a DMA student at UC San Diego, and flute instructor at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. From the beginning of her musical endeavors, she was inclined to reach out for meaningful engagements with communities through her creative practice. An iteration is her work as co-organizer/founder of the Festival de Música Nueva, Ensenada. Currently, her research examines the life and work of the composer, teacher, and pianist Alida Vázquez Ayala (1931-2016). It explores how Vázquez navigated race, gender and transnational networks in her teaching, performance, and compositional work between Mexico and New York.

Alexander Ishov

Alexander Ishov is a flutist, music educator, and researcher currently pursuing a Doctorate in Contemporary Music Performance at UC San Diego. New music performances include the Ojai Music Festival, SoundSCAPE, June at Buffalo, and Renga ensemble. Alexander holds degrees from UC San Diego, the Eastman School of Music, and Interlochen Arts Academy. Primary flute mentors include Wilfrido Terrazas, Bonita Boyd, Anne Lindblom Harrow, Nancy Stagnitta, Dr. Kristen Stoner, and Christine Alicot. Alexander is a Miyazawa Emerging Artist.

Michael Matsuno

Michael Matsuno is a flutist whose versatility as a performer encompasses work in classical, experimental and improvised music. He has collaborated with established composers and ensembles such as the Slee Sinfonietta, Harvard Group for New Music, Red Fish Blue Fish, DAD Trio, Wolfgang von Schweinitz, Alvin Lucier, Anthony Vine, Pauline Lay, Carolyn Chen, Matthew Chamberlain, and Jürg Frey. Currently based in Los Angeles, Michael can be heard performing with the San Diego Symphony as well as the Ensemble ECHOI on Monday Evening Concerts, LA’s longest-running contemporary music series. He holds graduate performance degrees from UC San Diego, where he studied under flutists John Fonville and Wilfrido Terrazas.

Ilana Waniuk

Ilana Waniuk is a versatile violinist with interests ranging from improvisation to visual arts. Ilana is a founding member and co-artistic director of Tkarón:to (Toronto) - based ensemble Thin Edge New Music Collective and Balancing on the Edge (multidisciplinary production company merging contemporary music and circus arts). Ilana has performed on concert stages across Canada, Italy, Argentina, Poland, Japan, and Germany. She is also the curator/performer behind ‘Filaments’, an evolving concert program dedicated to collaboratively creating interdisciplinary works for violin, electronics and multimedia. Ilana is currently a doctoral candidate in contemporary performance at the University of California San Diego.

Myra Hinrichs

Myra Hinrichs, violinist, is currently enrolled at the University of California, San Diego in the doctoral program. Before moving to California, she lived and worked in Chicago after graduating from the Oberlin College and Conservatory. In performance, she is a member of Chartreuse, a contemporary string trio. She appears with other ensembles including Mucca Pazza, the Morton Feldman Chamber Players, and a.pe.ri.od.ic. She has spent a couple of recent summers attending the teacher training courses at Chicago Suzuki Institute and has taught lessons to young and old violinists for many years.

Peter Ko

Peter Ko performs and teaches as a cellist. His work as a performer and interpreter of old and new music has led him to opportunities across the USA, Atlantic Canada, and Europe, with collaborations with Mark Fewer, Steve Schick, the Dover String Quartet, Aleck Karis, and Roger Reynolds. Peter is currently studying under Charles Curtis for his DMA at UCSD, and has also studied with Vernon Regehr, Ashley Walters, Felix Fan, and Mario Ramirez.

Kathryn Schulmeister

Praised for her “expressive and captivating performance” (GRAMMY.com), bassist Kathryn Schulmeister brings radiant energy to her creative musical practice ranging from classical to experimental. Kathryn is a member of several contemporary music ensembles including the renowned Australian ELISION Ensemble, Fonema Consort (NYC), and the Echoi Ensemble (LA). Kathryn is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Contemporary Music Performance at the University of California, San Diego, studying with internationally acclaimed bassist/improviser/composer Mark Dresser.

Alexandria Smith

Praised by The New York Times for her “appealingly melancholic sound” and “entertaining array of distortion effects,” Alexandria Smith is a trumpeter, technologist, audio engineer, and multimedia artist that enjoys working at the intersection of all of these disciplines. Her current research and performance interests engage with building, designing, and performing with wearable electronics that ethically translate embodied, biological data into interactive sonic and visual environments. Passionate about taking down barriers to entry in technology, Alexandria has been building open source environments for making music with wearable electronics and teaching audio engineering to female identifying folks. Recent projects include performing on Billy Martin’s record GUILTY (2020), curating a residency at the Stone, performing in a premiere of Alvin Lucier’s Orpheus Variations, teaching at Neofonía, Festival de Música Nueva de Ensenada, writing for the upcoming Arcana X volume, and working on her first solo album. Alexandria is an Assistant Professor of Music Technology at the School of Music Industry at Loyola University New Orleans, and a Ph.D candidate at the University of California San Diego.

Madison Greenstone

Madison Greenstone is a Brooklyn-based performer, writer, and clarinetist of TAK Ensemble and the [Switch~ Ensemble]. Notable performances have been as a soloist at the Vigeland Mausoleum (Oslo), the Merce Cunningham Centennial Night of 100 Solos (LA), and as a soloist presented by ISSUE Project Room. As a writer, Madison has published through the Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel, TEMPO, Cambridge, and upcoming in Contemporary Music Review. Madison has performed as a soloist and chamber musician at Fondation Abbaye Royaumont (FR), Darmstadt (DE) Petersburg Art Space (DE), Ende Tymes Festival (NYC), Harvard, The Stone, Studio 8 (DE), Princeton, Space for Free Arts (FI) among other venues and presenters. Madison has worked with Michelle Lou, Bryan Jacobs, Suzanne Thorpe, Stephan Moore, John McCowen, Eric Wubbels, Joy Guidry, and RAGE Thormbones. They can be heard on Wandelweiser Editions, Another Timbre, TAK Editions, and Tripticks Tapes.

Anthony Burr

Anthony Burr is Professor of performance at UCSD. He has performed and recorded extensively across a broad range of contemporary musical genres. Ongoing projects include a duo with Icelandic bassist/composer Skùli Sverrisson, a series of recordings with cellist Charles Curtis and The Clarinets (a trio with Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega).


Reviews

5

Bandcamp Best of Contemporary Classical: April 2022

Mexican flutist and composer Wilfrido Terrazas conceived this epic work as a meditation on different sorts of perception, deftly embracing the four cardinal direction points as the focus in the primary movements. Naturally, what we see, hear, and feel depends on where we are: as Amy Cimini’s poetic liner note essay spells out, what we experience in one location could be totally different in another. It’s heady stuff, but Terrazas, a member of the superb Mexico City ensemble Liminar, has enlisted an impressive cast of interpreters fluent in both notated and improvised music to illuminate these notions. “Torre del Norte” features a shape-shifting brass sextet and electronics expertly warping loose written themes. The perpetually changing timbre, propulsion, and density indicate a certain mutability as the listener seeks to get their bearings straight. “Torre del Sur” employs double bass and a string quartet to sketch out a whispery upper register drift into chaotic mid-range density, rife with striated tones, twang, and delicious ambiguity. Interspersed within these four “Torre” movements are shorter but less substantive “totems,” such as “Tótem I, Camino sobre la tierra,” where Juliana Gaona’s elastic oboe threads the meditative percussive clangs of Rebecca Lloyd-Jones through an effectively arcing structure.

— Peter Margasak, 4.27.2022

5

Vital Weekly

Wilfredo Terrazas is a Mexican composer, musicologist, and flute teacher. Similar to Trapani, he uses 'folk' elements - but in a much more 'direct' way. 'Torres Cycle' is a ritual implementation of the four cardinal directions, plus three 'minor' rituals. The release "explores ritual, indigenous tradition from his native Mexico, alternative notation, structured improvisation, spatialised live performance techniques, and an evocative instrumentation layout to explore questions of social connection and the mysterious relationship between tradition, and history, and the present." Well. I get the bit about 'spatialised performances', but this does not necessarily serve a purpose on an audio recording.

The first track, 'North,' is a layered trumpet and trombone piece with a genuine 'Mexican' element (the marching bands). It is well known that wind instruments are difficult to keep in tone and that playing long notes in parallel can wreak havoc. I am sure this was done on purpose here, with the timbre wavering until the piece breaks out into a more chaotic section. Unfortunately, contextualising 'ritual' with recordings by the Hybryds, I fail to be able to follow the intention here - what remains is the audio. And in 'Norte' I would have preferred the layered micro-harmonies to evolve to full strength, leaving out the 'improvised' bit. 'Este' is a percussion piece that creates a 'searching' atmosphere. 'Sur' has a set of string instruments alternating between quiet sections and 'explosions' into free parts. 'Oeste' is a wind quartet. The last two pieces, 'Totem III' and 'Oeste' sound most 'Mexican' to me (in a positive sense) and are the strongest on the release (including the first part of 'Norte', of course) - one using a bugle, the other a flute, and musical phrases that remind of Mexican influence. Nevertheless, the 'eclectic' backdrop of ritual and setting is nothing I would have picked up on without reading the liner notes.

— Robert Steinberger, 4.19.2022

5

KPBS

The Ensenada-born flutist and UC San Diego music professor Wilfrido Terrazas released a new album of compositions, "The Torres Cycle," a collection of seven compositions anchored by four "torre" works, each representing a direction: del Norte, del Sur, del Este and del Oeste. Between each torre is an interstitial "tótem." Each track is so distinct, with unique instrumentation, though the recording as a whole feels fluidly epic. I was drawn to one of the tótems, the second track: "Tótem I, Camino sobre la tierra," which features an oboe and percussion. On this composition, Juliana Gaona plays oboe like it's something else entirely: flexing, splitting and bending its sound against the curious percussion of Rebecca Lloyd-Jones. The album was primarily recorded at UC San Diego, then mixed in Mexico City.

— Julia Dixon Evans, 5.04.2022