Guillermo Gregorio: “Tres”
From the album Degrees of Iconicity (2000)
Guillermo Gregorio has led two chronologically and stylistically distinct musical lives. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Gregorio got into jazz as a teenager. He played cornet and clarinet before settling on alto sax. In 1958 Gregorio studied for several months with the composer Alberto Ginastera, who introduced the young musician to experimental tendencies in music such as Pierre Schaeffer, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, and Anton Webern. Gregorio also had a strong interest in visual arts, and he studied architecture at Buenos Aires University from 1959 to 1966. Concurrently, in the mid-60s, he made his first experimental recordings, a number of pieces of “musique brut” a la Jean Dubuffet, empoying ready-to-hand objects and tape manipulation. Gregorio called these pieces musicas caseras (homemade music). He also began exploring free improvisation, inspired in particular by such jazz pioneers as Lennie Tristano and Ornette Coleman. In 1969, after attending a concert by Larry Austin, Gregorio and several cohorts founded the Fluxus-inspired Movimento Música Más, a free-form performance collective in which Gregorio was involved until 1972. Música Más sought to bring experimental music into public spaces, staging musical events in places such as parks and city buses. (These early efforts are documented in the album Otra Musica: Tape Music, Fluxus, and Free Improvisation in Buenos Aires 1963-70.)
There was a hiatus in Gregorio’s musical career from 1973-1980. In the 80s he came into contact with the Austrian jazz musician Franz Koglmann, with whom he made his first commercial recordings. Gregorio left Buenos Aires in 1986 and eventually ended up in Chicago (via Cologne) in 1991, where he has established himself with a number of different ensembles and released a series of distinctive records exploring an idiosyncratic brand of avant-jazz. Not surprisingly, given his background, Gregorio’s music bears a strong influence to 20th-century visual arts, particular the branches of Constructivism and Concrete Art. Gregorio’s titles have included allusions to artists such as Theo van Doesburg, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Alexander Rodchenko, as well as to the Argentinian abstract art movement known as MADI. Further, he has notated a number of his compositions in the form of graphic scores whose aesthetic bears a striking resemblance to the visual language of geometric and abstract art. (See examples below.) Gregorio places the aesthetics of his work firmly in this tradition, stating that “the primary function of an artwork, musical or visual, should be to appeal to and make an impact on the mind. I know that my aim will be labeled ‘cerebral.’ But I prefer that rather than talking about ‘self-expression.’ The illusion of rendering the ‘self’ is typical of the tendencies that mystify any contact with reality…. What I inherit from Constructive Art is the opposition to the Romantic aesthetics of pure intuition, inspiration, or the ‘mystery of creation’ and ultimately, to the pretension of placing oneself above historical reality.”
Like much of his music, “Tres” features the juxtaposition of free-flowing jazzlike melodies and blocks of relative stasis in which time is dilated by means of sustained tones, silence, and extended instrumental techniques. The form of the piece is derived from a geometrically-inspired manipulation of the notes of the first motif (played by the cello in the first bars). “Geometry is used as a structural force so as to bring creative imagination into an orderly system,” Gregorio writes. “Constructive artists have always understood that rational developments, based on mathematical or geometrical reasoning, may lead to results that border on the paradoxical and the unexpected.”
Examples of Gregorio’s graphic scores
Played 52 time(s).
February 20, 2011, 9:50am