A few days ago I received a group email from my experimental music TA, Rafa Romo Tavizon that read:
Hi everybody, I would like to invite you to my noisy recital this Wednesday at 8:00 pm in the Chapel. And don't worry... I pinky promise that it's going to be very loud.
I had to set up an interview. Hit the jump to find out a little more about the crazy shit Rafa's up to.
Aural Wes: In your email, you said the performance is going to be "loud." What can people expect to hear when they come on Wednesday?
Rafa Romo Tavizon: Well, I guess I could divide my work into two categories. Before coming here, I worked a lot with acoustic instruments. I was, and am still, very interested in working with big ensembles - orchestras and so on. But, what happened the last two years, is that I've been working a lot with electronic music. Also, I mean, not only do I like loud music - loud sound - but also, what I'm going to do… I have this idea of sculpted noise, which is basically starting from noise as a primary material...
AW: Do you want to briefly explain what noise is?
Rafa: Yeah, sure. When I say noise, what I mean is all frequencies that we can here at the same time, as a block of all frequencies at the same level. Like [pshhhhhhhhh]. Like, white noise. And then, from there, what I did was cut some lines, trying to make figures, and combining them in different ways.
AW: You tried to cut figures into the noise, and then combined them in different ways?
Rafa: What I like about sculptors is that they start with a big block of something, like any material, and then they will take a hammer and chisel and try and tsch tsch tech [mimics hammering] to get rid of some of the material, to get the form of something. So, that's kind of like what I'm trying to do.
AW: And, the concert will be entirely sculpted noise pieces?
Rafa: At least half of it…[laughs] Yeah, I'm going to present four pieces that are based on this idea. I will have an eight channel system, which will be used not only to diffuse the sound, but also to try to activate (sonically) different spots in the chapel. I will be controlling the sound projection using an ipad while I sit conformably within the audience. Then I will perform an electric guitar piece with live electronics, and a video piece as well.
AW: Do the grad students have advisors for their recitals?
Rafa: Yes, yes we do. It's not just for the recital, but Ron Kuivila has been my advisor since I arrived here.
AW: Did you come here specifically to study with Ron?
Rafa: Yes, I cam here to study with Ron and Anthony Braxton. I was hoping to show my work to Alvin Lucier, which I haven't really been able to, since he retired exactly the same semester as I arrived. But yeah, I wasn't expecting Paula Matthusen, because I didn't know anything about her, but she has been very helpful as well.
AW: Your primary instrument is electric guitar?
Rafa: I don't think I have a primary instrument anymore…[laughs]. I played electric guitar a long time ago, basically rock and noise music. Noisy rock. A long time ago, I was like 15 years old. Then I stopped with that when I entered the conservatory. There I studied piano for five years. Then, basically I stopped playing all those instruments and concentrate all the time on computer music. So, I play once in a while, but I don't really practice.
AW: What are you listening to right now?
Rafa: Well, I have - right now, I'm listening to a composer named Julio Estrada. He's a composer from Mexico, he's one of the composer's who's studied the whole contemporary experimental music in Mexico. he studied with Xenakis and Ligeti, and all those guys. But that's just a pure coincidence that I'm listening to his music right now. What I have been doing for the past three years, is I have a huge list of MP3s full of music that I like, from rock music, to noise music, to classical music, and I just pick a random folder every day, and open it in iTunes. I feel like I listen too much to a specific composer then I will get too much influence from them, and start copying them, in an unconscious way. And I don't want that, I want to hear as much music as possible.
AW: Last question: what is the most impactful class, or event, or experience, you've had in the past two years here?
Rafa: Um, well, that's a very hard question. The combination of hearing the works of the other graduate students in the composition seminar, with the opportunity I had to work as a TA. To listen to the works of the students, I think that both things are what I will say have had a great impact on myself.