Mercedes Gómez and Javier Álvarez: a thirty-year collaboration between harpist and composer
June 12, 2015
Because the harp is still something of a mystery instrument, harpists often collaborate particularly closely with composers. This leads to lifelong friendships, and wonderful examples of how our profession is a human matter, and doesn’t divide the personal and the professional.
Mercedes Gómez has written a wonderful account of her work with Javier Álvarez. He has written two fascinating pieces for harp and electroacoustic sounds: Acuerdos por Diferencia, and Sonoroson. These are now being released on disc, as part of a retrospective collection of his music (Casete-Agricultura Digital, supported by CONACULTA and in co-production with CMMAS-org, Gobierno del Estado de Michoacán, ENM-UNAM, MUAC, Camac Harps, and Radio France). You can download the album from iTunes.
I well remember Mercedes performing Acuerdos por Diferencia at the World Harp Congress in Dublin (2005). The piece depicts a train travelling at speed, through a landscape dotted with electricity poles. The poles swoop by and seem to loop; similarly, the harp and the electroacoustic sounds interweave in a manner that is both clever and moving. The tape imitates the harp sounds, but in unplayable figurations. The impossible figures weave about the live performer, entrancing us as much by their unattainability as by their brilliance. There’s a powerfully plastic flow around both limits and the limitless. Alvarez writes: “Picture yourself travelling at ease on a train. As you look through the window, you notice the power cables running parallel to the tracks. These tracks seem to turn as a volume that gently rotates and changes shape. This flow accelerates before being interrupted by the posts that hold them at more or less regular distances. In this piece, I have attempted to draw a musical parallel with a similar sort of speculation, playing with point of accord (Acuerdo), and variations, juxtapositions, superimpositions (Diferencia), between harp and tape. Thus my title could freely be translated as “accords within differences.”
Mercedes also played Sonoroson, Álvarez’s second work for harp and electroacoustic sounds, at a World Harp Congress (Vancouver, 2011).
Read Mercedes’s account of her work with Álvarez here!