M. Cristina Kasem | asymmetry music magazine

M. Cristina Kasem

Asymmetry: So I hear that you won first prize in the Bourges’ competition. Which category?

Kasem: Musique electroacoustic with formal esthetics.

Asymmetry: Without instruments.

Kasem: Yes. Well, there are instruments in the mix, but not in real time.

Asymmetry: When did you start composing?

Kasem: At twenty-four or twenty-five years old. I started earlier than that with the violin, as interpreter. And then I needed to express myself further on, not only as a player. It was a necessity for me. I wanted two things–to be a violinist and to be a composer. I think that it is important for a composer to play.

Asymmetry: Yes. In fact, most of the composers I know are people who are also players. And I think that’s good.

Kasem: Now I am a living artist. The day I will not be alive, maybe another person will play my music. But, of course, it is possible that in this very same moment another person could be interested in playing my music.

Asymmetry: How did you get started composing?

Kasem: I played the violin, which I like very much. I played in an orchestra in the Colon theater at Buenos Aires, but I got a little tired playing pieces all the time for orchestra. I felt that something was absent. And it was a special moment in my life full of changes, a spiritual moment; it was a necessity for me to express myself, but through my own personal music….

And that moment I knew Alejandro Iglesias-Rossi and it was great, because he told me “you do not have to study the formal technique of composition, you have to compose.” And for me, that was a great moment because I needed to fly alone. It was so imperative as necessity to compose, that it was a matter of life or death. For me it was like salvation.

Asymmetry: When you were playing violin, before you started composing, were you playing living composers, new music?

Kasem: No. I played substantially Bach. It’s great, but when you play Bach, there is the possibility of making mistakes, because it’s not your music. When I play my own music, I don’t make mistakes, because I’m the person who did the piece. There’s no possibility of making a mistake.

Niebla y luz

Asymmetry: I know a lot of musicians who play older music only; they never play new music. And it seems like for those people, the way they treat their instrument is not respectful. Because it’s always the technique–for playing Brahms or for playing Beethoven. It’s always the technique for playing a certain kind of music.

Kasem: The same global technique with no renewal conduces to play the same type of music.

Asymmetry: And there are so many things you can do with a violin that are outside that technique. It seems like if you really love your instrument, if you really love music, you will want to do other things.

I remember the first time I saw a violinist move the bow up and down the strings rather than across them. Of course!

Kasem: All those things are good. I am not saying that you don’t have to study classical music, but it’s not the only way to play. There are lots of ways to play the violin beyond the occidental technique. I am South American, but my grandfathers are Albanian and Armenian and those traditions give me another way to make music with the violin. Why does America have to copy the music, the technique of another place all the time? American natives have techniques, too, that can be used to play the violin.

In my life I want to do what I want, what I love, not what another person says is good for me.

Asymmetry: When you started composing, you composed for violin first?

Kasem: Yes.

Asymmetry: So how did you go on to electroacoustic?

Kasem: I don’t know.

Asymmetry: “I don’t know”? That’s not good enough! [Laughter]

Kasem: It was a mistake. [More laughter]

It was very strange. I started doing a piece for bandoneon. I started to play a bandoneon, learned how to make sounds with it. And then I put all that into the computer, along with some other things. And I thought it sounded good.

The world of electroacoustics is another world; it is the world of imagination. And I love imagination. So I made a piece with the bandoneon, and I got a premiere, and I won a prize in an acousmatic competition. This encouraged me to continue composing this kind of music. Since that time, I have done a lot of other things. Electroacoustic with live instruments, what we call “mixed music”, for example. Apart from that I continue composing for instruments. I love instruments!

Asymmetry: Before you started composing had you listened to a lot of electroacoustic music?

Kasem: Yes, I did, and I appreciated particularily the pieces of Iglesias Rossi and Mandolini. I really liked electroacoustic music by Ricardo Mandolini. It has a special feeling to it.

Asymmetry: So then you studied composition with Ricardo.

Kasem: Yes, I think Ricardo is one of the most important composers at this moment. Because he has everything in place, technique, form, and heart/spirit. My home is in Buenos Aires, but I will be living in France for two or three years more, studying in Lille with Ricardo.

His music is like a journey. He starts in one place and goes to another world. You can close your eyes and travel to another world. I think his music has a fundamental heart. In this moment, composers have to reconnect with heart. For many years contemporary music showed no heart, it seemed to be done for only a certain group of people. I think contemporary music has to be for people of the world, people that need a change in their life. I would like with my music to be able to transform a person who is in the world, to help somebody who is lost to find himself. I don’t know if I can change something with my music, but I am interested in human beings. I am not interested either in narcissist poses or in small elites where the composers congratulate each other for their music. I think in terms of people who need expression, and for them I would like to do something… popular!

I don’t think I’m just a composer. I am interested in arts and creation in general, not only in the musical field but also in poetry, painting, theater. Creation is life for me. In this field I know that I have learn a lot, I have to live, I have to know a lot of other things. I am also doing a PhD in France concerning spirituality in composition.

Asymmetry: What’s next for you?

Kasem: I’m working on another piece, Los cielos infinitos (The infinite heavens). This piece continues Las aguas abismales (The abyssal waters), the piece that was awarded in Bourges.

Las aguas abismales

Los cielos infinitos

Next I will compose Pacha Mama (Mother earth). The three pieces, Las aguas abismales, Los cielos Infinitos and Pacha mama constitue a triptych named Vuelo Iniciático (Initiatic fly).

Asymmetry: It’s interesting that you can finish a piece and then realize you’re not finished, yet.

Kasem: Composing the triptych I realized how creation is relative to life. Both show the continuity of chained experiences.

I think my pieces have too much of my life, how I am at that moment. There are a lot of things that are new to me at this moment. I think that it is not casual that I’m composing the piece Los cielos infinitos at this moment.

You feel that a part of you goes into a piece, but suddenly that piece is not you anymore; it’s another thing. You made it, but then it goes its own way.

And I think that is a good thing.

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