Luis Tabuenca: Volavérunt
As a performer and composer, Spanish percussionist Luis Tabuenca focuses on the contemporary and experimental, blurring distinctions between improvised and composed music. He has studied in esteemed modern ensembles such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Ensemble Recherche and he has written music for solo percussion, contemporary dance, documentaries and visual artists.
Volavérunt is based on the Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s print series “Los Caprichos,” created in 1797 and ’98. Goya used these prints to condemn the universal follies and foolishness in Spanish society, referring to the predominance of superstition, the ignorance and inabilities of various members of the ruling class, and the decline of rationality. Some of the prints even have anticlerical themes.
Each of the nine pieces is based on one of Goya’s prints, and each offers a different spirit and compositional strategy. In some of the pieces Tabuenca emphasized completely defined elements, while on others he left decisions to the musicians, enabling them to influence outcomes with their own individual language.
Tabuenca succeeded in beautifully balancing the composed and improvised elements. Eva Lootz’s suggestive vocals on “Tántalo,” charge the piece with mysterious tension. The wild, playful solo vocals and cello improvisations of Zulaima Boheto on “Chitón” are simply inspiring. Tabuenca’s quiet, meditative solo vibes on “Correción” and the nervous percussion work on “Autorretrato” are masterful pieces that juggle between thoughtful composed elements, subtle sonic searches and creative, intuitive, improvised freedom full of nuanced drama, arresting tension and vibrant colors. The whole ensemble turns the title piece into quiet, resonating sound poem that lingers in mind long after its end. Highly original, unique work.