When music is composed from a personal vantage point, it speaks volumes about the human condition and the society that frames any one person’s experience. Sometimes these elements are painstakingly obvious, showing us clear rhythm...
When music is composed from a personal vantage point, it speaks volumes about the human condition and the society that frames any one person’s experience. Sometimes these elements are painstakingly obvious, showing us clear rhythmic, harmonic, or melodic references based upon cultural traditions. At other times, distinct pieces of culture are embedded within the context of different artistic aesthetics, but the way that they change the music makes a huge impact upon the final product. Whatever the case, one thing is inevitable – when compositions are constructed outside the predetermined realms of popular music, they reflect directly back upon the composer, giving us a potent view of their cultural foundation.
The important ties between music, art, and cultural tradition became apparent to percussionist Samuel Torres as he dug deeply into the composition of his latest piece “Forced Displacement,” which was funded by a grant from Chamber Music America. Inspired to integrate traditional Colombian music on a more meaningful level, Torres traveled back to his home country for a study of traditional bullerengue. Filmmaker Noelia Santos accompanied Torres, intent on capturing the process for a documentary about Torres’s new piece. The story that emerged was much more powerful than a look at a series of private lessons though – this became a look at the heart and soul of Colombia. While Torres’ connected with important musicians, academic experts, and community members, Santos saw a country making huge strides to move past a history of violence and oppression. The experience provided important inspiration for both musician and filmmaker to reflect upon their art and deliver something meaningful.
While Samuel found the musical direction to complete and premiere “Forced Displacement,” Santos found herself with some potent footage of Colombian music and culture. This footage became the cornerstone of a new film Tempo Rubato, which promises to be a powerful combination of Latin Jazz and Colombian culture. Santos is currently running a KickStarter campaign to get funding for a return to trip to Colombia where Torres will debut “Forced Displacement” in Bogota. It’s an inspiring story that deserves to be finished, so I had to hear more; fortunately, Santos was happy to answer my questions about the film.
I’m excited to see tempo Rubato, and after reading our interview with Santos I think you’ll agree – you can help make that happen by contributing to the KickStarter campaign HERE.
LATIN JAZZ CORNER: The idea behind the documentary seems like something that would have evolved organically – what was the initial inspiration behind the Tempo Rubato project?
NOELIA SANTOS: I had always been interested in so-called ‘artist process’ films and the idea of doing a documentary about a new creative work coming into being was very appealing to me. In particular, the process of writing music seems inherently cinematic to me – there’s the progression of sounds that eventually coalesces into a phrasing that you can understand and when you hear it fall into place, you know it’s right instinctively. And it’s natural to make associations between sounds, notes, chords and images – so a film has a lot of leeway with presenting and interpreting (in exterior imagery) the interior creative process. So when I became acquainted with Samuel’s work and his new project, that idea fell into place: the film’s challenge would be how to depict the creation of this new musical work and all of its various inspirations and cross-references.
LJC: Samuel is definitely an accomplished percussionist and composer with a lot to offer musically, but what makes him and his perspective on music an inspiring subject for a film?
NS: Samuel’s a very focused, hard-working musician; he doesn’t bullshit around. Even though he’s not hugely popular among the gene