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About the Trois Nouvelles Études (2020) by Leo Brouwer

Updated: Nov 27, 2023


This past month I was so excited to be able to collaborate on the release of the premiere video for Trois Nouvelles Études (2020) by Leo Brouwer. The video was released by Maestro Brouwer's publishing house Ediciones Espiral Eterna, recorded by Rob Adler of Brooklyn Frequency, and recorded at A4 Collective in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn which is a fantastic organization run by Jae Kyo Han.


I am inspired by how the project turned out and very grateful to everyone involved for having helped make it happen.


 

History


The composition of these three pieces in 2020 were inspired by the great Thibault Cauvin and his project to record all 30 of the studies by Leo Brouwer. Perhaps some of you remember that during the lockdown Thibault also started the Brouwer Challenge which encouraged guitarists to pass through the all of the etudes in 30 days. I mean, what else were we doing anyway? It was great fun.


Each one of the studies were dedicated to the memory of three important French philophers of the 20th century: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jacques Derrida. According to Thibault, Mtro. Brouwer has a strong connection to France of those days and inspired by the thinking of that time. I was really excited to see music connected to philosophy in this way and it motivated me to learn them. I love reading philosophy and was super intrigued about how a composer like Leo Brouwer would make the musicial connections.


The Trois Nouvelles Études is made up of the three etudes:

I. La Ruta de las Máscaras (The Way of the Masks)

II. El ser y la nada (Being and Nothingness)

III. El Diálogo Eterno (The Eternal Dialouge)

 

I. La Ruta de las Máscaras (The Way of the Masks)


This is the first étude written in memoriam of French philosopher and anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 - 2009) and the title is taken from the book The Way of the Masks (La Voie des Masques) written by Levi-Strauss in 1972. Lévi-Strauss worked towards developing the theories of structuralism and identifying underlying patterns in the world around us.   Mtro. Brouwer is a master of structure and I think there are a lot of opportunities in this étude to bind various thematic elements to realize the whole of the work.


II. El Ser y la Nada


El Ser y la Nada or “Being and Nothingness” is one of the most important works on existentialist thought written by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.  In it Sartre proclaims that existence precedes essence and outlines what it means to truly define ourselves by the choices we make and the actions we take in life.  While existential philosophy can seem bleak at times (who hasn’t had an existential crisis before, right?), I believe it is actually quite a liberating philosophy that really explores what it means to be free against the odds of the human condition. 


This étude beautifully exhibits that freedom Sartre describes compositionally.  The opening swells between sparse and dense textures (el ser y la nada) and Mtro. Brouwer largely presents the two main sections of this piece in odd meters of 5/8 and 7/8 breaking free of common time signatures as an example. This spacious movement also includes beautiful quotes from other notable works by Mtro. Brouwer such as the 2nd movement from the Sonata del Caminante No.2 “El Gran Sertao” and the 2nd movement from Danzas Rituales y Festivas Vol. 1 “Habanera trunca.”


III. El Diálogo Etrerno


While Jacques Derrida is known for many philosophical contributions to law, the arts, political theory, and much more in the 20th C, he is most commonly associated with his theory of “deconstruction” outlined in his 1967 book De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology). Deconstruction is the process of taking apart established preconceptions we might have (usually in binary opposition) in order to understand the concept or problem as a whole.  For example, Derrida says in life we may tend to favor speech over writing or reason over passion & by understanding the supposed lesser halves better we can learn to see how beautifully complex the concept actually is and learn more about it. In music the deconstruction  of elements like tension and resolution, consonance and dissonance, or tonality and atonality for example could help bring about an even richer music when it comes to the process of composition.


Mtro. Brouwer notes that even though these etudes were composed as a trilogy, they don’t need to be performed as a set and can exist independently of one and other as they are not linked thematically.  On that Mtro Brouwer explains:


“This directly linked to the way I elaborate and develop my musical material.  I usually perform a ‘decomposition’ (a term twinned from other topics to Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’), using multiple parameters or formants —like the sound atmosphere, the dramaturgy, the breaking of the material into two dimensions (temporal and thematic), its atomization, its fragmentation and the spatiality of the sound strip where my music moves.” 

 

Thank you all so much for your time reading this post and for checking out the new video!


Thank you maestro for the opportunity to play and share your inspiring music.  Guitarists, the score is available at https://en.eeebrouwer.com/ go and play these pieces! 


-Matt

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