About this Recording
8.579072 - HERNÁNDEZ, S.: Piano Music Initiation to the Shadow / Terra Santa / Fantasia for Piano / Don't Forget About That (S. Hernández)
English  Spanish 

Sira HERNÁNDEZ (b. 1959)
Initiation to the Shadow
Music for Piano


When music became an absolute and emancipated art from other corresponding elements, the creator could choose between living in it or living for it. The profession of composer used to conjoin that of the performer, both being one. But when aesthetics captured the heart of the creator, the composer’s labour became a lonely struggle to redefine the self vis-à-vis the audience. At that moment the ties between the creator and the performer began to unravel. When their paths separated, the performer became increasingly professional, to consolidate themselves as an end and not as a means for music. This battle provoked the silence or sublimation of the performer’s natural drive to create, with what had been natural gradually forgotten and its transformation into something purely secondary.

In the history of sound art, there are hundreds of great creators who were also fascinating performers. This list is seemingly endless, from Sappho to Sira Hernández, Francesca Caccini, Marianne von Martinez, Clara Wieck, Fátima Miranda or even Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Bernstein or Boulez. Creation and recreation share a common objective, revealing what Ramón Barce called ‘the communication of hidden beauty’. The light radiated by some great performers tended to shadow their creative legacy, even if these shadows, as this collection you hold and hear reveals, are but the principal from which radiance is necessarily defined.

The professional performer lives to untangle music. Their knowledge must necessarily be deep, personal, intense and autonomous. The primal electricity that emerged from deep within the creator must always pass through the hands, head and heart. This gives the performer qualities similar to that of a medium, conductor and vital connector to a world of sound in permanent movement.

Sira Hernández is one of the most personal and brilliant pianists in the recent history of Spanish piano performance. Her independence and constant search for new keyboard perspectives have been marked by a stifling of her own creativity. A tireless pioneer of the unexplored, from performance to concert, whispering in the ear of Soler, Bach or Mompou, Sira Hernández finally gives us in this recording what has always existed—her essential creativity.

In praise of the shadow

You are listening to an album that goes beyond simply embellished diversion. Iniciación a la sombra (‘Initiation to the Shadow’) is a manual in sound, in which Sira Hernández proposes we accompany her on a personal journey to understand the concept of birth from darkness. The poetic dimension is essential, starting with the words of the Manchegan poet Ángel Crespo and the shared concept of shadow as the first stage of light. We are not dealing with the Borgesian praise of multiple shadows here, but with the singular entity. It does not speak to us of what is not seen, but of what is to be seen, of the origin, of what should never be forgotten because it defines us as human beings. The works thus presented in this album develop not only a complex but also an intense and direct approach. No possible speculation on the dichotomy between shadow and light exists except for the definition of the latter as heir to the former.

Sira Hernández’s work seems familiar, but it is uncompromising. The Manichaean game of aesthetic ideals usually runs the risk of one not being able to open the door to the darkness. It is an invitation to a poetic journey, which insinuates and captivates, a music that does not resort to external input to fill the programme notes with explanations. The definition and reappearance of imperceptibly modified material generates random structures, but never misses the communication of hidden beauty. The musical tapestry of Sira Hernández is seamless because it is not composed of fragments of other works but flows with the naturalness of improvised rethinking. The enduring tradition of crystallising what emerges under the dictate of the immediate feeds a production that poorly manages the difficult balance between what is and what has to be. We are faced with a work gelled from ideas, from proposals that are centrifuged and dried in the sun, but that emerge from the shadow.

When the shadow sounds, it does so in B flat

Sira Hernández begins her creative cycle with Iniciación a la sombra (‘Initiation to the Shadow’) (2015), a work framed in a multi-disciplinary performance together with the poet Ángel Crespo, the dancer Pau Aran, the artist Stella Rahola and the actor Manuel Galiana. Premiered at the Arts Santa Mònica in Barcelona in 2015, Sira Hernández presents a review of the original performance in which we find the essentiality of the word and inspiring movement compressed. Initially hinting at a nocturne, Iniciación a la sombra begins to reveal itself, starting from the darkness of B flat. The minimalist techniques start to open a range of light in progression in which an open trill mutates incessantly, seeking the brightness of higher ranges. The motifs move tirelessly, taking breaths in acordic episodes which form a new support from which to gain impetus. The appearance of B flat major reintroduces the shadows, like a gong quivering gently in the faintest of breezes.

Darkness fed by the deep torment of helplessness

Through 40 poems, the book by Milanese poet Alda Merini, Terra Santa (‘The Holy Land’) (1984), collates a torn and visceral account of the writer’s unfortunate experience at the Paolo Pini Psychiatric Hospital. Sira Hernández composed Terra Santa – Ci sono angeli nel cielo (‘Holy Land – There are Angels in Heaven’) in 2017, as part of the project by choreographer and director Moreno Bernardi, L’altra voce. It was the first of the four parts into which the work Terra Santa was divided. Sira Hernández presents a large format work which develops the idea of the presence of God in the deepest and bleakest spaces of madness under the score indication as a prayer. Again, the omnipresent B flat reminds us of the place of the shadow, the aural memory of the principle of inspiration and movement, which appears lurking, wrapped in solitude and darkness. The repetitions of the motifs and the changes in textures introduce us to an emotional balance—neurosis vis-à-vis loneliness and sadness. The composer invites us to penetrate the psychosis of Alda Merini thanks to a communicative language, avoiding concepts of material development in clear reference to the condition of the poetry itself—pure and truthful communication that is born from visceral, intense and enjoyable creative processes that invite us to be lifted on a wild wave full of poetry.

The wounds of the soul darken with seams

When the artist Sara Conforti asked Sira Hernández to participate on the Lalàgeatelier project in collaboration with Fragole Celesti and the community for female victims of abuse, mistreatment and violence in 2017, a fresh look at the concept of the shadow reappeared. Sewing machines, which helped heal wounds through seamstress activities, prompted a creative drive that led to the Fantasía para piano (‘Fantasy for Piano’). Again, the composer submerges us in a large-scale work in which adjacent elements motivate and condition a type of descriptive aural text. Sira Hernández’s music is a story told through her own voice, where the end cannot be even imagined, but that captivates by encapsulating time. The presence of ostinato sequences immediately introduces us to the sound of the sewing machine that is soon dominated by the shadow of the persistent B flat, the nutrient shadow, which now becomes a space of pain with regard to the light. The mechanical echo remains deafened by the simplicity of the line and the sad lyricism of each and every one of the stories recorded in each of those heroines. Again, the minimalist techniques, the repetition of never trivial textures, lead us to a circular universe in which the episodes are altered with natural musicality.

Revisiting tragedy helps us not to forget

This album of compositions by Sira Hernández closes with Don’t Forget About That (2019) a work that orbits around the figure of the Italian writer Primo Levi on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. The impression of the testimony of the Turinese writer as a survivor of the death camps during the Second World War leads us to the last revision of the concept of shadow, the shadow of the human and its dematerialisation and oblivion. Released in June 2019, the dimensions and readings of the work become an inexhaustible source of reflection. No one should forget, no one should judge the other for being different, never should the shadow lead to desolation. The work draws on a climate of the repetition of increasingly simple, naked formants. Sira Hernández manages tensions with a masterful sense of the passage of time, of the communicative process. Listening to the detail, the deafening sound of the chord resolved with the firm conviction of mastering storms, of knowing, driving phrasing to the limit of the humanly acceptable. Music that invites us to live on the edge, never to fall. The care of each sound and even its shady selfabsorption produces a kind of inner monologue that invites us to reflect on the loss of content of the word ‘humanity’. Don’t Forget About That is the most atonal and intense work of those that are part of this album. There is no truce, the ghost of oblivion plays with real time and with that imagined, giving each chord in a process of dismemberment an intensity that exceeds its physical nature to scale in the degree of the immanent.

‘… I escape through the gaps in the music.’ Á. Crespo

Juan Francisco de Dios Hernández
Doctor of History and Music Sciences
English translation: John Barnard

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