Inspired by 17th-century composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, I’ve been thinking about the whole process of remixing. Now, I’m not a composer of electronic music—nor am I a DJ. But I would like to translate some of the ideas behind the current remix culture to the world of acoustic music. In reality, the concept of remix has been an integral part of musical culture since the invention of notation, and it’s a concept that already has influenced much of my thinking about music.
Wikipedia defines remix as “…a piece of media which has been altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item….. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new.” In this sense, a renaissance parody mass, any set of variations on a preexisting theme or tune (like Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations), or even Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis can be characterized as remixes.
The difference between these examples and the contemporary remix has more to do with the presentation of its ideas rather than the technique of musical recycling. In the Twenty-First Century, we like to show off the “seams” of the musical fabric rather than hide them tucked away. Most remixes make no pretense of organicism, though a good remix will always “sound right” in terms of the rhetorical arguments it presents by means of its raw materials.
My Padilla Remix: Joseph fili David is based on Gutiérrez de Padilla’s motet by the same name. The original is for double SATB chorus, and I have utilized elements of the motet to create a work for four-voice chorus and string orchestra. I have composed new elements which interact with and at times even replace the textures and counterpoint of the original. Stylistically the piece fluctuates between the rather austere “stilo antico” of Gutiérrez de Padilla’s sacred music and a more lush harmonic vocabulary, often connected through a more “modernist” overlapping of contrasting chords and dissonant pedal points.
An earlier piece of mine—Destierros (Blues Tropes) from the year 2000—also used the concept of remix, taking as its basis the Hieremiae Prophetae Lamentationes by Manuel de Zumaya and transforming the discourse of the “Mexican Baroque” by means of a set of blues commentaries on, and modernist interruptions of, the original.
And I am already under way with a second Padilla remix: this one based on Gutiérrez de Padilla’s “Vidi turbam magnam”, a six-voice motet which I am remixing for SATB chorus, marimba, organ (keyboard), and string orchestra.