Julián De La Chica, composer/film-maker/photographer/pianist

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

The composer Philip Glass has had a great influence on my life. I first heard his music by accident when I was around 9 years old. Discussing his work, at that time, with my piano teacher was frustrating but also wonderful. Who was this person, who managed to infuriate the people within the classical music world? As an adult, I went on to read his book. His professional ethics and his commitment to his work is wonderful.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think my biggest challenge has been understanding all the legal aspects of the music industry. It is something that they never teach you in conservatories, and that should be sacrosanct. How do you leave university and not understand the basic issues, for example, of copyright? It cost me a lot – money, time, and frustration.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

I think my greatest challenge has been working with film directors. The language of a film can be too complex, and sometimes a director’s recommendations are too vague. It’s not just about composing music, but about having and knowing that visual language, and above all, understanding the director’s vision. So, when you compose with so much direction, the work becomes much more complex.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles or orchestras?

In general, working with all kinds of musicians is a wonderful experience and each one is a different universe. I learn from all of them. The singers themselves are entirely another universe apart!

Of which works are you most proud?

All of them, I feel very proud of all of them. Certain work may connect more with some than others, but they are outcomes of special moments, circumstances, pains, frustrations, joys, and hopes. They are like scars, reminding you that you are alive and leaving you with experiences that you will never forget. But I have to say that Symphony No. 1 and the voyeuristic images have had a great resonance with me, because they are outcomes of the pandemic.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

That would be more of a question for the audience than for me. What I can say is that when I sit down to compose, I always try to reach the “minimum”. This is very subjective, of course, but it’s like a statement. It is a personal way of going against the unnecessary. Especially with how our lives have become so saturated by media and the internet. We need silence. Maybe that is the reason I’m obsessed with silence in music.

How do you work?

Discipline is the key. I start at 8 am and finish at 9 or 9.30 pm. Every day. In those times I compose, listen, reflect, play piano, and do administrative and research roles. If you work hard, you will see results. It’s a mathematic certainty.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To listen to your music after it has been released or premiered and not frown your… face.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Work ethic and to say no to anything you do not feel is right. Seek peace at work and don’t question your ideals in regard to what society and the industry is demanding. Also, be coherent with your thinking and your work.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?

This depends on the definition of classical music. If we are talking about the traditional definition, then I don’t think there is much to add. In the current scene, in any country, any orchestra, any theatre, they are presenting the same canonical repertoires and the same central-European composers. But if we talk about current classical music, well, I will say that it is a matter of education (the government of each country has a lot to do with this) and of course the relationship between cultural entities and the public.

I believe that the great organisations and cultural companies in the world should give more space to current compositions. If there is no continuous and strong work between, let’s say, an orchestra, and living composers, then how do we inform the public that there is something else? How can we tell them that there is other music being made today that is not from 200 years ago?

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Drinking a Martini on the Amalfi Coast. It is always good to go back to the south.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Inner peace is the key. Lots of love is perfection.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing, playing the piano, sharing with my family, going to Six flags in NJ, and annoying my cat. Opera night at the Met.

What is your present state of mind?

Evolution and re-evolution. Minimal is the key. Be a wonder.

Few artists are equally adept at two or more creative mediums. Following his latest release, Silencios Fatuos Op. 16 for solo piano, Brooklyn-based Colombian composer/filmmaker/photographer/pianist Julián De La Chica has used the narrative from his album – and the compositions – as the framework for his second short film, Dora. The story follows a young Latina immigrant and her trans lover in New York City, and their unique struggles as immigrants during the pandemic. The film, which has already begun earning recognition at indie film festivals, is an important perspective into the lives of “others”, and how the perception of otherness was more starkly brought to light in the pandemic. 

He also has a new book, El Castigo de Dios, out this year, based on the Colombian town, Agua de Dios, and its dark history in the 19th and 20th centuries as an isolated community created by the Colombian government to contain people with leprosy.

Award-winning Colombian composer Julián De La Chica is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY, whose influences range from minimalism & post-minimalism to the alternative electronic scene. His work is often inspired by everyday images, the search for personal spiritual reflection, and inner darkness. It mixes piano, strings, and classical singers, with electronic keyboards and controllers, crossing over from classical to ambient, post-minimal and electronic music. His music has been recorded by artists around the globe and his discography includes more of 6 solo albums and 14 collaborative projects, some of which have been included by Spotify’s “Classical New Releases” playlist worldwide.

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