Air. Or the minimum space, the inverted whisper. A tattered canvas that tears and shatters. Air, sound, an image. The same circular story, over and over.







In this thesis, I explore the relationship between words and music, space and sound. It is also the result, or the work in progress, of an exploration that started two years ago when I joined the NoCom master1. Throughout this period I’ve been exploring the idea of narrative, or more specifically, how to translate a narrative into music, and how text and music relate to each other. We are surrounded by stories, telling them, constantly creating our own, how does that reflect in music?

It is also a journey of discovery, of how something that began with a poem ended up involving space and movement. It is not an endpoint, but a beginning.


Through Research Catalog I invite you to go inside a landscape, to cross the symbolic threshold, where sound creates an image, where music meets with silence.




Just as it happened with music, I’ve always been fascinated by novels, tales, books in general; the written word. Having a whole universe in your hands that doesn’t open unless you turn the page, that is only created if you actually turn it in that very moment. Connecting that to music suddenly seemed natural. I had the idea of using stories, taking old fairy tales that seem simple and naive, but that hold deep wisdom inside, and transforming them into music. Not as a descriptive, narrative process, but in the same way a poem is made. Like an image that is frozen in time, a small capsule containing a certain light or a certain color that is unique at that moment. An emotional space. That narrative frame being a structural element in the composition process.



The criteria for choosing those specific tales and not any others has been purely intuitive. Some were already among my favourite texts, others were discovered throughout the process. The initial premise was to use old traditional tales that belong to the folklore, and that has been the case with most of them, but I couldn’t resist to use some others that were very close to me emotionally, or that really had an impact on me when I read them for the first time. 


The common factor within all of these tales is that they don’t belong to reality, they are placed somewhere else; a dream space that follows other rules. They are not novels trying to depict a society, they don’t talk about historical facts or important figures. They have dragons and magic, secret songs, and hidden treasures; they move through the symbolic. 

 Working with stories is very similar to working with music; in both there is a space that is not obvious, that is not forced and brutally exposed on the surface, but makes itself present in other ways. Music and tales are not intended to catch the rational dimension of the world, they aim to cross the borders, to approximate what cannot be said or understood.

So, to further our kinship relationship with the instinctual nature,
it assists greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, 
rather than as though they are outside of us. We enter into a story through
the door of inner hearing. The spoken story touches the auditory nerve,
which runs across the floor of the skull into the brainstem just below
the pons. There, auditory impulses are relayed upward to consciousness
or else, it is said, to the soul ... depending on the attitude
with which one listens.2  


Literary critics such as G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis felt

that fairy stories are “spiritual explorations” and hence

“the most life-like” since they reveal “human life as seen, 

or felt, or divined from the inside.” 3 

This is the reason why in traditional Hindu medicine a fairy tale

giving form to his particular problem was offered to a psychically 

disoriented person, for his meditation. It was expected that through

contemplating the story the disturbed person would be led to visualize

both the nature of the impasse in living from which he suffered,

and the possibility of its resolution. From what a particular tale

implied about man’s despair, hopes, and methods of overcoming tribulations,

the patient could discover not only a way out of his distress but also

a way to find himself, as the hero of the story did.4 


I also wanted the stories to have different geographical and cultural origins because I believe that it changes the colors they evoke and gives a wider range for imagination. So these four tales come from places such as Mexico: La Loba, Scotland: Sealskin, Soulskin, China: A Butterfly’s Dream, and France: How Wang-Fu was saved. The first two are traditional folklore tales, recollected and rewritten by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book Women who run with the wolves. A Butterfly’s Dream is one of the tales within the Zhuangzi, which is one of the two foundational texts of Taoism, along with the Tao Te Ching. How Wang-Fo was saved is one of the stories within the Oriental tales by Marguerite Yourcenar. 










What I present here are six pieces that are illustrative of my musical exploration during these two years of my master’s. They also picture the chronologic development of the use and perception of the text in relation to the music. 


It is now, when I’m crystallizing this process into words, into directional thoughts, that I’m realising that an actual process took place, that I can connect the dots and see the line extended. But most of it happened unconsciously, without me being aware of what I was looking for. 


During the first year of my master's, I was already trying to get my way around text and I used several poems for creating music.


At first, the text was an essential structural component of the music, clearly exposed in front, but being part of a different layer, keeping the identity of the spoken word (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi). The verses of the poem served here to create a structure. Then, when a melody was added to the words, they began to constitute an intrinsic part of the music (Canción Última). 

When I used the poems, I started composing with the idea, the emotional atmosphere, and the feeling of the poem, trying to capture what it said, how it sounded. Trying to capture not the words but the feeling they evoked. 


When I started using the tales I would first read the story, then while it was still fresh in my mind, I would write some words, a poem, with whatever came to me after reading. I wasn’t trying to condense or represent the story with my own words, in fact, many of them don’t have an obvious relation to the tale, or they seem to be talking about something else. But I feel that they are emotionally connected. Once I had the words I would either sing them to find a melody and develop the music from there, or I would directly go to the piano to try to find the harmonic landscape. Sometimes it also started with finding and recording sounds for the electronics, which would end up being the first layers of the story. 

The instrumentation for most of the stories (Eyalirtaq, La Loba, and Imagina que despierto) consists of violin, double bass, trumpet, saxophone, piano, and voice. I chose this specific constellation because of its wide range of timbrical possibilities and the contrast-balance between winds and strings.



I followed this process of reading the story, writing the poem, and using it as a frame for composing with La Loba and Eyalirtaq, however, when I had the music written I saw that I would need to go further. In the way I imagined these tales, there was also a space, a light, a certain movement. They were not only music but something to be experienced.

At that point, and through an elective subject at RMC called Music for New Interfaces, I came across several systems that would allow me to control electronics through movement. Body movement, with the Kinect camera5, which is based on a motion and depth sensor. And a system based on QR codes, which when placed on any object or surface allows to transform it into a Midi controller. That discovery changed my vision completely and opened a whole new space to explore and imagine. 

The Kinect camera works with a system that permits the design and placement of several areas in the space where it is located. When a person or an object enters that area and it's detected by the camera, that will produce a midi message that can be mapped to Ableton Live. Having the camera set up on the ceiling turns the floor underneath into an interactive landscape.

The QR codes work also with camera tracking, but in this case, depending on the movements made by the QR code (or the object attached to it), different kinds of midi messages can be mapped to Ableton Live.

Having these tools, the space slowly became a primary part of the composition process. Now it was not only the music but creating a room for that music, thinking about the different layers of sound and their distribution. In Si te vas, which is the most recent piece, the text, the tale came to be the germinal idea, the trigger to unfold the concept, but the central focus was now the movement. It was not adding some movement to preexisting music as in the two previous songs, but directly taking the movement as a generator of sound, as a compositional element. To give the sound a body, a way to represent it.

This later part of the process is tightly connected with wanting to create another experience through a concert. One that is not bidimensional (musicians-audience), but immersive. One that allows the listeners to live through the music, to experience it around them, and be a part of it. So entering the concert room is crossing a border towards an unknown encounter.






In the point of tension, in the very center of what is conflicting, through the uncomfortable places, we pose a question, hoping that it will be resolved. We try to bring some light to what we cannot see yet. The whole idea of working with texts, exploring the relationship between text and music, came precisely from my struggle. It came from the difficulty of putting words and music together. That uncertainty generated a movement forward, an impulse towards the idea of narrative.


It didn’t start as a straightforward process, but as a sounding out in the darkness. First through the use of preexisting texts, poems; words that someone else already wrote. Then getting to the tales as an originating idea, to trigger a concept. The story as a catalyzer. Finally, the story became an inspiration, a way of creating an image from which the music could be extracted. The challenge of creating a text, of relating to it through music, developed into a connecting thread unfolded through the stories.



While composing before, it was usual that I would get blocked and couldn’t finish or continue a piece. I could spend days before the paper trying to grasp something that would allow me to continue. Sometimes I could, sometimes I couldn’t, but it was always a strenuous path forward. With this other approach, I contact music more intuitively, I don’t wait in front of the blank space, but try to shape an image that is already living inside of me. And then it's only letting it out.

I wouldn’t say that what I’m presenting here is a result, or that I’ve reached a final stage in the process, but quite the opposite. I believe I have been learning about my composing practice, and these are the tools I have found to trigger my imagination. This is a way of putting the music into movement. Getting to know that for me it’s easier to conceive a piece when I have already an image of how I want it to be, a story to tell. 

The difficulty was in the absence of an emotional connection to the music I was making. There was a gap between the concept and the sounds, and it was an impossible one. Having formal structures without an emotion that would glue them together proved to be as ineffective as having an idea without a frame.  

The point, in the end, was not to be able to translate with exactitude a story into music but to have something to say and be able to tell it. The narrative I was looking for was my own emotional narrative. To let go of the technicalities and rigid composing structures and dare to float in the space in between, in the abstraction of a poem. 


Going through the stories, learning about how the symbolic works, and how intuition can function as guidance has only set territory to start exploring. It has opened the door to a different conception of how I think of music. Because along with the stories the idea of dramaturgy appeared, and that pointed to a significant purpose.

Linking stories to music or using movement to convey a story is not anything new. But for me, the most important outcome of this process has been learning how to do that in a different way. Using and adapting several interfaces to perform and improvise with electronics, and creating a narrative through that. 

Apart from finding a composing method that works for me, I feel I have found a path to continue with my artistic exploration. I have connected with a sense of meaning. The text is amplified to all the other senses, colors, textures, tension-release, dynamics, and friction-harmony, as a part of music, words, and movement. The words have grown into creating a dramaturgy that brings the audience inside of the music, undetached from experience.

Storytelling, music as an experience, as a catharsis, something with the power of transforming whoever listens. 



We are all part of the story, of a never-ending reenactment. Through art, we enter the symbolic land, we come back to the ritual of the caves. We chase the elusive contour of the air. In this world where gods and their mysteries are long forgotten, we turn back to the songs, the voices, and the bonfires. 

All the time is always now, and every light has before been a shadow, if only we leave the water to unbury its stories. 


How can I, through the use of stories, develop a significant dramaturgy in the music? In which ways can a narrative be used as a means of composing? Which tools can I use to interact and influence the music through spatial storytelling?


 My aim, what I’m looking for, is a way to convey a story, and emotional movement into music, and then to project it, not only with sound but with the space, with the visuals, so the whole dimension of that story appears before the audience. I attempt to capture the symbolic dimension of a tale and transfer it into movement, music, or an image.



Music was a constant presence in my house, I grew up surrounded by it, especially classical music. There was rarely silence while we were at home, but a changing music thread that would extend from morning till night. It was a part of the house as much as the walls or the windows or the colorful carpets; it was another inhabitant. I remember my grandmother singing while sitting in the backyard, her hands moving to bring back the songs, her eyes singing them. My mother leaned on our bedroom door, singing my sister and me to sleep, while we were still fighting against the hour so we could get another song.


From the beginning, music exerted a strong fascination in me, and I soon learned that I could connect and express myself better with music than with words. It all started with a piano and a violin, and a lot of singing.

Music has always been a language for me, one that is not concrete, that is composed of airy words without contours, of fleeting images, the ones that can be experienced but never grasped. Composing, or the idea of discovering the secret mechanisms that made music sound in this way or the other came quite soon. I wanted to learn how to create those mysterious patterns. I wanted to untangle the secret behind my excitement, or the emotion that I felt with that piece, that music, that silence.


Many years of conservatory and a bachelor's in composition didn’t unveil the mystery, but they gave me many tools to understand and develop. However, during those years, I realized that what I was doing was not completely satisfactory on several levels. On the one hand, writing scores in such a precise detailed way often seemed to get in the middle of the music or lead to stiffness. I was mainly using fixed electronics, resulting in the pace of the piece having to be the same in every performance. This was quite frustrating and lacked freedom and spontaneity. On the other hand, and even when I enjoyed very much writing music for other people, I started feeling the need to also perform myself, to establish that connection with music that only happens when you are inside of it and not behind the paper. 

Coming from the classical world, and a very strict way of composing and understanding music, one that is measured to the very last detail and that is organized and perfectly planned beforehand, it was important for me at that point to find a free manner to relate to performance. Because I have been on the other side of the picture in which everything falls over and over again in the same places, I have now a sense of structure and form, but I wanted to be able to apply it with the possibility of creating something new every time.

That idea is what brought me to the Nordic master's, where I could have the opportunity to explore and expand my sonic vision. 




I've always thought of a hybrid perspective between acoustic and electronic sounds. The objective was to find a way in which those two worlds could be balanced and interact organically. Also, to include another dimension into sound, taking space and movement into account, searching for a way of making music not only heard but seen. 


Developing these two aspects in my musical perspective was what I had in mind when this whole process began. I was looking for a way to place myself on stage, to perform and create music closer to what I feel, integrating electronics while doing it.





Two years ago, I had no idea of how that exploration would be shaped, in which way would I be able to find what was only an abstract concept in my head. So I started with what seemed more obvious; composing and playing a lot, trying different ideas, different constellations, and forms of approaching composed and improvised music. All of which gave me an insight into the performative side that I hadn’t really experienced that much before. 


But something was lacking, a certain point in which I couldn’t connect with my own music. A certain wall that rose when I was composing. I was struggling with the words. Thinking of the music first in abstract terms would make it very difficult afterward to include lyrics inside of it. It was also related to the form, the concept behind a song, the story; I felt that I was creating notes that were heading nowhere. Then, I decided to try the other way around, and choose beforehand something that would give that sense of a particular space and color, some kind of theme. That something happened to be poetry. When I tried having a poem to refer to, words that created an image before there was any sound, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to convey a musical mirror connected to it. The contours got defined; the purpose was clearer. That experience made me think immediately about the terms through which I see music. It made me question myself about what happens when you go and see and concert, what do I offer when I’m on stage, what do I want to create through music, and in which way? I realized that for me, music has always been a powerful way of communication, one that allows the revealing of what is on the inside, one capable of changing something in us. In that case, What is it that I want to communicate, what do I have to tell?





There is an immense space which is the land of the symbolic. Everything that we cannot comprehend, everything that lies behind the shadow of the objects, beneath the words, or on the very surface of what we touch, what we believe to see. There is a mystery surrounding every movement. Music is a door, a bridge to cross to where there is no need for understanding. 


 Now, that we walk barely around our already designed and well-practiced roads, without really looking. Now I want to turn to music as a sacred space, a ritual. That idea made me connect immediately with a sense of purpose, with a different way of thinking and conceiving music. From that moment on, I began exploring how to put the idea of a narrative into music, and how to translate that symbolic dimension into sound.

All the pictures and videos in this presentation are made by the author