Radio Web MACBA: FONS ÀUDIO #14 Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny

reprinted from: Radio Web MACBA 29.02.20

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In Europe and the USA, the end of the Second World War represented a point of reflection within ideas and art. The rupture that the avant-garde had initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century, became even more urgent: the desire to truly break with half a decade of destruction and look for new languages in art, performance, poetry, architecture and music. Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny (Manresa, 1929) is a paradigmatic example of the spirit of radical renovation that swept the European continent during the fifties. His closeness to key figures of Catalan art, like Brossa, Tàpies, Miró, Prats and Villèlia was indicative of his interest in the transversal nature of a creativity which clearly transcended the limits of normality.

Coming from a technical-scientific background, Mestres was notable for his search for alternative methodologies, compositional systems and aesthetic standpoints that left behind the dodecaphonic structures and serialism that had dominated the mid-twentieth century, to integrate new ideas influenced by mathematics, physics and statistics to his music. As opposed to König and Xenakis, for example, Mestres’s approximation of randomness and natural phenomena governed by chance is closer to areas explored by Miró than those reflected in pure stochasticism. In his book “Pensar i fer música”, Mestres tells an interesting story in relation to Miró and the nature of chance: “One day, when contemplating one of his lithographs, I noticed a group of stains that looked like they had been randomly thrown from a brush. The composition produced an unusually vibrant sensation within me. Looking closer, I saw that they had been painted one by one. That is, the artist had recreated the appearance of chance artificially. An idea I found highly suggestive and which I translated to music by imitating chance phenomena through chance procedures, and later modifying the appearance, while maintaining the structure.”

Almost as a declaration of principles, Mestres adds: “The closer music moves to an expression directed towards the consciousness where a mechanism of aesthetic emotions resides, the more I feel the need to leave aside this visceral component due to its essential redundancy.” The meticulous recreation of random processes that Mestres defends synthesizes his attitude to art, which takes its inspiration as much from scientific as from humanist baggage. An approach full of dualism in which the acid vision of Brossa is mixed with a search for new compositional tools and a consideration of the legacy of Gerhard, through numerous vocal, orchestral, electro-acoustic, chamber, performance and visual pieces.

In the interview, Mestres Quadreny begins with various works from the MACBA Collection and their corresponding scores to reconstruct fragments of their artistic context over the decades and their connections with other creators.