String Quartet No. 1

Premiered by: Isaura String Quartet

April 5th, 2014 at SPACE Arts Center

Brief Description: 5 miniature movements est. 7′

Program Notes:

In a language incorporating Argentine tango and hip-hop, String Quartet No. 1 paints a Webern-esque tapestry in 5 miniature movements. The emotional anguishes and passions represented in this piece are the very same links that make up the fabric of human experience. The five movements of String Quartet No. 1 represent snapshots of different vignettes across human history. The emotional bonds fluctuate through restated motifs being permutated throughout the movements.

String Quartet No. 1 Full Score

String Quartet No. 1 Violin I

String Quartet No. 1 Violin II

String Quartet No. 1 Viola

String Quartet No. 1 Violoncello

Violin Study No. 1

Commisioned by: Mona Tian

Premiered: February 22nd, 2013 at CalARTS

Brief Description: Fusing Argentine Tango techniques and modern atonal aesthetics, Violin Study No. 1 is not only a piece that technically challenges the performer, but acts as a physiological mirror. Est. 7′

Program Notes: Memories and dreams are what shape our present realities. Sometimes they can help us find ourselves and sometimes, they can haunt us. The main lyrical theme of the piece represents our moment-to-moment reality. It is constanly interrupted and influenced by our memories of the past, and our worries of the furure. The constant fluctuation of the E-F motif during the whole of the piece, is the ripples of experience that shape our lives.

Violin Study No. 1


The Starchild Suite

Recorded: 2010 at UCSB by Jeremy Haladyna

Brief Description: A suite consisting of five solo piano minatures inspired by the Starchild Skull found in the southwest of Chihuahua, Mexico. Est Time 6′

Program Notes: Each piece focuses on different 20th Century compositional techniques and represents a different scene in the Starchild narrative.

I. The Arrival    II.Serenade for the Starchild    III. Hymn for the Taken Ones    IV. Scattered Memories     V. Higher Conciousness

The Starchild Suite

My Experiences with the Supernatural

I was born into a Roman Catholic household, baptized, and forced into Sunday school. I learned a lot of prayers in Spanish, I did my first holy communion, and I hated every single second of it. Going to Spanish speaking Catholic Church sucks ass. Big fat ass. There are baby’s crying, a whole lotta Latin mumbo jumbo, and whole lotta bloody images of Jesus. I remember standing up, sitting down, bending on one knee and just saying the same thing everybody else said. I was thinking, is this shit real? Why would God want us to worship him? If God really loved us, why would he want us to put money into a pot and spend an hour of every Sunday doing something we didn’t want to do? Why do I have to confess my ‘sins’ and then have to pray fifty Hail Mary’s?

I remember doing my first confession as a little kid and I really didn’t get it. I got in the little closet thing and I didn’t know what to do. So I told the guy, “uh… what am I supposed to do?” I don’t remember the rest, but I remember I had pray fifty Hail Mary’s anyway and that I should be a good little boy. Jesus Christ. So the point is, that I grew up really resenting the church and I was a die-hard atheist before I even knew what an atheist was. I remember telling my mother and grandmother that I didn’t believe in God when I was about 12. They were both cried, a lot. I really didn’t get it.

My father’s side of the family always went to church and my father always did the sign of the cross every time we would drive by a church. One time I remember his side of the family breaking eggs on a bowl or something when I was a little kid. I remember my mother’s side of the family telling ghost stories and stories of encounters with the devil. Looking back at these occurrences, I realized that Mexican people have a strong connection with the supernatural and tend to be more open to talking about it then your standard American. That said I grew up as a pretty scientific dude and my mantra was “If I don’t see it, then I won’t believe it”.

When I was at UCSB about 24ish, that’s when I started to have my first believable experiences with the supernatural. It started when I fell asleep in the living room couch at my mom’s house. All I remember was that I had a really painful metallic, buzz sensation in my brain. Like my head was being tasered for 10 seconds. That really scared the shit out of me because I never had it happen before. Then a couple weeks later it happened again and this time more intense through my body. I felt like I was getting electric-shocked. The next day I discovered that my brand new black-on-black Kawasaki Ninja 600R motorcycle was stolen. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not but the whole thing just kept getting weirder. I remember at this time my music composition almost took a quantum leap, because I was writing at a very ambitious level a la Beethoven, but anyways I started having weird dreams and stuff. A year later when we moved a few blocks away, I started to feel weird entities, see orbs, and have really nasty nightmares. The weirdest shit of all was when I had a face-to-face experience with something not human. Sometime around 3 or 4 in the morning, I was trying to sleep and I felt like my body was being pulled up in the air and then thrown back down. I was in a weird sober foggy-drunk haze. Next thing you know, I was standing in the opposite side of my living room looking a little green man with small yellow eyes. I started slapping my arms and hands like a little schoolgirl. I was really scared and disoriented. I took a few steps back and kneeled down into a sign of submission. Then I remember shaking his hand and saying “I’m sorry I’m really scared. We can learn a lot from each other.”

I remember asking him what his name was and he said something metallic sounding like ‘gin’. I asked him when he would come back and he looked up and said “oh… when they let me”. I remember asking him to give me a sign and so that next time I wouldn’t get so scared. The next thing I recall was that I kneeled down and put my index fingers into a yellow box with a clear top. I felt something go into my fingers and the next thing I remember is that I was dropped back down where I was sleeping. My heart was still pounding and I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

A few months later I told this story to one of my friends and he said that there was a middle-Eastern phenomenon called ‘gin’ that was what genies came from. He said that I should be careful because they can be mischievous beings. I Wikipediad ‘gin’ and found a different spelling, ‘Djinn’ – he was right, it was based on Middle Eastern Mythology. What happened to me, I really do not know. All I know is that most Anglo-Americans that I tell this story to, do not want to accept that I had a supernatural experience and dismiss it as something else.

My point is that I used to be atheist and a dismisser of the supernatural, but after this weird shit happened to me, I started to do more and more research on the Internet. There are a lot of people out there that have weird experiences and it’s very disappointing when they are automatically dismissed as ‘crazy’ or ‘chemically imbalanced’ or ‘sleep paralysis’ or something. The problem with these occurrences is that the nature of these occurrences are supernatural and happen very unexpectedly. The other problem is that current scientist have a very primitive understanding of the supernatural and do not have the ability to test it. How can you test something that you can’t see? Obviously if something has the ability to appear out of thin air and can visit you when you whenever it chooses, don’t you think that it might it be able to access more frequency ranges then a human can detect? If a human can only see the spectrum of visible light from red to violet, and hear the spectrum of audible sound from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, how can a scientist dismiss the possibility of intelligence that exists outside our human perception?

What really pisses me off about science is that it has become a religion. Doctors and physicists have become modern priests and the quantum physics has become the new dogma. The nature of science is basically to test stuff and make an opinion from the results. If you can’t test it, then it cannot be scientifically viable. Well, why the fuck does something have to be scientifically viable for it to be true? Isn’t it possible you access knowledge or truth without having it to be scientifically validated by someone in a lab coat? Science is a method, and should be treated as a tool for gathering knowledge, not an end-all source of truth.

I’m not saying that science is not important and I’m not saying that we should get rid of it, but I am saying that people need to not treat it as a religion. Going to university and school is starting to sound a lot like going to church and Sunday school. I used to think that the theory of evolution was true and that humans evolved from monkeys, but after taking my anthropology class, my professor who wrote our text book even said (I’m paraphrasing), “there is a gap between the remains of the first proto-human where they found tools and modern man where they started civilization.” If modern human history started in Babylon 4 or 5 thousand years ago, and the oldest anatomical human found is 200,000 years old, what happened in between those 195,000 years? After 195 thousand years, ancient humans just said, “hey sabes que, you know what?, lets just start building stuff and start writing shit down”. WTF? NO! If ancient modern man is 200,000 years old, then wouldn’t civilization or hints of civilization start earlier then 5000 years ago? I mean from horse buggy, to automobile, to rocket ship was roughly 100 years. Its obvious that human evolution has been exponentially increasing, so I don’t think that evolution is a purely a product of natural selection- it perhaps something…supernatural?

Hey Earthling, Sabes Que?


The Conundrum of Evil

I remember taking my college philosophy course and most of it had to with different stances on evil. Mark Twain said that if God were all Good then why is there evil? I think that is a good question and I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as absolute morality but a relative morality depending on the context of the situation. For example, “though shall not kill” means you shouldn’t kill anyone, except in a situation of survival and if you need to defend yourself. I don’t think you should turn the other cheek if someone puts a gun to your face. I think there are times when passive resistance is really stupid. If someone is threatening your life then I think ‘thou shall not kill’ will actually ‘get you killed’.

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. I think evil is bad, but it isn’t necessarily ‘bad’, because if its our job to recognize it and try to overcome it. If we are children of God then by definition it’s our responsibility to grow up and try to make the best decisions we can. God would be doing us a disservice as a parent, if he let us get away with whatever and not have any consequences of our actions. If God is all knowing and powerful and ‘la la la’ then why does he keep the Devil around? Couldn’t God just delete him from existence? But no, the story goes like the Devil was a fallen angel and he got really jealous and wanted to do things his own way. Then the devil said he would try to corrupt as many people as he could. Well then maybe God said, ‘ok devil, good, maybe you can help show them the light’. After all if the devil was God’s favorite angel in the first place, maybe he is doing God’s most important task of all, which is helping us make the distinction from right and wrong and helping us learn how to become good human beings.

Whether you believe in god or the devil or not, it really does not matter. The point is that you need to believe in yourself, and learn. Suffering is a part of life and shit happens, but it is how we stand up for our right to live decent lives that should be more important than blaming god, the devil, or others for our fortunes or misfortunes. We should always think of how our own thoughts and actions affect our own lives and the lives of others.

Good Luck.


Singing Pedagogy and Chakras

Lord knows I’m not Luciano Pavarotti (may he rest in peace), but I’ve studied singing enough to know that it was probably the most difficult things I’ve ever tried in my life. I used to take singing lessons with a Russian opera singer and I remember in one of my voice lessons, I excused myself to the bathroom and started to cry. After slapping my self several times (because real men are not supposed to cry), I came out and continued my lesson with red, teary eyes. It was the most difficult thing to learn how to sing without straining my vocal chords. Even though I was taking vocal lessons a year before, with another teacher, I realized that singing was much like learning how to walk after acquiring your driver’s license. It just didn’t make any sense! The only thing I did learn was that somehow I was supposed to project my voice using my diaphragm muscle, my lungs, my soft palette, my car keys and my brain tissue.

Fast forward 4 years later, I was practicing singing in the Cal Arts practice rooms and that’s when it hit me…I remember my Russian teacher telling me “Gustavo, School of Breathing, School of Signing”, my Yoga teacher telling us to go into Shavasana (sleepy yoga pose) and to concentrate on our breathing, and then previous research on chakras from new age videos on You Tube. Then flashes of vocal training jargon from my new signing teacher started to percolate: chest voice, head voice, lightness, stretchy taffy, and rainbows? I had an epiphany and it had something to do with singing pedagogy and chakras.

Could it be, (I’m probably not the only one in this discovery), but could it be that when we are learning how to sing, we are actually learning how to use our chakras to project and shape our voice?

I’m not going into too much new age mumbo-jumbo (you can do that for yourself), but I’m gonna give it to you raw. Check it out.

First/Root– (base of spine) this is to become grounded as a singer.

Second/Sacral– (baby makers) this is for engaging emotions.

Third/Solar Plexus– (diaphragm) this is for projecting the voice. (Chest voice)

Fourth/Heart– (heart) this is for connecting with the music and the audience.

Fifth/Throat– (throat) this is for communicating well. Diction, pronunciation, etc.

Sixth/Third Eye (center of forehead) this for balancing everything together and not shitting bricks during a performance.

Seventh/Crown (top of head) this is for that brightness and fast vibrato. (Head voice)

When these seven chakras are being engaged and utilized properly by the singer, you get an amazing a singer with some serious pipes. That’s why opera singers sound different from most pop singers. It’s because they were trained to engage all their chakras while singing, but specifically their crown and solar plexus chakras.