Miguel Del Aguila: "write the music that comes from your heart without caring about what's fashionable or what the rest of the world thinks you should be writing"

More and more often young composers are thinking about getting prestigious awards. Someone wants to get a Grammy and become a world-famous musician.But is that an easy road to fame?about this and many other things we talked with the outstanding composer, nominated for Grammy Awards, Miguel Del Aguila.

- The Bible says that no one is a prophet in their own land. How do you understand the meaning of this statement?

-I think this is very true. The term “local artist” has an almost pejorative connotation, while all it should mean is that the artist’s geographical location is near. Very often a classical musician’s careers happens internationally and this also means that sometimes we leave our hometowns and neglect our original audiences and they forget us a bit. So it goes both ways. In general, however, I think it's human nature to idealize what's far and unknown and underestimate what next to you and familiar.


-If I am not mistaken, you were 20 years old when you left Uruguay and moved for California. Do you think that your career as a musician might have been different if you had remained in the homeland?

-Ah, if we could only know what it all could have been…!  Yes, my career would have been very different without my years in Vienna and the USA.  As I left  Uruguay, escaping a fascist militaristic dictatorship, it's hard to speculate on what my life would have been there, I could very well have been dead for 35 years now as the government killed thousands during the infamous "Dirty War". I think having assimilated many different cultures as I emigrated helped me learn more about myself and who I really am and gave me a wider perspective of my music and my goal in life and as a composer. Politically it made me very vigilant of governments and their power over people.

-This is not an easy matter to survive and achieve success in a foreign country. Does music help you to overcome life obstacles in your way?

-Music is sometimes the escape that helps you overcome adversity and sometimes it’s the obstacle itself as people in your new country will sometimes see you and your music as foreign or just don't understand it. The world is much more cosmopolitan and pluralistic now than it was forty years ago, I think things are easier now.

-You spent 10 years in Europe and studied at the Hochschule für Musik and the Konservatorioum in Vienna. What things do you remember most of all during the studies?

-I paid my studies there working at the Vienna State Opera, first as an extra and then accompanying singers privately. Here I met the greatest singers, dancers, musicians and directors of our times …every night! I learned more by observing these people than by writing fugues at the Hochschule. I had a few good teachers there who inspired me, but in general the curriculum was boring and outdated. Learning to write second species counterpoint, and to copy Palestrina has absolutely nothing to do with learning to be a composer.

- After a while you received the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and performed in Zurich, Vienna, Tokyo, Rome, in Moscow, other world capitals. Could you tell us about your impressions of visit to Russia?

-My longest stay in Russia was in the early 90’s as Odessa Philharmonic and conductor Hobart Earle took the orchestra (and two of my works), on a tour that also included Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg I believe. I traveled with the orchestra and shared rooms with musicians or stayed in private houses that would host us. I could get a closer look at Russian culture and its people. At that time they idealized Western Capitalism and they were starting to consider that perhaps there was a way out of their imposed isolation.  Musically and historically, there was so much to learn and see in this tour that I couldn’t soak it all in. I remember getting lost in Moscow, spending hours in absolute bedazzlement on red square and buying an overcoat on GUM which I used in Vienna for years… then getting lost on the way to the rehearsal at Dom Compositor which I almost missed. I also got lost again at the airport and the orchestra almost left without me. I'm sure I must have been a nightmare for the poor KGB agent in charge keeping up with me.  I would love to come back and spend more time and get to know better this beautiful country an culture. I still day-dream of taking the Orient Express from Moscow to Vladivostok and spend months totally "lost". If only my schedule allowed it…

- Several years ago you were nominated for a Latin Grammy for your “Salon Buenos Aires”. What were your feelings at the moment when you saw your name in the list of nominees?

-I was very surprised. I don’t keep up with awards or competitions.  I think art is a very subjective thing and it is impossible to judge its quality in absolute terms. I was however very moved and honored that my colleagues voted for the Salon Buenos Aires CD  and fro my composition Clocks, and thought they were deserving of the Grammy distinction. It was this recognition from my fellow artists what meant most to me in this nomination.

-You are the founder and director of the young musicians group Voices. What are the difficulties you have come across in your work?

-My group VOICES has been dormant for a few years now but it was very active for a long time and helped discover many young talented musicians, send them to good schools all over the world and jump-start their careers. I think one of our main obstacles we  faced was the mind-set up of some parents, administrators  and even teachers who were not receptive to new ideas and wanted to apply the rules of academia to the arts and to our group. We did crazy things and that was precisely what set us apart from others and got us final recognition and larger audiences.

-Have you ever written music for Russian musicians? How would you respond to such a proposal?

I was never commissioned to write music for Russian orchestras or musicians although my works have been performed quite a lot by them, and are today part of the repertoire of many Russian ensembles.

-What can you advise young beginner composers who dream of a Grammy nomination after reading this article about you?

-My advice is: Don't dream of it! Do your work as if nobody is watching and write the music that comes from your heart without caring about what's fashionable or what the rest of the world thinks you should be writing.


Dina Mukhamedzyanova

: miguel del aguila, famous composer, grammy a, montevideo , salon buenos aires, usa, vienna state opera,
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