Francisco Castillo Trigueros

Our upcoming concert with the Latino Music Festival is designed to showcase the unique compositional voices of Latin composers in Chicago. Do you find that your Latin heritage and culture manifests itself in your music? Or does your music strive to be free of cultural ties and influences?

Francisco Castillo Trigueros: I was raised in Mexico in an ethnically diverse environment. The prevailing self-identification of Mexican culture as “Mestiza”, or mixed, played an important role in my development. Rooted in both pre-Hispanic and European civilizations, and most recently influenced by American trends, Mexico is a hybrid culture in which many influences have converged to create new and unique traditions. My upbringing exacerbated this tendency. From a young age I was submerged in a multi-cultural philosophy. I was taught Spanish and English simultaneously. I was enrolled in a Japanese music school at the same time as in private classical piano lessons with a Asian-Mexican teacher, learned Latin-American and Spanish Guitar, all while being exposed to local and international music in the media. This diversity and the hybridity that result from it intrigue me and they are something I want to share through my creative work.

In my own work I have looked beyond Mexico and have worked with music and instruments from other geographical regions (see: My diverse background has informed my post-nationalist position. Ironically, while I’m not interested in a nationalist aesthetic, through my intercultural work I’m emulating a cultural phenomenon that occurred in Mexico.

I don't believe that music can be free from cultural ties and influences, but we shouldn't expect these influences to always be constrained by geographical or racial motivations.

Was there a seminal piece of music in your past that lit the compositional spark in you? What was it about this piece that captivated you?

FCT: Absolutely! When I was 15 I discovered Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in a middle-school class. We had to listen to the piece, analyze the form, and some of the pitch collections that Bartok used. Not only was I captivated by the amazing energy and unique sounds in the piece but I also discovered that there were beautiful chords and structures different to those I had encountered up to that point.

Fonema Consort is fascinated with the role of the voice in new music. How do you approach writing for the voice? Does its inherent qualities and associations change or influence your musical language?

FCT: Some of my favorite new music is vocal music! In my own music two of the voice's inherent qualities and associations affect my musical language:

1) The hyper-emotionality that having a singer on-stage involves.
2) The additional layer of meaning that including a text introduces.

I try to play with the emotional connotations that having a singer on-stage brings. I tend to compose for a super-objective singer, every once in a while allowing bursts of emotion. (See:

The meaning of the chosen text can be emphasized or obfuscated by the music it is set to, and by the emotional affect by which it's delivered. This additional layer opens up many dramatic possibilities, normally absent in instrumental music, that really interest me.

In Absimo azul, floreciente the text is mainly recited. This allows for a cleaner narrative. The music I composed is more like incidental music, something that surrounds the text, creating a kind of emotional mist around it.