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The Torres Cycle

by Wilfrido Terrazas

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Composer Wilfrido Terrazas presents a seven part album length work, The Torres Cycle, which explores ritual, indigenous tradition from his native Mexico, alternative notation, structured improvisation, spatialized live performance techniques, and an evocative instrumentation layout to explore questions of social connection and the mysterious relationship between tradition, history, and the present. A virtuoso flutist, Terrazas presents a musical language in which the power of expression frames the palette of techniques, creating a fresh and urgent soundworld.

Ritual and collective experience lie at the heart of Wlifrido Terrazas’ ambitious seven part work, The Torres Cycle. Structured around four movements invoking the four cardinal directions and three interstitial “tótems” for smaller forces, Terrazas draws on Mesoamerican conceptual traditions to examine the relationship between the absolute quality of direction and the relative nature of perception. Through a score that relies heavily on improvised elements and spatialized performance instructions, Terrazas delivers a powerful message — our understanding of a place, idea, or event is framed by where we stand in relation to it.

For the realization of the work on this recording, Terrazas took advantage of timbral diversity, highlighting different instrumental groups through the various movements. The cycle begins with Torre del Norte, performed by a brass sextet with electronics. Opening with a series of unison pitches that are subtly bent and timbrally modulated, Terrazas invites the listener immediately into a world of communion. As Torre del Norte evolves the texture becomes disjunct and parts individuated, a hive of percolating energy.

The first totem in the collection, Tótem I, Camino sobre la tierra, features oboe and percussion. The oboe glides fluidly between pitches with glissandi, bends, and grainy multi-phonics while the percussion primarily plays light bell sounds. It is patient, searching music until the texture shifts briefly to agitated, rhythmically fragmented material.

Three percussionists perform Torre del Este, an atmospheric movement highlighting wood blocks, chimes, and cymbals. Energetic gestures swirl through the trio, building on each other towards a dense midpoint before receding to the sparse texture of the opening.

Tótem II, Miro hacia el cielo is for four piccolos, including Terrazas, and evolves similarly to Torre del Norte, opening with subtle microtonal discrepancies between sustained pitches. Terrazas creates musical scenarios that increase tension through stretching and pulling at central pitches. Fluttering lines suggest agitated bird song as the music moves into more active material. A gentle, disjunct chorale follows, independent voices circling each other to produce a pulsing sound mass.

Torre del Sur is for string quartet plus double bass, and is built on a fragile scaffold of high pitched cries and whispers. Malleable, expressive lines establish a contrasting layer of activity in the middle register and propel intensification. One gets the sense we are hearing universal sentiments expressed in an extinct language, or one not yet cultivated. The movement charts two large arcs, with a second climax exploding into furious collective improvisation.

Tótem III, Estoy en el centro pairs trumpet and contrabass in an energetic duo dialogue. The movement inverts the trajectory of many of the others in the cycle, opening with active and dense material and gradually moving towards a sparser texture before becoming more active again. The alternation between different trumpet mutes and between arco and pizzicato on the bass create the illusion that there is a quartet inside the duo.

The cycle’s final movement, Torre del Oeste, features a wind quartet with Terrazas on flute, leading the movement with a rhapsodic solo that embeds short melodic fragments inside spiraling, sinewy connective material. As the other three winds enter, the composite texture takes on an undulating quality. The movement provides a cathartic close to a work which achieves cohesion from the patient unfolding of its component parts. If Terrazas’ message is that our perspective on ideas is shaped by where we stand, The Torres Cycle is a musical prescription for our limited capacity to see the big picture, a ritual path seeking collective wholeness.

– Dan Lippel


released April 8, 2022

The Torres Collective

Wilfrido Terrazas, artistic coordinator

All music composed by Wilfrido Terrazas

Produced by Wilfrido Terrazas

Recorded by Andrew Munsey at Studios A and B, Warren Lecture Hall, UC San Diego, 2020-2021

Additional recording by Michael Butler, Filiberto Villavicencio, Sarah Belle Reid, Weston Olencki, Berk Schneider, Mattie Barbier, MB Gordy, Ryan Streber, and Alexandria Smith, 2019-2021

Mixed and mastered by Ramón del Buey at El Palacio de Asturias, Mexico City, September-October 2021

Cover art and design by Esther Gámez Rubio

Liner notes by Amy Cimini




Wilfrido Terrazas Ensenada, Mexico

Wilfrido Terrazas. Flutist, improviser, composer, educator. Member of Generación Espontánea and Liminar. Associate Professor of Music at UC San Diego.

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