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Release date: 25.07.11
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Manuel Rocha Iturbide | Mexican Composer 1963


"The topics that I have developed in my work are space explorations (in electroacoustic music as well as in sound installation), the relation between the visual and the sound object, timbral unfolding of the sound object, metaphorical as well as conceptual; the use of sound landscape, and exploration of the possibilities of sound in general terms, in acoustic instruments as well as in everyday objects and the human voice. My sound compositions, sculptures and installations come from different approaches to the phenomenon of sound; whether it is from pure Imagination, from programmatic scripts, from the conceptual, from sound landscape or from experimentation with different sound objects. In the last few year I have been very interested in the spatial phenomenon of sound, 360 degree listening versus traditional directional listening which still gives the listener a lineal relationship of the interpreter or the source of sound. Thus, most of the electroacoustic works and installations of this sound artist have been developed in 4, 6, 8 or more different and Independent channels."


Manuel Rocha, July 12, 2011



Manuel Rocha Iturbide is a mexican composer and sound artist. He is studying for a degree in composition at the National Music School, UNAM. He has a Master's degree from Mills College and a PhD in Music Aesthetics, Science and Technology from The University of Paris VIII. His compositions have been played at important Festivals in Mexico, USA, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia. He has received requests by contemporary music groups such as String Quartet Arditti and Onix Mexican Ensemble. Rocha Iturbide received the Jovenes Creadores (Young Creators) scholarship from FONCA In 1993-94 and 2009. In 1996 and 1997 he was awarded two prizes in the Luigi Russolo International Contest in Italy, as well as to honorable mentions in the International Electroacoustic Music Contest in Bourges, in 2006 he won the first prize and in 2009 a honorable mention in ARS ELECTRONICA. He has made sound sculptures and installations in important art spaces internationally (Chantal Crusel Gallery, Paris France 1994; Artist Space NY, 1997; Sydney Biennial, Australia 1998; ARCO, Madrid España 1999; Mercosul Biennial, Portoalegre Brazil 2005; Koldo de Mitxelena, San Sebastian, Spain, etc. He was co-founder and curator of the International sound art festival (1999-2002), co-founder of the Laboratorio de Experimentacion de Arte Sonoro (LEAS), as well curator of other shows and concerts and researcher in art sound and electroacoustic music at a Graduate and Postgraduate level at the UAEM in Morelos, Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, Universidad Iberoamericana and ENM at the UNAM in Mexico.


Frost Clear Energy Saver

Translation by Simona Schaffer


Refrigerator amplified with a contact microphone, double bass and computer with two fixed digital tracks

By unfolding the sound object, my goal is to show different approaches to one single thing. Metaphorically speaking this would be the same as visualizing a sound in three dimensions, in order to perceive its different characteristics. This is the same as walking around a sculpture in a museum. The sculpture seems to change constantly, but it’s really your point of view what changes. I take up this idea in my work “Frost Clear”, built from the manipulation of a sampling of my fridge’s engine. Now, how did the idea of making music with that sound get into my head? I used to hate the noise of refrigerators. I used to feel annoyed every time I stood by one, and I never knew exactly why. Suddenly, when the noise stopped, I realized my discomfort came from that discontinuous noise. It wasn’t until later, living in Oklahoma, that I discovered refrigerators could create very interesting noises. The noise of my refrigerator’s engine, by the way, seemed a sort of chant since the harmonics changed constantly and regularly. And when listening carefully, I discovered that the spectral structure of sound was very rich due to the combination of natural harmonics and inharmonics (1).


There was also a fundamental bass sound; just as there is a root in a chord. The micro-spectral changes in the sound of a refrigerator are not usually perceived, for we must either get way too close to the engine to hear them, or amplify it. So, I thought of using the sound structure of my refrigerator’s engine in a composition and increase its tibral complexity. To do so, I created different sounds by manipulating the sound I recorded with a contact microphone. Each sound was transformed by reverberation of a different section of the original sound spectrum. The sounds were mixed in an ongoing process that allows us to listen to the whole spectrum developing in time. This process consists of textures, not gestures, so we are forced to recognize its components and tell them apart. We are forced to listen carefully to the micro-modulations. Thus, we can find the hidden qualities of the sound of the engine, which seems to be just a steady noise. To back up the idea of listening to micro-spectral changes of a sound object I added a double bass, though I only used the lowest string, tuned to the sound of the refrigerator.


The bass plays on different places of the string, so when the refrigerator’s harmonics are high the bassist plays sul ponticello(2) to get the high harmonics as well. Thus, on the bass, there is also an ongoing timbral transformation along with the sound of the refrigerator, with which it interacts, creating additional harmonics due to microtonal dissonances. On the other hand, this work is a sort of a performance because the bassist doesn’t just play, to abandon his instrument at the end. He starts the refrigerator to start playing, and opens it later to have a beer; finally he turns it off.


Hieros Logos. Piece for two digital tracks.


This is a sort of imaginary abstract narrative, where characters are represented by the sound of human voice and speech, no matter its linguistic origin. (Spanish, English, Hindi, etc.), its source (a baby, a man, a woman, an old person), or the potential lack of Idiomatic content (invented phonetic poetry, etc) . What brings the story together is the power of the voice and speech, as signs of mainly emotional and intuitive communication. Those sound elements, always loaded with energy, have been able to transform us thru prayer, labor chants, sound poetry, and more recently, thru the creation of a new kind of music, based not on the melody, but on the different sounds of human voice.


Radio Sound Creation was made upon request by Radio Clasica de España, in collaboration with the Reina Sofia's CDMC. It was premiered at the Festival de Música de Alicante 2010. Composition for single tape, it's not a recorded concert, it's the actual piece.


(1) Inharmonics are harmonics that don’t belong to the natural harmonics spectrum
(2)" The Italian sul ponticello means 'on the bridge'. Bowing the string over the bridge, it is virtually impossible to set up stable, regular Helmholtz motion... this gives a peculiar and irregular sound, with lots of high harmonics". UNSW, School of Physics, University of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia









Frost Clear Energy Saver:
Recorded at Mills College, Music department concert Hall, 1991
Hieros Logos:
Commissioned by Radio Clásica in Spain in collaboration with the CDMC and the Reina Sofia Museum.

Special credits to Mark Cooper - double bass on Frost Clear, and the Reina Sofía Museum. Pictures by Graciela Iturbide. Design by Aniana Heras | Translation by Simona Schaffer.