Manuel Contreras Vázquez is a Chilean – Spanish composer based in Italy. Three-Time recipient of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation commissioning program, Contreras served as composer-in-residence for the Spanish Academy in Rome, the Center Les Récollets – Institut Français in Paris, the Cinenomada Foundation in Bolivia, and the Kone Foundation in Finland. Manuel is the recipient of awards and fellowships, including the Turing Scheme of the UK Government, the Alban Program of the European Union, the Ibero-American General Secretariat, the Italian Government, the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation, the Castiglioni Prize in Milan, The Luis Advis Prize in Chile and the Pulsar Prize to the best artist of classical music in Chile of the year 2020.
His works have been performed by orchestras and ensembles such as International Contemporary Ensemble and Mivos Quartet (New York); Plus-Minus (London); Modern Akademie (Frankfurt Main) Iberoamericano (Weimar); La Serena Symphony; Taller de Música Contemporánea and Ensamble Contemporáneo (Santiago), Lallement Marques duo (Paris); Algoritmo Ensemble (Rome); Divertimento Ensemble, VirgoVox Ensemble and Sconfinarte Orchestra (Milan); as well as by world-class soloist as Mario Caroli and Diego Castro. Contreras’ music has premiered at festivals such as Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik, Mixtur of Barcelona, La Nuit d’Atempo of Paris, Expresiones Contemporáneas of México, Via Stellae of Santiago de Compostela, de Música Contemporánea de Córdoba, La Voce ed il Tempo of Genoa, among others. His interdisciplinary projects involve exhibitions and performances in La Paz, Guatemala City, Milan, Madrid, New York, Huddersfield, and Santo Domingo.
Manuel holds a PhD in Composition from the University of Huddersfield (UK). He also studied at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, the Milan Conservatory, and the Santa Cecilia’s Academy. His teachers were Alejandro Guarello, Pablo Aranda, Alessandro Solbitati, Gabriele Manca, Ivan Fedele, Bryn Harrison, and Aaron Cassidy. His works appear on CDs and DVDs in Chile and Italy, while his scores are available in Universal Edition, Suvini Zerboni, Edizioni Sconfinarte, and Babel Scores.
Contreras at Ponte Sisto, Rome. January 2016.
Photo by Chiara Ghilardi.
About the music
My practice explores a cartographic approach to conceiving timbre and dramaturgy. I see the cartographic approach as an orientation exercise or scheme of thought combining graphics, sketches, notes, drawings, and manuscripts to obtain a project’s overview and to navigate structural relationships in ‘sonic places’. I conceive sonic places as acoustic realities inhabited and travelled by the listener through the pathways proposed in my works. My pieces follow an expansion principle from timbre to dramaturgy using analogical and flexible skills. On one hand, the analogical tactics of this principle involve explorations on large sheets of paper, the use of domestic objects, and the manipulation of instruments by myself to define the behaviour and organization of events. On the other hand, the flexible tools of my expansion principle contain translations between notation and other aspects such as stage design, visual elements, or movements, stimulating greater freedom to explore relationships between the multiple dimensions of my projects. In my recent pieces, the imagination of timbre emerges from strategies such as mapping sound landscapes or explorations with graphics where their components are combined, orchestrated, overlapped, and amplified by a system of categories that organise sonic events and textures in terms of hierarchy, geometry, pathway, and density. Furthermore, these categories consider expansions from timbre toward spatial and visual elements and, particularly, addressing a notion of dramaturgy embodied in the idea of ‘acts’ deduced from a text, the observation of a performance space, or from the issue that inspired the project.