Miguel Ángel Santaella
Composer & Conductor.           

the blog 

I'm a blessed man, and I'm really thankful for that.

Having the chance to decide in life, my choices have been always guided by a quest of a balance between gains and losses, following an evolutionary path, and being always happy during the ride, and satisfied at the end of it with a personal sense of freedom in mind. 

Becoming a music craftsman is a matter of a logical choice for me, and working with voices was a result of the balance between the isolated creative art of composing and the social need to be involved in goal-oriented activities. 

In the meantime, there is a multitude of noises everyday surrounding us on normal life, ripping out the value of sound in our civilization in spite for a increasingly rise to the visual impact of art, media and entertainment and advertising industry just to call up your attention for a couple more seconds than usual, for whatever the reason could be. This trend, coupled with another one that considers all artistic expression have to become producers of a single-homogenized, automated sort of multifaceted piece of 'art' as holders of the concept of future, has made us know how to distill out what we receive from our ears to what we actually listen, and sometimes the result of this individual process is not quite artistically relevant, even in the ears of the regular people.

I'm a person of this era, though. But for me, rather than treat you with something vacuous but visually appealing futile elements, I'd like to challenge you with these invisible air particles agitated with the sound I create, design, write, conduct and produce in musical form in every corner of your life, on a screen, a subway train, an open air space, an auditorium, your headphones, whenever you allow me to submerge you, only with sound. (no additives needed).

In short, I'm an unconventional guy, and I'm freaking proud of being it!

I ́m a voice lover.

When I choose to be a craftsman of music, some years ago by now, I went to train myself as a choral composer, arranger and conductor, because my senses loved the sound and textures that voices singing together brings to the creative mind, and my kind-of-elusive personality needed and thanked the goal-oriented, social-enriching and always stimulating activity of singing in a dedicated group of souls.

Spending a lot of money in buying music during my whole life since I can buy something, I’ve found that the jazz music literature for choir and vocal groups has been stocked for a long time now between two specific boundaries: a barbershop-like closed harmony sound and be-bop reminiscence of pop tunes, thus reducing its evolution path to a advanced performing and recording techniques to sound as close as possible to Pop or Fusion Rock (instrumental) groups with a high level of visual attention (as a reminder of the industrial origin of entertainment music), rather than exploiting their own resources and capabilities, either as creatives and as performers (being both separate entities or not).

I believe that this is not the only way to evolve the vocal jazz composition, conceptualizing this term as jazz composed for choirs and/or vocal groups, not including the so-called marketing label. And I believe that because when you listen to any contemporary jazz record nowadays you’ll find a conscious explorative interaction between different compositional elements ranging from aboriginal sounds to virtual techniques as looping and sequencing and uses of synthesized music, alongside with improvisational material and more. So the point here is, why the vocal jazz music is still stocked on that comfortable zone?

My compositional style has been evolving towards giving a possible answer to this problem on the last twelve or so years, (because it is a problem, as the art could not be static): in this aspect, the use of linear composing, contemporary elements, folk elements from the world over and a special consciousness about the unique use of grouped voices doing music together, which is definitely not related to any American or European standard of a cappella performance, and that’s something I’m really digging into, hoping to get a more glocal approach of the vocal jazz sound rather to a remake, transcription or reharmonization of standard tunes or original compositions.

There is also another step to consider on this paper: the way to communicate this music. If we all agree that I’m referring to conceptual music (not industrial), then we’re talking about art music, labelling it with the genre of your preference. Then, and following this thread, I believe that art music nowadays has to be preserved beyond the concert stage, and recordings are still the most important way to do it, as it captures the ‘perfect’ performance environment, or the most accurate version of a tune. This has been done since the very beginning of jazz as a genre, and other musical greats such as Glenn Gould and Gene Purling (to name just a few) also have contributed to their own vision of recorded art music. In this terms, I’m also applying this thoughts, beginning with my recent arrangement of The Huron Carol, expressly written and recorded by Caffeine, my own dutch vocal group on it’s first EP On Xmas (Vocomotion Records, 2015). This arrangement, being simple at first, was written for 13 voices, so each of the singers recorded two different lines each, except the bass (myself) having three lines to sing.

In short, I envision a new vocal jazz literature written in and for this century, conceived as a piece of art music and using the possibilities of recording techniques, even from the very conceptual sketches of it. But this is just developing. More is now in the making.