José Javier Torres Maldonado was born in Chetumal, Mexico in 1968. He studied the violin with Icilio Bredo and composition with José Suárez at the Mexico City Conservatory (1982-1994). In 1996 he left Mexico to settle in Italy. He continued his apprenticeship with Sandro Gorli and Alessandro Solbiati at the Guiseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, gaining a diploma there in 1999. He completed his training with Franco Donatoni and Azio Corghi, at the Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia in Rome and at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna, and then with Ivan Fedele at the Strasburg Conservatory, where he won a First Prize for composition in 2003. He also studied electroacoustic composition at the Milan Conservatory (1999-2003) as well as at Ircam (2003).
Maldonado has won many composition prizes in international competitions: the prize of the Città di Barletta (Italy, 1997), the Ad Referendum II Prize (Montreal, 1997), the Queen Maria Jose Prize(Geneva, 2000), the Alfredo Casella Prize of Sienna (2001), the Queen Elisabeth Prize (Brussels, 2004). Invited by the University of Montreal and by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, chosen to represent Latin America, he received the Musicians’ Prize at the Forum 1998. In 1999 and 2001 he won distinction at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
Among the commissions he has received, mention should be made of that from the French State for Destellos, Abismo for voice and five performers (2010), those of the GRAME for Sinfonia mixta for three instrumental groups and electroacoustics (2008), Iridescente for piano, percussion, electroacoustics in real time and video (2011), and Juegos Fantasticos for three children’s choruses, female chorus, didjeridoo and real-time electroacoustics (2013).
Technique at the service of music is a highly important element for Maldonado, who has been greatly impressed by the relationship between technique and art in Franco Donatoni’s works. It was with his cycle Figuralmusik (1996-1998) that he developed his own technique. It stems from his fascination for the transformation of archetypical figures within mechanisms that are determined a priori, enabling the behaviour of the musical elements to be fixed in advance. Maldonado plays with the listener’s memory, liking to experiments with various transformations in order to test the listener’s ability to recognise the initial figures.
In this way he constructs forms and develops clearly defined harmonic colours that evolve within time. He has been an innovator with regard to the organisation of time, tone-colour and space (De ignoto cantu for bass clarinet, trumpet, violin, cello, percussion and electronics, 2004). His work illustrates the complementarity of strict compositional techniques and the possibilities presented by new technological means.
Iridescente (2011) illustrates his conception of multidimensional music, on the level of both the work itself and the time of its realisation: dialogues and interactions between composer and performers, between man and machine (composer and technological means), between acoustic instruments, electroacoustics and video, between composer and visual artiste, between composer and musical assistant. To this must be added the interaction, essential, virtual, fantastical as it is, that takes place in another, imaginary place: the dialogue with the composer’s childhood memories.
The music of José Javier Torres Maldonado is in symbiosis with the cultural elements of the worlds with which he has experimented. Ximohua for voice and wind quintet (1997) is based texts of the Aztec poet Nezahualcoyotl. The vocal work was inspired by the vocality of the traditional music of Central and North America. Exabrupto for three instrumental groups, piano and percussion (1998), is a homage in memory of the Mexican Amerindians assassinated in Acteal in the state of Chiapas.
Un posible dia, quasi un radiodrama for female voice, actor, ensemble and electroacoustics (2011) is based on an imaginary tale by the Brazilian writer Ana Candida de Carvalho. The soprano is constantly veering from the spoken to the singing voice, to Sprechgesang even, while the instrumental writing, that includes an important group of percussion instruments and an accordion, carries the continuity of the narrative in fusion with the electronics, this latter endowed by the composer with finesse in a richly suggestive sound tapestry.
Viaje, a chamber opera for four singers, four instruments and electronics (2014), with a libretto by the Mexican historian and writer Christina Rivera-Garza, tells the story of two photographers, both on a personal quest that leads them to retrace, in the same car, the itinerary of the 1950 Pan-American race through the dangerous Mexico of today. From Ciudad Juàrez, a town on the border with Texas, to El Ocotal near Guatemala, eight stages mark out the sequences of the musical drama, where the imaginary and the real oscillate at the heart of the composer’s musical landscapes.
Maldonado has composed for all kinds of groups: solo instrument (Tiento for cello, 2002), chamber music (Ad imitationem moduli for string trio, 2004), electroacoustics (Ventus animae, 2007), mixed (El suspiro del angel for three instrumental groups and electroacoustics, 2006),vocal music (Destellos, Abismo for voice and ensemble, 2010), concertante works (Obscuro etiamtum lumine for violin and three orchestral groups, 2004), orchestra (Currentes, 2003), opera (Viaje, 2014).
His work is the reflection of the notion of total integration of an art of composition that retains it deep roots in the greatest musical tradition of the West, with multidisciplinarity, with the elements of different cultures and the possibilities that stem from new technologies.
José Javier Torres Maldonado is also a conductor, cofounder and artistic director of the Dynamis Ensemble. He has, notably, collaborated with Jonathan Harvey for the recording of a disc exclusively devoted to the latter.
He has also taught electroacoustic composition in Italy, at, successively, the conservatories of Alessandria (2003-2007), Milan (2007-2011) and now Parma, where he is also scientific coordinator for the seminar cycle ‘Labirinti Sonori’ organised by the Conservatory and the Casa della Musica.
He regularly gives masterclasses and seminars in various European institutions and continues to be involved in the artistic and academic life of his own country, as both composer and guest teacher, in collaboration with different educational institutions.