Marcos Balter

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble; conducted by Michael Lewanski.

The idea of sonic transformation is a crucial part of my music. The main concept behind Portmanteaux, written in 2008 and premiered by the International Contemporary Ensemble in the same year, is the gradual disintegration of distinct musical gestures. Each new particle of this initial monolith then becomes its own whole structure and is subsequently dissolved, culminating in a cloud of seminal ideas floating around the same space, appearing to casually interact with one another.  

Vision Mantra

Performed by members of the New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago (Dominic Johnson, violin; Rebecca Wilcox, viola; Eric Sheaffer, cello)

Inspired by the location of its premiere, the Chicago Cultural Center, Vision Mantra was written in 2009 and premiered in the same year by members of the New Millennium Orchestra. As this venue is one of the most acoustically live concert halls in the city, I decided to write music that takes advantage of all the natural reverberation and enhanced high harmonics. The hall’s domed mosaic ceiling inspired my focus on patterns in this work. As the mosaic reaches the center of the dome, each of its patterns merges to form a unified complex visual entity, which is the central idea of the work’s discourse. 

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Comments [63]


I very much enjoyed listening to these works; texturally beautiful and contemplative - something a bit different than what is en vogue these days. This music is of its time and deserves recognition.

Aug. 02 2010 01:17 PM
Becca from Louisville

Mr. Balter's music has such depth, I find myself listening to the same samples over and over, each time immersed into a new story line, falling down a different rabbit hole.

The landscape of his music is visceral and fascinating, I find myself drawn back to his work again and again. There is much to be said for those who have the gentile hand to lead others to the water and still more for those who can also compel us to drink.

Jul. 18 2010 09:56 PM
Carl S. from Bloomington, IL

Beautiful sounds, compelling dramatic arc, great music!

Jul. 14 2010 04:52 PM
Laurie from Iowa City, Iowa

This music allowed me into another world. It was soul stirring.

Jul. 14 2010 01:03 PM
Marian W. from Chicago

Balter's music has a dream-like quality that allows my imagination to take flight. Vision Mantra will be reverberating through my mind all day. Beautiful.

Jul. 14 2010 12:57 PM

Really enjoyed Marcos' work here - as someone had mentioned earlier, there's a spectral quality to it that I enjoy very much -
It also, in some sections, reminds me of a soundtrack like Morricone's work on westerns...primarily in the sounds used. Nicely done.

Jul. 14 2010 07:46 AM
Myra M.M. from Chicago, IL

Balter's work is very organic, imaginative and emotionally moving. Portmanteaux and Vision Mantra are both futuristic and beautiful in a way that transports me to other places and times. Thanks for the free trip.

Jul. 14 2010 12:09 AM
Lori from Louisville, KY

I liked how these pieces brought parameters to the forefront other than the traditional ones, nuances of color and texture. It opens the observer to new capabilities and sensitivities. And what a unique and special idea to compose Vision Mantra specially for the location in which it was premiered! Bravo!

Jul. 11 2010 04:06 PM
Flavia Furtado from São Paulo

I love it, beautiful,clear in a good sense of opening someone mind!!! I hope to hear more and more his music also here in Brazil!

Jul. 10 2010 09:38 AM
Sebastian Huydts from Chicago

Fascinating, sparkling and imaginative from beginning to end. What a joy to listen to.

Jul. 10 2010 04:41 AM
Da from New York City

The textures he creates in Portmanteaux jumps right out at you...fantastic sonic experience you don't get very often.

Jul. 09 2010 12:35 PM
Carolyn O. from Chicago, IL

Marcos Balter's harmonic language is both tender and achingly beautiful, but what kills me is how dynamic and striking this music is despite the fact that much of it is so very quiet and distant. Upon hearing the repeated, echoing rhythmic gestures in Vision Mantra, I have a sense that I am in a cave, very far from the action. I keep leaning forward to get closer to the source. I definitely want to hear this music performed live, but I can't promise that I won't commit a social impropriety by sneaking up onto the stage to grab hold of this ghostly, gossamer stuff!

Jul. 07 2010 08:50 AM
Marie from Atlanta from Atlanta

Had me on the edge of my seat. A suspenseful sound.

Jul. 06 2010 08:24 PM
Abigail from Brooklyn, NY

Marcos' music requires me to keep figuring out new ways to listen--in moments to think about the music, in moments hear it on my skin or in my muscles. For a few seconds, clear images appear, then get pulled away by sound. Always a captivating ride.

Jul. 04 2010 11:09 AM
Gabel from Texas

I have not heard music of Balter's in several years. I am amazed at his progress! His ideas are well formed, engaging well developed. His sense of nuance is most intriguing creating lush timbres with minimal instrumental resources! His craft is definitely worthy of a commission from Orpheus!!!

Jul. 03 2010 11:19 PM
Megan Beugger from chicago

Marcos' sounds are incredible beautiful, intricate, and delicate. His music always has this intense feeling of energy that in some respects feels very directed, but yet you can never quite tell where it is going and it always sounds as if it may completely fall apart at any moment. This is what makes experiencing his music completely captivating.

Jul. 03 2010 10:25 PM
Jeff Levin from Chicago

Every time I hear Balter's music I always hear fascinating sound and sound combinations that make make me say, "wait, what instruments are those?". Im amazed every time! These two pieces are certainly an example of how he can accomplish this in completely different emotional landscapes.

Jul. 03 2010 04:46 PM
David Paha from Chicago, IL

Marcos' music is wonderfully colorful. By juxtaposing a variety of timbres and gestures he creates an incredibly unique landscape.

Jul. 03 2010 04:41 PM
Rob from Vancouver

Colourful, creative, and well-crafted, Balter's music is a joy for performers AND audiences!

Jul. 03 2010 04:16 PM
Rob from Dover, NH

Great technique; wonderful sense of gesture and proportion. I hope to hear more of his music.

Jul. 03 2010 01:48 PM
Rodolfo from Chicago

This music is evocative and fresh. Mr. Balter's very fine command of texture allied with his imagination infuse every single sound in these works with life and meaning.

Jul. 03 2010 12:45 PM
Rodolfo from Chicago

This music is evocative and fresh. Mr. Balter's very fine command of texture allied with his imagination infuse every single sound in these works with life and meaning.

Jul. 03 2010 12:44 PM
Tim Fawkes from Chicago

Enchanting and otherworldly, Balter's music is the fruit of rigor, vision, and heart. A truly unique compositional voice.

Jul. 03 2010 12:08 PM
Edward Hamel from Chicago

Though there is a certain sense of delicacy in these works I do not feel calm nor meditative. In order to create these enigmatic sonorities that come off as calm, meditative, light and gray, one must have complete control of the parameters and the various strata that make up the work. To perform such works involves a delicate but very focused, precise touch. Each work has a quality of growth expanding multidimensionally. It reminds me of certain Ligeti works in which the listener is cognitive that "something" is happening but is not exactly sure what or how it is happening. These works and many works of Marcos Balter force me to be very attentive and fragile while simultaneously seeking to understand what my sub conscious may have already figured out - anything but calm for me. Beautiful!!!

Jul. 02 2010 12:51 PM
Michael Murray from Austin, TX

Marcos Balter is pure genius. This music makes me feel like I'm floating through a room of bubbles. Simultaneously soothing and complex. I could see sitting with friends enjoying a good scotch and cigar to his music. Each would compliment the other.

Jul. 02 2010 11:47 AM
Sarah Stone from Bloomington, IN

I just LOVE the layering effect. Really haunting. It's like the music has a life of it's own - ever changing and meandering like a snake through the grass. Gripping, it had me on the edge of my seat. Congratulations!

Jul. 02 2010 11:19 AM
Chris from Chicago

Marcos has incredible command of sound. When I listen to these pieces, I am amazed by the quality of these sounds, and recognize the control and knowledge required to effectively communicate them. While I am fairly new to modernism, Marcos' music is the most enjoyable and enigmatic among the rising composers I have heard. And it just sounds really cool!

Jul. 02 2010 10:56 AM
Kathleen from Chicago

Marcos Balter's works have inspired me to delve into the exciting world of new music! I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Portmanteaux premiered and have since been enchanted with his work. I look forward to the continued adventures on which his music takes me.

Jul. 02 2010 10:50 AM
Sam from Canada

Shimmering and new! I sincerely believe that this music will draw audiences from across the musical spectrum!

Jul. 02 2010 09:46 AM
David from IA

I have known Marcos's music for the past 10 years (or more) and believe he represents the very best of his generation. A rare talent as a musician and composer, he has the ability to fuse and integrate timbre and to turn what could be ordinary into an evocative and stunningly beautiful and sensitive sound art. Most impressive his is command of pacing, which is the hardest element to control. Bravo!

Jul. 02 2010 09:28 AM
Vino Mazzei from Chicago, IL

Both of these pieces conclusively represent Balter's 'sound'. His oevre speaks to the future. The direction in which society is moving, or should move. Evolution in a progressive manner. Mysticism. Raw yet sophisticated emotion.

My analytical skills toward music are basic, so I generally use my emotional response and the feeling of the vibrations in my chest as a barometer. Balter's music, to me, represents what is contemporary in art.

Jun. 30 2010 01:33 PM

Vision Mantra seems somehow both effervescent and lyrical to me. I'd love to hear what he could write for Orpheus.

Jun. 29 2010 12:34 AM

Wow, I am reminded of the french spectralists, but with a tinge of minimalist flair. Balter shows not only the ability to let the instruments sing, but he has such control over them, allowing the complexities and intricacies of his music to truly shine rather than be mutilated by over-powering sonorities.

Jun. 27 2010 02:49 AM
Kasia from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wow! Delicate, sophisticated, colourful and well written. This is the winner!

Jun. 26 2010 03:02 PM
Sam from Hull, MA

Yes. Beautiful. Very mature sense of color, orchestration, and shape. There is something extra-musical about these textures -- I want to breath them in or touch them with my hands.

Jun. 25 2010 12:11 AM

Gorgeous music--fresh, colorful, sensual, atmospheric. A truly imaginative voice of contemporary music.

Jun. 23 2010 09:16 AM

There is a wonderful patience in this composer's music that enables one to perceive the rich inner life of the delicate sounds employed. I really enjoyed listening.

Jun. 22 2010 05:26 PM
Brian from Chicago

Great music! I love the ethereal quality of Vision Mantra...

Jun. 22 2010 02:45 PM
Joan from Evanston, IL

I love Vision Mantra. I am listening to it in my office in the sub-basement but imagining myself in the cultural center. A lovely aural escape in the middle of the workday. I would love to hear more of his pieces..

Jun. 22 2010 12:01 PM
David Skidmore from Chicago/New York

Marcos is one of my favorite composers from his generation. He has the rare blend of a challenging compositional voice that creates a direct impact on any audience. I think he would write a great piece for Orpheus...

Jun. 22 2010 10:54 AM
Michael from Chicago

I feel vaguely biased, as I am the conductor of one of the recordings here -- but I happen to think that Marcos Balter is one of the most compelling compositional voices of his generation. Very few composers have as uniquely expressive and personal a style as he does -- while at the same time maintaining such an exquisite sense of proportion, coherence, and craftsmanship. I just hope that I am fortunate enough to continue to be able to conduct his music!

Jun. 22 2010 10:41 AM
Alice Teyssier from Freiburg, Germany

Lovely to hear these excerpts! My curiosity is piqued...

Jun. 22 2010 09:12 AM
Daniel from Beloit

Mr. Balter's "Portmanteaux" is gorgeous, a beautiful balance between the luscious exploration of new colors, timbres, and textures and a dynamic formal path, one that coheres without being predictable or tedious. Bravo!

Jun. 21 2010 02:55 PM

The colors and texture of this music are simply stunning.

Jun. 21 2010 01:16 PM

Visceral and haunting stuff. Each piece leaves the listener tempted to just hit replay and experience it all again!

Jun. 21 2010 12:26 PM
Caetano Vilela from Brazil

Balter brings a freshness to the experimentalism of modern Music

Jun. 21 2010 11:43 AM
Sarah from Chicago

Such beautiful and innovative pieces! I can't wait to hear more.

Jun. 21 2010 11:38 AM
Chris from Chicago

Careful consideration of the sonic possibilities of each individual instrument is apparent in Balter's music. The textures are delicate and meditative, but never frail or weak and the end result is ultimately captivating. I look forward to hearing more of what Balter has to say through his music!

Jun. 21 2010 11:03 AM

Balter has an original voice that carries the listener through new sound worlds. These samples are stunning little gems. A composer who has an editing ear while creating new textures with form- that is rare talent in the compositional world of today. More PLEASE!!

Jun. 21 2010 09:03 AM
Rob Phillips from Buffalo, NY

Both Vision Mantra and Portmanteaux are beautifully sensual works that, for me, strike a refreshing balance between atmosphere and development... the quote about Raw Item regarding, "insects crawling through a Tarkovskian landscape of swaying grass" resonates in this music as well, with instrumental characters that behave like animal-characters on some safari, their expressive calls coordinated in a rhythmic flow...

Jun. 20 2010 10:52 PM
Dan from Chicago

Incredibly intriguing and wonderful to listen to.

Jun. 20 2010 06:58 PM
Ira from Louisville, KY

There is much careful deliberation here, a soundscape that is beautiful but never cloying. Some of the most interesting and sincere music I've heard in a long time, and I am looking forward to hearing more.

Jun. 20 2010 05:28 PM

Wonderfully imaginative sounds and assembled into a captivating form. Few composers have the sensitivity and thoughtfulness that I've heard here.

Jun. 20 2010 04:45 PM
Sean from Chicago

Intense, captivating and seductive sound worlds. Mr. Balter is able to weave this characteristic into any work, regardless of length or ensemble size - a testimony to his refined abilities!

Jun. 20 2010 02:45 PM
Ryan from Chicago

Breathtaking, unique music. The attention to texture and timbre makes for a captivating listening experience.

Jun. 20 2010 01:24 PM
Ben from Chicago

There is a certain frailty to sound here which is inviting - as if music itself might at any moment fall apart once and for all or arise again triumphant. Balter keeps us in the middle, where it is most exciting.

Furthermore, it seems Balter composes with the parameters which many composers ignore, or take for granted.

His music certainly has much more to say

Jun. 20 2010 11:52 AM
Pablo from Chicago

Cannot avoid being captivated by the sensuous and refined sound world of Balter's music. Though insistent, the texture seems to be at the verge of exploding from time to time, making the music the most interesting!

Jun. 20 2010 11:28 AM
Matthias from Cambridge, MA

Let me quote what I wrote about Marcos Balter's music in a concert review on last year:

"The most exciting and refreshing piece on the program was however Marcos Balter’s Raw Item for oboe and small ensemble. Balter who is a native of Brazil composes music that is agile, flexible, delicate and fragile. If the sound of insects crawling through a Tarkovskian landscape of swaying grass is something that you find appealing, spend some time with Marcos’ music. I can’t stop listening to the few samples he has on his website and I am eagerly awaiting more opportunities to hear his music."

I hope you can provide me with this opportunity soon!

Matthias Röder

Jun. 20 2010 11:26 AM
Russell from Chicago

This is wonderfully transfixing music! Good luck to Mr. Balter!

Jun. 20 2010 10:23 AM
Rafael from Stuttgart, Germany

…dominating a great metier based mainly on the French "sonoristic" school, from Ravel\Debussy to Grisey\Murail and so on, with “Portmanteux” and “Vision Mantra” Mr. Balter offers us not only his technical excellence in writing music, but a very sweet and well balanced sonant world, at the same time very imagetic and suggestive, bringing us a huge and fresh atmosphere…

Jun. 20 2010 08:56 AM
Robert R. from Chicago

A tasteful balance of activity and restraint. Definitely something I'd want to hear again and again!

Jun. 20 2010 08:53 AM
Eric from New York, NY

A beautiful and unique sense of colour and texture! Absolutely breathtaking musical examples!

Jun. 20 2010 07:32 AM
Brad Balliett from NYC

Mr. Balter clearly has an extremely sensitive ear for balance, color, and clarity. I would love dearly to hear a new piece by Mr. Balter played by Orpheus!

Jun. 20 2010 02:27 AM

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