Originally published in the Houston Symphony Magazine in January 2015. Republished here with the permission of the editors.
Musically Speaking: A Bonfire where we Gather to Share our of Love of Music.
A Conversation with Carlos Andrés Botero
We recently sat down with Carlos to learn more about him and the exciting new series that Andrés has introduced to the Houston Symphony’s classical season.
Houston Symphony Magazine: What attracted you to the Houston Symphony?
Carlos Andrés Botero: Andrés Orozco-Estrada is an old friend. He invited me to Houston to be his assistant, to co-host the Musically Speaking with Andrés series and to help with his vision of making the Symphony available to everyone in Houston. I’ve been dreaming of an opportunity like this my whole life—one in which I can engage the community in what the orchestra is doing. The Musically Speaking series, in which Andrés and I take one piece of music and go into detail through narration and musical examples, engages the audience by connecting them to the music, the conductor, the orchestra
and even the composer. Music is a human right. Every person has a right to learn about these creations; they belong to humanity. We deserve to know the language in which they are written. That’s exactly what Musically Speaking focuses on. As conductors, our profession is to study the compositions and to know them inside out, so we have a spiritual relationship with the work. Many others may have never truly lived inside a particular piece of music. My goal is to bring people to that place where every sound has further meaning.
HSM: How do you and Andrés determine what to present in Musically Speaking?
CAB: Music is not just a physical event; it also has emotional and intellectual aspects. The physical aspect is just the sound coming
at you. Sometimes those sounds are surprising and challenging. Sometimes they are soft; sometimes they are strong. The emotional aspect happens when a piece reminds you of something, and you connect emotionally with yourself, or with the life of the composer, or with a human event or idea. For example, when you are listening to a slow movement, and you remember someone you really love who is not with you, that music triggers emotional responses.
The intellectual aspect of music comes in when you understand how the composer put together the elements of the music. With this understanding, you start to participate in the process of creation; it’s as if you are re-creating the music. For example, why is a piece in a certain key, or why do symphonies have four movements? So in my opinion, the composer is one side of the conversation. The orchestra is not interpreting the conversation, but communicates it to the audience. The audience is making the interpretation. So in effect, the audience of Musically Speaking is in conversation with the composer. The orchestra is there as an act of love; they know the piece and offer it to the audience, but we also ask audience members to deal with the composer themselves.
HSM: How do you and Andrés engage the audience in Musically
CAB: When we present Musically Speaking, we prepare a script that outlines the different aspects of the piece, which excerpts we’ll ask the orchestra to play, and perhaps even a bit of dramatic role-playing for Andrés and me! Sometimes, though, we will wander from the script to discuss the piece as the two old friends we are. Andrés and I grew up together and went to the same high school. After high school, Andrés went to Vienna to study, and I went to Spain. In any case, Andrés and I can go off script and come back very easily. This improvisation may be a part of our Latin culture. So, we bring the audience into that conversation. In one sense, it’s easy for Andrés and me to have that conversation, but in another sense, it’s
difficult, in that we have to try not to get too far off track! So Musically Speaking is much more of a conversation than a lecture. I have a doctorate in music; I know what lectures are, and I don’t like them! I don’t think a concert is the right place to do that. When I fell in love with music, it was not because a teacher told me to like it; it was because a friend led me into the piece. That’s what I remember and cherish. We choose not to be erudite or pedantic in Musically Speaking. We love this music, and we have come to understand what the music means beyond the notes, and that is what we want to share. Musically Speaking is intended to be a fun event that you share with dear friends, and I hope at the end, you will consider the composer one of those friends.
I also hope audiences will consider me a friend. I hope they email me to share ideas and experiences or to ask questions. I want to be involved with audiences in a personal way. Musically Speaking is a bonfire where we gather to share experiences; it is where we share our love for the music. But the next day, I don’t want the fire of our conversation to be extinguished. I want that light to be a part of our audiences’ everyday lives.
Don’t forget to check next season programming at the Houston Symphony!