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Felipe Lara

Meditation and Calligraphy (2014) for bass flute

Parábolas na Caverna (2013-2014) for amplified flute

density 2036: part ii 




*Commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation.


Meditation and Calligraphy (2014) for bass flute

density 2036: part ii



From April to June, I was fortunate to take part in a residency at Civitella Ranieri, a 15th-century castle turned foundation and residency in Umbria, Italy. One former fellow, G. Mend-Ooyo, a Mongolian poet and calligrapher particularly called my attention. He was born and raised by a nomadic herding family, in the Mongolian steppe; his work has been translated in forty languages.

DENSITY2036: Felipe Lara - Mediation and Calligraphy (for G. Mend Ooyo) [2014] | International Contemporary Ensemble
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I asked him to show me some of his work and he invited me for visit his studio in order to see the work he had produced during the residency at Civitella. Mend-Ooyo’s calligraphy particularly impressed me. The bold gestures, elemental lyricism, and minute details were astounding to me. The following afternoon Mend-Ooyo presented me with two wonderful calligraphies, both in black, red, pencil, over a yellow and gold paper; one with the Mongolian symbol for music, the other with fire and water symbols. I asked Mend-Ooyo: “How do you create such incredible calligraphies?” He replied, “Meditation, meditation, meditation for a very long time…then calligraphy with one quick gesture.” I found the approach extremely poetic.

The following week Claire Chase arrived at the castle to work with me on Parábolas na Caverna and play a solo concert. I decided to present Mend-Ooyo with a small piece, as a gesture of my gratitude. I decided that I would “meditate” or imagine the general character of a solo bass flute work for an entire evening, then wake up and write it in less than 30 minutes.

The work uses the letters of G. Mend-Ooyo’s name as a starting point for the pitch material: G (sol), Me (E flat, from solfege), D (re), Do (C) The vowel sounds from his name are also used to modulate the flute when singing and playing simultaneously is required.

— Felipe Lara


Parábolas na Caverna (2013-14) for amplified flute 

density 2036: part ii


The title (Parables in the Cave) refers to Plato’s “Parable of the Cave,” a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, who is the narrator. In a nutshell, Socrates describes a group of people who have been chained to the wall of a cave their entire lives, without ever experiencing reality. The prisoners watch the shadows projected in the wall of the cave by a fire behind them and ascribe names and meanings to the distorted shadows of various objects and passer-bys outside of the cave. For (Plato’s) Socrates the shadows are as true a view the prisoners will ever see of reality. For him, philosophy (as well as knowledge and education) helps liberating oneself from such a cave, thus leading to a better understand of the world around them.  Parábolas was written for Claire Chase and is dedicated to Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg, Claire’s mentor and the Chairman of ICE’s board from 2007-2013.

— Felipe Lara


Praised by The New York Times as "a gifted Brazilian-American modernist" whose works are “brilliantly realized,” “technically formidable, wildly varied,” and possess “voluptuous, elemental lyricism,” Felipe Lara—whose work includes orchestral, chamber, vocal, film, electroacoustic, and popular music—engages in producing new musical contexts by means of (re)interpreting and translating acoustical and extra-musical properties of familiar source sonorities into project-specific forces. He often aspires to create self-similar relationships between the macro and micro-articulation of the musical experience and highlights the interdependence of acoustic music composition and technology. 


His music has been recently commissioned by leading soloists, ensembles, and institutions such as the Arditti Quartet, Brentano Quartet, Claire Chase, Conrad Tao, Donaueschinger Musiktage,  Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, Helsinki Philharmonic, International Contemporary Ensemble, Loadbang, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Parker Quartet, and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, as well as recently performed by the Ensemble Recherche, esperanza spalding, Ilan Volkov, JACK Quartet, KNM Berlin, Mivos Quartet, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic Hilversum, New York Philharmonic, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Peter Eötvös, Steven Schick, Susanna Mälkki, Talea Ensemble, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and Thomas Adès. 


The recipient of a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship from Harvard University, he holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from New York University (Graduate School of Arts and Science) where he was a Henry M. MacCracken Fellow, a Master’s from Tufts University, and a Bachelor's degree from Berklee College of Music.  


Lara is an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Composition Department at The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Having previously taught at Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Faculty of Arts and Science at New York University, he was Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Music and Visiting Lecturer at Harvard’s Department of Music, where he was awarded two Harvard Excellence in Teaching Awards. 

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