It has been interpreted in different occasions by Renato Maioli, and by Alcides Lanza in different countries, and by Lucía Herrera, Roque de Pedro and Marta Bongiorno from whom no recordings are kept. The last one made is by Luis Mihovilcevic on this CD.
Possibly the first one of the second period of his works, Ambientes was written in Tucumán in1967.
Perhaps with the combination of the political move to the right in Tucuman, his revolutionary look (long hair and beard), and his modern approach to music teaching, the Universidad de Tucumán did not offer him a new contract and by the end of 1967 Zubillaga returned to B. A.
Ambientes reflects Zubillaga’s spiritual search almost dramatically. It evokes the oriental traditions and the sonorousness of Zen ceremonies and rituals, enlarging the musical resources. It was all his cultural and personal search that was going to be condemned and attacked by an increasingly conservative and reactionary establishment.
This work explores all the sonorous possibilities of the instrument, going far beyond the mere keyboard. It attracted the most number of performers and was also attacked at the same time, along with his first performer, Héctor Rubio, during the premiere at the Semana de la Música Contemporánea, organised by Zubillaga for the 8th Septiembre Musical Tucumano at the Teatro Gral. San Martín.
The Agrupación Nueva Música performed in the Museo de Bellas Artes.
Sponsored by the Fondo Nacional de las Artes, the Agrupación Nueva Música gave a concert at the Museo de Bellas Artes.
...The program, devoted to avant-garde musical manifestations created in our milieu, began with a careful execution, balanced and full of character, from "Dedalus" (1959) by Juan Carlos Paz...
...In the program there was a great number of pieces that were being premiered. First, the audience could hear "Ambientes" by Luis Zubillaga, for piano, in which the author achieves original sonorous effects by using, with great ability, diverse ways of attack, by adding other resources to the customary playing, like a direct twang of the strings, "tremolos", percussive accents, etcetera. This piece, even though it has an advanced making, by insisting on a specific sound, acquires a determined aspect of polarity. It was masterly interpreted by the pianist, Renato Maioli, who has specialised in this repertory.
La Nación Newspaper, December 19th, 1969
"AMBIENTES”, by Luis Mihovilcevic
About "Ambientes", the author pointed out in 1991: "It is a piece of effects. There's no narration, even though referential sonorities emerge exceptionally. The work was made going with its own flow” .
Walter Benjamin said that Goethe never explained the way he organized any work. The secret was part of its mythical aspect. Something similar occurs with Luis Zubillaga's music and the interest, as in Goethe, is placed precisely in finding the keys that will allow to open the doors of the Arcane. "Ambientes", by Zubillaga, is a fundamental work of modern pianistic thinking and aesthetically it represents a climax of modernism. More than 20 years after it was written (1967), this work remains alive and is welcome by the public close to the musical language of our times.
Vitality and "vitalism"
However, his vitality contrasts with the particular vision of "vitalism" that postmodern thinking proposes, which is clearly conservative. The piece is opposed to formal and conceptual analysis which, unfortunately, dominates most of the theoretical thinking in the last decade and the present one. The work slips away to poetic paths that can only be trodden by those who create Poetry; its concept of Time, the unconventional possibilities of the instrument, the aesthetic clarity of the concept and the hermetical quality of the message , make this work a profound pleasure to the one who has to interpret it. As long as this last word is given its full meaning. If the keys to the Arcane can be found through the text in Goethe's work, in Zubillaga's "Ambientes" the listener will not find those keys unless the interpreter does not find them first.
A way of not explaining
At first we said that neither Goethe nor Zubillaga normally explain their work. This is why in the latter's music it is necessary to give another “turn of the screw in order to understand the internal logic of "Ambientes".
▪ The first conspicuous problem that the pianist faces is the concept of time, and that time is not determined by the composer but by the interpreter's inner pulse. The piece can last from 5 to 14 minutes.
▪ The sonorous space is not determined by the keyboard alone: the strings (pulsated or strummed) and beatings on the instrument's harmony box .
▪ The interpreter will realise that the piece has not been created with a rationalist criterion and that the beatings are not mere effects.
▪ The more times the piece is interpreted, the more its logical development will be discovered. And this is the hardest point: finding what it is that produces the unity of the work.
In "Ambientes", besides the mentioned "effects", "jazz like" chords appear relating to each other in distant passages, and a note, the B flat, that can be heard in three different ranges, but with an obsessive appearance in the B flat that is near and above the central C. The mentioned sound (B flat) is played normally on the keyboard and sometimes stepping lightly (mute) on the corresponding string.
The author of this article has interpreted this piece a number of times and can guarantee that it is not discursive, though it is not totally gestural . This fact makes it even more confusing when the score is analyzed.
A door to the Arcane
Although the discourse is not present, unity is caused by means of something, and that "something" is the B flat; and in the same way Adorno had discovered that Arnold Schonberg's Wind Quintet Op. 26, being a serial piece had a structure with sonata form, we can acknowledge that this B flat is treated, in a non discursive piece, as a leitmotiv, and that this element, alone, succeeds in articulating the work's Poetic development (the unity).
A fundamental part of the Arcane's doors was opened. There are other discovered "parts" but out of respect to the Arcane, their names must not be uttered, and there are still others that only Zubillaga knows about though, in the same way as Goethe did, displaying a grin, he shall not reveal.
Published in No. 1 Boletín CULTRUN C.A. November 1992
Concert on September 26, 1967 at the San Martin Theater. Entity: CPDC
Interpreter: Hector Rubio (piano)
Programme: Variaciones sobre un tema popular, by J. Ficher. Tercera Sonatina by J.C. Paz. Visiones Siderales y tres piezas, by C. Franchisena. Variciones sobre un tema de Hindenmith, by R. Arizaga. Sonatina para Piano y cinta magnetofónica, by H. Vaggione. Ambientes(1967) by L. Zubillaga.
On Tuesday night the Zubillaga-Rubio duo made peculiar music. The former composed it and the latter performed it, risking his physical integrity.
"His music, undoubtedly, goes along the line of (Morton) Feldman and (Earle) Brown (two North American composers…) and seeks the disintegration of sound and reappraisment of every auditive element and its timbric value. The symptomatic name of the piece: "Ambientes" gives a clue as to what he has set out to achieve and (risking over-interpreting the author), we believe Zubillaga translates a particular audio-perceptive penetration of the slightest sonorous element that surrounds him. These sounds synthesized and purified to their maximum, balanced with real criterion, and skillfully interwoven between silent gaps, produce a synthetic microcosmos, that reveal a very special ability to appreciate the sonorous phenomenon. He does not only use noises, but buzzes, tapping, falling of any object, and in order to take them to the piano, he also uses besides his hands, his forearms, his knuckles, etcetera.
Clearly, the major danger of this music does not lie as much on the player or the listener as it does on the composer. Because if in art there is a nefarious temptation, this is it: the artifice that tempts everybody for the sake of originality (and maybe an antidote for what was meant by "Pedes in terra ad sidera visus"). Because from art to artifice there is only one step: and it is a mortal one.
La Gaceta Newspaper. Thursday, September 28, 1967
A new series of concerts at the CAYC. Three works by three composers with different points of view.
On Friday the 8th the Centro de Arte y Comunicación began its Ciclo de Compositores Argentinos, which will continue every Friday at the Center...
...Next we heard "Ambientes", by Luis Zubillaga, another piano composition that has more recent experimental aesthetics and whose aims differ greatly to Camps' sonata. Here, the direct manipulation of strings and tapping on the piano's wood are basically directed towards a percussive use of the instrument. The pianist and composer Roque de Pedro was in charge of the performance.
(Martin Muller La Opinion, Buenos Aires, October 14, 1976)
VIII Septiembre Musical Tucumano: Contemporary Argentine Music:...
Luis Zubillaga: "Ambientes", 1967...
..." Rubio has the joyful task of recreating (and making it last on the recording) an avant-garde work: "Ambientes", by Luis Zubillaga. In it the whole audio-perceptive element of the individual takes shape with fascinating authenticity, because Zubillaga does not only appeal to musical sound, but to everything that can possibly reach the present man's sensitive ears: noises, cracks, buzzes, brushing and strumming effects, etcetera. Maybe now it is possible to talk about a new auditive dimension handled with an astonishing ability to be synthetical. Because if art is choice (and therefore a resignation to what is "not essential" or to what is multiple and does not lead to what is similar). Zubillaga is a profound artist. Girdled, ethereal, but he has drive. All his fugacity (his last works are precisely distinguished by their briefness), is the most eloquent symptom of his need to condense and penetrate. Hector Rubio carries out in "Ambientes", a great speculative and timbric work.
(La Gaceta de Tucuman, December 28th, 1968).
RECORDS Four in Tucuman. Argentine Contemporary Music.
"... The most fascinating composition in the group is Zubillaga's, a musician that has displayed his talent in the United States, Venezuela and Tucuman as well, and Rubio interprets it with precise skill and comprehension of the style: avant-garde that is perfectly lucid and aware of its objectives."...
(Primera Plana #295, August 20, 1968)
PAISAJE EN FLUCTUACIÓN (FLUCTUATING LANDSCAPE) 1962
Southern landscapes were still present in the eyes, they had been visited at the end of the 50s, thanks to his job in FCA (the Argentine railroad company) and the possibility of obtaining free tickets. It was a time of work for survival, studying and tight budgets. A time so rich with discoveries and experiences, a very happy period. Forests and lakes blended together in Japanese painting and the revelation of Haiku poetry.
Zubillaga could always say that he has an image as a starting point for his works.
Leaving for Caracas -this first time, seeking Gurdjieff’s teachings-, and getting rid off his maestro’s tutelage, benefitted the beginning of his personal musical creation .
The interpretation, performance and recording of the piece by Jorge Zulueta was carried out with the skill and subtlety that were his own; it took place when he was invited to play at the Venezuelan National Radio, sprinkled with stories about the recording’s technical details, due to its equipment, which was surprisingly up to date and sophisticated. This interpretation remained a unique version practically irreplaceable. Zubillaga never offered it again in another performance (or did not care to do it). This piece is originally recorded on vinyl record with its typical flaws.
HOY, PIANO (TODAY, PIANO)
Autumn 1995, one afternoon. A. and L., who have been friends for many decades, are in the studio L. set up. In the mezzanine next to a high window that allows light to go through, already weak. “I just finished it”, says Luis, referring to the score he is holding on his chest. “Hard, isn’t it?” he adds, as he starts playing the repeating and variable designs of the beginning on the “Danemann” and the fifths backup as if they were bells or gongs. A. also playing on the keyboard when it is his turn, though he replies less successfully, “Yes: somewhat intricate, even though I think it’ll become easier to play once you get into the ceremonial mood that I perceive already, a merry ceremony!” he underscores. Luis: “Like the old ones”. “Like the old ones”, A. agrees.
...Meanwhile, both friends go on with the reading, following new designs, of breathing and distension. Until they reach the brief passage (to be played twice, like others in the piece) colored by a soft martial tone. A. is enthusiastic and tries to compare it to the fanfares in "Trompetas...", which was composed a few years back. But he is immediately deterred. The cause?: he senses something different in this fragment, of a calmer and more austere shade; “very similar to another one”, says his friend, "it’s the global (he looks for a better word but can’t find it) language of the piece”. That’s it: it’s about another ceremony”, Luis comments, smiling.