Name: Juan Pablo Jofre
Occupation: Bandoneonist, Composer
Current Release: Double Concerto for Violin and Bandoneón, No. 1 on iTunes
Recommendations: I would recommend “Crónicas del Angel Gris,” a book by Argentinean writer Alejandro Dolina. And a masterpiece called "Sextet" by Astor Piazzolla, recorded live at BBC in London.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with JP Jofre, his expansive personal website is the perfect place to start your journey into his work and life
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Not consciously, I started composing when I was a child, around 4-5 years old. It was just like playing games. For example, I would create a song to sing to my grandma to make her laugh. Later, around the age of 15, I started to compose more seriously on the piano and guitar.
I was really into rock and pop and played drums with a heavy metal band. As a teenager of 16 or 17, I fell in love with Dvořák, Leoncavallo—my mother used to play Pagliacci all the time and I loved it—and Albeniz. In any case, I have to say there was one composer above all others who made me rethink everything and was hugely influential in my deciding what I wanted to do in life: Astor Piazzolla.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Yes, it’s true that music is the universal language. Through music, you can say so many things and touch so many souls. Once you realise how music enriches your soul and once you decide what message you want to convey, you can start putting that into practise. As you note, we have to analyse, transcribe, and listen to thousands and thousands of recordings, learn the vocabulary, the styles, and little by little developing our own voice. I’m 35 years old and I am still discovering new things. I hope it never stops because there is nothing more beautiful than finding your own voice.
What were some of the most important creative challenges when starting out as a composer and how have they changed over time?
To be honest with myself and to judge myself in the most critical and objective way possible.
Tell us about your studio/work space, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
My workspace can be an air plane, an airport, a hotel, a train etc. I tour around the world every month, so I have to work wherever I am. In my studio, I have a piano for composing and rehearsing, but I prefer to compose on the bandoneon.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
To be honest, every day is different. Depending on where I am, the very first thing I do when I wake up is look at my 10-month-old daughter, hug her and try not to wake her. Then I answer emails, make breakfast and either practise something I have written and have to perform, complete an orchestration or get to work on a new composition.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Generally, I don’t do any special creative preparation. Musical ideas come into my mind on their own - most of the time when I am walking on my way to do something, such as a meeting, rehearsal, shopping, etc. It is my emotions, experiences, and the people around me that serve as the creative inspiration. When I am home, and I know I have to compose some music, I close my eyes and simply try to listen to my heart.
Could you take me through the process of composing on the basis of one of your pieces that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
One of my favourite pieces is "Tango Movement". This music is very interesting because I wrote the main themes while I was still learning the bandoneon.
I remember sitting on my couch in my home town of San Juan (Argentina). I was going through a lot of family issues, and at the same time my country was suffering one of the worst economic crises in its history. It was 2001. We had five presidents in one week. There was a lot of social upheaval, national strikes, and I wanted to express with my music the tumult of feelings I was experiencing. That is when I wrote the main themes for the Allegro and the Adagio sections. But since I was still learning the bandoneon, I wrote only the melodies, some harmonies and then I put it aside for four to five years until I felt confident enough with my bandoneon skills. The piece can be heard now on my album Manifiesto -- that is the version I like most.