We had the honour of interviewing the Catalan composer and musician Marcel·lí by e-mail, who has been a professional musician for more than 20 years. The focus of the interview was Tàlveg, a group formed by himself, Ferran Fages and Oriol Roca. This is a band you definitely should pay attention to, may you be interested in free improvisation, avant-garde, contemporary, and post-jazz approaches to music. We discussed Tàlveg’s history, compositional process, discography, as well as plans for future releases. We also had the chance to briefly talk about how the SARS-COV-2 virus has been impacting Catalonia’s music scene, only to realize that, unfortunately, this is a situation transversal to many regions, which has been sheerly endangering many music scenes worldwide. May us have hope and patience in these difficult times and, in the meantime, listen to Tàlveg’s beautiful and inspiring music.
Hello Marcel·lí. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Before delving into Tàlveg’s music, let us talk about your background as a musician. You have been a professional musician for more than 20 years. Could you tell our readers a bit about your career? When did you start playing, and in what projects are/have you been involved over these years?
Thank you, João, for your time!
I began clarinet lessons at the age of 8 and when I was about 18 I switched to the saxophone and I started to play professionally, getting paid for gigs and all this. I did a lot of jobs and played in a lot of settings, mainly in the jazz and improv scene in my town but also all kinds of other stuff like musicals, pop/rock, playing with singers, music for children, etc…
My first record as a leader was a tribute to alto saxophonist Lee Konitz in a nonet format with some of my best friends and colleagues at the Esmuc, the Catalan public Conservatory where we studied at that time (middle 2000s). We had the chance to have him at the recording session and it’s a record which I still love very much after all these years.
After this debut, I did hold several projects and recordings with some other friends and really great musicians from our scene like Marco Mezquida, Martín Leiton, Ramon Prats, Toni Saigi, Josep Mª Balanyà, Amidea Clotet, Santi Careta, Juan Pablo Balcázar, Juliane Heinemann, Celeste Alias, Refree, Iván González, Albert Cirera, etc.
I am today also very active in a 10 years old band called Seward (we played at the Sines Festival in Portugal in 2018), with a poet and improviser called Oriol Sauleda and, of course, with Tàlveg.
Tàlveg is a trio formed by you (saxophone baritone), Ferran Fages (electric guitar) and Oriol Roca (drums). When was it formed and what was the driving force that led to its formation? What are the main influences that shape your sound as a trio, which very broadly fits in the categories of post-jazz, avant-garde and free improvised music?
Tàlveg is a project that started two years ago, in 2018, when the crew from Robadors 23, a wonderful underground venue at Barcelona, asked me to create a band to do a three-week residency at their club playing free spontaneous music. I thought that putting together Ferran Fages and Oriol Roca, two of my favourite musicians from the Barcelona scene, might be a good idea. The project soon evolved to a collaborative trio, with no individual leadership at all and driven by the three of us.
After this residency, where we recorded the three shows for practising purposes, we shaped the sound of the trio for almost a year, rehearsing once every month until the music was ready to be recorded, in December 2019.
I think that the main influences are the musical backgrounds that each of us has individually: Ferran comes from the contemporary music scene and is very active with Phicus, his parallel trio, and in his beautiful solo work, while Oriol plays mainly contemporary jazz with some of the greatest names in the scene, has its own trio as a leader, and does a lot of composing for theatre, soundtracks and works with field recordings.
We really don’t copy any other band’s music but try to do things in our own fashion, rehearsing a lot and trying to find new ways of expression within our trio setting.
What is the meaning of Tàlveg?
Tàlveg is the geographic line that unites the deepest points of a valley where the waters that might have form a river come together. In dry valleys, the “Tàlveg” coincides with the water catchment line and during the dry period it is used as a path. The word comes from the German Talweg which means something like a “path in the valley”.
Could you describe Tàlveg’s typical creative and compositional process?
We really try to rehearse regularly and try to carry out some atmospheres while we play together. We do talk a lot, think a lot about our music and listen carefully and respectfully to each other meanings and opinions.
We work dynamics, space, shapes and intensity a lot and try to find materials that combine: what everybody does musically have to blend together and make sense in the development of a piece.
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Ses-Sens, Tàlveg’s first EP, is an exquisite, contemporary avant-garde record, which portrays utterly deep and intense atmospheres. It seems to me that you were not particularly interested in telling a narrative or a story, but instead in the sonic description of an image or a landscape. Do you agree with this interpretation? If not, what do you think Talveg’s music expresses?
I agree. We do try to think more in creating landscapes and textures more than in an exposition-rising action-climax-falling action narrative structure. But, if that happens, and sometimes it happens in a very intense way (like the piece Volx in the Arbori album, for instance), it’s also ok.
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_Arbori, successor of Ses-Sens and Talveg’s first LP, appears to be, sonically-speaking, a natural continuation of Ses-Sens: slightly more colourful, but still dwelling in the realm of contemporary avant-garde music. Incidentally, this sense of continuum is also present in the (beautiful) record’s artwork, which portrays a complete photography that was partially cut in the EP. On the other hand, structurally-speaking, both records are quite different, especially Arbori,_ which is a 10-piece LP that has an inner structure based on a classical oratorio. Why the choice for this particular structure? What is the story behind this LP?
We did record both albums in a two days recording session at Santi Careta’s studio, a beautiful place in the middle of a valley in the heart of Catalonia.
At the beginning, we did not think of doing two records, we just recorded a lot of music these two days, all sort of textures and climates we had worked on, and we also did all types of combinations between us: solos, duos and trios and got more than three hours of raw recorded music.
A good friend of us, catalan writer Eduard Márquez, gave us the idea after listening to the unprocessed music: he suggested us to shape the album in an oratorio format, where the music unfolds itself and the different settings also have a meaning in the whole narrative process.
Nowadays, we still replicate this idea also in our live shows. The music evolves in a very special way when we do so. The pieces are always improvised, but they have also their own structure as a result of the experience that putting together Arbori supposed to us.
Do you have planned any future release that you would like to reveal?
Nowadays we are working in a new release that we will record the next month. Fresh new music and ideas which will be released digitally and in tape format next year.
We are also presenting next month Tàlveg Expanded in the Jazz Festival at La Garriga: we will expand the trio collaborating with visual artist Alexandra Garzón, who does our band photos since we began playing together. She will combine her original visuals with our music.
In a near future, we hope to offer Tàlveg Expanded in collaboration with some other artists as well: painters, dancers, who knows!
Catalonia has a very active and exciting jazz, avant-garde and improvised music scene. Unfortunately, like many other regions worldwide, it has been heavily impacted by the situation that the SARS-COV-2 virus has caused, which has forced many restrictions upon its citizens. What is the influence that this situation has been having on Catalonia’s music scene?
Well, the impact has been enormous. The cultural sector in our country has historically not been very well cared for, you know. We have always been struggling to survive in a scene which is very out of the mainstream big events. In Barcelona, you can find some huge festivals and concert venues but even them are fighting to survive with almost no financial support at all.
Neither the Spanish government nor the Catalan government do support artists in those hard times; I know and can understand that SARS-COV-2 did a heavy impact for the vast totality of sectors but just imagine: we cannot work as we did until one year ago, a lot of us are losing all types of playing opportunities and do get almost no aid from those who force us to quit our ways of living and working and earning the (most of the time) little money we used to live with.