Helga Arias Parra was born in Bilbao, Spain. She obtained her piano diploma in the city of Granada. After that she began her composition studies in the same city and later in the conservatory Giuseppe Verdi of Milan and the conservatory of Parma, where she studied composition and computer music with Mario Garuti and Javier Torres Maldonado.
Besides, she has received lessons from other composers such as Georg Friedrich Haas, Beat Furrer, Mark André, Toshio Hosokawa, Alberto Posadas, Gabriel Erkoreka, Dániel Péter Biró, Ken Ueno, Cristóbal Halffter, Dominique Schafer and Javier Álvarez among others and participated in masterclasses with Helmuth Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Philippe Manoury, José María Sánchez Verdú, Trevor Wishart or Daniel Teruggi.
She has been awarded in the international contest “Città di Udine”, the RCSM Victoria Eugenia de Granada contest for Symphonic Orchestra, the shut up and listen! Electroacustic festival in Vienna or the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik Competition 2014.
Her music has been performed in several festivals and music halls such as EMUFEST of Rome, the Klangwerkstatt in the Konzerthaus Berlin, Festival Mixtur in Barcelona, Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, USA, Foro Internacional de Musica Nueva (Mexico), Domaine Forget (Canada), Casa del Suono in Parma (Italy), Etchings Festival (France), Echoraum Vienna, Experimentalstudio Academy of the SWR Freiburg, 3rd Forum for Young Composers in Cascais (Portugal), Sonutopias 2014 (Santiago de compostela, Spain or ZKM Karlsruhe (Germany) by ensembles such as International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA), Vertixe Sonora, Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne, ECCE ensemble, Taller Sonoro, Sond'arte electric ensemble, Ensemble Cepromusic, Ensemble Progress Berlin and others.
Currently she is a Computer Music Master's student at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien in Karlheinz Essl's class and a postgraduate Composition student at the Kunstuniversität Graz with Beat Furrer. In June 2015 she will be part of the Manifeste Academy at the IRCAM (Paris).Mini-interview with Helga
Where are you from? Does that have any influence on your music? If so, how?
I was born and raised in Spain, a country with a strong culture and history, so I guess that is part of my heritage and my personality. That probably reflects on the way a feel about things, including music, but I do not consider my music to be linked to my country in many senses. Mainly because I left at a relatively young age, in order to study composition in another country, as I was mostly disappointed with the musical life in my homeland.
I spent many years studying in Italy with a Mexican composer, living in Switzerland and later moving to Austria to study with a Swiss and and Austrian composer, so in that sense I believe my background is pretty much intercultural.
When did you start composing and why?
I started composing when I was 21 or 22 years old. It was not a sudden decision to become a composer but it took some time. I had been playing the piano for almost 14 years and there was a point in which I felt really limited, because rehearsing became a routine job: it was just about facing more difficult pieces, more challenging technique, but at the end of the day I was feeling like learning nothing new.
When I started writing music more seriously I was first overwhelmed by the huge amount of things I had to learn and control but at the same time I was fascinated by the possibilities it could offer me, I thought I could be a much more fulfilled and complete musician than before.
What, if any, was the most inspirational experience you have had as a composer? (It could be a lesson, a piece, a concert, a sound, a walk, a bus trip, an image, etc.)
Without any doubt the first time I heard a piece of mine which sounded as I expected. I was very moved, somehow proud and I felt incredibly grateful to the performers.
What is most important to you when writing a piece?
Experimentation, risk and control in that exact order. I want to discover something new with every piece in terms of sound, instrumental or electronic techniques, meaning, structure, etc, and in order to do that I have to try new things rather than just staying in my comfort zone by only using materials I know are working fine. Nevertheless I do not use this new materials unless I have checked everything possible and I have certain level of security that they are going to work.
What's the title of your new work?
Describe in a few sentences what your new work is about.
Surely it is a lot about the things I just mentioned in the previous question on what's important when writing a piece, but more specifically, it's about melting the sound characteristics and the resonance of three instruments which are very different from one another (oboe, piano, percussion), so in order to do that I have tried to make them sound in a particular way. The idea is that at some points, the single line of each instrument cannot be recognised individually but is part of the whole sound-mass.
Helga Arias Parra's Konturen II along with 8 other works by young composers from around the globe will be premiered by the Trio SurPlus at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory's Orchestra Hall on 12 July 2015 at 7:30pm.