CSUEB Choral Composition
A conversation between Buddy James, Director of Choral Activities, and Nick Vasallo, winner of the first CSUEB Choral Composition Competition, about the winning work: Lumen et Tenebras, Op. 45:
BJ: Where did you find the text for this composition?
NV: I researched several books on Revelations and its interpretations, Latin dictionaries, and Apocalyptic writings in the Bible. I knew I wanted something very picturesque and involving subject matter rarely used for musical settings. I found that Revelations, The Book of Numbers, and Isaiah contained such writings that sparked my interest.
BJ: What inspired you to use this text?
NV: Isaiah's 45:7 verse has such an extreme contrast of ideas (light/dark - good/evil) that it instantly spoke to me musically.
BJ: How is this work similar or different from previous compositions?
NV: With "Lumen et Tenebras" I fully succumbed to the power of the text rather than the inevitable direction of the music. In the end a happy marriage of careful text depiction and coherent organization was found.
BJ: What got you started in music?
NV: As far as composing....Beethoven. I heard the "Moonlight" and was so moved that I figured it out on the guitar. With truly enjoying music: my father, Ricardo, used to play all kinds of music to me as a child and when I was ready he showed me some Bernard Herrmann. He was a blunt composer I related with and still feel strongly akin to. As far as performing, I got a guitar after seeing Kurt Cobain smash one. I thought, "Hey, I could do that."
BJ: How, if at all, has your multi-ethnic background influenced your compositional styles"
NV: At this point in my career, I think my multiethnic backround as an intrinsic musical element in my music is far less apparent than my eclectic source of styles/sounds (Metal, late Romanticism, Film Music, Doom-Noise, tribal, post-modernism)...for the time being. That is why I wish to incorporate yet another element in my compositional pallette - ethnic music, and a truer approach to Eclecticism shall be achieved.
BJ: What are your upcoming plans and projects?
NV: I will be attending UC Santa Cruz pursuing a D.M.A. in Music Composition specializing in World Music. My lifelong goal is to write music that will strike to the gut of every listener...wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore - you have to hit them with a musical sledgehammer. And then you'll notice you have their strict attention.
BJ: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
NV: My voice (style) will be much more refined and noticeably different but indeniably still...me.
BJ: What has been most valuable about your education at CSUEB?
NV: I could spend forever answering this but I'll make it short...the Music teachers at CSUEB have been the most nurturing teachers I have EVER had. Dr. Owen Lee from Diablo Valley College told me to study here, specifically with Frank LaRocca. Frank's passionate teaching style influenced my early musical training immeasurably. Jeff Miller's highly adaptable method gave me the ability to grow at an exponential rate. Rafael Hernandez has me thinking on multiple levels at all times. Buddy James' extremely positive and efficient method of teaching shows me how to truly engage a learning group. David Stein's eternal wealth of knowledge leads to me to the fact that true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing = meaning there is SO MUCH I have left to learn.