A very alive catalog (part I)

Those of us who have decided to devote our lives to artistic creation are faced with certain responsibilities; among them is an apparently insignificant aspect in our relationship to our own creations: how to number them, classify and define them. In this first article of Bowels I will tell you about my adventures with the elaboration of my musical catalog.

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Years ago, I began to catalog my works. I named them as it was done in the old days: Opus 1, Opus 2… how many works I composed, how large or small they were… but I soon saw that this was no good for me. When I left Murcia in 2005 to live in Madrid, and started working for the magazine Doce Notas magazine, composer Jorge Fernández Guerra told me: “Opus is outdated!” and he was absolutely right.

But, I needed to number the works, and to order them somehow. So, I came up with the following: OSM (Obra de Sonia Megías, or “Works by Sonia Megías”); but how cumbersome it is in capital letters, so much better as osm. And what do I do with the ArteSonías, which is how I included the arrangements, versions, transcriptions, etc.? I wanted to include them in a section of the catalog, because I consider them an important part of my production: I worked for many years as a music arranger for the women’s choir Malvaloca of Madrid (before called women’s choir Entredós), as well as for the plectrum orchestra Orquesta Ciudad de La Mancha, as well as working on my own arrangements of the indigenous music of El Salvador and flamenco transcriptions… The ArteSonías definitely have to be in there somewhere, and that section of the catalog I called asm. So, now I have two classifications: osm, and asm. Hurray!

On another topic regarding the number of works: “How many works have you written?” I am sometimes asked. I don’t know… hundreds?. To regulate this item about “quantity” and “ego” (directly proportional), I decided to group osm and asm into cycles. Thus, I would have for instance, 40 cycles of 10 instead of 400 works. However, using this system I didn’t manage to solve my dilemma.

In both cases: cycles, as well as long works with movements that can be played separately, I used the “# “ sign to abbreviate the word number. For example, my earliest works, which were for piano, are contained in the cycle Joven piano · osm1# (the # symbol indicates that it is a cycle of works, or a work with several movements that can be independent). Within that cycle there are twenty works, each with its number, for instance: La luna tiene dos caras · osm1#17.

What is the correct way, and what is not? Maybe an expert in archival science would throw up her hands, but for me this system has helped me to get out of this chaos.

What about versions? And what about versions of my own works? Those are not ArteSonías. ArteSonías are versions of works by other composers. I give as an example the case of Tres tangos · osm12#. Each one has its own story: I wrote the first one in Almansa for piano and violin when I was a student (2001), the second one in Trieste (Italy) for double bass and piano when I met bass players for the first time (2003), the third one I composed in La Navata for flute and piano, for Duo Barile Verna, which they premiered in 2015.

As you can see, each of the three tangos is originally written for a different instrumentation, and in order to group them in a cycle that could be played by the same instrumental group, I made the decision to convert the three original compositions into a work for violin and piano. Then in the catalog, the rest appear as adaptations for other groups of instruments. See: Tres tangos · osm12#v13, for soprano saxophone and piano, 13th version! It was recently premiered by Nacho Solana and Paqui Fornet in Villa Joiosa (Alicante).

Tres tangos is my most arranged and performed work. To catalog its multiple adaptations I have the need to use yet another symbol, the ‘v’ for version. Thus, the tangos for double bass and piano are osm12#v1; for cello and piano, osm12#v2; or for flute and piano, osm12#v3, which follow those for viola, horn, etc. Tangos for all!

(This article about my struggles to order the catalog threatens to continue in the next chapter of LifeinMusic).


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