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Wilfrido Terrazas’ flute flight to Baja

Imagine that the profession you’ve been doing for more than 30 years no longer exists in reality

Terrazas headed home to make an album about a voyage home.
Terrazas headed home to make an album about a voyage home.

“It’s inspired by Homeric poetry, especially the Odyssey,” explains flute virtuoso and UCSD professor Wilfrido Terrazas, in regards to his latest solo flute album Itaca, which was released last December. “It is both a real island on the Ionian Sea, and a mythical place that Odysseus is trying to return to.”

The album was recorded at UCSD in January of 2019. “It wasn’t released until December of 2020, so it took some time. It was mixed and mastered in Mexico City by my long-time friend and collaborator Ramón del Buey and released by Cero Records, which is a very cool independent label that has been a strong advocate for experimental music for well over a decade. It took me a few years to put this record together.”

Is it particular challenge to release an album of solo flute?

“Well, in many ways, recording a solo flute album is really easy, because there are many technical aspects that you don’t have to worry about. Mixing and mastering, for instance, tend to be much easier when there is just one instrument, especially a monophonic one. But I guess there are other challenges involved, for instance, to keep the whole record interesting with just one instrument, and to provide a structure with such limited resources. So what I did, and what I’ve done with all of my solo records, is to add variety by playing various flutes. There are two bass flute pieces, one piece for the piccolo, two alto flute pieces and three for the concert flute. There’s also one piece for ‘prepared’ flute, where I stuck a little plastic membrane underneath one of the keys, which opens up a whole new sonic universe. So, if you go through the album, you’ll hear quite a lot of variety.”

How has the pandemic affected you as an artist, performer and teacher?

“Oh my god. The short story is that of course it has affected me in profound ways. First off, there’s the obvious fact that I haven’t played a concert in over a year with a few minor exceptions. Imagine waking up once day and finding out that the profession you’ve been doing for more than 30 years no longer exists in reality. So, it has been impactful in many ways, both psychologically and spiritually and in a communal sense. But all these things have different angles of reality. There have been positive affects as well. I’ve been doing a lot of long-distance collaborations, video stuff, recordings and other things that have been very interesting and have brought new knowledge, new experiences and perspectives about music making that I definitely want to keep developing in the hypothetical post-COVID world.”

You’ve been living back in Ensenada since the pandemic hit. How has Mexico differed in terms of weathering that crisis?

“Well, I came back here for two main reasons. One was to be with my family, especially my mom because she lives alone. The other reason was because UCSD had shut down, and I had no office and I didn’t have a place to play my flute. You know, I can’t play my flute in my apartment in San Diego. I can’t really play my flute in most places in San Diego. So, I am back here in the house where I grew up. This has been very interesting and it has allowed me to think regionally, which is how most of my projects come to me. I can see the work I do as something that affects the whole border region. In many ways, Tijuana and San Diego are just one big region. So the difference has not been that great.”

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Terrazas headed home to make an album about a voyage home.
Terrazas headed home to make an album about a voyage home.

“It’s inspired by Homeric poetry, especially the Odyssey,” explains flute virtuoso and UCSD professor Wilfrido Terrazas, in regards to his latest solo flute album Itaca, which was released last December. “It is both a real island on the Ionian Sea, and a mythical place that Odysseus is trying to return to.”

The album was recorded at UCSD in January of 2019. “It wasn’t released until December of 2020, so it took some time. It was mixed and mastered in Mexico City by my long-time friend and collaborator Ramón del Buey and released by Cero Records, which is a very cool independent label that has been a strong advocate for experimental music for well over a decade. It took me a few years to put this record together.”

Is it particular challenge to release an album of solo flute?

“Well, in many ways, recording a solo flute album is really easy, because there are many technical aspects that you don’t have to worry about. Mixing and mastering, for instance, tend to be much easier when there is just one instrument, especially a monophonic one. But I guess there are other challenges involved, for instance, to keep the whole record interesting with just one instrument, and to provide a structure with such limited resources. So what I did, and what I’ve done with all of my solo records, is to add variety by playing various flutes. There are two bass flute pieces, one piece for the piccolo, two alto flute pieces and three for the concert flute. There’s also one piece for ‘prepared’ flute, where I stuck a little plastic membrane underneath one of the keys, which opens up a whole new sonic universe. So, if you go through the album, you’ll hear quite a lot of variety.”

How has the pandemic affected you as an artist, performer and teacher?

“Oh my god. The short story is that of course it has affected me in profound ways. First off, there’s the obvious fact that I haven’t played a concert in over a year with a few minor exceptions. Imagine waking up once day and finding out that the profession you’ve been doing for more than 30 years no longer exists in reality. So, it has been impactful in many ways, both psychologically and spiritually and in a communal sense. But all these things have different angles of reality. There have been positive affects as well. I’ve been doing a lot of long-distance collaborations, video stuff, recordings and other things that have been very interesting and have brought new knowledge, new experiences and perspectives about music making that I definitely want to keep developing in the hypothetical post-COVID world.”

You’ve been living back in Ensenada since the pandemic hit. How has Mexico differed in terms of weathering that crisis?

“Well, I came back here for two main reasons. One was to be with my family, especially my mom because she lives alone. The other reason was because UCSD had shut down, and I had no office and I didn’t have a place to play my flute. You know, I can’t play my flute in my apartment in San Diego. I can’t really play my flute in most places in San Diego. So, I am back here in the house where I grew up. This has been very interesting and it has allowed me to think regionally, which is how most of my projects come to me. I can see the work I do as something that affects the whole border region. In many ways, Tijuana and San Diego are just one big region. So the difference has not been that great.”

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