Born and raised in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Luis Ramirez is a Mexican-Canadian composer and musician. He often incorporate elements of Mexican folklore with a cinematographic approach to his musical storytelling.
I first experienced one of Ramirez’s compositions as part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra‘s (TSO) Celebration Prelude series, for their Gimeno + Dvořák’s “New World” concert in April of this year. To celebrate the Orchestra’s relationship with Toronto, the TSO commissioned this series of three-minute Celebration Preludes from composers across the GTA, to reflect the diversity of musical voices in our community. Ramirez’s MI PIÑATA was the second of five this season.
In Latinamerican tradition, the breaking of the piñata is the highlight of many celebrations. During the celebration, children (and some adults) line up and take turns to strike the piñata, and the moment you receive the stick you are immediately empowered. The anticipation of landing the final blow can feel more meaningful and enjoyable than the sweet rewards inside.
He describes this composition as capturing “this powerful sensory and emotional experience from the perspective of a child, for whom it constitutes a kind of focused excitement and exhilaration like no other. This piece is about the empowerment, jubilance, and catharsis in meticulously crafting something whose ultimate purpose is to be destroyed ferociously. There is something viscerally powerful in the destruction of a beautiful, meticulously crafted creation.”
At the premiere with the TSO, it felt great to hear familiar sounds as a Latinamerican person. I turned to my companion and remarked on the sounds and vibes evoked through the piece. I really enjoyed it.
Ramirez began his career as a pianist, and his interest in composition emerged as a consequence of performing contemporary music. He is an eclectic musician who has toured as a classical pianist, performed Latin-American music at various festivals, conducted the Brandon Community Orchestra, presented his academic research at conferences around the world, and is the artistic director of the Amarras Tango Quintet.
He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Composition at York University in Toronto with Randolph Peters, in which he is exploring the digital landscape for music-making and humanity’s sometimes negative relationship with the internet.
Ramirez is keeping fairly busy outside of his PhD work as well. He will premiere another new composition, KOATL, with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. This piece aims to evoke an Aztec deity emerging from an ancient temple.
Also of note is the TSO’s announcement earlier this season that Ramirez will be one three early-career composers, NextGen Composers. This initiative is part of Music Director Gustavo Gimeno’s commitment to supporting and developing Canadian talent. Their new works will premiere during the 2022/23 season.
I leave you with my conversation with Ramirez’s where he kindly shares details about his journey into music composition, his current work for his PhD, and so much more.
*Cover photo by Yoliztli Ramos.