Born: February 18, 1979
Studies: Berklee College of Music, major in film scoring and jazz composition.
Favourite local bands: Eruca Sativa, Parte Planeta and Sig Ragga
Three key records: Punk in drublic by NOFX; Kid A by Radiohead and Charles Munch’s rendition of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
He has been a part of the jazz scene for the last couple of years, but he can’t be labelled a jazz player. He has conducted orchestras throughout the world but he clearly does not fit the conductor type. Not so long ago, he revived a punk-rock power-trio without being a punk-rocker. Furthermore, he has proven his wits in fields like music producing and film scoring but that still is not enough to define him. Introducing Nicolás Sorín, a modern-age Houdini who manages to escape labels unscathed. However, what he can’t seem to escape from is the progressive amount of praise that he has been garnering since his band Octafonic’s first record Monster came out. A man that always hides something new up his the sleeve, Sorín agreed to meet with the Herald in an anthropologic attempt to describe his various natures.
Despite being primarily known as a composer, you’ve also worked with several artists (such as Jauría or even Miguel Bosé) as a producer or arranger. What’s your approach when asked to sit in the producer’s chair?
It’s a line of work that requires some serious psychological know-how at times, because you’re dealing with the artist’s fears and mostly his ego, you need to interpret that. I must admit that I have not yet mastered what it takes to be a great producer, so what I try is to reach a middle ground between what I like to do and what the musician whom I’m producing or arranging wants to do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; it all comes down to human chemistry really.
Being so smitten with punk-rock, I imagine you were a sort or rare bird at Berklee…
When I got there, my classmates knew all there is to know about jazz and my strong suit was NOFX and a little bit of Louis Armstrong! I benefited a great deal from that ignorance — it made me irreverent, because I approached jazz from another angle. My teachers were delighted because I wrote weird, almost absurd jazz scores.
Also present at that time and space was Cirilo Fernández, who once told me that — in the long run — what Berklee gave him was just a couple tools to use, paired with a professional understanding on music. Did something similar happen to you?
I agree with him, but in my case not even the tools were useful. What really came in handy was the networking, plus living and breathing music 24/7… and playing a lot of videogames. However, when I say “networking,” I don’t mean that I learned that specific trait during actual classes; there are a lot of Berklee graduates who end up wondering, “Now what?”
But you did manage to establish some contacts, since you lived in the US for a while after graduating…
That’s correct, I stayed in New York, having a really rough time financially speaking. I could only afford to eat rice and was working at a chocolate store during the day. I started putting together the Sorín Octeto in my spare time and I was lucky enough to work with my musical idols at the time: Ari Hoenig, Matt Pavolka, Chris Cheek, Daniel Zamir… I was starving and at the same time I spent every Friday morning with these giants!
Didn’t you write the score for your father Carlos Sorín’s film Historias Mínimas around that time?
Actually, making the music for Historias Mínimas was sort of a graduation present. I would have preferred, I don’t know, an ice-cream machine! Because dad had previously worked with Carlos Franzetti — for me, the best Argentine composer since Alberto Ginastera — in La película del rey (1985) so the bar was set extremely high. When the movie arrived via FedEx and I got to watch it for the first time, I thought: ‘Damn you!’ How could he make such a beautiful, tender movie and bestow upon me the responsibility to write its score? We had some rocky back-and-forths while working on Historias Mínimas but, nowadays, we share a sort of telepathic connection and things have gotten much easier between us work-wise.
Are you two currently sharing any projects?
As a matter of fact, we are. On the one hand there’s Peter Shaffer’s Equus, a play scheduled to premier this year in which he’ll direct Peter Lanzani. On the other hand, we are also working on his next film.
I notice that there is like an underlying childish-feel in some of your music, specially when it comes to Octafonic. A sort of youthful spirit catalyzed through men nearing their forties.
Totally, that’s exactly it. I believe we have a sort of Peter Pan syndrome. Actually, I’ll take it even further: we’re just nine morons forever refusing to grow up. Like we have a need to stay young for eternity. I blame Green Day for this, for we also want to be like “juvenile seniors.” Still, we are not kids anymore and we are currently learning how to properly manage energy onstage.
Your bandmates Ezequiel Piazza and Esteban Sehinkman are regarded as highly-skilled musicians yet they don’t do much soloing in Monster. Was there a premeditated respect for the score that couldn’t be trespassed?
Absolutely, that’s a reality that all my bandmates are aware of. They work like mechanical parts of the same machine, their function is clearly stipulated and — though they can’t cross those borders you mention — they do make their contribution in another way. While there is like a tacit agreement to respect what’s written, this isn’t a dictatorship. You see, right now we are working on a new album that’s going to be called Mini Buda (in which I’ll sing in a terrible Indian accent) and I’m writing my bandmates’ parts with just a core-idea in mind. I am certain that they will fill in the blanks I leave for them in a flawless manner.
Also, your singing seems to lean toward a melodic side, meaning that the focus isn’t fixed on the lyrical aspect…
I do regard the voice as another instrument. Moreover, my singing is not so much melodic as it is gestural and there is some kind of hidden poetry there. Like a communion between music and lyrics, but in a totally aesthetic way. When the lyrics of a song are too explanatory, they conspire against the effect that you’re trying to evoke on the listener. Allow me to further dwell on this notion with an example: when I was a little kid, I loved the Beatles to the extent of phonetically learning by heart 200 songs. To this day, I don’t know what the lyrics actually say, and you know what? I prefer it that way, because it would ruin the songs for me otherwise. Lyrically, I don’t believe what musicians say — they are not usually deep thinkers.
What are your thoughts on nowadays musicians?
Music is very exposed to what’s “hip” or “trendy” during a certain period and musicians have become fashion icons, sometimes even ideological figures. They are totally overrated in that sense. Centuries ago, they were just considered entertainers and nowadays they go out with models and comment on political affairs; it’s absurd. Still, when you read some interviews with Igor Stravinsky, you notice that he was an acutely intelligent individual, aside from the musical part. I’m not saying that there are no smart musicians now, but it’s just not the same.