Crafting the Perfect Listening with Landmarks Playlist

01 June 2020

A CONVERSATION WITH EMILIO ALVAREZ, MUSICIAN AND DJ FOR KMFA 89.5, AUSTIN'S CLASSICAL MUSIC STATION

Why did you choose Beth Campbel's Spontaneous future(s), Possible past as inspiration for your playlist?

I love Spontaneous future(s), Possible past! It is simple in its design and complex in its message. Much like its subject matter, you can step back and be in awe of the beauty or you can move closer and be overwhelmed by its intricacies. Campbell perfectly captures the human experience on a micro and macro level. 

Beth Campbell, Spontaneous future(s), Possible past, 2019. Photo by Paul Bardagjy

When creating your playlist, what major elements or themes guided your song selections?

I wanted to select music that had the same power; themes of future/past, lineage/posterity, self consciousness/ascension, randomness/fate. The artists in my playlist are those who tried to depict the same subjects within their music and have helped me in my own personal reflection and exploration. I also wanted to be very careful in selecting pieces that would aesthetically compliment the experience of viewing Campbell's art. 

How have your experiences as both a musician and DJ informed your playlist creation?

I can really nerd out when it comes to talking about the perfect playlist. In my heart, a playlist is never totally finished. In reality, I have daily deadlines for my KMFA playlists. Every playlist should have a Flow. Musical Flow is a serious art/science. Baroque suites, the movements of a classical symphony, a rock band's setlist for a live show, a discotech disc jockey's playlist - we are all in search of the perfect Flow. **You should never hit the "Random" button on a playlist that was created by a human!** Do not negate the Flow! I could write a book...

If you could choose one song that summarizes your experience of Campbell’s sculpture, what would it be?

One song?! I guess the one song that gets closest is "Tezeta" by Mulatu Astatke. A Tezeta is a musical piece based around the feeling of nostalgia, similar to the Portuguese "saudade". This grossly waters down the ideas behind Campbell's work, however I think musically this piece is fitting because of its repetitive, open descending passages that create a nice parallel to Campbell's mobile.

Beth Campbell, Spontaneous future(s), Possible past, 2019. Photo by Christina Murrey

What do you think is the role and impact of the arts--music and visual arts, in particular-- during these uncertain times? How do you respond as a music professional?

In my opinion, there is nothing more intimate you can do in the age of social distancing than to create a playlist for someone special to you. It says, "I want to be part of your day." A text message lasts a second, a letter or email can last a couple minutes, a phone call can last five minutes (I don't do so well on the phone), but a good playlist can connect people for an hour or more. It can then spark more wonderful music discussions between friends, family, lovers, and strangers. A playlist is there when you are cleaning your house, when you are in the shower, out on a bike ride, riding in the car, or laying down to sleep. If I make a playlist for you, it is because I love you enough to be with you in all times of the day (I certainly love Landmarks and KMFA that much)! 

My life's mission is to connect people with music. There are so many forces, especially recently, that are hell-bent on creating division and my daily goal is to counter those forces by presenting beautiful music on the radio to brighten a listener's day and by radiating love and passion through my cello performances. I just want to be a force for good.