North Carolina-based composer Alejandro Rutty is renowned for his original blend of South American styles, astonishing rhythms, and lyrical melodies with powerful evocative intensity. His music explores ambitious philosophical queries ranging from the break-neck swells of excitement to the calm delicacy of wonder.

Today, Alejandro is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to hear about the skunk at the show…

Who were your first favorite artists growing up? 

The first record I bought was Pink Floyd’s The Wall at age 11. Soon thereafter, ELP’s Pictures at an Exhibition led me to Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky. Most significantly, on the side B of the album with “Pictures” there was Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, which I blasted constantly at full volume to the delight of my neighbors.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/ composer/creator? 

At age 15 I noticed that I could make up music in my head any time that I wanted. The hard part was making it happen in real life, so I reckoned I needed to study seriously.

What was your most unusual performance? 

I was at the piano during a performance at “The Music Barn” in Bennington College. During one of the applauses I realized that a skunk had earlier produced an explosive, overwhelming fragrance in the hall. Surprisingly, I had the memory of performing on top of the smell, but during the performance I didn’t notice it. Good concentration that day, I guess.

What is your guilty pleasure? 

I like to buy the percussion instruments that I write for. At home I have a healthy assortment of ethnic percussion. Although I am not a real percussionist, I have occasionally played percussion in concerts. For example, I played the cajón and shakers part for the first few performances of Cantabile Hop. Lately I’ve switched to the bass part, which makes more sense for me to play.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?

The people I love, music, and books.

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

I’d say composing and being a part of an institution where composers work and learn. Curiously, that’s precisely what I am doing!

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

Recently I spent a year on the island of Saint Lucia and I loved it. Playing with the local talent and learning some of their tricks was incredible (slow 15/12 meters!). For my next time abroad, I am not sure, but I am eyeing Perú. Their musical traditions are very rich and I’d love to know more about them

What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

Way to go!

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

The last 30 seconds of Martian Milonga are priceless to me. Playing through that section is pretty exhilarating, and we always burst in laughter after the last chord.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

Cantabile Hop took a lot of work. I needed 15 minutes of music but came up with 50, so I started cutting it down to 40 minutes, then 30, 20. As I got even finickier, it went down to 10 minutes, then I had to compose 5 minutes of new material. I love the result, though.

What does this album mean to you personally?

Our life is made of time, which we spend on different activities. This album occupied so much of my recent mental and physical time that it is probably undistinguishable from life. In other words, this album is a good piece of my own self.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

When I enjoy a piece of music, I find myself nodding as if in agreement, oftentimes smiling. I would love if this album were to bring about some nods and smiles from my listeners.


EXHALING SPACE is now available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.

  • Alejandro Rutty

    Composer Alejandro Rutty is best-known for his distinctive mix of South American styles, lyrical melodies, meticulous rhythmic detail, and textures suggested by modern recording processing techniques.