Marcos Balter

Millefleur (2021)

PRIMAVERA III the vessel

from the composer

Both in music and in visual arts, I’m often more attracted to background than foreground. My eyes and ears naturally navigate towards the patterns and nuances of textural elements, timbral nuances, and other elements often considered secondary. Hence my attraction to the painting’s background, and how it falls under what is referred to as millefleur (thousand flowers, literally translating it) in Renaissance art. It is often the case in millefleur backgrounds that its depiction of flowers and plants isn’t concerned with realistic proportions or shades. In Botticelli’s Primavera, the millefleur background is as vibrant as its foreground figures. The fauna and flora depicted in it suggest symmetry and grouping by shape, color, and size. I attempted to translate that into music by focusing on a single “size” in terms of interval: the entire work is built on parallel major sevenths that, while behaving lyrically and melodically, never deviate from their shape. Their symmetry unifies them to such a degree that they become a frame rather than a moment, a background that is at once anchored and free to change while remaining unchanged. 


Praised by The Chicago Tribune as “minutely crafted” and “utterly lovely,” The New York Times as “whimsical” and “surreal,” and The Washington Post as “dark and deeply poetic,” the music of composer Marcos Balter (b.1974, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) is at once emotionally visceral and intellectually complex, primarily rooted in experimental manipulations of timbre and hyper-dramatization of live performance.

Recent performances include a Miller Theater Composer Portrait in 2018 and appearances at Carnegie Hall, Köln Philharmonie, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, ArtLab at Harvard University, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Hall, Teatro Amazonas, Sala São Paulo, Park Avenue Armory, Teatro de Madrid, Bâtiment de Forces Motrices de Genève, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. Recent festival appearances include those at Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, Ecstatic Music Festival, Acht Brücken, Aldeburgh Music Festival, Aspen, Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, Darmstadt Ferienkurse, and Banff Music Festival.

Past honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Tanglewood Music Center (Leonard Bernstein Fellow) as well as commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Music Now, Meet the Composer, Fromm Foundation at Harvard, The Holland/America Music Society, The MacArthur Foundation, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Recent collaborators include the rock band Deerhoof, dj King Britt and Alarm Will Sound, yMusic and Paul Simon, Orquestra Experimental da Amazonas Filarmonica, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, and conductors Susanna Malkki, Steven Schick, and Karina Canellakis.

He is currently an Associate Professor of Music Composition at Montclair State University and lives in New York City.