For a casual listener, the new album by Peruvian composer Sergio Díaz De Rojas might be received as a collection of solo piano sketches to savored for the exquisiteness with which they have been composed and performed – perhaps not unlike a beautiful flower garden that one pauses briefly to admire. It feeds the soul in a momentary, transitory way, which is no small thing. But, if we were to liken this collection of songs to a garden, it would be one filled with meaning to the one who tended it, with each variety of flower representing something or someone of significance in their life.
Muerte en una tarde de verano (Death on a summer’s afternoon) narrates a single day from dawn to dusk in response to a question the artist asks himself – If I were to die tomorrow, how would I spend my last day? It is a seemingly morbid topic for a record of such serene melancholic beauty. But the album is not really about death itself, but rather how experiencing loss and facing one’s own mortality can become a transformative lens through which to look at life.
The album narrates my journey from the moment I wake up until the moment I die. It is simply a personal reflection on death based on certain experiences, and part of a never-ending exercise of embracing life as it is.
The death referred to in the album’s title is that of Sergio’s grandfather – himself an accomplished pianist & composer – who took his own life when Sergio was very young. It was a formative loss that Sergio finds himself still processing now as a young man in his twenties. Dwelling on this as well as other losses and health scares experienced by friends & family during the pandemic, Sergio set out to compose a cycle of songs centered around the people, places, and moments he most treasures in life – gratitude for the influence of his grandfather and great aunt Elsa on his music, his affection for his wife Seraphina, playing video games with his sister, drinking coffee, or the simple pleasures of watching the ocean, a sunset, or his favorite animal – which brings us to our premiere piece which gives a glimpse into the tapestry of music, stories, and visual elements that make up this endearing project.
In “El gato escondido entre las plantas”, Sergio conjures a scene in which he watches his cat playing among the plants in his garden, though in keeping with the theme of the album, the weight of his contemplations on the fragility of life creep in toward the end.
Cats are my favorite animals, so it only felt natural to dedicate a small fragment from this album to them. I imagine myself sitting in our garden, falling asleep slowly as I observe our cat playing and hiding behind the plants. Once again, as with the album’s opening track, the outro appears with its sense of aural fading and decay — death is imminent.
Links: Bandcamp (digital/sheet music) | Bandcamp (LP) | Streaming | Sergio Díaz De Rojas
Muerte en una tarde de verano will be released March 10, 2023 with digital download, streaming, and sheet music available via Nettwerk Music Group. A vinyl LP in two limited edition varieties can be purchased through Oscarson label. The album features photography by Tiago Almança, art direction by Miriam Serrano, and design & layout by Celia Bayo.