Sergio Díaz De Rojas - Muerte en una tarde de verano, by Sergio Díaz De Rojas (2023)

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Sergio Díaz De Rojas has had music in his blood since he was born. Raised in a family of musicians, the Peruvian composer took inspiration from his grandfather and his grandfather’s sister, both accomplished pianists and composers. It was the latter relative —his great aunt Elsa— who first taught Sergio classical piano and became the guiding force in his musical development, introducing him to Bach and Chopin when he was 11.

(Video) Sergio Díaz De Rojas - Muerte en una tarde de verano (Trailer)

Several years later, tragedy struck the family. Sergio was bewildered when his grandfather, a musical genius who played for diverse orchestras and bands in Peru, took his own life. “I remember that my mom tried to hide the truth from me, but he was a public figure so the news was everywhere and I eventually found out,” he recalls. “Naturally, I was sad to lose my grandpa, but I think I was too young to understand what it truly meant to lose someone you love in such a tragic and unexpected way”. Though fifteen years have elapsed, Sergio found himself meditating on that formative loss as he composed his second full-length album, Muerte en una tarde de verano, due out March 10 via NETTWERK. A drifting song cycle of spare, contemplative piano, Muerte en una tarde de verano (or Death in a Summer’s Afternoon) is suffused in melancholy but resists giving into despair.

As its title suggests, the album bears the weight of Sergio’s reflections on mortality and loss. Two of the musician’s close friends lost their mothers during the pandemic, and Sergio’s own mother underwent a life-threatening operation while he was thousands of miles away, feeling helpless. Meanwhile, he began to listen to his grandfather’s music with fresh ears and wonder about the circumstances that drove the composer to suicide. As Sergio was entering his late twenties, such events prompted reflections on the fragility of life, which inspired Muerte en una tarde de verano. “I didn’t want to focus on the fear itself, but more in learning to accept that death is something that comes to all of us,” Sergio, who is now based in Valencia, Spain, explains. “There's no way to know when, no way to know how—it just happens one day. It’s a very good reason to pay attention to what really matters.”

The eleven pieces that comprise Muerte en una tarde de verano form a loose concept album, with a visual component as well. Spanning from Amanecer (meaning Sunrise) to Atardecer a orillas del mar (Sunset by the Seaside), the album narrates a single day from dawn to dusk, with one question at its core: If Sergio were to die tomorrow, how would he spend his last day? “The album narrates my journey from the moment I wake up until the moment I die. Some of the pieces refer to actions I'm doing in the moment—like drinking coffee, eating my favorite fruit, or playing with my cat. Other pieces are more like reminiscence—thinking about the dreams that I achieved, or the promises I wasn't able to keep because I ran out of time,” Sergio explains.

(Video) Sergio Díaz De Rojas - Canción para Otto y Elsa (Official Music Video)

Despite the morbid inspiration, Sergio maintains that it’s not meant to be a sad or tragic project. “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”. These eleven compositions ripple with sadness and joy, delicately intertwined in the open spaces of Sergio’s poignant arpeggios. They are intimate both in subject and sonic approach: The elegiac Canción para Otto y Elsa honors the abiding influence of Sergio’s grandfather and great aunt, Otto and Elsa (“this is my gift to them,” the composer says), while the bittersweet Promesas que se disuelven entre las nubes serves as a lament to the dreams that would go unfulfilled if Sergio were to die tomorrow: seeing his parents again, adventures with his wife Seraphina, more time spent playing video games with his sister, writing and releasing more music.

The simplest piece, Una copa de vino sobre el piano, is a humble ode to one of Sergio’s favorite pastimes: sitting at the piano with a glass of wine. Finally, on the climax, Atardecer a orillas del mar, Sergio uses a reverb pedal, a touchstone of his more melancholic pieces, to convey a sense of aural fading and decay; death is imminent. The same effect emerges on the outros to Amanecer (Prefacio) and El gato escondido entre las plantas, warped sonic fragments that represent brief moments of sadness and frustration. The use of these ambiences, Sergio hints, is a glimpse of what to expect from his future works.

While Muerte en una tarde de verano is primarily an instrumental, neoclassical work, its centerpiece, Holding her Is where I learned forgiveness, is shaped by the tremulous, haunting voice of American singer-songwriter Lo-Fang, who also contributed cello. It is Sergio’s first collaboration with another artist. The two musicians met when Lo-Fang was staying in Valencia. They began improvising music at the latter’s apartment. “We clicked instantly,” Sergio says. “So I made this composition, and asked Lo-Fang if he wanted to make lyrics for it”. The song is dedicated to Sergio’s partner, Seraphina. “With her, I have learned to love selflessly, and to feel at home for the first time in my life,” Sergio says. Similarly, the preceding piece, Nuestra caja de postales y otros recuerdos, takes inspiration from the couple’s travels through Europe and the postcards they’ve collected along the way. Both pieces reflect an abiding sense that love is the only force that can transcend the permanence of loss.


Further distinguishing Muerte en una tarde de verano from Sergio’s previous work is the fact that it is also a visual album. All eleven pieces are accompanied by poignant videos reflecting their respective stories and inspiration, intended to be viewed as a single whole; some feature actors representing Seraphina or Sergio himself, while others depict local scenery or objects of inspiration. There emerges a deep sense of thematic unity: The photos featured on the cover art for the album and singles incorporate elements taken from the visual album, and the vinyl release includes a booklet with the analog photographs as well.

Though classically trained in his youth, Sergio had an epiphany at university when he discovered neoclassical composers such as Ólafur Arnalds, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm, and Max Richter. “It was a very big revelation for me to discover that there were people alive, making this music that is connected to classical music but that also feels so contemporary and relatable,” Sergio recalls. “In that moment, the option of composing music appeared for the first time”. His horizons further expanded when he fell in love with genre-hopping musicians like Sufjan Stevens, whose album Carrie & Lowell profoundly affected him, and Keaton Henson. Sergio cites both musicians as his conceptual inspirations. It was Henson’s 2014 collaborative album Romantic Works that inspired Sergio to craft a full album instead of just individual pieces.

In 2015, while based in Peru, Sergio self-released his debut album, Unsaid Words. The album’s yearning arpeggios and mastery of mood quickly introduced Sergio’s talents. Pieces like Serendipity and Calmness revealed his knack for pairing neoclassical composition with ambient textures and found sounds, while the mournful cello of Nature hearkened back to 19th-century chamber music. Sergio subsequently released three EPs: December 03 (2016), which was composed and recorded in one afternoon; The Morning is a River (2017), which contained four piano pieces paired with slow-moving images; and Postcards (2020), which Sergio has described as a contemplative exploration of solitude, heavily inspired by Chopin.

(Video) Los Mendivil - Demasiado Tarde (Letra Oficial)

Over the years, Sergio’s works have been streamed over eighteen million times worldwide, and his track Untitled was one of the most celebrated features on Nils Frahm’s Piano Day 2018 playlist. Sergio has toured extensively around Europe, and his piece Istanbul was included on the first publication of Upright Editions (that is, English musician Garreth Brooke’s initiative to distribute the sheet music of contemporary composers), and was even a key element that inspired the project. Sergio has also participated in diverse initiatives such as Project XII by Deutsche Grammophon, Piano Layers by 7K, and Piano Day by LEITER Verlag.

In the eight years since his debut album, Sergio has relocated from Peru, where he felt little connection to the country, to Spain. He also fell in love with ambient music—particularly the works of Japanese composers like Haruomi Hosono and Hiroshi Yoshimura, who helped inspire the minimalistic hush of his own work. On Muerte en una tarde de verano, Sergio has sought to recreate the atmosphere of their works on his own terms: acoustically, with a piano. Throughout the album, the lush intricacy of Sergio’s playing is counterbalanced by a warmth and close-miked intimacy; you can hear the tapping of the musician’s fingers touching the keys, which simulates the sense of being in the room with him as he performs. “I always try to create an intimate atmosphere around my works, from the way I communicate them on social media to the way I perform them live,” the musician explains. "I love playing in small environments where I can interact directly with people and make it feel like a meeting between friends instead of a performer vs. audience kind of situation, and I try to bring that to the recording of my music as well.”


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