On a recent trip to work with Vertixe Sonora in Santiago de Compostela Paco Yanez introduced me to Jorge Berdullas del Rio (1960). Since more than 30 years, Jorge comes home in the afternoon after his day job as a percussionist with the Banda Municipal de Santiago de Compostela, and spends the rest of the day composing.
But he writes no ordinary music: His last work, Sunt Illiae (2006-2013), is for 30 orchestral and vocal groups with 30 conductors – a total of 600-800 musicians and a duration of about two hours!
The score for the work is 3,2m high, 0.91 wide and weighs in at about 36 kilos. It is immaculately hand written, first in pencil, then in ink. A job that took him more than 8000 hours over seven years, including 6 months of rubbing out the traces of pencil underneath the ink.
As part of his working process, Jorge keeps a painstakingly exact log of sketches and calculations for his pieces. Here is a recent two-part interview with him by Paco Yanez on the mundoclasico website (in spanish), where Jorge discusses the insprations and basis for his music and talks about his other works leading up to Sunt Illiae.
He realises that this level of complexity is difficult to achieve in performance in our time, but he says the time of his music will come. And he is happy that he could write down his works as he conceived them. Here is the second part of his conversation with Paco, titled “Promoting Mediocrity is Intellectual Corruption”.
His next work, which he says will be his opus summum, is already planned. It will be for 100 orchestral Groups and 100 conductors.
I have no idea if Jorge will ever hear his Sunt Illiae. But one thing is for sure: Berdullas is not the kind of guy who gives up easily. Every day after the band rehearsal, he will go home and keep creating his own mindblowing musical utopia.