Oscar-Winner Gustavo Santaolalla Creates 'Beyond Time and Space': Interview

Alejandra Palacios
Gustavo Santaolalla

Gustavo Santaolalla is a relentless pursuer of different musical endeavors. Some destined for the big screen and others completely different.

The Argentine producer is renowned internationally for, among other things, the Academy Awards he received for scoring Brokeback Mountain and Babel. His latest credits include collaborations with John Williams, more than 20 tunes for the upcoming London stage adaptation of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, and the score for The Last of Us 2 video game.

In the meantime, he's had time for more personal projects, which are primarily focused on innovating. He is producing Cafe Tacvba's latest record, and is preparing to stage Arrabal, a dance spectacle featuring music he created with his electronic Tango outfit, Bajofondo, which he will premiere in Boston along with the American Repertory Theater. His goal is to eventually stage it on Broadway.

"It's a history of Argentina after the military dictatorship," he explained.

And, Santaolalla is also planning a new tour with his own band: "I really hope to travel around Argentina, Latin America and the USA with the group," he shared.

Clearly, Santaolalla's drive when it comes to making music is remarkable.

"I'm constantly recording. I do things for films or for specific places. If I've got material, ideas, then I develop it until I find a proper place for it, you know?" he explained, patiently sitting at Estudios F recording studio in Buenos Aires, the recurring spot where he comes to tape his ideas when he is in town. It's business as usual, as he sits with his long time friend and associate, Anibal Kerpel.

"The wonderful thing about the creative process is that it connects you with an energy drive, beyond the world and allows you to go beyond time and space," Santaolalla said. "This creative step is a place of enlightenment, of maximum energy where all notion of space and time is lost whatsoever." 

His thirst for what is new, however, has not impaired his need to look back. Raconto, the name of his most recent album, is an Italian term that describes a scene from the past, which progresses in a linear way until arriving to the story's initial moment.

"I usually prefer to look forward, but every now and then I realize that there's a path behind me with plenty of things done," he said, adding, "They're moments in which, for some reason or another, one feels the need to look back. Time, in fact, doesn't exist."

The record mixes early hits like "Mañana Campestre" ["Country morning"], "Canción de Cuna para un Niño Astronauta" ["Lullaby for an astronaut boy"], "Paraiso Sideral" ["Stellar paradise"], "Abre tu Mente" ["Open your Mind"], "Camino" ["Road"], "Quiero Llegar" ["I Want to Arrive"] and "Quién es La Chica" ["Who's the Girl?"], along with more mature solo material like "Vecinos" ["Neighbors"] and "A Solas ["On my Own"]. The song "Vasudeva or Todo Vale" ["Anything goes"] is obvious single material.

"I found that these songs had a certain timelessness. That is something that I've enjoyed about art in general. I found that they embodied the same paradigms I endorse to this day," Santaolalla reflected. "Finding these songs was a beautiful and comforting experience."

The eclectic repertoire, the absence of a quantized rhythm, lack of overdubs and digital manipulation, juxtaposed with the instrumental variety and the audio quality make this album an unusual sonic experience. Genres are mixed deliberately, from the signature minimalist sounds that conquered the Academy Awards, to shining progressive rock passages, all while retaining intimate, folkloric nuances.