Miguel Zenón’s music is like a spinning electron!

Omar Costa Hamido
Jul 5, 2015 · 3 min read

Today, for the first time, I had the pleasure to listen to Miguel Zenón’s quartet live. This was a special opportunity not only to listen to talented musicians but also to get more directly in touch with some new music. Miguel Zenón presented the Hot Club of Lisbon with some songs from his latest album “Identities are Changeable” — not the multimedia and big band version, but in the quartet format.

As a prelude to this work I invite you to picture Miguel Zenón sitting in a corner of a crossroads, observing people passing by, coming from different places, and going to different places. All of them pass through this crossroads, then, some return to the street they came from, others make a new turn, and some others, in indecision, alternate constantly between two or more roads.

Meditating on these persons and their path, Miguel understands that he cannot simply classify them in terms of the last street they went to. The street they came from is also important. In this way, he understands that what he meditates upon is something more than the place where people are at a certain moment, it’s about the path these persons follow.

This mark that people’s path draw in history he named identity. And thinking that on the next day these same persons (and other) might come back and follow a different path only strengthens the idea that identities are changeable.

Starting with identities as marks of history, Miguel began a compositional process personifying identities in rhythmic measures. And these rhythmic measures also carry on an historical-temporal mark, just like the pedestrians. The resulting music, in that sense, transports a multi-cultural force.

Miguel Zenón’s music is like a spinning electron! Spinning in multiple directions and at the same time. In quantum mechanics, measurement breaks the quantum effect of superposition of the subatomic particle (the multiplicity), in Zenón’s music the superposition of measures give us the idea of his music’s multiplicity. Sometimes it’s inside a certain measure, other times it’s inside another measure, and some other times it’s in both at the same time. One could say that it’s only a matter of measurement.

The universe of Miguel Zenón’s explorations is the same universe of my recent exploration in “< > | — detachment, projection and imaginary”, which is relative to the second stage of my conceptual framework “< | >”. The thing is, that he made it simply by thinking about cultural identity. Because of that, and because I am also a product of cultural miscegenation, I couldn’t identify myself more with Zenón’s work.


It is late afternoon and I go out for a walk. Today I’m in Lisbon, but I could also be in New York, or Coruche. Between the storefront and the sidewalk I make my way around parked cars and admire the trees drawing in the sunset. At some point I arrive to this crossroads that holds my attention. Apparently just another crossroads, however, my attention is drawn to a corner where I recognize Miguel Zenón sitting. While I’m carefully observing him, he stands up and starts to walk. However, l lost him only by blinking my eyes. In the middle of this tumultuous of people coming and going in different directions I look for him. I can see some bold men walking away in multiple directions. Anyone of them could be Miguel Zenón, sometimes it’s one person, but then I think is another… Perplexed, I sit in the spot where I’ve seen him, and start writing this story…

(04/07/15 after seeing the first of two consecutive concerts by Miguel Zenón’s quartet, at the Hot Club of Lisbon)
Copyright © 2015 Omar Costa Hamido

This article was also published (in portuguese) at the Jazz Studies Centre webpage, from University of Aveiro: http://www.jazzportugal.ua.pt/web/ver_riff.asp?id=1339&lg=pt

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