The EP “Contagion” by the Puerto Rican born and Spanish based composer, Franco Esteve, is described as a soundtrack to everything experienced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic –before, during, and beyond. It’s a musical story and journey written through the coronavirus quarantine and reflects Esteve’s feelings and state of mind through it. The modern classical composer, who lost people close to him during the quarantine in Spain, explains this as a most trying time for him: “As I was working on a soundtrack and the news began to be consumed by what was first an epidemic and then a pandemic, it became difficult to continue working on the project, as a piece of music kept interrupting my workflow, making it difficult for me to write what I wanted to write. That piece of music ended up as the title track, “Contagion”. As illness, fear, a mysterious virus, a contagion took over the planet, it was that expression, that story that emerged.”
The result of Franco Esteve’s deep introspection and state of being during these trying times is poignantly and veraciously reflected in the 5 tracks which make up the EP “Contagion”.
Notwithstanding the fact that this work comes from a dark, disturbed and frustrating place, it has an astonishing, subtle, hypnotic beauty that remains revelatory after countless listens. Its deceptive simplicity constantly reveals new touches, and carries the enraptured listener to some transcendent place.
The word “listener” falls woefully short of Franco Esteve’s music though. Right from the opening title track, “Contagion” – which builds from simple, sadly twinkling notes on a piano – it is understood that this is music not simply listened to, but experienced at a very deep subconscious level.
It is like a nebula of pure white light steadily piercing its way through a thick mist of heavy, darkened clouds. And when I stop to contemplate the virtuosity of the composer, I’m astonished all over again.
“The Spread” becomes even more affecting emotionally as Esteve garnishes the arrangement with sentient strings and suspenseful brass. During his career, Esteve has produced and directed commercials and music videos, and is best known for his work with a series of short films called The Doll Chronicles.
He also composed the music for the series, for which he received many accolades. It thus becomes clear why the music on this recording is so engaging, in an almost cinematic way. Franco Esteve is after all, telling us a most dramatic story through these instrumentals.
“Patient Zero” continues to chronicle the events with the percussion adding more speculation and raptness to the auditory experience. As could be expected, the most disturbing and vexing piece comes in the form of the agitated “Infection”.
“Death Is Not The End”, though inhabited by resonating melancholic cellos, propounds faint spirals of possible hope, completing a compelling, compassionate, and powerful work of astonishing emotional mastery. This music will demand your attention and lull you into profound philosophical thought at the same time.
Like any great musical work “Contagion” offers an encompassing, synthesized representation of looking at, responding to, and understanding the world and the human psyche through a trying experience or period of time, and any listener fortunate enough to have their synapses firing along the same lines is apt to experience a truly involving and powerful response.
It’s really a glorious thing that music can do this, and Franco Esteve’s stunning achievement with “Contagion” was to accomplish this through his own personal musical vocabulary, which he brought to fully realized maturity here, unfolding layers of emoting sound and inherent meaning.