About my work

My creative work gravitates around two main themes: relating diverse musical traditions and incorporating new media into musical frameworks. In both cases, I seek to explore the boundaries between musical concepts and traditions. I’m interested in blurring those boundaries, and creating something unique out of their dissolution. As a result, in my work it isn’t uncommon to hear concrete music sources blended into instrumental melodic lines or East-Asian instrumental timbres coexisting with Western musical ideas. I don’t seek to juxtapose or to fuse, but aim to create music that presents diversity while creating unity.

Additionally, I seek to create imaginative, energetic works that engage the listener. My pieces are characterized by sustained energetic passages, vibrant orchestrations, symmetrical structures, and ornamental textures.

The combination of these attributes are exemplified by my work Prisma, which is an exploration of the new timbral possibilities made available by the unique combination of instruments in intercultural formations. The ensemble, composed of a solo Oboe, Shakuhachi, Sho, Sheng, Zheng, Koto, Erhu and Strings, presented the challenge of putting together instruments from vastly different characteristics and musical traditions. The oboe, with its unique color, acts as a bridge between them. The piece is in two sections: in the first, the instruments are blended together to create a unified fluid timbre, while the solo oboe hovers above. An intense climax leads us to the second section where the timbral unification is dissolved and we hear glimpses of the personality of the different instruments (for example forceful glissandi in the zheng and koto, slides in the erhu, and pizzicati in the strings) always under the ever-evolving frenetic oboe line.

My work Mestizo for Soprano and Intercultural Ensemble (combining the Armenian Duduk, the Persian Santur, the Syrian Qanun, and the Turkish Kemençe with Western instruments) from 2011 further explores the possibilities of intercultural combinations by embracing the differences in tuning between the instruments to create a coloristic score.

In my works for traditional chamber formations I have explored similar themes. In the first movement of Nealíka, for Flute, Violoncello, Percussion, and Piano, the instruments coalesce to create bright, weaving textures at a vertiginous pace. Nealíka was inspired by the visual folk art of the Huichol community, whose art’s colorful, ornamental, and quasi-symmetrical nature inspired musical analogs in my piece. 

In my electroacoustic work I’ve often focused on the use of concrete sound sources and their integration into live performance. For example, in Sur les debris for Bass Flute and Electronics, the shattered remains of a recording of a poem by Arthur Rimbaud serve as the foundation on which the piece is built. Although the recording is barely perceivable; its source never recognizable, the shattered recording is essential in the understanding of the piece, as it functioned as a seed from which the rhythmic and timbral materials germinated.

Sur les debris, like Nealíka, shows my interest in geometric structures. The piece opens with an extremely long rhythmic palindrome that is increasingly interrupted by arbitrary silences. The different materials that compose the palindrome are then extracted and presented by themselves. In this way, the structure of the piece is similar to a cubist painting, where materials that are composed in a specific order are re-organized to create a new, distorted form.

My interest in the use of new media in music has also resulted in my participation in innovative ventures such as The Chromochord Project. This collaborative project involved the design and construction of a bioelectronic device, called “The Chromochord”, that allows the sonication of light-responsive proteins. After Josiah Zayner, a biochemist, and I built the instrument and sonification engine, I created The Chromochord Installation, a multi-day audiovisual piece in which the audience can experience the interaction with the proteins in real-time.

Short video introducing The Chromochord Installation.

Through my career I have embraced multiple mediums to explore the unique possibilities each offers. Through this diversity I have discovered certain recurring interests that make my work personal and distinctive. I plan to continue exploring new mediums with hopes to further develop my personal aesthetic viewpoint. Projects in progress include the sound design and composition for a Videodance with the Delfos Danza Contemporanea and a large-scale work for Percussion, Electronics, and Video, in collaboration with Greg Beyer, and Marco Ferrari.



Francisco Castillo Trigueros (b. 1983) is a composer of contemporary chamber, orchestral and electronic music from Mexico City residing in Chicago. He has received numerous distinctions such as the Jury 1st prize at the NEM Young Composers International Forum, the BMI Student Composer Award, honorable mentions in the 2010 and 2011 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and several nominations for the Gaudeamus Music Week Prize in The Netherlands.

Castillo Trigueros has worked extensively with intercultural ensembles. His intercultural work draws from his multi-cultural raising in Mexico, and deals with issues of identity, diversity, and hybridity. It presents diversity while creating unity. In his work Prisma, for oboe, 6 East Asian instruments, and strings, the distinctive eastern and western sound worlds are blended together to create a unified fluid timbre.

Francisco has also composed numerous pieces for traditional music ensembles and orchestras, often including the use of electronics. His pieces are often inspired by visual art. His work Nealika, which he wrote in 2009-10 for eighth blackbird, is inspired by the fluid symmetry and colorful patterns found in Huichol visual art. His work Emblema | Blau for flute, string quartet, and percussion, is structured using one of the most emblematic figures in Mexican culture: the pyramid. 

Francisco's recent collaboration with biochemist Josiah Zayner on The Chromochord, an instrument that allows the sonification of nano-sized light-responsive proteins found in plants, has been featured in several publications including Scientific American.   

Orchestras, ensembles and performers that have performed his music include the Holland Symfonia, Orchestre National de Lorraine, Chicago Composers Orchestra, eighth blackbird, ensemble dal niente, Atlas Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, Asko Ensemble, Pacifica String Quartet, Spektral String Quartet, Fonema Consort, Jason Alder, Brian Conelly, Ryan Muncy, and Shanna Gutierrez.

His mentors and teachers include Augusta Read Thomas, Shulamit Ran, Kotoka Susuki, Howard Sandroff at the University of Chicago; Theo Loevendie, Richard Ayres, Fabio Nieder at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam; Shih-Hui Chen, Kurt Stallman, Pierre Jalbert at Rice University; and Haruko Shimizu and Jose Tavarez in Mexico City.

Castillo Trigueros recently obtained a Ph.D at the University of Chicago, where he served as Computer Music Studio Manager for three years, and is currently teaching composition and digital music at Columbia College Chicago and theory and composition at the New Music School.