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Friday Playlist with Rodolfo Nieto

For this Friday Playlist I wanted to include songs and videos that have inspired my compositional style both lyrically and musically.

First, let's start with some classical European music. One of my favorite composers is Maurice Ravel, and his musical style has absolutely influenced the way I hear and write music. One of the pieces that I love the most is Le Tombeau de Couperin - Mvmt. 5 "Menuet". With very simple musical gestures he is able to say so much. When pondering how to write a specific piano line, I often ask myself, "How would Ravel write it?"

Another composer whose writings I admire is Jean Sibelius. His song Var Det en Dröm is a prime example of the sweeping, movie-like romanticism that I occasionally try to employ in my music.

One more from the classical repertoire: Ottorino Respighi's Pini di Roma - Mvmt. III. The entire work is phenomenal, and as a former trombone player, I always wanted to play this piece. Never got the chance, but I still love listening to it. In this section of the piece, movement is very sparse, and I love how the melodies and countermelodies weave in and out of each other.

When I asked Victoria Vargas to collaborate with me on this project (Un Despertar/An Awakening), I asked her about the kinds of musical styles that she enjoyed singing. She guided me to the composers William Bolcom, William Finn, and Paola Prestini. Prestini's song "Union" was one that she particularly enjoyed, and so I spent some time with that song and others in her large repertoire of music to get a whole different perspective of writing music and lyrics.

Coming from the same grouping of songs as "Union," I recalled hearing a performance of the AIDS Quilt Songbook years ago in New York, and one song in particular, "Across the Sea," still lingered in my mind. This song is so bright and beautiful, and I can only describe it as "soaring."

In this concert, not only am I writing lyrics in English, but in Spanish, as well, which is a second language to me (though I often feel like perhaps it came first: the first song in the concert will explain what I mean). This was a challenge I chose for myself for two reasons: to improve my Spanish, and because I prefer singing in Spanish when I can. So I looked to some singer-songwriters, or cantautor(a)s, for guidance. Here is one I especially love and that is incredibly heartbreaking: "Fallaste Corazón."

I have to include a video here. Some of my favorite music from México comes from movie-musicals of the 40's and 50's. One of my favorites, and starring the hugely popular and beloved Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, is the "Coplas" from Dos Tipos de Cuidado (1953). In it, two former friends are trying to one-up each other through improvised "couplets". The song is full of double meanings, where they try to pass off insults as pleasantries and compliments. Just watch the faces of the two incredible singers to see when they are being insulted. It's a fabulous moment of musical drama.

I can go on and on with pieces of inspiration, but I want to close with two songs that are WAY outside of what I've listed above. Last week, while speaking with Tina and Siena, I mentioned how I would love to work with Thom Yorke, since I love electronic music and would love to start writing with that kind of music and instrumentation in mind. So here are two songs that I listen to with frequency, just to better understand the music and the minds behind its creation: Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely", and Björk's "All is Full of Love."

I hope you all enjoy the concert. I can't wait to share my music with you!

About Rodolfo Nieto Rodolfo is a singer, actor, composer, and lyricist residing in Minneapolis, MN. He performs regularly in the Twin Cities in Musical Theater and Opera, where he has performed with Theater Latté Da, Park Square Theatre, Minnesota Opera, Artistry, History Theatre, Lyric Arts, and Mixed Blood Theatre, to name a few. Other work includes bilingual concerts of Mexican and Latin American Music, of which the concert “Viva México” can be viewed on his YouTube channel. Rodolfo’s recent composition, “The Minnesota Beer Song,” has already reached 16k views on YouTube and is still growing. More at

You can be a part of Rodolfo Nieto's musical journey by tuning into YouTube on Saturday June 12th at 7pm to watch the premiere of Un Despertar/An Awakening, a concert of nine original songs in English and Spanish.

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