Two generations and their methods
composers of Latin America from the 20th and 21st centuries are not
well known in North America. While the music of Carlos Chavez, Alberto
Ginastera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Astor Piazzolla has penetrated our
repertoire in North America, the extensiveness of their output is not
emphasized or they are composers about which we know little when compared
to those of the United States and of Europe. Other composers of a younger
generation are also worth noting such as: Marlos Nobre, Gerardo Gandini,
Celso Darrido-Lecca, and Mario Lavista. Through these composers one
can find a rich array of music that utilizes the experienced environment
of the composer. These two generations of composers also represent at
least two general aesthetics in compositional techniques that were influenced
by trends occurring in Europe and the United States. Basically, what
occurred in European and United States music history had its parallel
in Latin America. However, Latin American composers were also influenced
by native, folk, and popular musics of their homeland. Some composers
were more affected by one or the other, but all in all, in their music
there is a unique blend of European styles and techniques with Latin
we go any further, I would like to point out the use of the term "Latin
America." Latin America is a varied place with many countries,
cultures, traditions, influences, and ideas, contrasting cultures within
in countries, varying traditions within cultures, traditions that influence
and shape various countries simultaneously or at different times, and
so on. The use of the term "Latin America" can be used in
a misleading way when used to describe a generality of that area. When
the term "Latin America" is used in this paper, it is meant
to portray a physical area of the world and the people of it and not
a generalized idea that can be applied to all of Latin America. As varied
as North America and Europe are, Latin America is too; or it can even
be argued that it is more varied.
all the composers mentioned above studied abroad in Europe or the United
States at one point or another and learned the current trends that were
occurring in art music of their respective times. Generally, the composers
then took these new ideas and utilized them in their own compositions
when they returned to their countries. On a superficial level, it can
be assumed that these composers were merely copying European and American
techniques and ideas, but were they? What use was it to them that they
learned these techniques? Did they form any uniquely ideas on their
own, such as Boulez and Babbitt with total serialism? What is different
about Latin American composers? music than from Europe and the United
States? Is it distinctively "Latin" or mere copies of their
European and American counterparts? Or are these questions of any relevance
at all? These questions are more relevant to some composers than others,
but the idea of what is "Latin American" art music is still
evident. These questions will be explored below as biographical accounts
and thoughts on selected composer?s works will be given.
Older Generation, Nationalism and Neo-Classicism
can be said without regret that Villa Lobos, Chavez, Revueltas, Piazzolla,
and Ginastera were all great composers. Each composer's music is different
from one another but still have similar influences. The idea of nationalist
music was en vogue in Europe at the end of the 19th century in Europe
with Dvorak, Smetana, Rimsky-Korsakov and others, and later to some
extent in the United States in the first half of the 20th century with
Copland. The same occurred in Latin America in the first half of the
20th century when counties were looking to identify themselves. Again,
this is a generalization as some composers were more "nationalistic"
than others. Also with the influence that Copland and Nadia Boulanger
had on Latin America composers, "neo-classicism" made its
way to Latin America.
music and neo-classicism can mean many different things. Either description
is neither a style nor an aesthetic but an idea. Some may argue with
me, but I say this since there are varying styles within each term.
Dvorak's music is different from Smetana's, as it is from Alexander
Borodin?s. Stravinsky's neo-classical music is different from Copland's
as it is different from Prokofiev. What pervades in their music is the
idea of nationalism and neo-classicism. Nationalistic music is art music
that is influenced by nationalistic themes and ideas that can range
from folk tunes (as in Smetana's case) to political propaganda (as in
Shostakovich?s case). Neo-classicism is music that is influenced by
the idea of classicism in music, or music from the 17th-19th centuries.
Perfection, symmetry, consonant harmonies, hierarchy, the music of Mozart,
Pergolesi, and Bach all have influenced the "neo-classical"
composers in some way or another. However, the neo-classical music of
Stranvinsky is different from that of Copland. It can even be said that
Copland was not an intentional neo-classicist, but in the idea of neo-classicism
it can be seen, due to the fact that he chose not to write music that
was "avant garde" but tonal and tradional?-in an "American"
way with his open harmonies. Copland can also be considered a nationalistic
composer as well and through that we can see that both these terms can
be applied to one composer instead of one idea applied to one composer.
ideas ring true with the composers of Latin America. Nationalistic and
neo-classical movements were ideas rather than styles in the art music
of Latin America during the first half of the 20th century. Now we will
turn to take a closer look at how these musical movements and ideas
affected the aforementioned composers.
Chavez was a Mexican composer of importance and arguable the most well-known.
Born in 1899, he went on to write music for orchestra, chamber ensembles,
ballets, chorus, and solo piano (Radice, 2003). His career was multi-faceted
as he was not only a composer, but a conductor and lecturer (Behague,
1979). Ch?vez directed the Orquestra Sinfonica de Mexico until 1949
as well as the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes until 1953 (Behague,
1979; Radice, 2003). After that phase of his career, he dedicated his
time to composition, won the Guggenheim in 1956 and delivered the Eliot
Norton Lectures at Harvard from 1958-1959 (Behague, 1979). Those accomplishments
are life time awards given to composers and great musicians which signify
their importance and relevance to art music.
important works written for orchestra were Sinfonia de Antigona and
Sinfonia India. Sinfonia de Antigona is said to have been influenced
by Stravinsky's neo-classical "style" (Behague, 1979). This
was considered to be one of the non-nationalistic pieces which utilize
European techniques (246). Other works reflected that characteristic
as well. Sinfonia India incorporates Native America (Mexican) stylistic
elements (Radice, 2003). Pentatonic scales, modes, quartel harmonies,
meter changes, repetitive motifs were used to depict native elements
(Radice, 2003). The 1930s-1940s was a time in which Mexican art music
saw the rise and fall of nationalism in Mexico with the assimilation
of different techniques and styles such as neo-classicism and polytonality
(Behague, 1979). These two works mentioned reflect all three of those
trends and ideas.
hearing Sinfonia de Antigona one can be struck by the colors Chavez
uses from the orchestra. Another thing that is striking about this work
is the fact that he hardly writes for a full texture. Only certain sections
or groups of instruments play at a time, which give way to its thin
texture. For example, the violins usually play without the rest of the
strings but with woodwinds and brass. The piece incorporates heavy use
of woodwinds in a dark manner by using the lower pitched woodwind instruments.
Also, the quality of the chords, give the music its dark character.
Through this the texture is still thin but sounds full; the mix of dark
colors and thin texture give the piece a unique sound. The writing is
mainly vertical, in that chords and harmony play an important role,
but there are some melodic occurrences apart from the chordal writing.
The harmony prevalent in this piece is of modal nature. The rhythmic
drive is slow and intense but still contains drive. By listening to
this I do not hear Stravinskian neo-classicism at all. I hear a unique
and highly personal composer's music with a clear aesthetic all his
composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was a self-proclaimed nationalistic
composer. He "came of age" during the peak of musical nationalism
in Argentina and gained his reputation as a national composer in 1937
with Danzas Argentinas for piano and his ballet Panambi (Behague, 1979).
In 1941, he established himself as the leader of the nationalistic movement
in Argentina with another ballet, Estancia in 1941 (Behague, 1979).
However, those two ballets were problematic to some in its reception
due to its extra-musical content (Radice, 2003). Ginastera defined three
periods in his compositional life: objective nationalism, subjective
nationalism, and neo-expressionist (Schulz). It is interesting that
a composer would define periods of his work, usually periods in a composers
work occur naturally and unintentionally as with Beethoven. Nothing
is ever said that Beethoven set out to create three distinct periods
in his music. Nevertheless, these distinctive periods show Ginastera's
variety and capability as a composer.
and Estancia reflect the objective national period in Ginastera's output.
This period (1937-1949) is defined by the inclusion of the gauchesco
(Argentinean cowboy) tradition, strong local color, conscious treatment
of indigenous themes, a clear tonal idiom with inclusion of some extremely
dissonant passages (Behague, 1979). However, Ginastera rarely directly
borrowed actual folk materials (Behague, 1979). His second period can
be understood from its given term. Subjective nationalism (1948-1958)
encompasses nationalism not in a direct way but by implication (Behague,
1979). The "Argentine accent" is what is said to be prevalent
in this period as it does not employ folklore material (Behague, 1979).
His third period does not contain nationalism in its being, but compositional
techniques of the 20th century are used, such as: twelve tone, serialization
of other elements in music, micro-tonality, polyrhythms, and atonality
in a non-serialist manner (Behague, 1979). His last period, obviously,
does not reflect the ideas of neo-classicism and nationalism, but again
shows his varied talents and interests as a composer. For that reason,
this later period will be looked at in the next section of this paper.
Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a very prolific and significant composer
of Brazil. His musical training consisted of instruction on the piano
and cello but was also compelled with the music of Brazil (Radice, 2003).
After receiving classical training in music, as a young man, Villa-Lobos
ventured on his own to explore Brazil and its native musics (Radice,
2003). He also collaborated with musicians in popular music idioms at
the beginning of the 20th century, such as the Chor?es (Behague, 1979).
Villa-Lobos also met Milhaud and through him, developed a liking of
the music of Debussy and the French composers of Le Six (Behague, 1979).
With his trip to Europe, Villa-Lobos began to obtain international acclaim,
and especially with the promotion of his music by pianist Artur Rubinstein
is safe to say that Villa-Lobos was no doubt a nationalistic composer.
With his varied influences and experiences, it is no wonder that his
music has an innate blend of European techniques and nativistic elements.
Villa-Lobos was a nationalist of a folkloric sort, in which nationalism
was inescapable (Behague, 1979). Through use of native music, Villa-Lobos
aimed to evoke a "total vision" of Brazil (Behague, 1979).
His approach to the incorporation of folk elements in his music, were
intuitive and not scientific (Behague, 1979).
for flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, harp, celesta, battery,
and mixed chorus was influenced by urban popular music through its rhythm
and woodwind colors (Behague, 1979). Other elements are evident such
as use of tone clusters, quartal/quintal harmonies, parallel harmonic
movement, and "altered" chords (Behague, 1979). There is a
strong rhythmic drive and element to this piece. The uncommon mix of
this ensemble creates very unique colors and sounds not usually heard
together and the inclusion of a chorus further adds to that claim. His
melodic lines are clearly passionate with short-lived motivic and rhythmic
patterns. The gestural and melodic ideas "jump around" throughout
the music that then goes into another groove or short-lived idea. This
creates a very intuitive and improvisatory sense to the music. The music
is fresh, alive, and exciting, the listener does not know what to expect
next while there is a constant rhythmic pulsating drive.
other two composers, Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) and Astor Piazzolla
are also notable composers of their respective countries: Mexico and
Argentina. Due to the limited extent of this paper, these composers
will briefly be explored. Revueltas career is similar to Chavez's in
that he taught, composed, and conducted, but Revueltas studied abroad
and became familiar with European and United States currents in music
of his time (Radice, 2003). He was able to hear music by Sch?nberg,
Stravinsky and Les Six in Europe and met Henry Cowell, Roy Harris, Edgard
Varese and Copland in America (Radice, 2003). Revueltas was a nationalist
composer of international reputation who made the popular and folk music
in Mexico of his time a source of his style (Behague, 1979). When those
who know of Piazzolla hear his name, one word can immediately come to
mind: tango. Piazzolla studied with Ginastera and Boulanger and composed
in a variety of genres (Behague, 1979). As a young composer, he utilized
Western European genres, such as sonata form, but later as a more experienced
composer, he elevated the tango with striking dissonances, chromaticism,
jazz, inclusion of counterpoint, and virtuosic writing (Behague, 1979).
Through the progression of the tango brought forth by Piazzolla, he
can be considered a nationalistic composer.
Younger Generation and Avant Garde Influences
next generation of composers also tended to follow the trends from Europe
and the United States. These trends were different all together and
went against the established tradition of tonal music and tonal hierarchy
in music. The music of Marlos Nobre, Gerardo Gandini, Celso Garrido-Lecca,
and Mario Lavista incorporate avant garde techniques of Europe in their
music, but create a different result. Nationalism seems less of a concern
for them. However, with the adoption of these techniques, one can wonder
why they would adopt them and for what reason the acquire them. How
are these techniques used in their music? What kind of result occurs
and how is it different from composers of Europe and the United States?
Were there any original Latin American compositional ideas or a continuation
of European ideas?
understand the trends that occurred in Latin America, one must understand
the musical movements that occurred from the 1920s onwards in Europe
and the United states. At the end of the romantic era, Wagner and even
Mahler started to push tonality to its extreme. There are moments in
Wagner's music that can be considered "atonal" as in Tristan
und Isolde. Sch?nberg was a revolutionary. His early music was out of
the romantic world of Wagner and Mahler, but soon started to abandon
tonality and wrote "free atonal" music, utilizing intervallic
cells, but actually his pupil Webern was the first to write a piece
"without a key." In the late 1910s Sch?nberg started to develop
an idea of writing music with all twelve pitches in a set order that
came to be known as the twelve-tone method of composition. This took
the music world by storm and soon, there was a movement of twelve-tone
composition. Webern developed the idea further, intuitively, by serializing
other aspects of music such as dynamics and register. This was found
by Boulez, which lead him to create the idea of the total serialization
of music after World War II, in which all aspects of music would be
ordered an planned (rhythm, pitch, register, timbre, dynamics, etc.).
Boulez created a following in Europe as the composer Milton Babbitt
in the United States developed the same idea. Other trends that followed
were the use of electronics, aleatoric writing, improvisation, and chance
operations. To put it briefly, aleatoric writing is music in which the
composer introduces elements of chance or unpredictability and leaves
different aspects of the music, such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc.,
to the performer or interpreter. Chance operations in music are controlled
by such methods of dice throwing to determine events in music. There
were two extremes in art music of the 1950s: total organization (total
serialism) and total freedom (aleatoric and chance music). Composers
of the time experimented with both idioms.
the same can be said for these ideas or techniques of composition as
can be said for nationalism and neo-classicism: serialism and aleatoric
music are not styles but methods of writing music. Music that is serialist
can "sound" "atonal" or imply tonaliy, whereas aleatoric
and chance music can sound serialist whereas both can sound "random"
and like a "bunch of noise." It depends on how the composer
uses these methods that will create a resultant sound. The music of
these Latin American composers is no exception.
Nobre (b. 1939) is a Brazilian composer that has utilized the ideas
of serialism and electronics in his music. He studied at the Di Tella
Institute in Buenos Aires (1963-1964) where his teachers included Ginastera,
Koellreutter, and Camargo Guarnieri (Behague, 1979). He soon adapted
the twelve-tone technique in his music after having been influenced
by Milhaud's dissonant treatment with a nationalistic concern (Behague,
1979). After delving into the twelve-tone technique, he set out to create
music that was in a "free serialist" method (Behague, 1979).
His music also contained aleatoric elements "with nativisitc overtones,"
extended techniques, and extremely contrasting dynamics (Behague, 1979).
works of note by Nobre are Ukrinmakerinkrin (1964) and In Memoriam (1973),
both for orchestra. Ukrinmakrinkrin is described as having an atonal-serial
language with some "native ritualistic flavor" and some aleatoric
structures (Behague, 1979). In Memoriam contains clusters of sound or
"sound blocks," with "complex and brilliant orchestration"
and Brazilian percussion instruments (Behague, 1979). From the descriptions
above, it can be said that Nobre uses these techniques in his own way
and not to copy or imitate other composers who utilize these techniques.
The concern seems to be that of writing music he likes to write. However,
this is just an assumption from reading about him.
piece by Nobre, Mosaico para Orquestra (1970) is an interesting one.
It is a single movement work with three contrasting sections (Marlos
Nobre). Thick masses of differing sounds abound in the first section,
as the second is more lyrical with brief occurrences of short lived
quick motivic gestures, and the third section is a "pure divertimento"
for orchestra with "tightly composed writing" and "controlled
randomness" (Marlos Nobre). Upon hearing it one does find sustained
harmonies with mixed timbres of instruments in the beginning with aleatoric
"sounding" figures, un-metered patterns that are repeated
quietly in the winds. There are bits of motivic fragments in the orchestra
lead by the brass with "outbursts" from the whole orchestra.
There is a sense of a duality between uncontrolled sounds and directional
sounds. The music abruptly changes by new harmonic and textural treatment.
Thin texture is pristine where soloistic occurrences are heard as the
color of instruments are brought to the fore. The music can be described
as slow paced and silvery that then leads to more direction with a bit
more regularity and thicker chords (roughly 3 notes). This can be considered
the "textural climax" of the second section as the music returns
to the quietness that prevailed before, but influenced by the thicker
textural idea. Percussion is used to initiate the third section, as
sustained brass notes in a quick tempo are heard with frequent and quicker
motivic gestures. Aleatoric elements can also be heard in the end with
regular occurring broad hits in the percussion. Upon hearing this piece,
one can sense a feel of intuition, conviction, and a clear personal
aesthetic of the composer that allows his creativity and voice to be
Garrido-Lecca (b. 1926) is a prominent composer from Peru. He received
his musical training at the Lima Conservatory with Rodolfo Holzmann
and soon after was the composer and musical advisor for the Theater
Institute of the University of Chile (Schulz, 1992). He also later headed
the National School of Music in Peru and in 1963 and 1968 won the National
Prize for Peruvian Culture (Schulz, 1992). His music contains quartal
and quintal harmonies, atonality, twelve tone technique, and "locally
derived" musical traits such as pentatonicism (Behague, 1979).
His musical output is symphonic and chamber as has been performed in
Europe and the Americas (Schulz, 1992). Pieces of note are his Suite
for Woodwind Quintet (1956), Musica para seis instrumentos y percusion
(1956), Sinfonia (1960), and Laudes (1962).
composer and pianist Gerardo Gandini (b. 1936) is another composer from
Latin America influenced by the European avant garde. Gandini was a
student of Ginastera and Caama?o (Behague, 1979). Gandini became one
of the major musical figures in Argentina in the 1960s and also co-founded
a professional contemporary music organization, Agrupani?n Euphonia
(Behague, 1979). His teaching engagements have been with the Di Tella
Institute and Buenos Aires Catholic University (Behague, 1979). Gandini
is also an active performer of new music in the Americas and Europe
(Behague, 1979). The techniques he uses are serialism, atonality, extreme
manipulation of dynamics and timbres with rigorous economy and concentration
of musical ideas and means (Behague, 1979).
pieces are worth noting, Musica Nocturna (1964) for flute, violin, viola,
violoncello, and piano and Eusebius, four nocturnes for piano or one
nocturne for four pianos. Musica Nocturna is non-thematic, utilizes
instrumental effects and contains pointillistic treatment of small intervals
(Behague, 1979). There is an idea of static music partnered with fast
and elusive sounds (Behague, 1979). Eusebius is basically an homage
to Robert Schumann's Davidsbundelertanze, No. 14 (Schuartz). These nocturnes
are very short, lasting no more than a couple minutes or so. Upon hearing
the first one, one can find a slowly paced sound environment in which
each note is carefully sounded, nearly one at a time, sustained by the
pedal in the upper register which creates a thin texture. Quartal harmonies
open the second nocturne which utilizes different harmonies than the
first but still with a thin texture and the idea of "carefully
paced" sounds pervade. More melodic ideas encompass the third nocturne
but still the thin texture is apparent. Adjectives such as reflective,
quiet, careful and beautiful come to mind when describing this nocturne.
In the fourth, one can find more movement and more melody with thicker
voice and "new age" sounding harmonies-quite different from
the others. When all four nocturnes are played simultaneously at the
same tempo, the fifth nocturne is realized.
Mexican of the younger generation of composers is Mario Lavista (b.
1943). His teachers are varied and from different parts of the world.
In Mexico at the conservatory he studied with Hafter and Quintanar and
in Europe with Jean-Etienne Marie, Henry Posseur, Xenakis and Stockhausen
(Behague, 1979). He also has attended Darmstadt where he be Legeti and
studied electronic music in Tokyo (Behague, 1979). In the 1960s he was
considered a follower of the avant-garde and a "bona fide"
experimentalist by incorporating improvisation, chance operations, and
elctro-acoustic and visual elements in his compositions (Behague, 1979).
Divertimento (1968) represent his experimentalist side while a more
recent piece, Cuaderno de viaje (1989) sounds a bit more tame. Combined,
both versions of the Divertimento include audience participation in
which the instrumentation contains a woodwind quintet, five woodblocks,
five loud speakers, four amplifiers, three potentiometers, and a mike
mixer (Behague, 1979). From reading the instrumentation, one can immediately
think "avant garde" but his "avant garde" stature
is questioned when one listens to the works on his Cuaderno de Viaje
CD released in 1994. On it, a work for solo viola is found, Cuaderno
de Viaje. This piece is a "deep search into the viola?s possibilities
in the realm of harmonics" (Brennan, 1994). It is a calm, slivery,
piece that uses consonant harmonies. It has no incorporation of amplifiers,
speakers, microphones or any other extra-musical effects.
is hardly ever safe to classify one composer or another as being a part
of one compositional school of thought. As with the case with the composers
mentioned above, it can be seen that for the most part, their output
is varied. Each of these composers delved into different processes of
writing and have created different results within their own outputs
and when compared to each other. But by using these techniques, are
these composers copiers of composers of the Untied States and Europe?
By using the ideas and methods, the answer is yes, but in the larger
picture, I would say no. Their music reflects a different aesthetic,
different ears, and tastes. Beauty and elegance was found in all the
composers' music to which I listened. An innate sense of rhythmic drive
clearly persists in the music of the older generation as well, which
is influenced by non-European elements. These composers used these techniques
in their own way and through it, their personal voice spoke. Some of
Chavez does sound like Copland, such as Sinfonia India, but Sinfonia
de Antigona contains a different character that is distinctively Ch?vez.
In Nobre's Mosaico, aleatoric writing is used but does not sound the
same as say Stockhausen. While utilizing these European and United States
techniques, these composers used according to their personal taste and
ear to create distinctively personal music.
was not found that any of these composers created an original idea apart
from European and United States thought. However, the apparent inclusion
of indigenous musical influence and a different ear for music than their
counterparts creates different sounding art music. It can be assumed
that beauty and elegance are more of a concern for these composers than
their other western colleagues. That is an overgeneralization of course,
but those two adjectives come to mind immediately upon hearing each
of these composers' music. The music, in general, also seems more paced;
the music is patient and lives and absorbs the sound. This music should
be regarded on equal footing with music of Europe and the United States
when taught in other parts of the western world. This music has validity,
conviction, and a voice of its own different from what our education
as classical musicians in the United States brings us. When one thinks
of western art music, Latin American art music should also come to mind.
2004, Northwestern University
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