Javier Alvarez (born in Mexico City, 1956) has been using extensively electroacoustic media in his musical compositions. He studied clarinet and composition with Mario Lavista before moving to the United States in the early 80s and subsequently to Great Britain, where he attended the Royal College of Music and the City University in London. His first electroacoustic works date from this time, such as “Temazcal” (1984) for maracas and tape. “Mannam” (1992) takes its inspiration from the other side of the globe and the ancient Korean zither, kayagum. Winner of a 1993 Prix Ars Electronica distinction, “Mannam” blends and juxtaposes elements of Korean music with materials and performance techniques drawn from the Mexican folk harp. “Offrande” (2001), a more recent work, offers a mix of Caribbean steel pans and electronically processed rhythmic patterns.
A number of Alvarez’s works incorporate elements from Latin American dance genres, like the mambo. In “Mambo a la Braque” (1991) he creates an electroacoustic collage of musical segments drawn from Cuban mambo composer Dámaso Perez Prado’s “Caballo Negro” (Black Horse). On a larger scale, Alvarez’s Papalotl (1987), for piano and electroacoustic sounds, makes reference to the wider world of dance through its use of complex rhythmic patterns in a synchronized duet between the piano and the electroacoustics part. This work won the 1987 ICEM Prize in Paris as well as awards from the Bourges International Festival and Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica.
Other pieces by Alvarez are: "Te espera esa chispa" for 8 amplified voices, tape, trombone, 2 percussionists, prepared piano and double bass, from 1982; "Tid tuq" for tape, from 1983; "The Panama Files" for electroacoustic sounds, from 1986; "Edge Dance" for electroacoustic sounds, from 1987; "On going on" for baritone saxophone and electroacoustic sounds, from 1987; "Así el acero" for amplified tenor steelpan and electroacoustic sounds, from 1988; "Acuerdos por Diferencia" for harp and electroacoustic sounds, from 1989; "Mambo" for soprano, tenor, baritone, bass, clarinet, sax, flute, trombone, cello, electric bass, percussion, piano, keyboard and slides, from 1990-1991; "Shekere", for shekere gourd, bass drum and sampler interactively controlled, and "Gramática para dos" for synthesizer, both works from 1991; "Mambo Vinko" for trombone and electroacoustic sounds, from 1993; "Also Sprach Dámaso" for any melody instrument and electroacoustic sounds, from 1993; "Calacas Imaginarias" for chamber choir and electroacoustic sounds, from 1994; "Pyramid", music for young performers, synthesizers and/or instruments and electroacoustic sounds, from 1996; "Offrande" for tenor and baritone steel pans & electroacoustic sounds, from 2001; "Cactus Geometries" for electroacoustic sounds, from 2002; and his orchestral piece “Geometría Foliada” from 2003.
In 1993 Alvarez became a Fellow of the Mexican Endowment for the Arts and Culture, an award he held until 1999. He has also received a Mendelssohn Scholarship, the Lionel Robbins Award and a Gemini Fellowship in England, where he has lived since 1982. He has held teaching positions at the University of Hertfordshire and the Malmö Music Academy in Sweden, having also taught composition and computer music technology at City University, Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London. He was a founder member of the Sonic Arts Network and, during the 1993 season, he was Artistic Director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music. After 25 years living in England he returned to Mexico where he was the founding director of the Musical Arts Department of the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán. He now lives in Mérida, Yucatán, based as a freelance composer and project animateur.
(text updated: November, 2007)
Resources available for this composer:
- List of compositions (11 compositions)