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Ricardo Dal Farra

Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection

Music here... music there

César Bolaños in 1966 at the CLAEM laboratory, Buenos Aires.
Interview with César Bolaños
Interview with César Bolaños
Interview with Horacio Vaggione, 2003
Interview with Horacio Vaggione, 2003
Interview with Alfredo del Mónaco
Interview with Alfredo del Mónaco
According to Hugh Davies’ 1968 Répertoire international des musiques électroacoustiques / International Electronic Music Catalogue, Mauricio Kagel (b. Buenos Aires, 1931) composed eight electroacoustic studies in Argentina between 1950 and 1953. Then, from 1953 to 1954, he created Música para la Torre (also known as Musique de Tour), a sonorization of some 108 minutes, which included an essay on musique concrète, for an industrial exhibition in Mendoza. Kagel tried to establish an electronic music studio in Argentina during the 1950s but was unable to at that time. He moved to Germany in 1957, where he composed Transición I for electronic sounds in 1958 and Transición II for piano, percussion and two tape recorders in 1958-1959, among many other works.

Reginaldo Carvalho (b. Guarabira, 1932) composed his first concrète pieces on tape between 1956 and 1959 at "Estudio de Experiencias Musicais" (Musical Experiences Studio) in Rio de Janeiro. Among them were Si bemol from 1956, probably the first musique concrète work realized in Brazil; Temática and Troço I, also from that year; Troço II from 1957; Estudo I from 1958; and Estudo II from 1959. While the first tape pieces were all based on piano sounds, Carvalho also worked with glass and wood as sound sources.

In Chile, León Schidlowsky (b. Santiago, 1931) composed Nacimiento, a concrète piece on tape, in 1956. At the time, Juan Amenabar (b. Santiago, 1922 - d. Santiago, 1999) and José Vicente Asuar (b. Santiago, 1933) were experimenting with electroacoustic techniques at Radio Chilena in Santiago. In 1957, the Taller Experimental de Sonido (Experimental Sound Workshop) was established at the Catholic University in Santiago by Amenabar and Asuar, together with a small group of composers: Schidlowsky, Mesquida, Rivera, Quinteros, Maturana and García. Fernando García said about the Taller: "It was created in 1957, and the idea was not to talk about music and produce academic concerts, but rather to learn the mysteries of electronics." Juan Amenabar also premiered his tape work Los Peces in 1957. Asuar wrote Mechanic and Electronic Generation of Musical Sounds for his engineering thesis and in 1958 created Chile’s first electronic music studio at the Catholic University, where he composed his Variaciones Espectrales, which premiered in 1959.

Kagel was not the only Argentinean composer interested in the many possibilities of electroacoustic technologies and techniques during the pioneering years. Tirso de Olazábal (b. Buenos Aires, 1924 - d. 1960) lived in Paris during the early '50s, where he worked with electroacoustic media and composed Estudio para percusión for tape in 1957. He also organized one of the first concerts of electroacoustic music in Argentina in 1958. At the end of that year, the Estudio de Fonología Musical was founded at the University of Buenos Aires by Francisco Kröpfl (b. Timisoara, Romania, 1931) and Fausto Maranca; it was in this lab that between 1959 and 1960 Kröpfl composed his first works using electronic sounds: Ejercicio de texturas and Ejercicio con Impulsos. During that same period, César Franchisena (b. General Pinedo, Chaco, 1923 - d. Córdoba, 1992) was also experimenting with electronic sound sources at the National University of Córdoba radio station and composed Numancia, his ballet music for tape, in 1960. And, a young Horacio Vaggione (b. Córdoba, 1943) started to experiment in Córdoba with the musical potential of electroacoustic technologies at this time, composing Música Electrónica I for tape in 1960 and Ensayo sobre mezcla de sonidos, Ceremonia and Cantata I in 1961.

Prior to this and using only electronic sound sources, Hilda Dianda (b. Córdoba, 1925) composed Dos Estudios en Oposición for tape in 1959, working at the Studio di Fonologia Musicale of RAI (Italian Radio and TV) in Milan. Another Argentinean composer, Mario Davidovsky (b. Médanos, , Buenos Aires, 1934), composed tape pieces Electronic Study No.1 in 1960 and Electronic Study No.2 in 1962 at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York. In 1962 he began writing a series of mixed pieces under the generic name of "Synchronisms" and went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for his Synchronisms No.6 for piano and electronic sound, which he composed in 1970. Just as Davidovsky traveled to the United States, so did Argentinean Edgardo Cantón (b. Los Cisnes, Córdoba, 1934) find his way to France. There he composed several electroacoustic works during the '60s, including Animal Animal in 1962 and Tout finit par tomber dans le même trou in 1963. Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, Miguel Angel Rondano (b. Godoy Cruz, 1934) was also using electroacoustic media in his work during the early '60s; among other pieces, he composed La batalla de los ángeles for tape in 1963 as well as Promenade and 2 Times, both ballet music on tape, during the same year.

In 1965, a group of composers founded the Centro de Música Experimental (Experimental Music Center) at the National University of Córdoba. They included Oscar Bazán (b. Cruz del Eje, 1936), Pedro Echarte, Carlos Ferpozzi (b. Córdoba, 1937), Graciela Castillo (b. Córdoba, 1940), Virgilio Tosco (b. Achiras, Córdoba, 1930 - d. Córdoba, 2000), and, for a certain length of time, Horacio Vaggione. In 1963, alcides lanza (b. Rosario, 1929), who started to experiment with tape recorders around 1956, realized the tape part of Contrastes for two pianos and tape by Armando Krieger (b. Buenos Aires, 1940). In 1965, lanza composed his first tape piece, exercise I [1965-V], in 1965 at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and has around sixty works using electronics in his catalogue. And finally, Dante Grela (b. Rosario, 1941) composed his first tape piece, Música para el film 'C-65', in 1965 in his home studio in Rosario, and in 1968 he composed Combinaciones for mixed choir, percussion and tape.

In Cuba, right after the revolution in 1961, Juan Blanco (b. Mariel, 1919) composed Música para danza, his first tape piece, using an oscillator and tape recorders. Between 1961 and 1962 he composed Estudios I y II; between 1962 and 1963 Ensamble V; and in 1963 Interludio con Máquinas and Ensamble VI, all for tape. His first mixed work for orchestra and tape was Texturas, composed between 1963 and 1964. In 1964, Blanco also organized Cuba’s first public concert with electroacoustic music, and the following year he began to create electroacoustic music for massive public events and large venues. Examples of these works include Música para el Quinto Desfile Gimnástico Deportivo for symphonic orchestra, sound toys group and tape from 1965; Ambientación Sonora, a tape work played back using a special network of loudspeakers for spatial sound distribution at Cuba’s Pavilion during the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo ‘67) in Montreal, Canada; and Ambientación Sonora, a five-track work from 1968 played during 30 nights along La Rampa Avenue in Havana. Blanco has composed approximately 100 works using electroacoustic media.

Back in Argentina, the Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales (CLAEM) in the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires (Latin American Higher Studies Musical Center of the Torcuato Di Tella Institute) was a major meeting point for students and composers from Latin America. The Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera founded the Center in 1962 and directed it until it was closed in the early '70s. Composers such as Blas Emilio Atehortúa and Jacqueline Nova from Colombia, Rafael Aponte Ledée from Puerto Rico, Florencio Pozadas from Bolivia, José Ramón Maranzano, Eduardo Kusnir and Pedro Caryevschi from Argentina, Ariel Martinez and Antonio Mastrogiovanni from Uruguay, Alejandro Nuñez Allauca from Peru, and Gabriel Brncic from Chile, among others, worked in CLAEM’s electronic music lab creating new pieces using the facility’s electroacoustic resources. They also attended lectures by internationally recognized composers from Europe and North America, including, for example Luigi Nono, Iannis Xenakis, Bruno Maderna, Aaron Copland, Olivier Messiaen, Vladimir Ussachevsky and Luigi Dallapiccola, to name but a few.

Peruvian composer César Bolaños (b. Lima, 1931 - d. Lima, 2012) arrived in Buenos Aires in 1963 with a fellowship to study at CLAEM and was in charge of the electronic music lab for a number of years from its creation in 1964. In fact, in that same year, Bolaños composed Intensidad y Altura, the first electroacoustic work produced at CLAEM. During the next several years he used electroacoustic and computer techniques extensively in his music, composing tape and mixed pieces and working with live electronics and multimedia. Among other pieces, he composed Interpolaciones for electric guitar and tape in 1966; Alfa-Omega for two reciters, theatrical mixed choir, electric guitar, double bass, three percussionists, two dancers, magnetic tape, projections and lights in 1967; and, as the result of his computer experimentation with mathematician Mauricio Milchberg, together they created Canción sin palabras or ESEPCO II for piano with two performers and tape in 1970 (ESEPCO stands for "estructura sonoro-expresiva por computación" or "computer sound-expressive structure"). Also from Peru, Edgar Valcárcel (b. Puno, 1932) was at CLAEM during 1963-1964, but it was at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York that he composed his first pieces using electronic sounds: Invención for tape in 1967 and Canto Coral a Túpac Amaru for chorus, percussion and tape in 1968.

In Brazil, Jorge Antunes (b. Rio de Janeiro, 1942), who in 1961 had created an electroacoustic piece in his home studio using piano and electronic saw-tooth waveforms, composed a work the following year using only electronic sound sources. Valsa Sideral is considered the first piece of its kind realized in Brazil. In 1963, Antunes composed Música para varreduras de freqüência, in 1964 Fluxo luminoso para sons brancos I, and the following year Contrapunctus contra contrapunctus, all tape pieces. During these years, Antunes also composed mixed and multimedia works, including Ambiente I for tape, lights, static and kinetic objects, incense and food in 1965; Cromoplastofonia I for full orchestra and tape in 1966; and Invocaçao em defensa da maquina for percussion and tape in 1968. Antunes was awarded a scholarship to study at CLAEM in Buenos Aires between 1969 and 1970 and composed tape pieces Cinta Cita during his first year there and Auto-Retrato Sobre Paisaje Porteño the year after.

In Uruguay, Coriún Aharonián (b. Montevideo, 1940) and Conrado Silva (b. Montevideo, 1940) also started to work with electroacoustic resources in their pieces in the early '60s. At first, Aharonián mainly used them in his music for theatre, and in 1966 he composed Hecho 2 (en tres partes y en re), a musical theatre piece for prepared piano, xylophonic claves, sine and square wave electronic generators, tubular bell, four idiophones and/or membranophones, six tape recorders and paint brushes, and in 1967 Música para aluminios for three instrumentalists and tape. Aharonián also won a scholarship to study at CLAEM between 1969 and 1970, and while there he composed Que, a piece for tape. In 1964, Conrado Silva composed Musik für Zehn Kofferradiogeräte (Music for ten portable radios or Música para 10 radios portátiles), using computers to organize the compositional materials in his piece. After a number of years experimenting and composing in Uruguay, he moved to Brazil in 1969, promoting electroacoustic music and founding several electronic music studios there. From 1971 to 1989 Silva, Aharonián and other composers coordinated the Cursos Latinoamericanos de Música Contemporánea (Latin-American Courses for Contemporary Music), held in a variety of cities throughout Latin America. The courses became benchmarks for new music in the region.

Bolivian composer Alberto Villalpando (b. La Paz, 1942) first began experimenting with electroacoustic music in Buenos Aires at the National Conservatory of Music in 1962 and later at CLAEM. Back in Bolivia in 1965, he continued his work with tape techniques. Villalpando composed several tape and mixed pieces, including Mística No. 3 for double string quartet, French horn, flute, double bass and tape, and Mística No. 4 for string quartet, piano and tape, both from 1970.

In Guatemala, Joaquín Orellana (b. Guatemala City, 1937) composed Contrastes, ballet music for orchestra and tape in 1963. Having won a scholarship to study in 1967 and 1968 at CLAEM, he composed Metéora for tape while there. Back in Guatemala, Orellana composed Humanofonía for orchestra and tape or tape only in 1971; Malebolge (Humanofonía II) in 1972, Primitiva I in 1973, Sortilegio in 1978 and Imágenes de una historia en redondo (imposible a la equis) in 1980, all five pieces for tape.

The Estudio de Fonología Musical of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes (INCIBA), established in 1966-1967 by Chilean composer and engineer José Vicente Asuar, is considered the birthplace of electroacoustic music in Venezuela. Alfredo del Mónaco (b. Caracas, 1938) composed Cromofonías I there in 1966-1967, the first electroacoustic music work produced in that country, and in 1967-1968 he wrote Estudio electrónico I. Del Mónaco then moved for a number of years to New York, where he produced several tape and mixed pieces at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center before returning to Venezuela in the mid '70s. Among other works, he composed Metagrama for tape in 1969-1970; Alternancias for violin, viola, cello, piano and electronic sounds on tape in 1971; Syntagma [A] for trombone and electronic sounds on tape in 1971-1972; and Estudio electrónico III for tape in 1974.

Carlos Jiménez Mabarak (b. Tacuba, 1916 - d. Mexico City, 1994) is widely accepted as the first Mexican composer to create a piece on tape: El paraíso de los ahogados from 1960. He also composed La llorona, ballet music for small orchestra, electronic oscillator, timpanis, percussions, piano and strings in 1961, and La portentosa vida de la muerte for tape in 1964.

Ecuadorian composer Mesías Maiguascha (b. Quito, 1938) was already actively incorporating electroacoustic media into his music in the mid '60s when he moved to Germany. Some of his early works include El mundo en que vivimos for concrète and electronic sounds on tape, from 1967, composed for the Polish documentary film Dort wo wir leben; Hör-zu from 1969 and Ayayayayay from 1971 (both for tape); and Übungen for violin, clarinet, cello and three synthesizers from 1972-1973.

Héctor Quintanar (b. Mexico City, 1936) composed several pieces using electroacoustic resources during the '60s, including Aclamaciones for choir, orchestra and tape in 1967; Sideral I for tape in 1968; and Símbolos for chamber group (violin, clarinet, sax, French horn, trumpet, trombone, piano), tape, slides and lights in 1969. In 1970 he was named artistic director of the first Electronic Music Lab founded in Mexico. During the years that followed, he composed several pieces in this lab. They included Opus 1 in 1970; Suite Electrónica in 1971; Voz for soprano and electronic sounds; and Mezcla for orchestra and tape, both in 1972.

The above is just a brief introduction to the vast musical production by Latin American composers during the '50s, '60s and early '70s. Most worked in precarious conditions but had enormous interest and enthusiasm to experiment, research and create new music using cutting edge composition techniques and the latest available technologies. This spirit and creativity still abounds, and I believe the music should also.

Ricardo Dal Farra © 2004 FDL