Review of LNT113: Alma Latina
Electroacoustic Music from Latin America? The editor of the present CD, Odaline de la Martinez, is aware of this unusual pairing. Unusual at least for European ears. In her preface she recounts this little anecdote: "Not long ago I had a conversation with a fine British musician who had been both attending and adjudicating some of the electronic competitions in the continent. His words were something like 'Those Latin Americans, their music is so original that they walk off with all the prizes.'"
And indeed the twelve tracks by five Latin American composers on this disc are full of inspiration, surprises and a wide range of 'acousmatic' music, ranging from the eclectic use of dance forms to the most sublime minimalism.
M. Rosas Cobian, an Argentinian composer, born in 1953, has the privilege of opening and concluding the CD. His Gato's Raid for marimba and electroacoustic sounds is from 1994. It is an almost impressionistic work. The program of the 'Cat's Raid', is a journey through the musics and cultures of America, from its ethnic regional music to the present.
Whereas Gato's Raid follows a traditional pattern of Programmusik, Augustín Fernández's Silent Towers for tape (1990) comes from the more experimental direction of contemporary music. This twelve minute composition follows the idea of the juxtaposition of two types of sound and their respective characters and atmospheres. The continuous harmonic flow of the sound, represented by one of those spheres is punctuated by another sound pattern that will finally freeze the harmonic flow until the two types of music interlock. The contact between them brings about a new character. The point of this composition is that tape music generally communicates none of its physical information. Where the ear seems to be able to infer something about the sound patterns and their atmosphere, the inner ear combines the two different sounds to produce a third one.
Latin Soul, Alma Latina (1996, rev. 1997), by Rajmil Fleischman from Peru is the most hermetic work on the present disc. There are notes about the piece and its mental and biographical background in the booklet. These help in placing the concept together with the brutal acoustic sounds. "Images of pain" predominate alongside shreds of the "physical sensation of dance", laughter, mourning and singing. The very concept of a Latin Soul is more an intellectual than an acoustic one.
The Five Micro-Études for tape (1992) are the first attempts of Mexican-born Gabriela Ortiz to compose for unadorned electroacoustic sounds. They are études in the classical sense of the term. These short little pieces - all are about two minutes long - treat different musical questions and explore the possibilities of electroacoustic sounds. The pieces contain small rhythmic and melodic inflections.
Timbral and rhythmic structures are the subject of Mario Verandi's Dancescape for tape from 1996. Vocal sounds and instrumentals dominate in M. Rosas Cobian's three pieces from his Urbis #4 for tape. The composer states that this work is an expression of his relationship with the city, popular culture, jazz and other mundane events of his daily life. His clips are a virtuoso mix and re-mix of sonic and musical vocabularies, playing with effects of dynamics and silence.
The CD comes with a booklet that is full of informative explanations of the different works.
All five Latin American composers on this CD have studied or lived in Europe, and worked at the most important centres of electroacoustic music. Whatever the strengths of these pieces I find it impossible to find a specifically Latin soul in this music. The specifics and roots of Latin American musicality do not seem to have any linkage with electroacoustic soundscapes.