Release date: 25.08.11
previous | next
Sound art, experimental music, sound poetry, radio art and electroacoustic music in Mexico.
A project published by Laboratorio Arte Alameda and curated by Manuel Rocha Iturbide and Israel Martínez.
Text by Manuel Rocha Iturbide taken from "The First Retrospective of Mexican Electroacustic Music"
2. The origins
It wasn’t until the decade of the 60’s that there was a significant development of contemporary music in Mexico, owing to the creation of the “Taller de composición” directed by this same composer. From this workshop, composers like Mario Lavista,
Francisco Nuñez, Héctor Quintanar and Julio Estrada emerged, who assimilated the newest serial techniques imported from Europe, the aleatory music techniques, and who acquired increasing interest to the new sonorous languages emerging from technical development (Moreno, 1994).
Some of them, and elder generations of composers like Carlos Jiménez Mabarak, Manuel Enríquez, Manuel de Elías and Alicia Urreta, tried their hands on the electronic and concrete music fields, thanks to their contact in and out of Mexico with some of the pioneers of this genre (Europeans and North
Americans) . Yet, it was until the end of the sixties when the engineer Raúl Pavón (b.1927)  together with the composer Héctor Quintanar (b. 1936) created the first laboratory of electronic music in Mexico, at the grounds of the National Conservatory of Mexico City (and with the support of Carlos Chávez). Moreover, this project did not
experience a fruitful life.
New musical technologies (like synthesizers and the tape machine) and their possibilities to create music through new ideas and ways to work with sounds, attracted the generation of Mabarak , Enriquez and Urreta, as well as younger composers like Mario Lavista (b. 1942) who later wrote various articles about how the
composer could work directly with sound matter, and about the necessity to create new types of musical representation for electronic music, (Lavista, 1974) and to regard new conceptions starting from the sound-noise paradigm  (Lavista, 1984).
3. Development of the first epoch
At the same time, Raúl Pavón imparts the class of electronic music at the National Conservatory of Mexico City, and thanks to this, new composers like Juan Cuahutemoc Herrejón start experimenting in this area. Also, the young composer and electrical engineer Antonio Russek (b. 1955)
creates the first private Laboratory for the production and broadcasting of electronic music at his home (1975). Nevertheless, regardless of these positive factors that contributed to the development of electronic music, the fact is that there was little continuity, a lack of research, forums,
concerts and conferences. Also, there were hardly forty pieces of electroacustic music created through the first two decades of production in our country (many of them that have been lost or not recovered). We will have to wait until the beginning of the 80’s when a new generation of composers,
bearers of mayor passion for this language will emerge.
I think that besides the bureaucratic problems that made difficult the lack of development of the electroacustic field in Mexico , the main problem was the little interest that those generations showed for this genre. The reason is that many of them thought synthesizers were simply new
instruments with fresh sound colors that became supplementary to the ones already existing in the orchestra. This is why these composers were unable to go deeper into the technical-esthetical specificity's of this new language. On the other side, the creation of elecrtoacustic music demanded a through full
study of the acoustic sciences, and this factor prevented many composers from investing the time and effort involved in having successful results .
Finally, there was also an obstacle created from traditional academia that was not interested in the specialization of electronic music in the music schools, and in fact this is still up to this date a problem we have in our country. We should try to analyze why in a Latin American country analogous to
Mexico like Argentina there was an electronic music laboratory since 1958 , which is still working up to this date, while in Mexico this situation never became possible.
4. The true pioneers
5. The first composers with specialization degrees
It is then understandable that the new generations of composers born in the seventies and eighties are still immigrating to foreign countries in order to develop better in this area . Nevertheless, some of them have
been able to evolve in our country thanks to the isolated courses taught by some composers. Roberto Morales tried to found a computer music bachelor in the University of Guanajuato, and during five years or more, he collaborated to bring a new generation of young composers . Unhappily, the
conservative and bureaucratic character of this institution has prevented the creation of this program. On the other hand, Javier Alvarez (A Mexican composer living in England) has come to Mexico almost every year to teach courses of electroacustic music at the National Center for the Arts in Mexico
City, and from these courses new composers have come up front in the Mexican scene. Finally, I undertook a few years ago a young group of composers and created a workshop that is working up to this date
6. New generations, spaces and forums
Through the nineties, the emerging cultural institutions played an important role in the promotion of electronic art like the Multimedia center, the Centro de la Imagen, the Ex-Teresa Arte Actual museum, the Laboratorio arte alameda museum, and so on. Nevertheless it’s a pity that as for today
we can’t count on a computer music center, a project similar to the Multimedia Center where advanced courses on music and technology can be imparted, as well as postgraduate studies. Unfortunately, the academic musical scene remains in a halt. As for now, we have been unable to launch
postgraduate musical studies in Mexico, except for the University of Jalapa Veracruz, where they impart the only masters on musicology and instrumental composition in the country.
However, the University of Mexico will start soon a series of master degrees in music (after ten years of a stagnant bureaucratic hold), one of them related with music and technology. In spite of the academic delay our country is undergoing, it has profited from the incredible development of Pop electronic music, which is danceable all around the globe. This boom has helped the popularity of
DJ's and collectives of experimental groups
, as well as sound artists that are producing alternative music, without necessarily owing it to an academic musical background .
Finally, it was impossible to reflect objectively the most relevant aspects of the history of electroacustic music in Mexico in only two concerts, so I felt obliged to implement four hearing posts that presented the composers by decades . On the other hand, it was difficult to include all of the
composers who have done something relevant in the field, because some of their pieces (mostly the ones who have already died) have been lost or not recovered, and the effort to trace them with their descendants will need a lot of work. It is important to mention that not all of the
composers that I contacted sent me their pieces, even though the most prolific did.
This investigation came into being thanks to the original idea of José Wolfer, to the enormous interest of all the composers of the trade who kindly sent me their works, and to the valuable help of the CENIDIM musical research center in regard to the discoveries of pioneer works (as Tlalocan of Jiménez
Mabarak, Prehistoric Mass by Enríquez, and the Electronic Studies by Juan Cuahutemoc Herrejón). Essential was the support received from the composer Antonio Russek, because he zealously saved and recovered many pieces of the sixties that we had thought lost (like Contrapunto by Mario Lavista, and Non
Nova Sed Novo by Manuel de Elías). Antonio helped me to reconstruct the primordial facts of the early history of electroacoustic music in our country. I am also obliged to Alejandra Odgers for having executed an extensive documentation of electroacustic Mexican works for her bachelor degree thesis
This register helped me set the basis to carry out my inquiry , and to Gonzalo Macías for his interest in the retrospective, since he is currently investigating the development of the Mexican electroacustic music with instruments for his PhD thesis in France.
If the creation of a new laboratory of computer music is not possible, where pieces could be produced and advanced workshops and programs be imparted (at graduate and postgraduate levels), it would be at least desirable the existence of a small Media Center who’s tasks would include the
accumulation of information and the harboring of electroacoustic pieces produced in Mexico. This place could also host the quarters of a Mexican electroacoustic music association in charge of the dissemination of our music nationally and internationally , As for now, the efforts have been individual and
many times have remained diluted. I hope that the interested composers of the musical trade become receptive to these ideas in order to carry out this task.
Text by Manuel Rocha Itrubide
INTERNATIONAL DATABASE 2010-2015
[ar038] ELECTROACOUSTIC MEXICO 1960-2007
Promotional compilation from the original
project published by Laboratorio Arte Alameda DVD
1 (not for sale) curated by Manuel Rocha Iturbide and
Israel Martinez. Selected tracks and edited for ar038
by Julian Bonequi
Each track in this document has the credit of the artists
We want to give special thanks to Manuel Rocha Iturbide for his
support, and all the artists involved
Picture from Maíz by Guillermo Galindo. Design by
For more information: