Mis à jour : 26 nov. 2018
Listen to Ojos Brujos: https://youtu.be/YHoRG1DCOAU
About the arranger:
Leo brouwer is a cuban composer of classical music. He was born in La havana, in 1939. He writes music for solo guitar, but also for other instruments and for the cinema. There were great musicians in his family: his father was a guitarist who played classical and flamenco music and Ernesto Lecueno, famous composer of Cuban folk songs, was a member of his family.
Musicologists usually divide his works in three parts:
1954-1964: a neoclassic approach
During these years, Brouwer learns composition by himself, reading books and analyzing scores from the baroque, classical period and the beginning of the twentieth century. However, he is also inspired by Cuban folk music and likes to re-arrange songs like Ojos brujos or Cancion de cuna for example.
These two influences explain why most of the scores from this period possess a traditional form (for example the Fugue n°1), but with melodies inspired from Cuban folk music and with more contemporary harmony.
“Speaking frankly, I used the European structures and models of structures, like form, as a reference. The content that comes into these forms was built out of the essential cells and units of our folkloric roots.”
1964-1978: a contemporary approach
In 1961, in a music festival in Varsovie, Brouwer met contemporary composers like Stockhausen and Ligeti. With the Elogio de la danza, written in 1964 for a contemporary choreography, we can see a change in his style of music. This is at this time that Brouwer tried contemporary processes and techniques for writing music, such as the twelve-tone system (which uses all of the twelve notes existing in western music), aleatoric music, or cell music (for example Tarantos, in which this is the player who decides of the order of the different parts of the score).
“I went to Europe in 1961 to see the great masters who had been in Cuba once or twice. They had heard some of my music and felt empathy for it, so they invited me to Europe. I'm talking about the composers Luigi Nono and Hans Werner Henze, the musicologist and Schoenberg expert Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt.”
Since 1978: the synthesis
Because of the profusion of contemporary works in the seventies, Brouwer started to find this style rather commonplace. So he decided to simplify his writing techniques, and now uses as well as folk, classical or contemporary tools to write music (for example El decameron negro, which is based on a short pattern). He also composes interesting and essential educational scores (the Estudios sencillos).
“I started with folklore and national roots. I gradually developed into abstraction. I arrived at almost total abstraction in the '70s. And then I came back gradually to national roots through a sophisticated romantic feeling. In the '50s and '60s, you had Pierre Boulez whom I admire, and Stockhausen. They became the kings of structuralistic music with a total serial and aleatoric feeling. It was the decomposition of structures. But at a certain moment, this language atomized and broke. It was failing to communicate, and becoming more and more abstract, more and more hermetic. I think that music is for everybody, for the public - both the highly sophisticated public and the simpler one (of course with education, with culture). This was similar to what happened with free jazz. It grew so sophisticated, so personal and individual that the jazzmen were enjoying themselves, but the public wasn't”.
About the composer:
Gonzalo Roig (1890-1970), was a Cuban composer and musical director. He founded and directed several orchestras (the Symphony Orchestra, the Municipal Music Band and the National Opera of La Havana). He is also known for his opera Cecilia Valdès written in 1931 and based on the novel of Cirilo Villaverde.
Short summary of Cuban music history:
Unfortunately, there are almost no testimonies of the first inhabitants' music, before European people came to Cuba at the beginning of the XVIth century. At this time, European music was mostly religious.
When colonists decided to take western African people to Cuba to force them into slavery, African music began to play an important role in Cuban music history.
At the end of the XVIIIth century, French people from Saint-Domingue had to escape from slaves rebellions. They went to Cuba with some of their servants, and brought the French contredanse, the cinquillo (which came from African people), and other baroque dances such as the menuet.
During the XIXth century, classical music started to be played in public concerts. A new musical form, the cancion cubana, is used by composers such as Ignacio Servantes, and we can say that Ojos brujos fit with this type of music.
Some citations from Léo Brouwer:
About guitar playing:
"Pujol's school was the last of the gut-stringed instrument. The contemporary guitar - the Fleta and Gilbert - with nylon strings and a huge sound, is like the Steinway or Bösendorfer pianos. Technique should change for these instruments.”
“I applied technique from the Renaissance instruments. This led me to the possibility of new right hand positions. I took different articulations of the left hand from the cello, which I played a little bit. And I took some tricks from flamenco; I was in love with flamenco when I was a kid.”
About tradition and progress in music:
“How to rediscover the roots through the abstract and the avant garde? That is a true problem and a fascinating question for many reasons. Without knowing it, I was gradually going into the avant garde as a natural language. It was a broken language but I was naturally involved with it. I received a great stimulus when I was in Poland in 1961 for Warsaw Autumn, an avant garde festival. It was a great exposition. I remember Sylvano Bussotti, and the premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's famous Threnody in Memory of the Victims of Hiroshima. The older generation was also represented: Karol Szymanowski and the great Jewish composer Ernest Bloch. It was a kind of panorama from which I took the latest elements, like Cage and Berio. I brought back the scores of my new friends - Penderecki, Tadeusz Baird, and Bussotti - and held a conference in Cuba. People here were fascinated, and it was organically "in”.”
“LB: This is very important: you can analyze history through the concomitance, through the theory of harmonics. You mean that music evolves historically through the use of intervals?
LB: Yes. I think, as a crazy theory of my own, that history develops out of sound itself: the discovery and development of sound. In medieval times, only incomplete chords were used, just the octave and fifth. The Renaissance introduced the third, major and minor. Then came Baroque and the seventh. Then a bit more development brought the augmented eleventh, the whole tone scale, Debussy and Impressionism, and so on. Then came the high overtones and microtones. I believe this theory, and it helps to understand my own music. Eternal Spiral is a compendium of the last elements. And in this way I orchestrate.”
About national features in music:
“But there is a crazy idea in ideology - you know, ideology is not only in politics, it is also in art - that this international world of ideas, of universal elements, is in contradiction with the national roots that represent our culture. This is not true. This is an inner contradiction of ideas, because the universal and the particular are never separated. This is not understood by people who aren't involved with art.”
“Africans came here as slaves. They preserved tradition; they didn't develop tradition because they were so far from the source. They had to preserve it as an historical background, a foundation. Today, Africans come to Cuba to discover this. In Africa evolution continues, but not in Cuba.”
“To be specific, the problem with a bureaucracy is that there's a contradiction between the man of action and the man of thought. This has existed since the Romans. When the Roman emperors pushed out the philosophers, Roman decadence followed. This is history; it happens all over. Bureaucracy is a way of dealing with power. What is a bureaucrat? He is nothing but a caricature of a man of power. He doesn't trust a man of ideas, and there is a divorce between them. This dichotomy has to be solved somewhere and somehow, dealing with love.”
About Cuba’s government:
“Efficiency is very difficult to improve in a state so democratic as ours. Our socialism is so democratic that the man who is doing wrong things is not out. He stays in until he has created so many disasters that it becomes obvious. This is unbelievable but true.”
“When I talk about Cuba, I never think of the president of our country. I think of José Martí one of the great poets of the XIXth century. I think about the painter Carrero Moreno or Alejo Carpentier, a great writer who, along with Luis Aragon is part of the surrealistic movement in Paris.”