Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida born March 1, is a Cuban composer , conductor , and classical guitarist. He is the grandson of Cuban composer Ernestina Lecuona y Casado. Brouwer was born in Havana. When he was 13, he began classical guitar with the encouragement of his father, who was an amateur guitarist. At age 17 he performed publicly for the first time and began composing. Brouwer went to the United States to study music at the Hartt College of Music of the University of Hartford , and later at the Juilliard School ,  where he studied under Vincent Persichetti and took composition classes with Stefan Wolpe.
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It is not allowed to use the work for commercial purposes and you may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. Can a composer ar"culate meaning by making a deliberate composi"onal decision?
Even further, can the analyst or musicologist communicate said meaning verbally? It appears as if these ques"ons, which are conspicuously central to the prac"ce of music are oQen disregarded and considered a given. In its place only the syntax of such language is what is generally addressed in most analy"cal cases, leaving seman"cs aside.
Fortunately enough, there has been a growing proclivity—although no"ceably faint—that directly addresses issues of this sort star"ng with the work of eighteenth century music theorists such as Johann Ma3heson, Francesco Galeazzi, and Johann Friedrich Daube , par"cularly with ma3ers related to the "persistent concern with a shadowy linguis"c analogy" Agawu 7 , as ar"culated by the African musicologist and semio"cian KoH Agawu in the introduc"on to his revelatory work Playing with Signs. As Agawu states in the aforemen"oned book, For language to provide a useful model for musical analysis, it must do at least three things: Hrst, it must explain the laws that govern the moment-by-moment succession of events in a piece, that is, the syntax of music.
Second and consequently, it must explain the constraints aNec"ng organiza"on at the highest level-- levels of sentence, paragraph, chapter, and beyond. It must, in other words, provide a framework for understanding the discourse of music. Third, it must demonstrate, rather than merely assume, that music represents a bona Hde system of communica"on, and must then go on to show what is being communicated and how.
Agawu 9. Consequently, the main purpose of this document is to exemplify in a clear and concrete fashion the use of semio"c analysis as outlined by Taras" , and apply it to the analysis of a musical piece.
For such purposes, I have decided to use Leo Brouwer's Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia Cuban Landscape with Rain , wri3en for four guitars in , as an example that serves the aforemen"oned objec"ve well.
Semio"cs, in this case, can be understood as a dynamic and interdisciplinary Held involving a wide array of disciplines like linguis"cs, anthropology, and literary studies that deals with "an increasingly complex apparatus of deHni"ons aimed at distribu"ng all of reality, the conceptual, and the experien"al into various categories of signs" Benveniste quoted in Agawu Consequently, semio"cs serves an enterprise in which the dis"nct categories of signs as understood by Charles Sanders Peirce can be distributed to gain sense of the complexity of the communica"ve process.
Agawu gives a very insighYul descrip"on of said complexity when referring to the iden"ty of a work, and thus, highlights the argument in pro of a media"ng system that will enable to explain it referring in other words to semio"cs : Then, depending on whether we locate it in a certain nota"onal representa"on, or in a speciHc realiza"on, or in an idealiza"on of that realiza"on, or in the interface of a speciHc realiza"on and the listener's idealiza"on, or in the composer's idealized realiza"on - we should go on to develop the appropriate deHni"onal apparatus.
Agawu In a similar manner, the Austrian-Bri"sh philosopher Ludwig Wi3genstein Hnds a similar problema"c when referring to an even more fundamental issue of communica"on: the expression of the understanding of music. This crucial idea is that the understanding of music cannot be explained casually.
Although, if there could be something through which we could express our understanding of music—such as a word we u3er, or a facial expression, or a gesture we make with the hand or head--, these expressions can demonstrate understanding, they say nothing about the essence of the understanding.
Chagas The logical consequence of such a4rma"on is that there appears to exist yet another issue of communica"on, but this "me dealing with the added di4culty of personal experience. Nonetheless, as Chagas enunciates: "For Wi3genstein, the gesture realizes the impossibility of describing what we feel, shows the impossibility of developing a scien"Hc aesthe"c[s] to clarify music from the logical, casual standpoint" Chagas If there is an impossibility of communica"on then how should one proceed?
This also leads into a quasi-existen"al inquiry: is there even a point in a3emp"ng to communicate the impossible? Luckily, Wi3genstein's concep"on of music, as in language, works in a contextual manner. It is then possible to convey musical informa"on, or the inner logic of music, through verbal u3erances if its signiHcance is replicated within a par"cular culture.
If a par"cular musical moment or element has been turned into a sign that through conven"ons of musical tradi"on convey some meaning, in other words, a symbol, in the Peircian sense more of this later ; then communica"on is a3ainable. As Chagas explains, "Music refers to itself, and to the speciHc culture - the speciHc "me and space in which it emerges.
It is along these lines that this case study can be jus"Hed, as it can only be explained to work under a logical, e4cient framework, which on its own is moderated by its contextual correla"ve.
Benveniste adresses it as follows, Taken in itself, the sign is pure iden"ty itself, totally foreign to other signs, the signifying founda"on of language, the material necessity for statement.
It exists when it is recognized as signiHer by all members of a linguis"c community, and when it calls forth for each individual roughly the same associa"ons and opposi"ons. Such is the province and the criterion of semio"cs. This issue was labeled by the American musicologist Charles Seeger, as Taras" paraphrases in his introductory lines, as the main problem of musicology in our "mes.
Taras" argues that there appears to be a communica"on gap in the Held of musicology, which relies on verbal ac"vity as its primal form for conveying informa"on to the "external" world, when a3emp"ng to bring knowledge of the inner logic of music.
Verbal ac"vity is thus, a limi"ng or perhaps foreign tool that does not provide a truthful portrayal of the complexity—some might argue for the simplicity as well—of music.
This premise, of course, works under the assump"on that music and verbal language are mutually exclusive. In addi"on, given the plurality of musical styles present nowadays, and our overall consciousness and knowledge of musical composi"onal processes, there is also a need for a system that reaches beyond the technological and historical areas. This can also be evidenced by the trend that musicology has taken in the past decades that expands into the anthropological realm.
Ergo, the need to design a system that encompasses all these elements and that even enters into the area of signs, and perhaps the idea of universal concepts in music if one adheres to such concept, of course. This idea is be3er explained by using the study of literature if one considers music as a narra"ve art that is as a parallel example: the study of literature will prove to be a fallacious discipline if the exegesis of meaning is excluded from the core analysis.
Subsequently, one could easily argue that this same logic applies to music in which it is not su4cient to only understand syntax but seman"cs as well. Taras" employs concepts developed by several semio"cians including Peirce, Saussure, and Greimas, and adapts them to work under a musical framework. Therefore, I will Hrst give a brief but detailed account of Leo Brouwer's composi"onal output and aesthe"cs, followed by a summarized descrip"on of the semio"c concepts that Taras" uses in the Hrst two chapters of his book.
Simultaneously, I will use Brouwer's Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia as the model to accompany such descrip"ons, and thus, providing the reader with a fair demonstra"on of semio"cs when dealing with musical analysis. Paul Century introduces this emblema"c musician as follows: Leo Brouwer — guitarist, composer, conductor, teacher, and essayist — Hgures prominently among the most ac"ve living Cuban musicians today.
Century In his own words, [aQer] learning the so-called great repertoire, the grand repertoire … I realized that there were a lot of gaps. What a beau"ful thing it would be if Brahms had wri3en a guitar concerto! This was the beginning of composing for me.
Kronenberg Eli Rodriguez. Accordingly, Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia being wri3en in falls into the la3er category. In other words, his music should be perceived in a dialec"cal manner that synthesizes Afro-Cuban aesthe"cs with modern European trends. This becomes evident later during his avant-garde period with composi"ons that make use of aleatoric elements, extended techniques and atonal harmony e.
La Espiral Eterna. In this sense, Afro Cuban music is delivered in a more abstract manner, which propels it into a diNerent direc"on, being more accessible in a global and transcultural connota"on. As we will see, this element of "na"onalis"c" abstrac"on will be conspicuously evident in Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia. In this sense, the piece under scru"ny calls for an in-depth evalua"on of the material in terms of hegemonic versus non-hegemonic cultures that given the main subject of this document, unfortunately, I will not discuss at length.
Taras"'s theory, as he explains, deals primarily with the French semio"cian Algirdas Julien Greimas' genera"ve course, and in a secondary posi"on 1 deals with the American Philosopher Charles Peirce's semio"c theory. However, one has to take into considera"on that Taras"'s achievement does not strictly adhere to these theories: it is best understood as a semio"c muse.
It is also impera"ve to understand that his approach is not as formalist as one would expect, especially when dealing with a system that is based on very rigid procedures as it derives from linguis"cs.
However, this is a deliberate approach as he considers that music will reveal its "true" form by employing a "soQer" method that deals with a hermeneu"cal-philosophical discourse Taras" Accordingly, I will Hrst proceed by describing some of the elements present in Taras"'s theory that derive from Greimas' genera"ve trajectory, and that deal with an analysis that begins at the deeper levels background and makes its way to the surface level foreground.
Coherence Beyond Structure As stated above, Greimas' discourse deals with the deeper levels Hrst, which if translated to musical terms would relate to ma3ers of form and harmonic design. For this reason, Taras"'s begins his theory with the concept of isotopies, which he deHnes as deep achronic structures that hold the piece together. In musical terms, one could relate the concept of isotopie to several elements such as form, musical style, thema"city in the case of narra"ve forms of music, e.
In other words, isotopie basically refers to the principles that ar"culate the coherence of a musical work. Even further, one can talk of mul"ple isotopies, if referring to bitonality or polyrhythmic passages. As well, it is possible to encounter opposing isotopies simultaneously, which given the context may be indica"ve of irony, or of deliberate contradic"on. In other words, an isotopie can be any type of 1 Described by Taras" as a "second theme".
See Eero Taras". A Theory of Musical Semio! One could interpret the concept of isotopies as the elements that provide the context for a work to be understood comprehensively. In the case of Brouwer's Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia, one can iden"fy several isotopies. Firstly, there is a clear sense of form delineated by sec"ons that are dis"nct from each other, and that are fundamentally connected to the narra"vity of the piece.
Following, the atmosphere gets denser and denser, featuring diNerent textures by means of composi"onal techniques such as close imita"on see Hgure 2; rehearsal le3er E , or aggrega"ve pentatonicism see Hgure 3; rehearsal le3er F. Finally, the opening bars from the A sec"on are brought back as a coda, perhaps symbolizing the last moments of what appears to be the end of this Cuban storm.
Figure 2. Figure 4. There are addi"onal isotopies present in the work. For example, one could label the style from which Brouwer is deriving its main elements as an isotopie. Ergo, minimalism appears here as a deep structure that holds the piece together.
One could even argue that this composi"onal style enables the program of the music to unfold: the use of minimal elements provides the composer with a tool that allows him to oNer a truthful portrayal of the program behind the piece.
The sound of rain, could be argued, is more rhythmical than melodical: hence, minimalism emerging as isotopie than enables rhythmic interplay to occur, given that its center is certainly not melodic or harmonic complexity at least not in a Wagnerian sense.
Finally, one encounters the idea of "Cubanness" as an isotopie that provides a deeper insight of the meaning of the piece. However, there is not a direct element that indicates that the piece is conspicuously Cuban. In very general terms, one relates the aesthe"cs of Cuban music with na"onalis"c traits that are always present in tradi"onal music and that derive from the Afro-Cuban tradi"on. Elements such as the rhythmic Hgure of the cinquillo, or melodic Hgura"ons deriving from the montuno come to mind.
Surely, one could argue that there is a fair amount of syncopa"on, which oQen relates to the Afro- Cuban tradi"on, but there is not a clear Hgura"on that hints at the idea of "Cubanness.
This is also supported by the fact there does not seem to be a speciHc func"on adhered to each part. For example, in roman"c music one can comprehensibly dis"nguish the func"on of each line: the upper voice usually carries the melody, there is oQen a middle part that serves as accompaniment, and a bass line that func"ons as the harmonic basis for the development of the piece.
All Guitar, and a Little Comic Relief in Unexpected Places
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