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Like many Latin American composers, folk influences are prominent in my music. For Venezuela, the folkloristic tradition is a result of three intersecting cultures: the Spanish tradition (which is itself a melting pot), the African tradition (brought by slaves), and the aboriginal Indian tradition. The first two—curiously the two foreign cultures—are the most explicitly represented in Venezuela folklore. Spain, as the colonizing power from which we inherited our prevailing language and social structure, brought the European music system, which quickly dominated the evolving musical culture.
These influences were apparent not only in music notation and style in the folk tradition, but also in the instruments that were used to make the music. The guitar and ancestors of the modern harp came from Spain and other parts of Europe. In Venezuela, as in other South American countries, they were adapted to local styles as they began to interact with other traditions. The African influence is evident in Venezuelan folklore not only through a wide variety of percussion instruments and rhythms, but also through a social structure that made music virtually inseparable from ritual and dance. This fusion resulted in a colorful and rich musical language, which one can see in contemporary dances such as the joropo, merengue, samba, cumbia, and salsa.
The rhythms of these and other dances are the salient characteristics of my music, but there are two additional elements as well. The first is counterpoint, a prominent element in Venezuelan folk music of today, which can be heard in Flashbacks. The other influence is an attraction to modes, which in my music shows up as a constant confrontation between dissonance and modality.
from A Sense of Time,
released May 22, 2001
Carnegie Mellon University Wind Ensemble
Efraín Amaya, conductor