Sonidos de las Américas: Cuba

photo credit: Marc GellerMarch 2-March 14, 1999

Sonidos de las Américas: Cuba was the American Composers Orchestra’s sixth annual festival of Latin American concert music at Carnegie Hall and other venues around New York City. From March 6 – March 14, 1999 a delegation of more than a dozen Cuban composers and performers joined their U.S. counterparts in chamber music and orchestral concerts, symposia, master classes, professional meetings, and “composer-to-composer” sessions.

Presented by the American Composers Orchestra in cooperation with Carnegie Hall, the five previous Sonidos de las Américas festivals (devoted to Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Argentina) introduced U.S. audiences to over 150 Latin American works in more than forty concerts. Over ninety composers and performers from Latin America have traveled to New York for the Festivals. Concerts have been recorded for radio broadcast throughout the United States and Latin America.

Sonidos de las Américas was conceived by ACO Music Director Dennis Russell Davies and composer/conductor Tania León and was developed in response to the increasing importance of Latin America in the life of the United States and the need for U.S. orchestras and ensembles to broaden their repertoire. The countries of Latin America have produced an abundant and rich body of music, which like the music of U.S. composers, is infrequently performed on concert programs in the United States.

Davies says, “We have the same convictions and aims for this repertoire as we did with the music of the United States – namely that it is of the highest quality and deserving of a showcase and widespread recognition. With the importance of Latin America and its people in the life of the United States and New York in particular, we felt it especially appropriate and timely to explore this repertoire.” Tania León adds, “From the 1930’s through the 1970’s, there was an active and fertile exchange between composers in Latin America and the United States. Over 100 Latin American works received their world premieres in the United States during this period. We feel it is essential to re-open these channels which in past decades have introduced the works of dozens of Latin American composers, enriching our audiences and composers alike.” “We hope that our advocacy of American composers on both continents can help re- open the bridge built by the work of Copland and Chavez and can be an important link in a chain of understanding connecting the people of the Americas,” says Davies.

The festival has garnered international media coverage and overwhelmingly positive testimonials from all Festival participants and thus has effectively re-opened cultural ties between the Americas. During Sonidos de las Américas: México, President Clinton and former Mexican President Salinas de Gortari both recognized the event as fostering understanding and communication between the people of the Americas.

“The Sonidos project is performing a vital service…Composers no longer pay heed to central stylistic communiqués, and separate traditions have evolved in every corner of the globe. Since Latin America is the scene of some of the most vital and independent new activity, listeners should stay closely tuned to Sonidos in the next few years.”

—Alex Ross, The New York Times

Festival Events

Carnegie Hall Orchestral Concert:

An orchestral concert by the ACO in Carnegie Hall, the world’s most distinguished concert hall, was the culminating event of the Festival on March 14, 1999. Four major Cuban orchestral works were performed under the baton of ACO Music Director Dennis Russell Davies. A symposium in Carnegie Hall preceded the concert will feature the Cuban delegates.

Chamber Music Performances

Four Chamber music concerts were produced in the week preceding the orchestral concert. Three performances took place in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, and other venues including performances presented in neighborhood settings in partnership with Latino cultural and community organizations. Performers included a combination of virtuosos from the ACO and Cuba’s top instrumentalists.

Composer-to-Composer Forums

Five sessions were provided for professional exchange between the Cuban composer delegation and their American counterparts, addressing career, musical and aesthetic issues.Argentine Composer-to-Composer Session

Master Classes

Members of the Cuban delegation led master classes for composition students of major conservatories and music schools in the tri-state area, including Yale, Princeton, and Rutgers Universities, The Juilliard School and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Participating colleges presented performances of works by students to be heard by the visiting delegation.

Public Symposia

Two public symposia were scheduled, providing a historical survey of Cuban concert music and addressing the question of national identity, international influences and music. Symposia were offered free of charge in partnership with participating educational and cultural institutions.

Pre-concert Discussions

In connection with each performance, pre-concert discussions were held featuring the Cuban composers. These informal talks promoted interaction between the composers and audiences and provided insight into the creative process.

Professional Meetings

Cuban delegates were introduced to a variety of U.S. composer-based professional organizations such as ASCAP, BMI and the American Music Center. In past festivals delegates have also been given the opportunity to meet with representatives of other New York performing organizations such as the New York Philharmonic’s Music Director, Kurt Masur.

Radio Broadcasts

Festival performances were recorded live for broadcast on the National Public Radio network in the Fall of 1999 to provide continuing nationwide exposure to Festival programs.

Submission Guidelines for Composers
[PAST SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Please check back for information on the next Sonidos de las Américas program.]

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is now making preparations for Sonidos de las Américas: Cuba, a festival of Cuban concert music to take place at Carnegie Hall and other venues around New York City, March 6 to March 14 of 1999. Up to twelve Cuban composers and several performers will be invited to participate. The festival will include concerts of chamber music and orchestral music; master classes in regional universities and conservatories; as well as also symposia and conferences with a delegation of composers and artists from the United States. The ACO will pay travel, lodging and meals for those composers selected to participate.

The five previous Sonidos de las Américas festivals (dedicated to Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Argentina) have presented more than 190 Latin American works in forty public concerts and more than 90 composers and musicians have traveled to New York for these festivals. Concerts have been recorded for the National Public Radio in for broadcast in the United States and Latin America.

During the festival up to thirty musical works will be performed. Emphasis will be on living contemporary composers, representing a diversity of regions, styles and aesthetic. pieces. Composers interested in submitting their music for consideration should sumbit materials according to the following guidelines:

  • Composers should submit scores and recordings of up to two works for orchestra and two works for chamber ensemble. Send scores only, do not send parts. Scores must be professional, bound, clean and readable. Generally, preference will be given to that have not been performed in the United States or in New York.
  • Recordings may be audio cassette, compact disc (CD), or digital audio tape (DAT). When submitting cassettes, be sure to record only one piece on each side of the tape. Clearly indicate the composer’s name and title of the piece on the recording.
  • Works for orchestra should not exceed ACO’s standard complement of: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons; 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba; 1 harp; 1 piano; timpani, and 4 percussionists. Electronic tape and limited use of live electronics is also permitted.
  • No more than one of the orchestral works submitted should be for soloist with orchestra.
  • Chamber works may be for 1 to 11 musicians. These works may include soloist and/or electronic tape or instruments.
  • Composers should send a complete and up-to-date list of works that includes titles, instrumentation,and duration of pieces. Also include complete performance history for those works being submitted.
  • Composers should submit a biography or curriculum vitae indicating date and place of birth, studies, recent performances, professional awards and affiliations. If possible, biographes should be provided in both English and Spanish.
  • Composers must submit a cover sheet indicating all necessary contact information, including title, name, address, work and home telephone numbers, fax number and electronic mail address.
  • ACO cannot be responsible for the loss of any materials submitted. After consideration, all materials will be forwarded to the library of the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University. Any composer who wishes his/her material returned must send a self-addressed stamped envelope.
  • All materials must be received by ACO no later than July 1, 1998.

Send all submission materials directly to:

American Composers Orchestra
1775 Broadway, Suite 525
New York, New York 10019 USA
Tel. 212/ 977-8495 Fax 212/ 977-8995

Selected Testimonials and Press

“The American Composers Orchestra, by providing exposure for performers across the Americas, is helping to foster deeper understanding and communication among all our peoples. ‘Sonidos de las Américas’ can stand as a model for future projects in which our common love of artistic expression serves to bring our citizens closer together. I commend all who have worked for the success of this important project.”

—Bill Clinton, President, United States of America

“Sonidos de las Américas: México has been, without doubt, the most important musical event on the American continent in a long time. It signifies a new communication and dialogue between the United States and the Latin American countries. It is for this reason the door is open toward a continental culture of rich plurality.”

—Manuel De Elías, Mexican composer delegate

“The opportunity to exchange ideas with composers from other countries is one which is invaluable, not to mention essential to the vitality and relevance to the orchestral music in contemporary society. Naturally, a new understanding of the music resulted. And with new understanding comes a renewed vision of who the composer is in the process of composing, performing, and hearing music. The American Composers Orchestra has always been a leader in the field, and the Sonidos Festival is another example of why the ACO enjoys its reputation.”

—Libby Larsen, U.S. composer delegate

“The Festival was an event of the utmost importance for Brazilian culture. I believe that the Festival assumes historical significance due to the fact that the selected repertoire included some thirty of the most representative works of Brazil’s musical production in the last 50 years.”

—Edino Krieger, Brazilian composer delegate

“The Sonidos project is performing a vital service….Composers no longer pay heed to central stylistic communiqués, and separate traditions have evolved in every corner of the globe. Since Latin America is the scene of some of the most vital and independent new activity, listeners should stay closely tuned to ‘Sonidos’ in the next few years.”

—Alex Ross, The New York Times

“…the concert by Venezuela’s Ensamble Gurrufio was one of the highlights of the Center’s inaugural season. This speaks to the curatorial approach to programming and vision of those at the ACO who have been quick to recognize the value of the music being composed and performed in countries south of our border and shores. The Festival’s music would not have reached our audiences had it not been for the ACO’s interest in our Center and the community we serve.”

—Wallace Edgecombe, Director, Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture

“I believe that the Festival was surely the most important thing organized in the last 20 years to promote Brazilian contemporary music. I am sure that this event will change the relations between the musicians of Brazil and the USA in the near future.”

—Marlos Nobre, Brazilian composer delegate

“One rather doubts that any of the New York season’s upcoming orchestra concerts stands a chance of topping the sense of wonder, the excitement of discovery, and the shake-your-bootie, party-down attitude of the ACO’s [Brazilian] survey. Dennis Russell Davies, the ACO’s maestro, was in his glory. This conductor rocks.”

—Michael Redmond, The Star-Ledger

“The present variety of Mexican music should be some safeguard against stereotyping, and this festival—which included, besides the public concerts, master classes and meetings between Mexican and U.S. composers—rightly pointed us away from regarding Mexico as a colorful somewhere else. As Sonidos de las Américas moves on toward Venezuela in December, the presence of Mexican music here must remain.”	

—Paul Griffiths, The New Yorker magazine

I would like to commend the work that the American Composers Orchestra did in getting both Mexicans and Americans involved in the extraordinary process of composing, performing, and hearing music from Mexico. Thank you again for Sonidos de las Américas: México, and for its important and creative spirit that enriches cultural exchange and understanding between our two great nations.”

—Ambassador Fausto Zapata, Consul General of Mexico

“It is the most significant interchange in artistic matters between North and South America. These types of experiences are very rewarding, stimulating for the creative process of the creators of today since New York is such a worldly arts center.”	

—Beatriz Bilbao, Venezuelan composer delegate

“One cannot underestimate the significance of such encounters which provide a unique opportunity to reassess the meanings attached to one’s own creative activities in a broad context. I cannot think of a more conducive avenue of goodwill and mutual understanding than the opportunities provided by the Festival.”

—Gerard Béhague, Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology and Editor, Latin American Music Review, University of Texas

“Your festival, based upon the idea of performing the best concert music from different Latin American countries, is an exceptionally creative and generous form of participation in the development of cultural identity. The mere fact of having our recent musical production screened, analyzed against its own historic background, and the subsequent fact of having a selection of works made by outstanding North American musicians and composers, doesn’t only establish a balance sheet of the recent past, it creates a new starting point, spurring the activity of composing and producing new musical events in our countries.”

—Paul Desenne, Venezuelan composer delegate

“The American Composers Orchestra’ s festival is easily the most significant effort here since the 1960’s in filling the gaps in our musical commerce with Latin America.”

—Todd Vunderink, Director, Peer-Southern Concert Music

Sonidos Festival Support & Leadership

Recent Funders

Previous Sonidos de las Américas festivals have been supported by a consortium of corporate, foundation, government and private support that included AT&T, NYNEX, Bancomer, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., the United States Information Agency, the U.S.–Mexico Fund for Culture, The Rockefeller Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, Bacardi-Martini, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the Emma A. Sheafer Charitable Trust, and the New York State Council on the Arts, and the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program. A similar consortium is being developed to support Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina.

Community Partners & Leadership Committee

The success of Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina hinges on the active involvement of community, business and cultural leaders. In order to create an effective network of support, the ACO has established the Sonidos Leadership Committee, a volunteer group, which will work with the ACO and its staff in coordinating key aspects of the Festival. Among the activities the group will be responsible for are marketing and outreach, community relations, special event planning and coordination, sponsorship and securing other sources of financial support.

For More Information Contact:

Michael Geller, Executive Director
American Composers Orchestra
240 W. 35th St., Suite 405
New York, NY 10001

Telephone: 212-977-8495 • Fax: 212-977-8995