Page 79

He is currently working on book manuscripts titled Music in Mexican Catholicism (under contract) and ARTSWAYS: Saving Public Arts Education in America.

ABOUT THE MUSIC The most recent edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians – the major English-language, classical-music reference work -- allots less than a page to Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940). It’s a safe prediction that future editions will find a lot more to say about him – not only because American audiences and musicians are belatedly getting better acquainted with Revueltas, but because of changing aesthetic fashions: Revueltas is no longer eclipsed by his Mexican contemporary Carlos Chavez, who was part of a modernist community (also including Aaron Copland) into which Revueltas did not fit. Revueltas blazed a short and disordered path. A product of rural Mexico, he was educated in Mexico and Chicago, and early in his career played the violin and conducted in Texas and Alabama. Chavez recalled him to Mexico City to be assistant conductor of the National Symphony (1929-35). In spirit, he resembles the Mexican muralists of the same seminal generation (his brother Fermin was himself a muralist of consequence). Seized by creative demons, he could compose for days without food or sleep. He travelled to Spain to take part in an antifascist Congress during the Spanish Civil War. He died young, weakened by drink, depressed and disillusioned by Franco’s victory in Spain and by the failure of the Mexican Revolution to radically redistribute wealth and power. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz summarized: Silvestre, like all real people, was a battlefield. Inside Silvestre lived numerous interlocutors, many passions, many capacities, weaknesses as well as refinement. . . . This wealth of possibilities, divinations, and impulses give his [music] the sound of a primal chord, like the first light that escapes a world in formation. It is significant that unlike Copland or Chavez, Revueltas was not seduced by Paris, from which city he once wrote to his wife: “I’d love to perform [my music] here, simply to see the expressions of disgust in their faces. It would be as if something obscene, or tasteless, or vulgar had been uttered.” The “objectification of sentiment” Copland found kindred in Chavez has no equivalent in Revueltas. REDES Redes (1935) was the first of 10 Mexican films Revueltas scored. It was co-directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel and an Austrian émigré: Fred Zinnemann, later the Hollywood director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and A Man for all Seasons. The cinematographer was an American: Paul Strand, called by Susan

“Redes” refers to fishing nets. (In the United States the film was released as The Wave). The story of this 60-minute film is of poor fishermen victimized by monopoly control of their market. It argues for organized resistance as a necessary means of political reform. Redes has a tangled background. Strand had come to Mexico in 1933, attracted by the revolutionary government and its reformist program. Like Copland the year before, he had been invited by the composer Carlos Chávez. With Chávez, Strand conceived what became Redes and engaged Zinnemann. But in 1934 a new government (under Lázaro Cárdenas) came to power. Chávez was replaced as Director of Fine Arts by Antonio Castro Leal. Leal reassigned the music of the proposed film to Revueltas. This bumpy history may partly account for other discontinuities. Redes sits uneasily between two genres: fiction film and documentary. Most of the actors are non-professionals. Long stretches eschew dialogue. Curiously, the spoken word is almost never backscored – the music speaks when the actors don’t, and vice versa. And yet the contributions of Strand and Revueltas are indelible – and indelibly conjoined. Visually, Redes is a poem of stark light and shadow, of clouds and sea, palm fronds and thatched huts, with Strand’s camera often tipped toward the abstract sky. Metaphor abounds: a rope is likened to a fisherman’s muscled arm. Pregnant, polyvalent, the imagery invites interpretation equally poetic: music. The influence of Redes on American cinema is ponderable. The three classic American film documentaries produced by the politics or the thirties are The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938), both scored by Virgil Thomson, and The City (1939), scored by Aaron Copland. Paul Strand was a cinematographer for The Plow, and Copland was a known admirer of Revueltas. In a 1937 article for The New York Times, he hailed its American premiere as follows: Revueltas is the type of inspired composer in the sense that Schubert was the inspired composer. That is to say, his music is a spontaneous outpouring, a strong expression of his inner emotions. There is nothing premeditated . . . about him.When seized with the creative urge, he has been known to spend days on end without food or sleep until the piece was finished. He writes his music at a table in the manner of the older musicians, and quite unlike the musical procedure of the modern composer, who, because he uses complex harmonics and rhythms, is as a rule forced to seek the help of the piano. I mention this as an instance of Revueltas’s extraordinary musicality and naturalness. The Plow that Broke the Plains and The City, documentaries with narration but no dialogue, are purer and more finished films than Redes. And (whether fortuitously or consciously) their ingenious scores, with lean “black and white” timbre and sonority, are better suited to 1930s monaural reproduction than are the sonic heights and emotional depths of the Redes soundtrack. Its music vividly “restored” in live performance, Redes will for many viewers doubtless surpass in impact its more famous North American progeny. - Joseph Horowitz

2019 Summer Institute & Festival

79

ORCHESTRA

Sontag “the biggest, widest, most commanding talent in the history of American photography.”

JULY 13

received tenure and served for twelve years on the musicology faculty. More recently, he served as an Associate Provost at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)–a Hispanic Serving Institution of 25,000 students that earned national distinction for its bold and inspiring mission of “access and excellence” in an under-resourced community along the U.S.-Mexico border. A recipient of the prestigious Robert M. Stevenson Prize for outstanding scholarship on the music of Spain and Mexico, Candelaria is an award-winning author, teacher, and widelyengaged speaker on topics ranging from plainchant to mariachi music to arts education and the 21st-century demographic.

Profile for Brevard Music Center

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...