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Guido López-Gavilán: In my music, you can always hear the Cuban root

Published: 2018.08.15 - 11:40:46  /  /  Olga Díaz Ruiz

Guido López-Gavilán: In my music, you can always hear the Cuban root

The musician, pedagogue, conductor and Cuban composer Guido López-Gavilán (Matanzas, 1944) is convinced that music is unique and, at the same time, has infinite proportions. His perception of the development of Cuban music moves away from pigeonholing and limits to reflect the most genuine of our nationality. Conversing with this artist in all its dimension results in a holistic view of the contemporary sound panorama:

"Cuban music is in an excellent moment of its production. All genres have outstanding exponents and musicians, as well as world-class performers and composers. However, what is heard and disseminated around us and on the street is a sonority without many ethical values. The worst thing is not the rhythm itself, but the lyrics and content that are there to worry about. It is a social phenomenon of the environment, of the world, not only of Cuba; it is often produced in certain social and economic circumstances, which respond to a large extent to the entertainment industry.

"But chamber music in particular and Cuban musical creation enjoy very good health. We have had for generations after generations fabulous composers that are emerging and, in general, are very well valued inside and outside of Cuba."

-Maestro, can we then refer to a Cuban composition school?

"Talking about a Cuban school of composition is complicated because a school presupposes common lines to follow for a time, with common characteristics and similar trainings. In Cuba, I think that fortunately, we have many lines of simultaneous composition, although there are features, such as the expression of nationality, that are very evident in all our composers. From the Christmas carols by Esteban Salas to present time, through Leo Brower, Fariñas, Harold Gramatges, Valera, Piñera ... always, in one way or another, each with their own language, have nationality reflected in their work. There are also common training points such as the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) that unifies criteria, but I consider the concept of a school to be more encompassing than what exists in Cuba today.”

- Precisely including elements of our European and African roots is one of the main keys that distinguish the works and the professional career of maestro López-Gavilán, who won the National Music Award in 2015. To combine chamber, choral or symphonic music with popular harmony is it always a challenge?

"In Cuba, the tradition of pop music is very strong; I think we are one of the countries where that dialogue or union between the so-called concert music and pop music takes place more spontaneously. I think there is a very organic link between all kinds of music in our country. Although they are different languages, there is no dichotomy.

"We are also fortunate that the traditions of that African origin that have given us rhythms such as rumba and that are present even in the son or country music are very alive in Cuba. That is what distinguishes us in the world. In African music, there is an inexhaustible rhythmic richness, as well as the capacity it generates to improvise. In my music you can always listen to our roots, what surrounds us and is part of our life. I have many works that address this subject as “Camerata in Guaguancó."

- In short, the music is infinite ...

"Certainly there's no reason to pigeonhole it. Some people say that music as a concept is one, but at the same time, there are many types of music according to the different purposes for which it is composed. Since it emerged, music has always had a purpose and at every moment, it is renewed.

"Music is infinite because, with the few notes that exist, endless combinations can be made. It is a wonderful process that I am pleased to be part of."

When asked about the keys to his composition, the teacher emphasized the sincerity with which he gives himself to each piece, so that the work flows spontaneously and naturally, preserving the essence and roots of his personality. One of the compositions that best evidences this overlap with the author is “Cuadros de otra exposición.”

“Cuadros de otra exposición" is based on another well-known piece, “Cuadros de una exposición” by Modest Músorgski (1839-1881), and includes elements from works by Cuban creators such as “Interior con columnas” by Amelia Peláez; “Rapto de las mulatas” by Carlos Enríquez; “Gitana tropical” by Víctor Manuel; “La jungle” by Wifredo Lam and the series “Carnavales” by René Portocarrero, which is actually a great pretext to finish the work with a conga. The suite tries to reflect more than being part of those same paintings.

"I love painting; I like to paint when I have free time and really enjoy live paintings. It is one of the arts that most influences and moves me, which already tells you that I have great admiration for our painters. There is also a close link between music and painting: for example in music, terms such as nuances, lights, and shadows are used that are common for both manifestations. In addition, there are sounds that through imagination and the development of reflexes have a certain ability to associate with elements of life and human nature and makes us think of images."

“Cuadros de otra exposición” is one of the works by López-Gavilán that make up the two symphonic music records composed by the maestro and that is in production. This suite, along with nine other pieces recorded with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and the orchestra of the Liceo Mozartiano de La Habana, is the project that occupies most of his time at this moment and that he shares with his habitual responsibilities as pedagogue and director of Música Eterna. However, his family is the important thing in his life.

"The family has grown and multiplied and we always have projects together; if it cannot be done with the whole family, at least with a part of it. It is wonderful. One of the things that I admire most in my children is their ability to play concert music by great composers, and on the other hand improvise, play pop music, approach jazz in different ways, and at the same time project on their own children to give continuity to this family tradition, which I hope will extend for many more years. All of them, even my grandchildren, are already working on the music they have inside."

-For a person who has been a founder of the ISA as a professor of Orchestra Conduct and has remained linked to teaching almost all his lifetime, it is gratifying to have trained great professionals and musicians such as Enrique Pérez Mesa, Iván del Prado, Dayana García, Adriana Sanabria, Daria Abreu and many others who will be important figures of music within a short time. Besides your disciples, what is the best reward for a musician?

"The musician, above all, wants to communicate with his audience and applause is the most direct way to receive recognition, as well as the admiration of the people who stop you on the street to say how much they like the music that I do or that made by my children. It is a beautiful possibility that we artists have."

A great opportunity and a privilege are also to know in depth the generosity of a paradigm of Cuban and international music such as Guido López-Gavilán. A dream maker who has managed to conjure the beauty of Cuban music and tradition inside and outside a concert hall, and achieved it with the great pianist and maestro Teresita Junco (now deceased), with whom he formed one of the most talented national art families. Our station, in the popular space “Al caer la tarde”, offered this wonderful master lecture for lovers of good music.

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