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Combining Cultures Through Music

Introduction

My name is José Guillermo Puello. I grew up in the Dominican Republic where I went to a French school. When I finished school I came to the UK to study music at university. I recently graduated with a PhD in Composition from the University of Manchester. My research focused on the integration of Dominican music and culture with European contemporary concert music. My thesis consisted of seven original pieces of music, including works for orchestra, for small chamber ensemble, duets and trios. I decided to pursue this area because I wanted my music to reflect my background. As the research progressed, I became interested in how the audience perceived the music and how I could integrate extra-musical elements into my music.

When I started my undergraduate degree, I never thought I was going to do a Master’s degree, let alone a PhD. It was towards the end of my second year that I started to integrate Dominican dance music (i.e. merengue) into my compositions. I continued to develop this throughout my third year and my Master’s. As a result, my style became clearer and my Masters supervisor suggested that I do the doctorate. These past four years doing the PhD provided the opportunity to better define what I want my music to be.

In depth

My doctoral research focused on integrating Dominican cultural elements into my music, building strong musical structures and developing my rhythmic language. To this effect, I researched the music of other Latin American composers, such as Astor Piazzolla, Amadeo Roldán, Tania León, Julio Alberto Hernandez, Alberto Ginastera and Leo Brouwer, to evaluate how they incorporated Latin American elements into their music. I also researched the music of other composers, such as Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Debussy, Bartók, Berio and Ligeti, to understand how other composers dealt with rhythm, folk music and the articulation of musical structures.

The act of composing is not just writing notes on the page but also of listening, studying and problem-solving. I don’t think I know of any composer that just sits down to write the music in their head. I always compare composing to an architect designing a building. It very often starts with a concept/idea that the composer/architect tries to realise using the techniques they have developed and borrowing/adapting the ideas and techniques of others.

During my PhD, my research into Dominican culture mainly influenced the concept of the piece that I was composing. For example, I wrote an orchestral piece based on a religious ritual and another based on a Dominican poem. As I read about the Dominican Republic and its history I realised that the fusion I was creating in my music could be compared to the melting pot of cultures that shaped Dominican history. The music, whilst taking inspiration in Dominican music, is closer in style to the music of European composers (i.e. contemporary classical music) than to merengue or salsa songs.

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a composer is writing for and collaborating with other talented musicians. I have been fortunate enough to have my music performed by a number of professional and amateur ensembles, including Manchester Camerata, Psappha, The Fourth Wall Ensemble and Quatuor Danel, in the UK, Europe, Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, each new piece brings its own challenges, which provides the opportunity to keep learning and to keep imagining new musical possibilities.

Going further

If you would like to know more about the University of Manchester Music Department and the very active Manchester University Music Society, you can visit the following websites:

- http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/music/

-  http://www.mumusicsociety.co.uk

You can visit my website: www.joseguillermopuello.com or listen to my music on soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/jgpuello  

Below are some links to pieces that I have listened to and studied as part of my PhD.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

The video has a five-minute introduction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq1q6u3mLSM

Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTPec8z5vdY

Ligeti’s Trio for Violin, French Horn and Piano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQTNEx4P3qU

Juan Luis Guerra Todo tiene su hora (merengue song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4s_5gfCNhY

Berio’s Sequenza III (for voice)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGovCafPQAE

Birtwistle’s Ritual Fragment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAIKZiXPDRA

Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4qdJHatNM

Debussy’s La mer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlR9rDJMEiQ

Varèse’s Ionisation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wClwaBuFOJA

Brouwer’s El decameron negro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbcW8X73MBI

 

Humanity and Nature in 21st Century Chilean Cinema

by YPU Admin on August 20, 2015, Comments. Tags: Chile, cinema, culture, Humanities, humanity, languages, Latin America, media, nature, Research, and spanish

Introduction

My name is Nicola and I’m currently in the second year of an AHRC-funded PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies. My A-levels were in Spanish, French, History and Mathematics and in 2006 I went on to study Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge in Scotland.

 As part of my first degree, I spent a year living and working as a translator in the city of Valparaíso in central Chile. After continuing at Cambridge to complete a Masters degree in Latin American Studies (specialising in Film and Visual Arts), I then moved to Manchester in 2011 where I trained and worked as a secondary school Spanish teacher.

In 2013, I began my PhD in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester. My research explores how films influence and reflect the relationship between humanity and nature in the 21st century, with a particular focus on the representation of natural landscapes in contemporary Chilean cinema.

In Depth

Just over half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this figure is expected to increase to around two-thirds by 2050. When so many people live in urban environments, what does this mean for how we encounter and experience nature in the 21st century?

For many of us, the film and television screen is an important point of contact with the natural world. We watch nature documentaries, travel programmes, adventure films and cartoon animals, through which we encounter places, habitats and landscapes that we never experience in real life. The vision of nature that we see on-screen doesn’t simply reflect our relationship to nature; it also shapes it.

My research looks at films produced in Chile, a country with one of the most diverse and fascinating natural landscapes in the world. From north to south, Chile is the longest country in the world, stretching from the world’s driest desert in the north, through fertile agricultural valleys, chains of volcanoes and ancient forests, to the frozen expanses of Antarctica in the South. This huge natural diversity and geographical variety is reflected in its contemporary cinema, which makes it an interesting and important body of films for those of us interested in cinema and the natural environment.

The central argument of my thesis is that analyses of cinematic landscapes can no longer be confined to the landscape’s role as a symbol of national identity or an allegory of some aspect of national history. Instead, natural spaces can be more usefully discussed as “postnational landscapes”, which are marked by personal, local and global forces as much as by national cultures.

By expanding and refining approaches to landscape and nature in contemporary cinema, my research contributes to a growing academic interest in how culture influences our attitudes towards nature and how this impacts on the future of humanity’s relationship with the planet.

Going Further

For updates about my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @nicolarunciman

To watch new films by Chilean directors online, visit: http://www.cinepata.com/

For English language reviews and articles on South American cinema, music and art: http://www.soundsandcolours.com/

To find out what we’re up to in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, visit our blog: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/splas/