Javier Alvarez, composer

    Javier Álvarez Fuentes is a composer who is known for creating works that combine a variety of international musical styles and traditions that often utilize unusual instruments and new music technologies. According to composer John Adams, "The music of Javier Alvarez reveals influences of popular cultures that go beyond the borders of our own time and place." 
    His music has been performed throughout the world by such ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Mexico City Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France, among others. He also notably composed the music for Guillermo del Toro's acclaimed 1993 horror film Cronos.
    Born in Mexico City in 1956, Álvarez studied clarinet and composition with Mario Lavista before moving to the United States in the early 1980's and subsequently to Great Britain, where he attended the Royal College of Music and the City University in London. His first electroacoustic works date from this time, such as Temazcal (1984) in which Alvarez unexpectedly pits a pair of maracas against a complex electroacoustic backdrop. Mannam (1992) takes its inspiration from the other side of the globe and the ancient Korean zither, kayagum. Winner of a 1993 Prix Ars Electronica distinction, Mannam blends and juxtaposes elements of Korean music with materials and performance techniques drawn from the Mexican folk harp. Offrande (2001), a more recent work, offers an intriguing mix of Caribbean steel pans and electronically processed rhythmic patterns.
    A number of Alvarez's works incorporate elements from Latin American dance genres, like the mambo. In Mambo a la Braque (1991), he creates an electroacoustic collage of musical segments drawn from Cuban mambo composer Dámaso Perez Prado's “Caballo Negro” (Black Horse). On a larger scale, Alvarez's Papalot(1987), for piano and electroacoustic sounds, makes reference to the wider world of dance through its use of complex rhythmic patterns in a carefully synchronized duet between pianist and electroacoustics. The resulting vibrant toccata won its composer the 1987 ICEM Prize in Paris as well as awards from the Bourges International Festival and Austria's Prix Ars Electronica. Amongst his orchestral and concerti output, Geometría Foliada (2003), written as a concerto for the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, reminisces on the vernacular, but assimilates its influences in an evocative self-invented imaginary folklore.
     Álvarez has received numerous prizes and honors including a Mendelssohn Scholarship, the Lionel Robbins Award, a Gemini Fellowship, the ICEM Prize (1987), Austria's Prix Ars Electronica (1993), and awards at the Bourges International Festival. From 1993 to 1999 he was a Fellow of the Mexican Endowment for the Arts and Culture. He was a founding member of Sonic Arts Network and served as the Artistic Director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music in 1993. He has been a member of the music faculties of the City University London, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Malmö Music Academy, the Royal College of Music, and the University of Hertfordshire.
    After 25 years living in England Alvarez returned to Mexico where he became the founding director of the Musical Arts Department of the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán. After serving as Dean of the Conservatorio de Las Rosas in Morelia, Michoacán, he is now living in Mérida, in Yucatan, combining activities as a freelance composer and project animateurund the world.