for harp

Program Notes

This set of four pieces was inspired by the work of Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002), Mexico’s greatest photographer of the 20th Century. Not just a regional or even national figure, he was one of the most important and influential artists in the history of the medium. He worked in virtually every genre, including portraiture, landscape and nature, abstract, anthropological, and historical/social. Keenly aware of his times and surroundings, he was one of the most important chroniclers of the turbulent Mexico of the 20th Century. Many of his works have political overtones, sometimes overt, sometimes subtle.

Some years ago my wife and I attended an extensive retrospective of his work at the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, and I thought at the time that I would like to base a piece on his work someday. I have chosen four of his images as inspirations for these movements. There is no connection among them, other than their authorship, and no narrative thread; I have simply chosen four photos that speak to me, albeit in very different ways. Bravismos is a word I coined, with a little advice from my friend, Mexican singer and scholar of Latin-American literature, Nelda Nelson.

Bravismos was written at the request of Carol McClure, my colleague at the University of Louisville School of Music. It was composed while I was in London on sabbatical in the fall of 2009.

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