Cuban avantgarde – a short introduction

Música concreta concert, 1964Grupo de experimentación sonora del ICAICMúsica Electroacústica (Time) - Jóvenes Compositores Cubanos, LP, 1987Juan Marcos Blanco

Conductor Manuel Duchesne Cuzán and composers Juan Marcos Blanco, Leo Brouver and Carlos Fariñas were the main members of the Vanguardia Musical of the Sixties that introduced contemporary music in Cuba. Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier was also instrumental, bringing a copy of a Pierre Schaeffer book from a trip to France in 1959.

Most avantgarde Cuban composers also worked for the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos), the state-owned film society who controled film releases and festivals. The ICAIC was one of the first official institutions created after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, with Fidel Castro as Prime Minister. Leo Brouwer (born 1939) founded the ICAIC’s music department in 1960 and the Grupo de experimentación sonora del ICAIC in 1968, a workshop/studio where Brouwer himself and other composers recorded film and documentary soundtracks. The renaissance of Cuban folk song with progressive elements, the so-called Nueva Trova, also emerged from the Grupo de experimentación in the late 1960s. Electroacoustic music pioneer Juan Marcos Blanco (1919-2008) was aslo a key figure of the Cuban electronic scene and played his electroacoustic compositions during unofficial performances as early as 1964 (see Neil Leonard). A Música concreta concert performance occured in 1964 in La Habana, as pictured above.

The first Cuban electroacoustic LPs were released in La Habana around 1980 by state-run company EGREM (Empresa De Grabaciones Y Ediciones Musicales). EGREM merged several Cuban record companies, including Areito. In addition to Blanco’s solo releases, EGREM released several compilation LPs by composers working at the Estudio Electroacústico, such as Música Electroacústica in 1984, with works by Juan Piñera y Edesio Alejandro, Julio Roloff, Juan Marcos Blanco (posted here and highly recommended). Various Cuban avantgarde pressings are scheduled on this blog in the following days/weeks.

Information from:
Neil Leonard Juan Blanco, Pioneer of New Music, 1994 >
The National Laboratory of Electroacoustic Music (LNME) website >
UNESCO Knowledge Portal >

EGREM selected discography:

  • LD 3809 = Juan Blanco st LP [1979 or 1980]
  • LD 3818 = Leo Brouwer “Concerti for Violin and Flute”, LP, [1980 or 1981]
  • LD 3876 = Leo Brouwer “De Bach a Los Beatles” LP (1981)
  • LD 4146 = Leo Brouwer “Sonata para cello solo et al.” LP, [year?]
  • LD 4189 = Leo Brouwer, gtr: Brouwer/Farinas/Ardevol/Ponce/Villa-Lobos, LP, [year?]
  • LD 4211 = Juan Blanco “Música Electroacústica” LP, 1984?
  • LD 4222 = Various “Música Electroacústica” LP, 1984
  • LD 4230 = Carlos Fariñas “Aguas Territoriales/Música Electroacustica” LP, 1984
  • LD 4231 = Leo Brouwer “Piano Sonata/Ardevol” LP, 1984
  • LD XXXX = Juan Marcos Blanco “Caballos Música Electroacustica” LP, 1984
  • LD 4411 = Various “Música Electroacústica (Time) – Jóvenes Compositores Cubanos” LP, 1987
  • LD 4442 = Juan Blanco “Suite Erotica/Suite De Los Niños” LP, 1987
  • LD 4666 = Miguel Villafruela “Música Electroacustica para saxofón y tape” CD, 1993
  • LD XXXX = Juan Blanco “Música por Computadores”, [year?]
  • LD XXXX = Juan Blanco y Edesio Alejandro “Tecnotrònicas”, [year?]

* *

Juan Blanco, the LNME and the eletroacustic music in Cuba

6 Responses to “Cuban avantgarde – a short introduction”

  1. 1 Joaquín Mendoza Sebastián February 1, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Great! I’ll wait for the LPs. Here’s the link to the site of the cuban sound artist Amarilys Quintero, she’s great!


  2. 2 continuo February 1, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for the link, Joaquín.

  3. 3 ethnoscelsi February 1, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Thank you so much for this information, and for the link to the album with a Juan Blanco piece.

    I’ve been looking for his music ever since I was deeply moved by a piece of his published on a Computer Music Journal CD.

  4. 4 continuo February 1, 2011 at 9:48 am

    I discovered Juan Blanco’s music only last year and I immediately fell in love with his music. His first LP is due later this week on the blog.

  5. 5 Stephen Maki March 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    thank you so much for posting the Leo Brouwer, Carlos Farinas lp. I would happily hear the other recordings listed above. Where can they be found?


  6. 6 continuo March 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    The only one available on another blog (the Música Electroacústica compilation) is linked to in the post itself. 3 others were posted on Continuo’s and there’s a batch of 3 additional Cuban LPs scheduled in the following month. Cuban avantgarde LPs are extremely hard to come by.

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