(10 Years Ago)
Any review or comment about Chilean art music necessarily mentions composer Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt. This is not the case for his electronic and electroacoustic music, which seemed to be somewhat hidden or overlooked (until the uploading of his «Obra electroacústica» in 2008 by Pueblo Nuevo Netlabel), far from those who have wanted to approach this Becerra realm, where time seems to be standing still. These pieces -the ones played by machines- create a strange, disturbing sound space. Here, silence makes sound disappear, mingling with it, making it mutate. As if muted by a black hole, generating a gravity field absorbing everything around, but, because of this very quality, densifying it, making it murmur.
The release of almost all electronic works by Becerra (including mixed media, electronic, and electroacoustic pieces,) is an important and extremely necessary gesture for Chile, where the commitment for recovering immaterial heritage easily falls into oblivion. Through these works, the fortunate use of technologies around in the 70s, the 80s, and years to come, Becerra seemed to grasp the turn this kind of work would offer to compositional inventiveness as a whole: synthesizers, all kinds of artifacts and computers were used by him to generate other sounds, other forms and structures, other rhythms, weird harmonies.
As expressed by musical environment around him (in no way restricted to scores, for folklore, popular music and pieces for theater and movies were also part of his surroundings), Becerra has left a fundamental legacy, not just as a composer -being this an enormous opus. Cirilo Vila, Gabriel Brncic, and Fernando García -among many outstanding musicians in Chilean scene- were his students, which eloquently proves Becerra’s panache for teaching, even though for him the concepts of «talent» and «teaching» music (confusing matters these two), were profoundly questioned in two acclaimed papers of his: «El mito del talento en música» (1969) and «Crisis de la enseñanza de la composición en occidente» (1958-1959). In the latter, Becerra accounts for a disease that, through the years, seems to have spread out to a fair amount of composers’ brains: «Never as today there is a tiresome insistence in writing music according to a theory, i. e., to a set of mostly intellectual hypotheses. This has taken, as we said, not only to a distance between the composer and the audience, but also between himself and his work.
Juan Pablo Abalo
Compositor. Crítico musical / Composer. Music critic.
(Santiago, Chile. Julio / July 2010)