Stunning photography of Mexico choreographed by Westwater Arts to Latin American Classics in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Visiones y Música is a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. With music and artwork expressing a variety of unique Hispanic qualities, this is a must-see multi-sensory concert experience. Come join us as we kick start our 2019/2020 concert season with an evening of celebrating diversity in culture and art.
MARQUEZ Danzón No. 2
REVUELTAS La Noche de los Mayas
COPLAND El Salón Mexicano
Nicholas Bardonnay is a photographer, multimedia artist, and the Creative Director & CEO of Westwater Arts.
Founded in 1973, Westwater Arts has created multimedia experiences for more than half a million classical music lovers. To date, over 190 U.S. and international orchestras have programmed their groundbreaking art form: symphonic photochoreography. Westwater Arts' visual repertoire is set to music by Dvořák, Mahler, Copland, Shostakovich and 22 other renowned composers.
Since joining Westwater Arts in 2009, Nicholas has photographed, produced, and performed over a dozen photochoreography pieces. His creative process begins with either a visual concept or a musical work, then he pairs one with the other. During concerts, Nicholas uses multiple digital projectors to fill a large panoramic screen with hundreds of tightly choreographed image transitions, which he live-cues from memory. He has worked on more than 100 concerts with orchestras in cities across the U.S. as well as Scotland, England, Singapore, Canada, Poland and Germany.
Nicholas is usually accompanied by his wife and colleague Erin, the multi-talented operations manager for Westwater Arts. They can often be found traveling in Violet, their vintage Airstream motorhome, sometimes to performances and when he photographs new "visual concertos." More recent projects have taken them to many of our beautiful national parks, but also Iceland, Mexico and the Czech Republic.
For this special concert with the South Carolina Phil, Nicholas is presenting two of his latest visual concertos: Mágico and Pre~Columbia. The companion pieces choreographed to works by Revueltas, Copland and Moncayo, celebrate the beautiful diversity, warmth and cultural richness of Mexico—both in music and images. Pre~Columbia sets the stage with a glimpse into ancient Mexico, where sophisticated civilizations thrived for millennia, leaving impressive symbols of a legacy that has influenced the history and identity of Mexico today. Mágico portrays a modern Mexico few outsiders get to see: 18,000-foot snowcapped volcanoes, 16th-century colonial towns, and colorful festivals like Día de los Muertos, Semana Santa and Carnaval. Nicholas photographed all the imagery on location, visiting 18 states during the yearlong production—when he and Erin also called Mexico home.
Learn more about their art form at WestwaterArts.com and follow their continuing adventures on Facebook.
Danzón No. 2
The danzón, the official dance of Cuba, probably originated in Haiti and is popular throughout the Caribbean and all along the gulf coast of Mexico, especially in the state of Veracruz. It has been an inspiration for Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, the son of a mariachi musician, since his childhood. Márquez is best known for his interdisciplinary works, blending music with theater, dance, cinema and photography. His series of eight Danzones composed in the 1990s explore popular twentieth-century rhythms and melodies of urban music and social dance, incorporating them into Classical structures
Márquez studied piano, violin and trombone in Mexico, later adding composition in France. In California on a Fulbright Fellowship, he received an MFA in composition at the California Institute of the Arts. For ten years he taught composition at Mexico’s Escuela Nacional de Música.
Danzón No. 2, composed in 1994 on a commission from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, gained instant popularity and is sometimes referred to humorously as Mexico’s second national anthem. The inspiration for the work came to Márquez after a visit to a ballroom in Veracruz. The composer writes: “I discovered that the apparent lightness of the danzón hides a music full of sensuality and rigor,” and added: “…it is a personal way of expressing my admiration and feelings towards real popular music.”
Like most Caribbean salsa and Afro-Cuban, music, danzón is based on a clave, a repeated rhythmic figure that is maintained for the entire piece, even as it progresses through a variety of moods and melodic themes.
La noche de los Mayas
Mexican composer, conductor and violinist Silvestre Revueltas was mostly self-taught, using the modern Mexican street music as his model. In his early works he incorporated traditional Indian music and popular folk tunes into loosely structured, highly rhythmic compositions, giving him a reputation as a “Mexican Charles Ives.” Later he adopted a more dissonant style, experimenting with serialism and tone clusters. His works are mostly concise, with an intense rhythmic drive.
Revueltas began his musical career as a violinist and conductor in Texas and Alabama. In 1929 he became assistant to famed Mexican composer and conductor Carlos Chávez, the conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico. In 1937 Revueltas traveled to Spain, assisting and advising the loyalists and composing some marches and fanfares for their cause. He returned to Mexico City and died there of alcoholism and pneumonia at age 40.
In 1939 Revueltas composed the music for the film La noche de los Mayas, filmed on location amidst the jungles of Yucatan and the ancient Mayan ruins of Mexico. The plot concerns a contemporary white man, who stumbles upon a tribe of people living exactly in the manner of their Mayan ancestors. He witnesses a fascinating romantic drama in which a huntsman Uz, falls in love with Lol by means of the intervention of "apprentice witch" Zeb. The community holds the lovers responsible for the local drought, Zeb is burned at the stake and a tragic denouement also awaits Uz and Lol. Revueltas created a fantastic sound world that reflected his vision of the Maya world.
In 1960, composer and conductor José Yves Limantour arranged a four-movement suite from the film score:
Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla has been inseparably associated with the tango. During the Depression, Piazzolla’s family moved to New York, where he studied piano and the bandoneón, a type of concertina with 38 notes, which had become the central instrument in the tango ensembles of Argentina. After a stint in Paris, studying composition with no less an eminence that Nadia Boulanger, Piazzolla returned to Argentina to form his first Tango Octet and later his renowned Tango Quintet. The Quintet featured the bandoneón, violin, piano, electric guitar and bass.
Influenced by his studies in Paris and by classical forms, Piazzolla’s compositions were a cut above the traditional tangos. No longer dance music, they became concert music, although for the nightclub rather than the concert hall. Nevertheless, the psychological intensity and sophistication of his music so infuriated the traditionalists that he was repeatedly physically assaulted and even threatened with a gun to his head during a radio broadcast.
In Tangazo, composed in 1967, Piazzolla becomes the “Bach of Buenos Aires”, combining complex contrapuntal writing with the tango rhythm and jazz-like melodic spontaneity. The first five minutes of this 13-minute piece are a slow introduction with a long meandering melody in the basses. The cellos, violas and violins enter in order, each section spinning out its own contrapuntal line. The weighty buildup and conservative rhythm with no hint of the dance nor traditional Latin syncopation makes the sudden burst of the energetic tango rhythm all that more effective. The tango proper begins with a serpentine oboe solo over an accompaniment of rasp, pizzicato violins punctuated with brief, shrieking glissandos. Another solo by the French horn shifts into a slower, sultry tango. After a return to the lively oboe theme, Piazzolla abandons melody altogether as the tango rhythm fades to silence.
Apparently Piazzolla was not happy with the 1970 premiere in Washington D.C. by The Ensemble Musical de Buenos Aires. “… [they] gave a good account of it but somewhere it lost a pinch of salt and pepper. Those classical musicians are like that – they are from Buenos Aires, Argentineans, and yet it seems that the tango shames them.”
El Salón Mexico
During his long career, Aaron Copland composed in many diverse styles. Among his output were scores for films (The Red Pony, Our Town, The Heiress), works incorporating jazz (Piano Concerto, Music for the Theater) and the 12-tone technique (Piano Quartet, Piano Fantasy). But in the mid-1930s he began to feel “an increasing dissatisfaction with the relation of the music-loving public and the living composer.” In order to reach a wider audience, he began simplifying his style to make it more accessible, but without sacrificing sound artistic values. The first work in this more popular vein was El Salón Mexico, completed in 1936. There followed the works for which he is best known today: his three American ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. Copland’s “American” sound has become iconic, making its way into Hollywood and TV westerns, and even commercials.
Copland was uneasy about tampering with Mexican folk music. He wrote to Mexican composer César Chávez: “I am terribly afraid of what you will say of the Salón Mexico – perhaps it is not Mexican at all, and I would feel so foolish. But in America del Norte it may sound Mexican.” But Chávez asked to conduct the piece once the orchestration was finished. El Salón Mexico was premiered in Mexico City in 1937 to great critical and popular acclaim, one critic stating that “Copland had composed Mexican music ... embodying the very elements of our folk song in the purest and most perfect form.” El salón México incorporates a couple of authentic Mexican melodies as well as the atmosphere of a lively bar where the partying has been in progress for some time.
José Pablo Moncayo
Mexican composer and pianist José Pablo Moncayo studied composition at the Mexico City Conservatory with Carlos Chavez and with Aaron Copland in the United States. From 1949 to 1954 he conducted the Mexico Symphony Orchestra, but made most of his living as a jazz pianist in cabarets. He dedicated himself to promulgating both traditional and new Mexican music, and his compositions pay homage to native idiom.
Moncayo composed Huapango in 1941. The origin of the word is obscure, but it denotes the song and dance music originating in the mestizo (“mixed”) culture, which is a mix of pre-Hispanic indigenous music with Spanish fandangos and similar dances introduced from overseas in the eighteenth century.
Huapango is a tribute to the Jalisco region, where Moncayo grew up, combining three dance tunes characteristic to the area. The piece as a whole features two kinds of ostinato or repetitive patterns, one in the harmony, that toggles between tonic and dominant, the other rhythmic. Periodic shifts in melody rhythm and key punctuate the monotony. Like Ravel's Bolero, which it resembles to some extent, Huapango, is first and foremost a vivid display of orchestral color.
After a long introduction that builds up the listener’s tension waiting for something to happen, the real action begins with the first of the three melodies that comprise the piece, a boisterous trumpet solo in good mariachi style – accompanied by solo harp! The sophisticated second theme appears first on the oboe and the third, a gentle waltz, on the flute. Moncayo gradually mixes the melodies into a wild, orgiastic celebration involving pulsating percussive rhythm and insistent repetition of phrases.
There are excellent restaurants and hotels in the downtown and surrounding areas for every budget.
Here are a few pointers on what to expect.
The Koger Center for the Arts is located in downtown Columbia at the corner of Assembly and Greene Streets, 1051 Greene Street. Parking is available at the Discovery Garage behind the building (usually around $10), accessible off Park Street. Additional garages and street parking are located at least one block away, which is a further walk to the theater but may help you avoid the pre-concert rush.
There are other ways to purchase single concert tickets through the Koger Center Box Office.
In-Person at the Koger Center