2014 Composers' Symposium
April 5-10, 2014
An unprecedented collaboration between internationally acclaimed Mexican and United States-based creative artists led the events at the 2014 UNM John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium. From the opening panel discussion that explored identities in the arts of the Southwest to the closing concert at the Outpost Performance Space featuring the El Paso-based Place/Space Project, the role the arts play in southwestern multicultural identity was examined, along with the effectiveness of the arts as a provocation and reflection upon contemporary social issues.
The centerpiece of the 43rd annual Composers’ Symposium was Cuatro Corridos, a one-hour chamber opera that told the true story of women trapped in a cycle of prostitution and slavery across the U.S.-Mexico border. The symposium ran from April 5-10 and nearly all events were free and open to the public.
The annual John Donald Robb Concert kicked off the symposium's musical activities on April 6. The concert featured compositions by Robb along with works by contemporary New Mexico composers. Following the concert, Enrique Lamadrid and Jack Loeffler discussed Robb's Hispanic Folk Music of New Mexico and the Southwest: A Portrait of a People, which was republished earlier this year by UNM Press.
The April 7 performance of Cuatro Corridos was preceded by a panel discussion of the local realities of trafficking with Lynn Sanchez, director of the New Mexico Human Trafficking Victim Services, Maria Sanchez-Gagne, border violence division director for the New Mexico Attorney General's Office and Susan Tiano, director of the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute.
In the opera, Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki portrayed four women whose lives have been scarred by human trafficking in four scenes composed in turn by Lei Liang, Arlene Sierra and Mexican composers Hilda Paredes and Hebert Vázquez. The multimedia theatrical production, conceived by Karen Guancione, used a striking border wall as a projection surface, bringing visual life to noted Mexican author Jorge Volpi’s libretto.
Throughout the symposium, three of the four Cuatro Corridos composers interacted with UNM music students and interested members of the public in concert lectures, masterclasses. Their compositions also were featured in evening concerts. For decades, the John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium (a partnership between the UNM Robb Musical Trust and the UNM Department of Music) has brought composers and performers to the UNM campus annually to engage and teach students about contemporary music and contemporary music performance.
Since taking over as artistic directors, Peter Gilbert and Karola Obermüller have made it their goal to find programs with an interdisciplinary scope, and 2014 was a milestone year in that regard. The 2014 symposium was presented in partnership with the City of Albuquerque and the Consulate of Mexico, along with UNM’s College of Fine Arts, Latin American & Iberian Institute, Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media and Feminist Research Institute, as well as in association with the UNM Chicana & Chicano Studies Department.
Hebert Vazquez at a rehearsal of his composition.
Susan Narucki works with a student during a voice masterclass.
Composition students receive feedback from visiting composers.
Enrique Lamadrid, left, and Jack Loeffler discuss Robb's "Big Book".