Javier Álvarez Fuentes is a Mexican composer known for creating works that combine a variety of international musical styles and traditions, often utilizing unusual instruments and new music technologies.

Álvarez, one of the best-known Mexican composers of his generation, studied clarinet and composition with Mario Lavista before moving to the United States in the early 1980s and subsequently to Great Britain, where he attended the Royal College of Music and City University in London.

In 1987 he won the ICEM Prize in Paris, as well as awards from the Bourges International Festival and Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica, for his vibrant toccata Papalotl. This work makes reference to the wider world of dance through its use of complex rhythmic patterns in a carefully synchronized duet between pianist and electroacoustics.

Javier Alvarez’s works have been performed throughout the world by such ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Mexico City Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France among others. He also notably composed the music for Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed 1993 horror film Cronos.

He was a founding member of Sonic Arts Network and, during 1993, he was Artistic Director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (one of Sound and Music’s founding organisations). After 25 years living in England he returned to Mexico where he became the founding director of the Musical Arts Department of the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán. After a period serving as Dean of the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, Michoacán, he is now living in Mérida, in Yucatan, combining activities as a freelance composer and project animateur.

Javier Alvarez’s first electroacoustic works include Temazcal (1984), which pits a pair of maracas against a complex electroacoustic backdrop, and Mannam (1992) This piece, winner of a 1993 Prix Ars Electronica distinction, blends and juxtaposes elements of Korean music with materials and performance techniques drawn from the Mexican folk harp.

Offrande (2001), a more recent work, offers an intriguing mix of Caribbean steel pans and electronically processed rhythmic patterns.

Many of his works include elements of Latin American dance genres. Mambo a la Braque (1991), is an electroacoustic collage of musical segments drawn from Cuban mambo composer Dámaso Perez Prado’s “Caballo Negro” (Black Horse).

About this Contributor

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Alvarez Fuentes
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Minutes created
Collection 2 #41

Minutes by Javier Alvarez