«A Monograph Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»
THE JOURNEYS OF HUMBOLDT: A GUIDE TO EFRAIN OSCHER’S
COMPOSITION FOR ORCHESTRA
Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the
Louisiana State University and
Agricultural and Mechanical College
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Musical Arts
The School of Music
Bernardo Virgilio Miethe Flores
B.M., The University of Southern Mississippi, 2010
M.M., The University of Southern Mississippi, 2012 May 2015 Acknowledgements After being a student of music for eighteen years, there are many mentors and kind-hearted people who have helped me through my journey. First, I want to thank my parents Sara and Federico Miethe for their relentless support through my life. Their sacrifices of buying me a flute when our family didn’t have the means, their commitment on driving me two hours to Caracas every Saturday so that I could learn from the best teachers, their patience as I blasted classical music in the middle of the night from my room, and their words, which I constantly hear, were to always strive for perfection even if perfection was unattainable. “If you want to be a gardener, be the best gardener; and if you want to be a shoemaker, be the best shoemaker” were their words that helped me follow my passion for a career that may not make me rich, but that will make me happy.
Their dedication and devotion to me so that I received the best education possible have been inspirations that I will never be able to repay.
My sister Ursula has also been influential in helping me succeed in the USA. For giving me advice and for introducing me to both USM and LSU, thank you. I have followed her steps and hope I can live up to her kindness.
My wife Valery has showed incredible love and faith in me as she gave up pursuing a masters in psychology so that I could work on my doctorate in a different university. I hope I can always provide for you and our future family with the same devotion you’ve given me, and I hope you can pursue your dreams soon too. Te Amo.
The Carpenter and Howard Families have been extremely crucial to my college successes. They have been my adoptive families in the US and I will never be able to ii repay everything they have done for me. Thank you for your encouragement, your financial help, and your support in my endeavors.
There are a myriad of music teachers who have shaped the musician who I am today and there aren’t enough pages to name them all, but I would like to give credit to those whom I believe have provided my musical legacy. To Blanca Valladares, for taking extra time after my music-theory classes, when I was nine, to ensure that I would understand the musical concepts. To Efrain Oscher, for introducing me to the beautiful sounds of the flute and for his amazing patience as I was learning this instrument, and for providing me with great assistance through the writing of this document. To Yrene Briceño, for helping me in my flute infancy to mature and for helping me become a better musician. To Miguel Pineda, for helping me become a better piccolist and giving me the opportunity as a teenager to play with his professional ensemble as a member and as a soloist. To Oscar Leañez, for giving me the flute technique necessary to audition and getting accepted into USM. To Victor Rojas and FESNOJIV, for giving me a professional flute when my parents couldn’t afford an upgrade, and for sending me to many music seminars with Dudamel, Thomas Klamor, and the Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, which helped me advance tremendously in my music abilities. To Dr. Danilo Mezzadri, for really developing my capabilities as a flute player and for giving me the opportunities to play first flute in many of the most important fluteorchestral solos of the repertoire. To Dr. Steven Moser, for introducing me to the wonderful world of conducting. To the USM Orchestra, to the USM Bands, to the Rapides Symphony, to the LSU Choirs, and to the LSU orchestra, for allowing me to
developing my skills as an intelligent conductor, as my main professor through my masters degree. Thank you also for sending me to Chicago and Italy, and thank you especially for your help in Italy. You showed extreme kindness when I was at my financial worst.
My wonderful committee has been integral in the success of my doctoral degree.
Dr. Kenneth Fasching-Varner, thank you for being supportive and coming to my concerts even though you didn’t have to, and for helping me find a great editor for this document.
Martha Murray, thank you for your incredible insight and help with the edition of this document. You were always so diligent and helpful when communicating with me and helping me with my deadlines. Dr. Robert Peck, thank you for your great words of encouragement and your amazing teaching pedagogy. Your analytical techniques class has been crucial in tackling the study of this piece. Moreover, I never knew I could learn music theory by listening to “Yes.” Dr. John Dickson, thank you for giving me the chance to be a part of your studio and wonderful ensemble. I have learned a different side of conducting and your teachings in music, as well as life itself, will be with me forever.
Your discipline and friendliness have not only made me love choral music deeply, but also love poetry, an art that I previously had never studied in depth. Maestro Carlos Riazuelo, thank you for accepting me as your conducting student in 2012. I have grown much as a conductor studying with you. Thank you for challenging me to become better every day, to really study and memorize scores, and for trusting my abilities when allowing me to conduct your orchestra. Thank you for being strict and for pushing me
Chapter One: Efrain Oscher
Efrain Oscher on Composing The Journeys of Humboldt
Chapter Two: Historical Context
Alexander von Humboldt’s experience in Venezuela
Ferdinand Bellermann: Life and Paintings of Venezuela
Chapter Three: Conductor’s Analysis
Movement 1: A Bordo de la Fragata Pizarro
Movement 2: Cumaná Bajo las Estrellas
Movement 3: Mérida
Movement 4: Maracaibo
Movement 5: Caracas
Movement 6: Orinoco
Movement 7: Angostura
Programming Possibilities and Financial Considerations
performance, and programing of Efrain Oscher’s composition for orchestra “Los Viajes de Humboldt” since there has been no other research done on this composition. This monograph offers a biography of the composer and an insight into the composer’s intentions and thoughts when composing this piece. The following monograph also provides a better understanding of the historical context of this piece by detailing the journey of Alexander von Humboldt to the Americas, in particular, his experiences of his time spent in Venezuela from 1799 to 1800.
Moreover, this research delves into the life and paintings of Ferdinand Bellermann from the 1840s, paintings that also inspired this composition. The following research aims to provide a guide into programming this piece and to provide an in-depth analysis of the piece. This monograph aspires to serve in future studies of this piece and to help fellow conductors, performers, musicologists, and theorists who are interested in this piece.
This research is divided into three chapters. Chapter one establishes the piece in our modern context by discussing the composer’s life and his involvement as a composer. Chapter two places the piece in the historical context of the subject matter, Alexander von Humboldt and Ferdinand Bellermann. More specifically, this chapter follows Humboldt’s journey and experiences in the country of Venezuela. Chapter three is an analysis of the piece and includes aspects of how this piece should be conducted. The document concludes with insight into the programing of this composition.
I chose this piece purposefully. Since my acceptance as a D.M.A. student, I wanted to write about a contemporary work and also wanted it to have a connection to my country of origin, Venezuela. I considered composers as Giancarlo Castro, Felix Mendoza, Aldemaro Romero, and Inocente Carreño. I chose Efrain Oscher for two main reasons: he is an active composer who currently is gaining much recognition, and he was my first flute teacher and I had direct access to him for questions and research materials. When we began corresponding about my research, he gave me a list of pieces about which I could write. I was instantly drawn to The Journeys of Humboldt because this research would allow me to learn more about the early days of Venezuela. I was also inspired by the serendipitous connection between Humboldt, a German who travelled to Venezuela, and Oscher, a Venezuelan who travelled to Germany.
I was also interested in the lineage that occurred within the composition of this piece.
Humboldt sponsored himself and traveled to Venezuela in 1799; recommended by Humboldt, Bellermann traveled to Venezuela in 1842; the Venezuelan Embassy in Germany sponsored Osher, who wrote a piece, in 2009 that followed the steps of Humboldt through Venezuela.
Efrain Oscher and is based on a smaller composition for flute, violin, viola, cello, string bass, and piano. The piece is orchestrated for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, 4 percussionists (timpani, maracas, cymbals, and wood block), harp, and strings. The composition deals with Alexander von Humboldt’s 1799 journey from Germany to the Americas. The composer refers to this piece with two different names, “Los Viajes the Humboldt” (The Journeys of Humboldt) and “Humboldt y los Sonidos de Venezuela” (Humboldt and the Sounds of Venezuela), and uses the names interchangeably when discussing the piece. He prefers The Journeys of Humboldt, however, because the other one is too long and because he has plans of expanding this composition into a massive piece that recounts the journeys of Humboldt through Latin-America (pg. 9).
This composition last about 20 minutes and it has seven movements: “A Bordo de la Fragata Pizarro” (Aboard the Pizarro Frigate) is the first movement of the piece, and focuses on the month long journey to Venezuela aboard the Pizarro ship “Cumaná Bajo las Estrellas” (Cumaná Under the Stars); the second movement focuses on the nights of Cumaná and Oscher emphasizes Humboldt’s fascination with the night sky; the third Movement is called Mérida, a town located in the Andes Mountains with strange vegetation; the fourth movement, Maracaibo, is based on a coastal town which surrounds a great lake; Caracas, the fifth movement, mixes European and Venezuelan sounds; the sixth movement, Orinoco, based on this large South American river contains improvisational passages; the last movement, Angostura, was Humboldt’s last stop in Venezuela and the music combines all of the other themes from the piece.
emerged into the spotlight of mainstream orchestral music. Oscher is no exception and his compositions have been performed by renowned orchestras in acclaimed concert halls.
My personal friendship with the composer allowed me access to him about many facets of his compositional process. Oscher sent scores at my requests and answered questions throughout my research. Oscher meticulously writes details on his score and is very specific about how he wants the piece to sound, so meticulous that he writes specific fingerings and extended techniques. This composition also involves some aleatoric events and his use of language is compelling. Most of the indications are in Spanish and there are some very descriptive tempo markings; “Allegro Marítimo” (Maritime allegro) is an example. Moreover, this piece has roots in jazz, classical music, as well as Venezuelan folkloric music, which has African influences. Its characteristics, language, and history are easily relatable for a musician like me and it is my intent that my research will expand the knowledge of Venezuelan music, its composers, its performers, and its influence.
Biography Efrain Oscher is a professional flutist and composer born in Uruguay in 1974 during the dictatorship of Juan María Bordaberry. Oscher’s parents moved to Venezuela in 1975,1 where Oscher’s uncle was already residing and was bassoonist of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela.
Oscher talks fondly about his infancy in the city of Caracas during a time of economic and cultural boom for the country. While in Caracas, Oscher’s brother and cousin were born and Oscher’s grandparents also abandoned Uruguay for Venezuela.
Oscher is proud of his mixed-cultural heritage as he was raised by Uruguayan parents in Venezuela, and instilled with Jewish customs brought by his grandparents, who were born in Lithuania and Poland. Oscher accredits much of his musical aptitudes to his father who had an eclectic taste in music. With thanks to his uncle, Oscher spent as much time listening to orchestras as he did listening to jazz, bossa-nova, Latin folk, and most importantly in his household, Tango.
In the 1990s, his family moved to Valencia, the industrial capital of the country, located two hours away from Caracas. There, Oscher showed a more hands-on interest in music after his father bought him a guitar, which Oscher began learning and writing his own songs. He received his musical training within “El Sistema,” José Antonio Abreu’s musical project that enables hundreds of thousands of children to learn an instrument and play classical music in Venezuela.
Before he turned 18, Oscher’s uncle bought him a flute and registered him at the state 1 Efrian Oscher, biography, http://oscher.de/es/pages/flautista.htm accessed 11/20/13.