Friday, November 7, 2008

Juan Blanco remembered in the Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Nov. 07, 2008
Cuban composer who was innovator


Cuban composer Juan Blanco, a pioneer of Latin American electro-acoustic music, died Wednesday in Havana of respiratory failure. He was 89. Blanco died at Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, where he was being treated for kidney problems and hypertension.
Born in Mariel, Cuba, in 1919, Blanco established himself early as a defender of experimental music without forsaking the sensibility of traditional Cuban sounds. He defined himself as the inheritor of modern Cuban composers such as Alejandro Garcia Caturla and Amadeo Roldan.

Blanco composed more than 160 works that have been interpreted by the National Symphonic Orchestra of Cuba and by soloists such as Paquito D'Rivera, Leo Brower, Merceditas Valdes and Tata. He also composed pieces for television, movies, ballet and outdoor performances.

Neil Leonard III, a performer and authority on music for multimedia, wrote of Blanco in 1991: ``The fact is that the music of Blanco is Cuban music. He cannot get away from Cuban music. Regardless of his selection of instruments or themes . . . he could base a piece on an Asian theme, and it would still be Cuban music. He is Cuban -- deeply Cuban, in the purest sense of the philosophy represented by idiosyncrasy of a Cuban people.''

During the 1960s, Blanco was music director of the Cuban National Council for Culture. In that position he opposed censorship of foreign music, especially from the United States.

Although he could not teach officially at a government institution for several decades, he organized vanguard concerts out of a small studio at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with People that influenced new generations of composers, such as Juan Piñera and his own son, Juan Marcos Blanco.

In 1981, he established the International Festival of Electro-acoustic Music that was entitled Springtime in Varadero.

During the 1990s, Blanco continued his musical experimentation with the use of computers. His studio was renamed as the National Laboratory of Electro-acoustic Music. Various institutions commissioned pieces of music from him, allowing him to travel throughout Europe, Latin America and China. In 1993, he presented several of his compositions in Boston.

In 2002, Blanco was awarded the Cuban National Prize for Music.

He had six children, two of whom live in Miami.

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