Sergio Barroso | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Sergio Barroso

Sergio Barroso. Composer, teacher, synthesist, b Havana, Cuba, 4 Mar 1946; Honours Diploma (Havana Conservatory) 1966, post-graduate certificate (Prague Superior Academy of Music) 1968.

Sergio Barroso. Composer, teacher, synthesist, b Havana, Cuba, 4 Mar 1946; Honours Diploma (Havana Conservatory) 1966, post-graduate certificate (Prague Superior Academy of Music) 1968. After piano and organ studies 1950-66 in Havana with Alfredo Levi, César Pérez-Sentenat, and Alfredo Dìaz Nieto, Sergio Barroso studied composition with Václav Dobiáš, Alois Hába, and Karel Janeček 1966-8 in Prague. He then began a career in teaching, composing, and performing, with a particular emphasis on electroacoustic music, which he studied at Stanford University with John Chowning and Jean-Claude Risset. He taught in Cuba at the National Conservatory in Havana (1968-73 and 1978-80), the National School of Music in Havana (1968-76), and the University of Havana (1976-80). He was also head of the music departments at the National Library of Havana and Havana University, head of contemporary music for the Cuban Broadcasting Institute (1975-7), and head of music for the Ministry of Culture, Cuba (1977-80).

In 1980 Barroso came to Canada, and, after a brief period in 1981 teaching at Trent University, he moved to the West Coast that year to teach at the University of Victoria (1981-4) and at Simon Fraser University beginning in 1986.

Barroso's Compositions

As a composer Sergio Barroso has received commissions from the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, New Music Concerts, and a number of individual performers. His music has been performed in Cuba, Mexico, South America, and throughout Europe. Apart from some early works written in Cuba, virtually all of Barroso's compositions include electronic music, either tape or live electronics. His works include music for ballet (La Casa de Bernarda Alba, Plasmasis); music for acoustic instruments or ensembles with tape or live electronics (including six works in his Yantra series, 1973-82); and purely electronic works. In 1996 Barroso's Concerto for Viola and Orchestra was premiered by Laura Wilcox at the Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto. Barroso has since kept a busy international career, appearing frequently at ISCM events, notably at the ISCM New Music Miami Festival as invited composer in 2004 and 2007.

For many years Sergio Barroso composed in an avant-garde style without reference to tonal centre or standard structure. This changed in the 1990s. His music gained, particularly in the Viola Concerto, a sense of central pitch and an affecting lyricism while maintaining a firm footing in the techniques of his earlier career. His music explores the world of sound through textural colouration, often constructing large palettes of dense electronic sounds that develop over long spans of time. He is also known for his lively and visceral sense of rhythm, which is often attributed in part to his Cuban heritage. Although this heritage is often reflected in the titles and emotional content of his works, it was not always obvious in the music itself, though this, too, has changed. Again, the viola concerto stands as an example: the middle movement is a nocturnal habanera. Barroso has said that he sees the influence of his culture as manifest mostly in "gestures, colour, and in the general character of movements and atmosphere" (Canadian Music Centre website).

Performances; Awards

Sergio Barroso is also a synthesist in high demand internationally. He has performed for the Banff Centre for the Arts; the International Festival of Electroacoustic Music in Mexico City; Sound Symposium in Newfoundland; the ISCM World Music Days in Oslo (1990); New Music Concerts; the Sub-Tropics International Music Festival in Miami (1991); the Vancouver New Music Society; and Vancouver Western Front. His music has been played at the National Arts Centre, the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Kennedy Centre, the Monte Carlo Theatre and IRCAM, and by the Esprit Orchestra and ACREQ.

Sergio Barroso has won many awards, including the UNESCO Rostrum of Composers (1980, 1995); the Bourges electroacoustic competition (1980); the Cintra/Arts International Competition (1999); and the Victor M. Lynch-Staunton Award from the Canada Council (2000). He is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, a member of the Canadian League of Composers and of SOCAN, and a founding member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community.

Selected works

La fiesta grande. Synthesizers, orchestra. 1990

Jitanjáfora. Violin, orchestra. 1993

Concerto. Viola, orchestra. 1995-96 (also version without orchestra as Viola Desnuda)

Crónicas de ultrasueño. Oboe/clarinet/trumpet, synthesizers and tape. 1992

Sonatada. Synthesizers. 1992

Charangas delirantes. Synthesizers (3 players). 1993 (also version for synthesizers [1 player] and tape, 1993)

Viejas voces. Viola and tape. 1993-4

Crónicas II. Viola, synthesizers (1 player) and tape. 1995

Viola Desnuda. Viola. 1995-97

La noche. Bass clarinet, viola and tape. 1997

Sandunga. Viola and tape. 1997

Cuartetas. Bass clarinet, viola, piano, and synthesizers (1 player)/tape. 1999

Callejos. Bass clarinet, tape. 1999

Pregones. Cello and tape. 2000

Rocambole. Violin/viola, cello, and tape. 2001

Verdehalago (text by Mariano Brull). High soprano, alto flute (+ piccolo), violin, double bass, percussion, and live electronics. 2004-6

Tablao. Guitar ad libitum, tape. 1991

La noche. Tape. 1997

Selected Discography

New Music for Digital Keyboard. Sergio Barroso keyboard. 1989. SNE 556

Tongues of Angels. Lawrence Cherney oboe. 1993. CMCCD 4793

Délirante. Sergio Barroso keyboards, León Biriotti oboe, Adele Armin Raad violin, Laura Wilcox viola, Jesse Read bassoon. 1996. empreintes DIGITALes, IMED 9628/29

Laura Wilcox. Laura Wilcox viola, Stephen Clarke piano, Brigitte Poulin piano. 2000. SNE 654

Electricities/Électricités. Various artists. 2003. CMCDS-S4

Variaciones del Motoriongo. Nancy Casanovas piano. (Areito: LDA-3589) (LP)

Further Reading