The first book on renowned Mexican composer Mario Lavista, titled Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds was recently published by Ana R. Alonso-Minutti, associate professor of Musicology at The University of New Mexico. It offers an engaging and nuanced glance into Lavista's work and discusses his contributions to Ibero-American contemporary music, taking into account the interdisciplinary and intertextual dimension that characterized his creative trajectory.

Ana Alonso-Minutti new book
Ana Alonso-Minutti with 'Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds.'

Book launch
At the 95.5 KHFM The Music of the Americas radio show, hosted by UNM Professor of Music José Luis Hurtado, Alonso-Minutti announced the book launch at UNM on Thursday Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. in Keller Hall. This event will feature Lavista’s music performed by Hurtado and UNM Assistant Professor of Cello Christoph Wagner, and a poetry reading by guest poet and scholar Juan Manuel Portillo (Hollins University).

UNM Assistant Professor of Art History Marcella Ernest and guest musicologist Luisa Vilar-Payá (Universidad de las Américas, Puebla) will offer brief remarks about the book. A reception and book signing will follow in the UNM Center of Fine Arts lobby. More information can be found here.

As a preamble to her UNM book launch and performance event, Alonso-Minutti will give a public lecture in conjunction with Portillo on the confluences between poetry and music in Lavista’s music. This session will take place on Thursday, Feb. 29, at 2 p.m. in Keller Hall. More information can be found here.

About Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds
Mario Lavista (1943-2021) was an accomplished composer, pianist, editor, and pedagogue. In many of his scores, he incorporated references to poetry and painting. The subtitle of Alonso-Minutti’s book, “Mirrors of Sounds,” comes from a short poem by late Mexican poet, Xavier Villaurrutia that Lavista included as epigraph in the score of Reflejos de la noche, a work for string quartet, Alonso-Minutti revealed.

“Why would the composer incorporate this poem into his score? What type of connections, if any, exist between this poem and the music Lavista composed? Those are the questions that drove me to delve into an intertextual analysis,” she mused.

Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds uses a mix of methodologies, including music analysis, archival work, oral history, and autoethnography. The book came about over the course of many years.

Alonso-Minutti was an undergraduate student when she was first exposed to Lavista’s music, while attending a concert where one of his pieces was performed.

“I was captivated by the sonic atmosphere produced by the unique combination of oboe and tuned crystal wine glasses. I found myself not only listening to the music, but feeling its sensations throughout my body, in a very visceral way,” she recalled. “I didn’t imagine that many years later, I was going to be writing a book that would take this emotive and visceral experience as a point of departure!” she admitted.

Between 2004-2023, Alonso-Minutti conducted interviews with Lavista and visual artists, performers, poets, choreographers, and filmmakers to showcase his interdisciplinary work. She states that Lavista was a “relational composer,” meaning that “he did not write music as a private enterprise but rather with and for people, often close friends, collaborators, or musicians with whom he had effective relationships.” In this regard, she goes on by expressing that her book is “not just about a single person... It offers a panoramic view of experimental music and art practices in Mexico since the late 20th century and up to the present.”

Discourses on contemporary “classical music” often center on the work of Euro-American composers, Alonso-Minutti explained. Academic programs and cultural organizations perpetuate the illusion that there is a lack of notable contemporary music repertories coming from outside the U.S. and Europe.

“My study constitutes a significant contribution to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion matters in music education and cultural programming. This is why I found it imperative to guarantee that my book would be published as an open access source, that is, free of charge. I wanted to dispel the notion that concert music is just for connoisseurs and available only to people with academic and economic means,” Alonso-Minutti emphasized. She received a grant through the UNM Research Allocations Committee which covered the cost of publishing as open access to offer a free digital version of the book.

Anybody, anywhere can read or download Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds for free from the Oxford University Press website. While published as an academic book, Alonso-Minutti adopted an accessible tone, tailored for non-academic readers.

“I approached music analysis as a creative exercise that engages my own affective responses,” she said. By offering descriptive highlights of Lavista’s music, she wants to grant readers a sense of how certain musical features have the potential to generate affective responses.

Mario Lavista: Mirrors of Sounds was first launched in Spain, at the Universidad de Oviedo. This was followed by a presentation at the National Sound Archive in Mexico City that gathered significant exposure from Mexican national newspapers. Alonso-Minutti also interviewed for a radio show in Radio Educación and was featured at Mexico’s primer television cultural program, Canal 22.

About Ana R. Alonso-Minutti
Alonso-Minutti’s research focuses on avant-garde expressions and music traditions from Mexico and the US-Mexico border. Among her research areas are Latina/Chicana feminist and queer theories, critical race studies, and decolonial methodologies. She has published her work in notorious peer-reviewed journals and multi-author books and was co-editor of the volume Experimentalisms in Practice: Music Perspectives from Latin America (Oxford University Press, 2018). In 2021, she received the prestigious Robert M. Stevenson Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology for her composition for a cappella choir, Voces del desierto. She is the coeditor of the journal Twentieth-Century Music, published by Cambridge University Press.

At UNM, Alonso-Minutti serves as Associate Chair of the Department of Music. She is a research associate of the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, and a faculty affiliate of the Latin American and Iberian Institute, and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. More information can be found here.

Photos by Marcella Ernest

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