The past and present work well together!

“We call a piece of music beautiful when the emotions, feelings, and ideas of the creator approximate those of the listener” ~Carlos Chavez

                Connecting with Chavez’s music has been a challenge for me. While it is of my knowledge that Chávez’s music has been a tremendous addition for the development of the arts and music, finding a piece that truly moved me took quite a journey.   However, after listening to several of Chavez’s  works, one stand out and made me completely feel in awe. It was Carlos Chávez’s Upingos, a piece composed in 1957 for oboe solo.


The beauty of music is capable to provide moving experiences. However, the way one appreciates music, has not been an overnight process. Not art in the world exists without physics. It is fascinating to learn that instruments, and sound collections that we found pleasant to our ears now, have taken been a process of hundreds of years.   According to Carlos Chavez, the present is full of remainders of the past.  At first I thought this was a negative idea, but now I realize that this was not the case. For example, the collection of twelve notes that one is taught at music schools, a person from the past had to come up with that. If we would not have had those collections decided, a musician would have to pick random sounds, organize them, and figure out a way to notate them.  Fortunately, composers do not have to worry about that. Composers can work around pre-established guidelines and keep developing the future of music from that point. On the other hand, instruments are part of the past; composers do not have to necessarily worry creating a new instrument.

As technology keeps developing, new instruments can be created, but there is a probability that previously existent instruments would be a starting point to create a new one. For example, the electric guitar, while it uses electricity, it is built in a similar way than an acoustic guitar. On the other hand, the Theramine is another electronic instrument, but the pieces performed in that instrument mostly follow a traditional scale pattern. All the physics studied in the past are valuable, and they served as starting point to keep developing how music in made.

In terms of composing, Carlos Chavez works with elements from the past. In the piece Upingos, he uses an old instrument –the oboe. Chavez. The piece seems to combine a pentatonic introduction, followed by a development section, and comes back to the pentatonic section. Chavez was innovative in this piece especially rhythmic elements. While I do not have access to the score, I can tell Chavez changes meters often, and/or the piece is written in a candenza style. Upingos, also features a hint of Mayan music because of the syncopated rhythms and simple melodies. Chavez’s Upingos moved me because I think I understand the music. I am so thankful for all the contributions that many people have done in order for me to enjoy this piece music: the people that invented music notation, the person that invented the oboe, all the people that made contributions in technology so I can enjoy the music on my computer,  and Carlos Chavez for choosing the right collections of notes and rhythms that moved me.


By Sandra Rivera


2 thoughts on “The past and present work well together!

  1. ntblack1992 says:

    Sandra, do you think that musicians who study the old and those who study the new are divided? You mention the differences and similarities between the acoustic and electric guitars. Would you find it to be important that the players of each of these instruments learn each other’s crafts to create a better synergy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sandrarivera says:

      Yes, I think musicians who study the old or the new tendencies are divided. Performers choose to specialized in one genre but it is rare to see both types of performers in a concert. Yes, it would be great if players learn each other’s crafts and create a new musical movement.


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