Chavez’ Vanguardism: Do his predictions on the future allow us to predict our OWN future?

Edwin Cordoba

Carlos Chavez was a visionary and innovator- and this writing shows that he was an equally powerful thinker. An analysis of his book “Toward a New Future” reveals a common theme in Carlos Chavez’ life: his ability to talk about unventured subjects. Indeed, if we apply what he says to our current situation- we may be able to deduce that there is a whole new world of art ahead of us. An art that we are not able to describe yet, just as he was not able to describe what truly happened- but an art that is a function of and proceeds technology.

He realized in the 1930’s that there was an approaching revolution: a technological revolution, and reflected on the implications to the art of music. He begins by writing “The general public likes to live in the past.” (pg. 14) reflecting on the state of music at the time of the publication in 1937. In many ways, this is very true today, still. We talked about music’s canon at the beginning of the year in our Graduate Music History Topics class- and the need to redifine and think about it’s validity. “It is easy to retrace the highroad already constructed, but very difficult to build new roads, to project new routes.” In many ways, this quote defines Chave’z life. Not only in his ambitious international and domestic projects, but in his ability to redifine the old (his fascination with Native American Music) and define the future (his gravitas towards this electrical music).

His fascination with electric instruments and electricity in a time where that was a still a novelty made him conclude that “the great contemporary advance of science will result in a marvelous artistic flowering.” He argues that we must study the “determining causes” of today’s artistic state to get a true understanding of what’s ahead- and if history and pattenrs repeat themselves, then by that logic the newest technology of today will one day give rise to a new art in the future. In many ways- we are living, breathing evidence of that. All we have to do is log into iTunes, YouTube or Spotify to observe the effects of technology on today’s music. Who is to say today’s pop artists will not one day be a part of a “21st century” canon that we will study in academic environments?

Only providing composers and artists with the means of knowing and familiarizing themselves with the new media will pave the way toward the birth of new art forms.” – Carlos Chavez


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