Language as Music

Language as Music

Wednesday@Noon Lecture

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
12:10–1 p.m.
Arts Building Music Rehearsal Hall, ARTS 157

Gabriel José Bolaños, PhD, UC Davis


The relationship between music and language has been explored from multiple angles: “music as language, language in music, music in language, and language about music” (Steven Feld and Aron Fox, Music and Language). However, there remains a glaring absence of inquiry into the use of language as music, despite a growing number of contemporary composers using speech as source material for instrumental, electronic and electroacoustic music. In this presentation I will first discuss auditory perception, acoustics, and recent trends in computer music, before playing and analyzing some pieces that explore the perceptual distance between speech and non-speech. Finally, I will highlight some perceptual and creative implications of using speech as music, and share some of my compositions that explore this topic from different angles.

Gabriel José Bolaños (b. 1984 Bogotá, Colombia) is a Nicaraguan-American composer of solo, chamber, orchestral and electronic music. He holds a PhD in composition from UC Davis and a BA from Columbia University. His principal composition teachers include Mika Pelo, Pablo Ortiz, Laurie San martin, Fabien Lévy and Sebastian Currier, and he studied orchestration with Tristan Murail. He likes to write music that explores unusual timbres and structures, and is interested in computer-assisted-composition, auditory perception and linguistics. His recent music engages with theories of ecological listening: how our sense of hearing evolved primarily to interpret our environment. He enjoys listening to music by Harvey, Furrer, Ligeti, Grisey, Cerha, Romitelli, Messiaen, Os Mutantes, Sabicas and Bach.

As a 2016-17 Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Nicaragua, he was composer-in-residence and visiting conductor for the UPOLI Conservatory Orchestra, and visiting professor at the UPOLI Conservatory of Music. He is co-founder and artistic director of Proyecto Eco, Nicaragua’s first new-music ensemble. He has also helped organize artistic and cultural exchanges between US and Nicaraguan musicians. Beyond his work as a teacher and composer of concert music, he has also written music for film, theater and dance, and has experience performing as a flamenco dance accompanist.

Free and open to the campus
Information: (951) 827-3245

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