Arts & culture, Performing arts

Havana music festival to perform scores by Berkeley professor, student

Berkeley claims two spots in U.S. composers' delegation heading to Cuba

Cuba map
Two UC Berkeley musicians will travel with the American Composers Forum to the Festival of Contemporary Music in Havana.

Two musicians from UC Berkeley are among 10 artists from the United States who will hear their compositions performed at the Havana Festival of Contemporary Music when it opens its stage to live performances of U.S. artists’ work in November, for the first time in the event’s 28-year history.

Two UC Berkeley musicians will travel with the American Composers Forum to the Festival of Contemporary Music in Havana.

Two UC Berkeley musicians will travel with the American Composers Forum to the Festival of Contemporary Music in Havana.

Cindy Cox, chair of UC Berkeley’s Department of Music and a professor of composition, and Amadeus Regucera, a Ph.D. student in music, will travel to Havana Nov. 15-21.

They will be part of a delegation traveling to the Cuban event after being selected from a field of 400 applicants by the American Composers Forum, which uses music to link composers with communities. All of ACF’s composers will be present for the program devoted exclusively to contemporary music, and held at the Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís, which was built at the end of the 16th century and now is used for concerts.

The American pieces will be performed by Third Sound, a New York City-based ensemble that is traveling to Cuba with ACF.

The American Composers Forum is able to participate in the Cuban music event as a result of President Barack Obama’s actions in July easing some trade and travel restrictions with the island nation. The sanctions had been in place since a U.S. naval blockade of Cuba in October 1962, at the height of the Cold War.

“After 56 years of political conflict, there is no time better than now to lay a new foundation for composer relationships between two of the most musical nations in the Americas,” the ACF said in its call for festival applicants.

Its delegation will attend festival programs, interact with other composers and performers there, and explore Havana’s arts and cultural world.

New dialogue through music

Regucera said he looks forward to the premiere of his composition Inexpressible.

Student composer Amadeus Julian Regucera.

Student composer Amadeus Julian Regucera.

“I’m extremely excited about going to Cuba. I’m curious about how the culture is adapting to this gradual opening-up process and how the people feel about it,” Regucera said in an email. “I’m excited about the possibility of dialogue and exchange, gaining a better understanding of each other’s cultures and histories. I’m also looking forward to sampling the food (especially!!), meeting the people, and hopefully doing some dancing.”

With a first name like Amadeus, one might guess that Regucera comes from a musical background, but he said the name is that of his paternal grandfather, and his immediate family, while supportive of his musical endeavors, is not particularly artistic.

“I hear my great-grandfather was a composer of zarzuelas, or Spanish-influenced Filipino musical theater, so everyone assumes that’s where I got my interest in music,” he said.

Regucera, originally from San Jose, California, said he started playing piano at the age of 4.  At the age of 31, his work has been performed at festivals in the U.S. and in Europe. He is working on a commission for bass flute and interactive lights for a Chicago newmusic ensemble. He also has worked in installation and dance, conducted theoretical research into the relationship between mid-20th-century abstract painting and the music of American composer Morton Feldman. Last year, he collaborated on a piece for three cellos and live, interactive electronics at the Berkeley Art Museum.

And Regucera has still other interests.

“I was a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II student-athlete at UC San Diego, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in music, and I’ve been an avid comic book collector and reader since I was 3. And I like pizza,” said Regucera, who was a competitive swimmer.

Asked if he was reading materials other than comics when he was so young, Regucera answered, “I was a nerd, but not a genius.”

Regucera also has played in rock bands since the age of 14, usually as a drummer and a keyboard player, and currently performs with the Oakland band Buttons.

As chair of Berkeley’s Department of Music, Cox is proud of her student’s accomplishment and looks forward to hearing her own composition, Wave: Movement One, composed for violin, cello and piano, also performed in Havana by Third Sound.

Wave: Movement One

CindyCox750Cox’s work is known for special tunings, harmonies and textural colorations that synthesize new and old musical designs. She has described Wave: Movement One as taking the shape of an ever-increasing, ocean-like wave.

Another Cox piece was performed by a Chinese pianist at last year’s Leo Brouwer Festival of Music, a jazz concert in Havana. But because travel restrictions were still in place for U.S. visitors to Cuba, Cox was unable to attend.

Cox has received awards and commissions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gemeinschaft der Kunstlerinnen und Kunstfreunde International Competition for Women Composers, and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University.

She also has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the MacDowell Colony and the Civitella Ranieri and William Walton foundations in Italy.