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[Focus on Institutions]

A column about past, present and future ongoings in international electroacoustic and related institutions [index].

Centro Mexicano para la Música y Artes Sonoras (CMMAS)

The dilemma of Continuance in Mexico (Morelia, Mexico)

[Also see the complementary Community Reports column by Manuel Rocha Iturbide: “The First Retrospective of Mexican Electroacoustic Music” in eContact! 12.3 (June 2010).]

CMMAS is the acronym in Spanish for Centro Mexicano para la Música y Artes Sonoras (Mexican Centre for Music and Sonic Arts). Since its inception four years ago, this abbreviation is recognized in the cultural environment as a defining and learning platform for the artistic community, which utilizes sound as a means of expression. Despite its youth CMMAS is an entity that already “walks and talks” and is consolidating its independence. It assures its continuance as a sort of “creative playground” for artists linked with music, offering a place where they have the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of technological tools in and up-to-date pedagogic materials. It is a place that favours the exchange of ideas and talents; the spreading and promotion of music and sonic arts, but most of all it aims to foster artistic development in Mexico.

CMMAS was created in 2006 with the support of the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA), and the Centro Nacional de las Artes (CENART) and the Ministry of Culture of Michoacán (SECUM). Since its establishment, the centre has fostered four lines of work: creation, pedagogy, research and diffusion. The creative environment is evident with the artistic residences. Creators, students and composers from more than 15 countries and from almost every region in Mexico have developed projects in the centre’s facilities. CMMAS also promotes the music created with the support of scholarships, assignments, competitions and programs (such as the “Flight Practices” series, which includes music by young Mexican composers) or projects into which CMMAS has enrolled as a participant (such as the electroacoustic series of the RedASLA, or Red de Arte Sonoro Latinoamericano [Latin American Sonic Art Network]). In addition to the above-mentioned activities, CMMAS organizes Visiones Sonoras, an annual international festival of music and new technologies that fosters dialogue between artists, students and audience. The research work promoted by the centre includes the bilingual magazine Sonic Ideas, which aims to become a forum for information exchange related to sonic arts and contemporary music. This publication offers the space that answers to one of the centre’s founding ideas: to reflect on what the use of technology implies in the creative processes. In the pedagogical arena, CMMAS has become a partner among other institutions of Morelia’s Conservatorio de las Rosas, in order to offer jointly the first degree in music composition with technology nationwide. CMMAS’ core aim is to be the provider of the necessary technical course contents so that the institutions in the region responsible for music education can include technological tools for sound control and the options that electroacoustic music offers in their own educational frameworks. The centre also offers the ideal environment so that its researchers, professors and technicians can develop personal projects both individually and jointly with other artists, thus being an active part of the research that is being made in technology and in musical theory.

CMMAS, as a centre dedicated to electronic music by means of computers or electroacoustics, is part of a tradition in Mexico. It goes back to the electronic music lab founded in 1974 at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música by Raúl Pavón and Hector Quintanar having precedents, among others, in the Centro Independiente de Investigacion y Multimedia (CIIM), which no longer exists.

The continued existence of spaces such as this in the Mexican electroacoustic scenery is just one of the challenges that CMMAS faces: how can this project survive?

The core idea around CMMAS as a project is to reassess the economic concept upon which these institutions were created. Many of these spaces emerged from sponsorships granted by other government cultural institutions which guaranteed to solve the problem of their immediate existence, but in the long run, they were forsaken. Presently, the strategy is to make CMMAS a space that combines both institutional supports with external resources so that executing projects will not be dependant solely on the above mentioned governmental resources. To avoid turning into some “hulking, bureaucratic thing” and in order to attain its objectives, CMMAS diversifies and rather than becoming a school it instead provides specialized staff to teach the curriculum classes required in technology and postgraduate studies at the Conservatory, Escuela Nacional de Música and other universities, both local and foreign. CMMAS, by way of agreements with Mexican and foreign institutions, also receives funding to cover the expense of the artist residencies. It also optimizes the official resources required for the basic and efficient functioning of the centre. CMMAS is therefore exploring a new cultural proposal that combines both commitments to avant-garde art and the inclusion and recognition of a wider range of electronic practices. All this happens in a setting that fosters collaboration between institutions at a federal and state level. The opportunities of a well-intentioned artistic proposal combined with innovative public support can actually significantly impact its community.

Fragments of this text were provided by Dr. Alejandro Madrid and Silvia de la Cueva.

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