Forgotten pioneers of electronic music

Similarly, the composer and sound artist Ana Maria Romano G has been instrumental in unearthing the achievements of the Colombian composer Jacqueline Nova. Born in 1935, and coming of age during the period of political unrest known as La Violencia, Nova started piano lessons at the age of seven, leading to her enrolment in the National Conservatory of Music. The first woman to be granted a Master’s degree in composition, Nova relocated to Buenos Aires to study electroacoustic music at Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios (CLAEM).

While there, Nova worked with figures including Alberto Ginastera, Aaron Copland, and John Cage, then returned to Colombia where she worked on ground-breaking compositional experiments using sound, speech, and orchestral instruments. Her work was disseminated through radio broadcasts, publications, films, conferences, and concerts. In 1970 Nova formed the New Music Group, an ensemble to promote the work of living composers, particularly from across South America.

Nova created her masterwork Creación de la Tierra (Creation of the Earth) in 1972. In this altered sound recording, Nova electronically modified chants about the creation of the Earth performed by the indigenous U’Wa people of Northeastern Colombia. The U’Wa don’t have a written language and pass down knowledge and traditions through song – in the summer they gather to “sing the world into being”. By incorporating their manipulated chants into her piece, blurring the boundaries between technology and the human voice, Nova raised questions about what it was like to be heard as an “other” at a time when indigenous grassroots movements were beginning to challenge the hegemony of the Colombian nation-state (which had legitimised Spanish as its de facto language after gaining its independence from Spain).

When she died three years later from bone cancer, at the age of 40, Nova was still largely unknown, particularly to audiences outside of Colombia. However, in 2017 Romano G curated Jacqueline Nova, El mundo maravilloso de las máquinas (Jacqueline Nova, The Wonderful World of Machines) for the Museo de Arte Moderno in Medellín, and two years later, she presented an exhibition on Nova’s Creación de la Tierra at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. A release of Nova’s recordings is planned for later in 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *