Professor Agustín Fernández
Professor of Composition / Head of Music

  • Email: agustin.fernandez@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7636
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 5242
  • Personal Website: http://www.agustinfernandez.com
  • Address: International Centre for Music Studies
    School of Arts and Cultures
    Armstrong Building
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU
    United Kingdom

Introduction

I am a composer interested in music with cultural resonance, which shows awareness of the creative and performative traditions of which it is part, but which also seeks to extend the horizons of expression and technique beyond well-tried territories.

Background

I obtained my PhD at City University, specialising in Composition. Before that, I completed an MMus at The University of Liverpool and a Licentiate’s degree at the Bolivian Catholic University. In between, I spent three years in Japan, studying composition with Takashi Iida and with Akira Ifukube, and also training as a violinist with Takeshi Kobayashi. My research interest is composition. Wider interests include contemporary music, Afrocuban music, popular Latin American music and traditional music of the British Isles.

Recent compositional launches include six North American performances of String Quartet No. 2, 'Sin tiempo' by the Momenta Quartet; this work was a joint commission by the Koussevitzky Foundation and Momenta.  Previously Momenta had premièred my String Quartet No 1, 'Montes', a musical tribute to the Bolivian painter Fernando Montes.  Other recent premières include Souvenir de Teoponte for double bass and piano (Vienna’s Festsaal, Diplomatische Akademie, 2012; Colliers' Rant for six choirs (a Sage Gateshead commission, performed in a version for three choirs as part of the Festival of the Northeast, June 2013); Arreglos bolivianos for string orchestra (Orquesta Juvenil Bolivia Clásica conducted by Jaime Laredo, Teatro Municipal, La Paz, August 2014). 

The range of my work includes opera, orchestral, chamber, vocal and electroacoustic music. To mention some examples, Danza de la loma has been recorded and broadcast by the BBC Symphony and also performed and broadcast by the Ulster Orchestra and by Orquesta de Cadaqués. Fuego received its US première by The Juilliard Symphony at New York’s Lincoln Center, a venue which also saw the first performance of Peregrine by the New Juilliard Ensemble in 1997 and of its revised version in 2005. Fuego has also been played by Orchestra Sinfonica di Perugia and most recently by Orquesta de Castilla y León in three concerts in Valladolid and Salamanca in May 2007.

A strongly folk-oriented mass, Misa de Corpus Christi for children’s choir, mixed choir, baritone and orchestra, was first performed in 1977 but then destroyed in 1992. In 2010 it was reconstructed and performed in Cochabamba and La Paz, Bolivia, with a youth ensemble of 220 players and singers.

The chamber opera The Wheel, commissioned by the Royal Opera House’s Garden Venture, was performed five times at Riverside Studios by the Garden Venture with Endymion Ensemble in 1993. The London International Opera Festival featured my electroacoustic opera Teoponte in 1988. A more recent operatic incursion was Prison Letters, (Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, August 2013).

Other electroacoustic works include Wounded Angel for charango and electronic sounds, which is available from NMC records in a recording by myself, and on dB Productions recorded by Stefan Östersjö, and Silent Towers, which has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and on European radio stations, and is also available from Lontano Records. Both works have also been performed at London’s South Bank (Purcell Room).

My orchestral works are published by Tritó of Barcelona, and my guitar music by Tre Media of Karlsruhe. 

My compositional research focuses on the integration of a cultural multiplicity into a language which invokes the European classical canon while challenging it. Earlier stages of my career - folk musician, orchestral player, harmony teacher, language instructor in Japan – provide the background for a diversity in search of integration. My current technical explorations pursue harmonic processes that extend tonality in ways which are aurally traceable, rhythmic and textural schemes that promote continuity, and the use of standard instrumentations in such a way as to reflect the influence of electroacoustic and folkloric sonorities.

Roles and Responsibilities

Composer, professor of composition. Head of Music since January 2012. Module leader for Contemporary Compositional Techniques, Specialist Study Composition (Major and Minor), Orchestration and Arranging. Leader of the music strand of the AHRC-funded project Northumbrian Exchanges. 

Qualifications

PhD (City), MMus (Liverpool), Licenciado (Universidad Católica de La Paz)

Previous Positions

Dartington College of Arts, Lecturer in Composition (1994-5)
The Queen's University of Belfast, Composer in Residence (1990-1994)
Municipal Chamber Orchestra of La Paz, Co-leader (1983-4)
Komagane Training Institute, Language Instructor (1982-3)
Embassy of Bolivia in Japan, Private Secretary to the Ambassador (1981-2)
National Symphony of Bolivia, Principal viola (1976-80)
National Conservatory, Harmony Teacher (1977-80)

Memberships

PRS

Languages

English, Spanish, Japanese (residual), Italian (developing)

Informal Interests

Northumberland, Bolivia, languages, literature, fitness, dog

Research Interests

Composition, contemporary classical music

Other Expertise

Contemporary music, popular musics of Latin America, creative projects in the community

Current Work

New work for Northumbrian pipes, accordion, cello and harp commissioned by The Side

Future Research

Spanish version of opera Teoponte for performances in Bolivia. Ongoing development of opera based on Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer.

Research Roles

Active researcher
Member of Music Research Committee

Postgraduate Supervision

Former member of AHRC Peer Review College until resignation in 2012 

Students who have successfully completed their PhD under Prof Fernández's supervision include Patrik Bishay from Germany, Christopher Randall from the USA, Helen Papaioannou and Matthew Rowan from the UK, Sergio Camacho from Spain, Joel Eriksson from Sweden and Johann Hasler from Colombia.

Esteem Indicators

Only contemporary composer represented in Festival Bolivia Clásica 2014, including performances by Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Ana-Maria Vera and Orquesta Juvenil Bolivia Clásica conducted by Jaime Laredo

Koussevitzky Commission, 2010

Invited to represent Bolivia at Latin American Music Festival in Caracas, Venezuela

Appointed to the Chair in Composition at Newcastle University from 1 August 2007.

Only featured composer at the celebrations of the centennary of the National Conservatoire of La Paz, Bolivia (2007).

Signed up for publication of orchestral works with Tritó S.L. of Barcelona.

Signed up for publication of guitar works with Tre Media of Karlsruhe.

Eleven works published online by the British Music Information Centre as part of The BMIC collection (www.bmic.co.uk/collection/).

Appointed Composer in Residence at Barcelona Festival of Song 2006. Songcycle commissioned by the festival, Alquimia to be published by Mundo Arts in 2008.

Resident composer at the festival Songs Across the Americas, Bolivia, August 2003.

Artistic Co-ordinator of Music from the Chiquitos Indians of Bolivia, a project involving Emma Kirkby and Florilegium and resulting in performances at Newcastle Early Music Festival and Wigmore Hall, March 2003.

Featured composer at 2002 Encounter of Latin American Composers and Performers in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Pájaro negro for soprano and ensemble selected to close the festival.

External examiner for PhDs in Composition at Brunel University and at Goldsmiths College and Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Member of AHRC Peer Review College

Funding

Composition commissions funded by Koussevitzky Music Foundation, North Music Trust, Fundación Arnoldo Schwimmer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Great Britain, Greater London Arts, Merseyside Arts.

Undergraduate Teaching

Module leader for Contemporary Compositional Techniques (MUS2041), Orchestration and Arranging (MUS2008), Major Specialist Study Composition (MUS3012), Minor Specialist Study Composition (MUS3016)

 

Postgraduate Teaching

Creative Projects in Composition, Composition in the Community, supervision of research in composition