We counted 1,616 orchestral composers in Latin America

We counted 1,616 orchestral composers in Latin America


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2017

press release:
The conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya has launched Latin Orchestral Music, an online resource devoted to providing a complete and comprehensive source of information about orchestral music from Latin America and the Caribbean. The catalog, which is constantly being updated, currently includes 1,616 composers from 24 countries and features a list of 9,125 works.

Harth-Bedoya, who is Music Director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Oslo, has been a longtime advocate for music from his native Latin America. Over the past two decades, he has conducted, recorded, and discovered many composers including fellow Peruvian, Jimmy Lopez and Colombian composer, Victor Agudelo. He has also championed works by less well-known composers such as Diego Luzuriaga (Ecuador), Alberto Williams (Argentina), and Alfonso Leng (Chile), among many others.


  • Jakes McCarthy says:

    1616 orchestral composers in Latin America and I have not heard of any of them, now why is that? Their music is not on the BBC, it is not performed in the UK/Ireland. I suppose you could do the same in alot of other places and find loads too completely unknown.

    How about looking over some we have here in Ireland. Heard of any of them at all?


    • John Borstlap says:

      The village here nearby holds 367 people, and a half actually because the grocer’s wife is pregnant, and 47 of them are composers, united in a Union, writing for each other and playing their stuff at their weekly monday night meetings in the church. When mr B inherited this country estate and moved to this place in rural Dorset from busy Berlin, he was accepted as a member and enthusiastically took part in the union’s activities. When he won – in the 1st year – their annual competition (prize: a sheep and a week of free shopping in the bakery), he was kicked-out a month later when the jury (3 males, 8 females) had begun to seriously look into the score and decided it did not conform to the current aesthetics of the union. In other words: there are many more composers everywhere than anyone could possibly imagine and they are all different, but many are more different than the others. That’s why I keep to listening to Boulez.


      • Jakes McCarthy says:

        You listen to Boulez? Never heard a note of Boulez I have heard of Beethoven though and Brahms and Bach and Biber they all composed some very nifty tunes, worth listening to more than once, perhaps you have heard of some of them, alas all are now well beyond St Peter’s Gates, I doubt your pal Boulez will be let in though, they have a rather strict entrance rule in heaven, no wrong notes allowed!

  • Lisa R Ragsdale says:

    This reminds me of the time I persuaded myself to attend a concert of “native Peruvian music” with instruments unknown to myself. I sat there in awe during the entire concert delighted with the new sounds and a completely different world of music. I hope at least a few of these composers are aware of what came before and make use of native music.


    I congratulate Miguel Harth-Bedoya for this stupendous initiative. He is certainly in the position to collect scores, thanks to his indefatigable promotion of music from Latin America. His effort joins other projects, such as the new publisher Fliarmonika.com, managed by conductor Felix Torres in Fort Worth Texas (surely in some sort of collaboration with Harth-Bedoya) and the database of repertory for contemporary vocal ensembles carried by conductor Carolina Gamboa-Hoyos at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia (https://revcla.uniandes.edu.co/). Older projects include the substantial repository and catalog of the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University (music.indiana.edu/lamc), founded with a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation, that can be consulted through IU’s library catalog (iucat.iu.edu).

    The great promise of these projects lies in that they are taking advantage of the internet and new digital forms of publishing to overcome what has been missing in Latin America, in spite of some distinguished efforts in Argentina; and that is, the viable commercial model for publishing and marketing music that has existed in Europe and the United States since the 19th century. I had the privilege of directing the Indiana University Latin American Music Center for 20 years, and one of my dreams included instituting such an online publishing venture. This experience allows me to react to my fellow commenter above, when he wonders why are there more than a thousand composers who are unknown. He is right to suggest that many European, American and Asian composers of art music also remain unknown. However, a few composers from these economically developed regions enjoy promotion by stable musical organizations and publishers, and by a concerted marketing campaign. Certainly their music will survive past their lifetimes only by its intrinsic quality, but not without the efforts of families, estates, publishers, ensembles and conductors who accept a mission to disseminate the music of their time and region. They still hope to obtain some financial reward. The economic stability of these networks is indispensable for the promotion of music. We see the proof of this in the waves of composers we did not know before (Scandinavian, Baltic, Chinese, etc.) that suddenly come to simple consideration by the international press and the academic circuits once their countries achieve a measure of political and economic success. These countries’ governments often institute programs to achieve the recognition of the nation’s artists which have a commercial distribution component. We must all acknowledge that the achievement and later prestige of a composer takes place not only because of his or her talent, but also also because of the long-term investment by the composer’s network and community.

    Therefore, I stand in appreciation of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Carolina Gamboa, Felix Torres and the Latin American Music Center, among many others that you can discover soon enough, for understanding their role in the virtuous cycle of promoting the art music of Latin America. Let’s all remain curious about it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The creation of such data bases is an entirely laudable undertaking and especially where it discloses repertoire formerly unknown. South America is so big, that one must assume there is much talent there which has been developing for a long time since information channels are available and accessible almost everywhere. It is also heartwarming to see composers such as Jimmy Lopez gaining exposure.

      However, it is a serious misconception to think that the emergence of compositional talent is the result of communal efforts by family, networks, publishers etc. etc. This suggests new music as being some kind of group effort, which it is not. Every new music emerging in public space has an individual story behind it which does not obey some general rule. In contrary, every new music that emerges in concert life and gets exposure there due to the combined efforts of publishers, networks etc. is heavily politicized and often of deplorable quality. It is one of the problems of new music that it IS seen as a group effort, to answer the lazy needs of performers who have no time or no interest to find-out for themselves whether this or that new music is interesting or not – because that requires aesthetic judgment which is so rare that it is preferably left to the conventional channels.

      Where new music is supported by networks, big publishers etc. the field becomes poiliticized because then, exposure depends no longer upon some artistic assessment but on contacts (which are often entirely random), wrapping paper (female young composers with shampoo hair and cleavages), artistic committees (like the former Soviet Union boards with their party lines), etc. etc. Group instincts create conformity and hostility to individual independence, and where these forces are bureacratized, they kill-off creative thinking. Exactly this kind of bureaucratization leads to – at best – mediocrity and at worst, charletanerie.

      Before WW II there did not exist something like a ‘new music establishment’ with supporting institutions, data bases, information centres. Why not? Because it was not necessary: new music was simply part of concert practice and every composer just tried to interest performers and where the contact clicked, there were performances, and from the many trials, the good pieces gradually emerged. But since postwar modernism, new music became a special category which needed group support and specialized institutions, with all the negative results we see all around.

      Composers being pushed and/or supported by institutions, networks, big publishers etc. are actually in a disadvantaged position since they are a pawn in a political game where money reigns. Artistic quality has nothing to do with that. So, let information data bases remain entirely passive, like a library, so that individual curiosity may explore them. But where they become part of communal efforts, the intention with which they have been set-up will be countered by convention, conformism, political games and commerce.

  • Larry says:

    Great idea but the website is not free .

  • PM says:

    The catalog is designed for scholars, students, and musicians/artistic administrators, etc. And, no, it isn’t free, but a lot of online catalogs and services are not. It is one of many available online tools — Daniels’ Orchestral Music Online being another — that can help orchestra librarians & artistic administrators make programming choices (and also help them to discover new scores).

  • Gary Galvan says:

    The Fleisher Collection has been promoting Latin American composers since the 1930s and has the largest repository of circulating performance sets. Here is the story:

    Here is the link to Fleisher holdings:

    Here’s the third edition of the only English-language dictionary dedicated to the topic and co-edited by the Fleisher Curator: