Occidental College Professor Composes Music for Play, Tribute to Picasso, Rivera



The West Coast premiere of a play about artist Pablo Picasso and the world premiere of a musical tribute to the educator, writer and poet Tomás Rivera feature musical scores and sound designs by Occidental College's Bruno Louchouarn. 


Louchouarn, an adjunct assistant professor of the theory and practice of multimedia and director of the College's Keck Language and Culture Studio, wrote the score for "A Weekend With Pablo Picasso," a one-man 85-minute play (March 31-May 1 at the Los Angeles Theater Center) that explores the artist's proclamations about ambition, creativity, love, and art as an agent of social change. The score uses clarinet, double bass, guitar, percussion, and piano to weave the story of how Picasso, played by Herbert Siguenza of the Latino performance troupe Culture Clash, painted six paintings over a weekend in his studio on France's south coast in 1957.

Siguenza, who also wrote the play, said that the composer had to be familiar with the abstract art of the early to middle 20th century. "And Bruno knew exactly what he had to do. He came up with a theme that changes shape during the performance, much like a Picasso painting transforms as it is painted," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better collaborator, and we are now thinking of creating other works with music, possibly a humorous operetta."

The score intertwines four themes: Picasso's Spanish identity, his self-exile to France, modernism, and the politics of modernity dominated by war and totalitarianism. In addition to traditional uses of the instruments, Louchouarn also uses unconventional techniques developed by modernist composers to create sound effects such as sirens and exploding bombs to aurally illustrate Picasso's "Guernica," an iconic work about the bombing of Spain's Basque region in the Spanish Civil War.

"That era was very prolific in exploring sound and music, said Louchouarn: "I have always been very interested in modernism in art in relation to the political landscape."

The Alley Theater production of "A Weekend With Pablo Picasso" will be presented by the Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theater Center. For tickets and more information, go to http://thelatc.org/.

In addition, Louchouarn composed the music for "We Are Not Alone: Tomás Rivera-A Musical Narrative," to be performed April 22 at UC Riverside. He wrote the four-act, 12-song musical over winter break, communicating daily with Carlos E. Cortés and Juan Felipe Herrera, the project's writers. They based "We Are Not Alone" on the life and writings of Rivera, who was the UC system's youngest and first minority chancellor when he came to UCR in 1979.

The bulk of the score features four singers, piano, percussion, and clarinet. Many of the pieces will be performed by the Onda Sound Project and directed by Louchouarn. Other groups, such as the Mayupatapi Andean Ensemble and the Maracatu Rivera Nação Drumming and Dance Ensemble, will also contribute pieces to the musical's narrative.

"The score brings together the tradition of the American musical and elements of Latin music, including narrative forms such as the corrido in Mexico," Louchouarn said. "The idea was to offer insight into the travails and feeling of this young boy, Tomás, the son of a Mexican migrant worker, from his discovery of books to his becoming chancellor of UCR, and the elation and weight of so much responsibility to his family and community."

"We Are Not Alone" is presented as the 24th Annual Tomás Rivera Conference by the Tomás Rivera Endowment and the Department of Creative Writing at UCR. It will be performed at 6:30 p.m. at the university's Barbara and Art Culver Center for the Arts. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $50 for standing room only.