Form, Melody, and Rhythm in Gabriela Ortiz’s Altar De Muertos and Aroma Foliado



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Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz is establishing a personal and contemporary musical language through the combination of Mexican folk elements with twentieth- and twenty-first-century musical techniques. Although her music has been nominated and awarded with many prizes, her composition techniques and musical style have not been defined or discussed as much as those of other composers from the last two centuries.

This document will concentrate on the distinctive musical characteristics in two of Gabriela Ortiz's string quartets, Altar de Muertos (1997) and Aroma foliado (2006). The discussion will also compare the pieces and report the mutual qualities observed in both compositions. The analysis of both quartets will suggest a specific modus operandi and reveal common compositional techniques employed by the composer. The goal is to describe some of the musical elements that Ortiz used in these compositions to explain the features of her distinctive compositional style. The results of analyzing these two pieces, which share the same instrumentation, will provide an accurate survey of her techniques in the string quartet writing and possible strategies for interpreting Ortiz's works.

The melodies, forms, and the specific rhythms used in every movement of Altar de Muertos, and in the one-movement work Aroma foliado, will be examined. Explanation of the music will be supplemented by the use of tables and score excerpts. A description of the use of the four instruments to create Ortiz's unique sonorities will also be studied in order to propose that Ortiz has a signature sound that makes her music unique.

This essay will be very helpful for researchers and performers that are seeking more information about the compositional style of Gabriela Ortiz. Furthermore, this might be the first time a detailed analysis of her music is presented and made available to the general public in order to understand not just these specific pieces, but also other compositions by Ortiz that might use similar styles and writing techniques.



Altar de Muertos, Aroma Foliado, Ortiz, Gabriela, String quartets, Chamber music