Isabel Aretz – 1913

Isabel Aretz (April 13, 1913)

Venezuelan-Argentine ethnomusicologist, folklorist and composer, wife of luis felipe Ramón y rivera.  She studied the piano under Rafael González (1923–31) and composition with Athos Palma (1928–33) at the Buenos Aires National Conservatory of Music, instrumentation with Villa-Lobos in Brazil (1937), anthropology (1938–40) and, with Carlos Vega, folklore and musicology (1938–44) at the Museo de Ciencias Naturales de Buenos Aires. She took the doctorate in musicology in 1967 at the Argentine Catholic University with a dissertation on Argentine folk music. She was an associate member of the Instituto Argentino de Musicología from 1938 to 1950. After working as the first professor of ethnomusicology at the Escuela Nacional de Danzas de Argentina (1950–52) she moved to Caracas, Venezuela, where she has held appointments as research fellow in folklore and ethnomusicology at the Instituto Nacional de Folklore de Venezuela (1953–65), head of the folklore department of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes (1965–70) and founder-director of the Instituto Interamericano de Etnomusicología y Folklore (1971–85). In 1986 she became the president of the Fundación Internacional de Etnomusicología y Folklore (FINIDEF) and in 1989 the director of the Centro para las Culturas Populares y Tradicionales (CCPYT), both in Caracas. She also presided over the newly established Fundacíon de Etnomusicologíá y Folklore (FUNDEF), from 1991 to 1995. In 1996 she returned to Argentina and took over as the director of the Fundación Internacional de Etnomusicología y Folklore de Argentina in Buenos Aires.

Isabel Aretz is a leading authority on South American folk music. With her husband she has travelled extensively throughout Hispanic America, collecting the folk music of Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico, and has published numerous important analytical and descriptive accounts of their research. Her many awards and fellowships, for both scholarly work and composition, include a scholarship from the Argentine National Commission of Culture (1941–3), a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship (1966–7), the Polifonía prize of Buenos Aires (1952) and the first prize in Caracas (1972) for Yekuana (Yanoama), a work for orchestra, voices and tape. She won the Robert Stevenson Prize (1990–91) for her book Música de los aborígenes de Venezuela, which also received an Honor Diploma (1993) from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Music Council (CIDEM), and the prestigious international grand prize Gabriel Mistral of the OAS (1992). She has been an active member of many national and international organizations, a board member and delegate of the IFMC and ICTM and a council member of the Society for Ethnomusicology. As a composer Aretz has cultivated a highly personal nationalist style, based on a combination of indigenous or Afro-Hispanic folk traditions with avant-garde European elements, including electronic techniques.


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