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Born 13 June 1899 in Mexico City, Carlos Chávez was a renowned composer, conductor, and educator whose distinctive, often highly percussive music synthesized elements of Mexican, Indian, and Spanish-Mexican influence. A prolific writer of music and music criticism, Chávez's oeuvre includes five ballets, seven symphonies, four concertos, a cantata and opera, and innumerable pieces for voice, piano, and chamber ensemble; he wrote two books (of which
Toward A New Music: Music and Electricity
became a major contribution and fundamental document of new musical thought) and more than 200 articles on music.
Chávez was trained primarily as a pianist and developed much of his compositional skills independent of instructors. Coming of age at the close of the Mexican revolution and during a time of renewed cultural nationalism, Chávez's investigation of indigenous Indian cultures, native folk elements, and dance forms brought an unprecedented vigor and visibility to 20th-century Mexican music. A master of orchestration, Chávez's use of native instruments was inimitable with polyrhythms, cross-rhythms, syncopation, and numerous irregular meters often significant elements of compositonal structure. Works such as the
Sinfonía de Antígona
, and a ballet for Martha Graham (
La Hija de Cólquide
, "The Dark Meadow") were celebrated for their remarkably distinctive and original sound.