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Maria de Alvear (born 1960 in Madrid, Spain) is a Spanish-German composer living in Germany.

Musical style

Her music is highly unusual, especially for a European composer, in both notation and effect. In many of her scores she writes only noteheads, with no rhythms, and her work is remarkable for its relentless repeating notes and chords.

Several of de Alvear's works are written for her own voice with orchestral accompaniment, and she speaks in a kind of free sprechstimme, in four languages, often about frank sexual issues; two of these works, more than half an hour long, are titled Sexo and Vagina. She tends toward long one-movement works, including a piano concerto entitled World, which includes a large percussion section and a second piano in the orchestra tuned a quarter-tone off. For some of her pieces she surrounds the stage with salt, stones, branches, leaves, or clothing to create a feeling of ritual. Because of her music's unconventionality she has run into (and frequently overcome) considerable resistance from the European contemporary music establishment, and has premiered several of her pieces in the United States. Yet despite the heavy intensity of her music, and its often spectacular subject matter, her music is deeply spiritual and concerned with healing.

De Alvear was a student of Mauricio Kagel in Cologne. In search of the authentic wellsprings of music, and to counteract the egoistic tendencies of a European culture, de Alvear regularly spends time among the indigenous peoples of America and Russia, including the Cherokee and Tuscarora Indians and the Nenets people of northern Siberia. Her compositions de Alvear performs as artist and singer together with other interprets, e.g. with the Drums off Chaos (Jaki Liebezeit, Manos Tsangaris) or with the percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky. Her compositions have been enacted in Germany, in Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia as well as in USA, for instance at the Biennale di Venezia, the Donaueschinger Musiktage or the festival Frau Musica (nova) in Cologne. Her installations have been part of diverse exhibitions. With the assistance of her sister Ana de Alvear, a visual artist, she runs a company called World Edition to produce books and CDs by herself and the individuals from indigenous tribes whom she considers her spiritual advisers.

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