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Colloquium - Dr Sue Miller

When Nov 27, 2013
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where 5.00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music
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Dr Sue Miller (Anglia Ruskin University)

Cuban Flute Improvisation: the role of influence in the development of a style


Various terms are used for improvisation in Cuban dance music and help define the distinct styles of improvisation adopted by performers. For example, florear, literally meaning 'to make flowery', is often (but not solely) used in the context of danzones where embellishment of precomposed melodic material is common. Mambear refers to strong, rhythmic improvising which takes place over repeated vocal choruses. Inspiraciones are short improvisations usually played between call-and-response coros. Descargar ('to release' or 'offload’) is used in more informal 'jam' sessions but appears to have its origins in Afro-Cuban religious ritual. Another term, montunear, has the connotation of 'grooving'. In this presentation I demonstrate how flute players in charanga orchestras of the early twentieth century took the florear approach to improvisation, combining it with a 'rubatiando' or rhythmically free interpretation. Conversely, with the appearance of the danzones del nuevo ritmo, the approach taken by flute players from the 1940s onwards broadly changed from a romantic, embroidered style to a rhythmic one, influenced by the Cuban son and mambo. Through analysis of commercial recordings of the piece ‘Tres Lindas Cubanas’ I explore how traditional ‘step change’ or ‘revolutionary’ narratives of the style’s development can be contested and relationships between the ‘old and the new’ demonstrated.


Sue Miller is principal lecturer in music and head of the Popular Music course at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (UK).  She completed her PhD in 2011 on flute improvisation in Cuban charanga performance at the University of Leeds having previously studied charanga flute improvisation with Richard Egües from Orquesta Aragón in Havana in 2000 and 2001. Sue is the musical director of the UK's only charanga orchestra 'Charanga del Norte' which she founded in 1998. In addition to working with her own group she has performed with veteran charanga musicians in Havana including Estrellas Cubanas, Charanga de Oro, Orquesta Sublime and Orquesta Barbarito Díez. Her book Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation is now published in the USA and is due for publication in the UK late December 2013/January 2014. She has also recently completed two entries on ‘Cuban Son’  and ‘Cuban Guajira’ for The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW): Part 3 Genres

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