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May 2004

Luis Merino:
Bicentennial Award 2004

He's the current director of Universidad de Chile's Arts and Culture Extension Center. By the way he expresses his ideas, one notices his time spent at the academe. He has professionally developed himself for forty years at the Universidad de Chile, leaving a deep mark specially in the two fields that concentrate most of his passion: music and teaching.

By Beatriz García-Huidobro

versión españoll

 

—Of all the several assignments you've taken care of (musicology professor, director of the Chilean Music Magazine, Academic director of the Arts Faculty, member of the High Arts Academy), which one do you feel was the most important for the jury to choose you as the new Bicentennial Award 2004?
—I would say it was a combination of them all. To have been part of local and general administrations inside the Universidad de Chile has given me a macro vision of this institution.

—And on a personal level, which of these assignments has been the most satisfying?
—It may seem a diplomatic answer, but I would have to say all of them. Initially, my career was academic. Before I left for my PhD, I only worked in teaching and investigation. Then I did some administrative work, which I took as temporary job to then get back to the academic world. But then I discovered that administrative work allows you to transform into action all that you are seeing in your investigation. What's contemplative, which is one of the characteristics of the Academy, becomes something concrete and active through a correct administration. So even when I have not looked for it, I've taken it as part of the institution's requirements. It has even helped my personal life, understanding the necessities of a house, which is something professors rarely know about because of their investigative work.

—How much of a strength it is to have been always connected to Chile's most important university?
—Even the crisis have become opportunities. I think I would have never done what I have done if it wasn't for this university. Universidad de Chile's trademark identifies me completely. Here you have to learn to administrate from shortage, and that forces you to never get away from the mission and set yourself a higher challenge.


Global value
—What is musicology all about? What is its relation with artistic creation and musical interpretation?
—Musicology studies music from the perspective of its stylistic and aesthetical traces, as well as its relation with the surrounding society and historical elements. A simple and clear example would be that of the "Happy Birthday" song, which has certain style elements that are immersed in a fixed context, that of a celebration. Ancestral music has very determined ocassions: there's music for each different ritual, such as initiation, fertility and others. Music combines emotion and intelect, and gets its significance from the context of the culture it develops in. Its codes gives its significance. Musicology studies artistic creation and musical interpretation from the discourse point of view. That means that it analizes music, discusses it. A musicologist studies the creator and the performer, with no need of being one. We'll soon be presenting in Chillán a book with a large investigation I did about the life of [Chilean pianist] Claudio Arrau, and all the elements that made him our most important performer. Arrau used to say that the interpreter was the server of the work, because music is not there to serve him.

—What's your opinion about music-teaching in public schools?
—I don't know much about it, I should know better. When I've had to evaluate certain programs I've sensed an excess of specialization, with requirements that you don't even see in universities. The idea is to start with musical formation from school. Grammar schools should not be looking and developing talents, because for that we have conservatories. What should come out from schools are music-loving audiences.

—About our ancestral music, do you think there's enough investigation and promotion? Or is it dying slowly?
—My view is that in LatinAmerica musicologists should study our roots, more than anything else. In my personal case, I've been specially dedicated to the studies of the country's institutions and the main composers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Our challenge is to increase this level of investigation, which is now insufficient. Besides, migration to large cities, the huge influence of the media, urban or commercial pop music... all these put in risk the musical traditions of the kawéskar, the mapuches o the aymaras, which has a worldwide importance that us, Chileans, don't really value.


Musical work
—Juvenile and children's orchestras have had an amazing social response. Would you say that their goals are being met?
—You have to make a difference between education through art and that one to form artists. Within the context of education through art, I believe that children's and juvenile orchestras are a very valuable initiative, but I don't see them as a vehicle to form professional musicians, but more to obtain masses of children that are sensibilized to music, that know it and enjoy it. Orchestras form enriched human beings.

—Do you feel that, in a way, what the jury was looking for through this award was to distinguish the silent work of music professors and investigators throughout the country?
—Absolutely. I feel deeply thankful for representing so many colleagues of mine that may have as much or more merits than myself to get this award. Maybe, my work has had more trascendence because of my board positions, but there is a large academic mass in different faculties that does an extraordinary job with young people, so influencing society in a very positive and sustained way.

 
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