I studied composition in music school and Aurelio de la Vega was my primary professor through my undergraduate education at Cal State University Northridge. This afternoon there was a celebration of his long and distinguished career at the Doheny Library on the campus of USC. I had the choice to attend another meeting of the LA and OC Audio Society in Woodland Hills or show up at the event for my former professor. I opted to head downtown to see a very influential gentleman from my distant past.
It was the right decision. Aurelio de la Vega was born in Cuba in 1925 and came to this country in the late 50’s. His compositions were not of the style the would endear him to the Castro regime and so he…and many other artists…left Cuba to work and create in the states. I met him in the mid 1970s at CSUN…and I was not terribly impressed. He was routinely late for class and smoked cigars throughout his lectures. I hate smoking and there’s nothing worse than a stinking cigar in a closed room…or anywhere else for that matter.
But Aurelio grew on me. He was a pioneer in electronic music and established the studio at CSUN in the 60s. During my senior year, I became the “lab instructor” of the electronic music studio and ended up teaching the class. Aurelio was an innovator in the field but he didn’t know the first thing about the equipment…I did. It was my first teaching experience and I loved it. Analog synthesizers were all the rage back then. We had a few Putney VC3 synths, a Moog, and a bunch of Teac reel-to-reel tape machines. It was my job to teach studio techniques, composition using Musique Concrete methods, and eventually synthesis. It was the time of long tape loops, spring reverb, and all analog signal paths. Music making in electronic media was a hands on affair.
Aurelio was internationally famous and had a close relationship with some people in Caracas, Venezuela. In the early 1980s, he was put in charge of rebuilding the Institute de Fonologia in Caracas…except he didn’t have a clue what they needed or how to install any newly purchased equipment. So he brought me along as his assistant. I specified the gear, purchased a variety of audio equipment, and I spent a month installing everything. I got paid pretty well and it was a serious adventure.
At the meeting today, Aurelio briefly discussed those trips in the 1980s…and a return trip he and his wife took in 2004. This was the time of Hugo Chavez. He described the changes as dramatic and not in a good way. I remember lots of beautiful concrete architecture and a very vibrant city. It seems things have changed since I was there.
There were lots of other people at the event. I spent time chatting with other students including some that I hadn’t seen since my days at Northridge or UCLA grad school…which was over 30 years ago. It was a reunion of sorts…I saw and got reacquainted with other professors and students. Big fun..although it makes you realize how quickly time flies by.
Got to run…see you tomorrow.