Mexico Focus

Exploring the Past and Present of Experimental Music and Sound Art in Mexico

Two compelling evenings at HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2) as well as performances at Berghain and Radialsystem will extend a festival-wide focus on Mexico anchored by the CTM 2017 exhibition “Critical Constellations of the Audio-Machine in Mexico,” which examines the history and current status of sound art and electronic music in the country.

Planned in collaboration with exhibition curator Carlos Prieto Acevedo, the first of two nights at HAU2 will feature California-based Mexican composer Guillermo Galindo’s special version of the the outstanding multimedia project "Border Cantos." This rendition features improvised pieces for live electronics and hybrid artifacts or "cyber-totemic sonic objects." The ingenious hand-built instruments, developed by Galindo together with long-time friend Don Buchla, are fashioned from objects lost by some of the countless persons attempting to cross the Mexican-US border: shoes, water jugs, soccer jerseys, combs… The objects were found by American photographer Richard Misrach, whose portfolio of stunning images documenting the border territories comprises the second half of the original multimedia “Border Cantos” project. "Border Cantos" will also appear in the exhibition alongside Galindo’s "Ome Acatl," which translates the cosmic mythology of the Aztec calendar into an orchestral score.

Using a radio and cassette devices, Angelica Castelló embarks on a journey through an enigmatic territory of lost memories. Though Castelló’s sources of inspiration, which range from literature to visual art, often have specific roots, they all consistently lead her to an abstract engagement with existential topics such as fragility, trauma, and death.

British mezzo soprano Loré Lixenberg will reinterpret "Study no. 31," a piece for mechanical pianola written in 1965 by the late Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow, as a multichannel vocal tour de force. The established young singer Carmina Escobar uses feedback, hidden resonances, customised microphone devices and the dramaturgy of vocal gestures to craft a deep, intimate, post-operatic story.

Trained in a broad range of Mexican national folkloric instruments, composer-performer Roberto Morales-Manzaneres uses his own software, ESCAMOL, to metamorphosize inspirations from nature, algorithmic composition and real-time gesture interaction into a surround-sound performance with mayan harp, Wii controllers and electronics. Morales-Manzaneres’s body of work is inspired by the sea, by wind and waves, by mathematical equations, and now, thanks to his collaboration with space scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, by the breeze of electrons generated by the sun.

The second evening at HAU2 belongs to Liminar, Mexico’s leading ensemble for contemporary music, which will premiere a new work by Mexican composer Carlos Sandoval. "Mexican National Anthem (as I recall it from my childhood)" will fuse a score performed by Liminar and a solo soprano with sounds and images from Sandoval`s own video work. Ensemble member and guitarist José Manuel Alcántara will perform a series of solo electroacoustic compositions by early Mexican experimenters.

Liminar will also appear in a special partner programme at Radialsystem in the first of a four-evening concert series conceptualised and produced by Ensemble KNM Berlin. The series, entitled "Die Welt nach Tiepolo," presents the four parts of French philosopher and spectral composer Hughes Dufourt’s epochal "d’après Tiepolo" composition cycle, beginning on February 4th with the movement "L’Amerique d’après Tiepolo." The bulk of Dufourt’s major works have been inspired by painters from Bruegel to Goya to Pollock; this particular series takes as its departure point frescos (1752-53) by the Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo on the ceiling of the Würzburg Palace in Germany depicting the four continents known at the time. They were also critical commentaries on early globalisation and the European colonial project to conquer the world. The piece, made up of four parts each devoted to a continent (L’Afrique, L’Asie, L’Amerique, L’Europe), employs a twenty-first-century musical grammar characterized by inexorable regeneration, contortion, synthesis, and instability. Dufourt’s composition depicts a revolutionized world view while paying homage to traditional understandings of location and physicality. The perspectives offered by Tiepolo and in turn by Dufourt question established understandings of old and new, of center and periphery, and this questioning is voiced via instruments historical and modern, exotic and familiar, homemade and universal, and by musicians from all over the world. The evening’s programme will be shared between KNM and Liminar – each of the ensembles will perform its own repertoire and then collaborate on two pieces. "L’Amerique d’après Tiepolo" will be performed by Ensemble KNM Berlin alone. Liminar will perform four chamber pieces by the Mexican microtonal pioneer Julián Carillo, all of which are written for sixteenth-tone harp and several of which use quarter-tone guitar, flute, and strings, among other instruments. 1928’s "I think of you" features a solo voice part sung by Carmina Escobar, who also appears earlier in the week at HAU2. KNM and Liminar will join forces on a specially commissioned work by the Mexican-Dutch composer Juan Felipe Waller, "Dreizehn Kontemplationen gegen eine Intervention des Schalls 2017 (WP)" and on the piece "Form 1 (in memoriam Edgard Varèse)" by experimental California composer James Tenney. The Radialsystem concert will be free for CTM Gold Pass holders.

CTM collaborates with MUTEK.MX to present contemporary club sounds by the emergent young Mexican artist and NAAFI affiliate Siete Catorce, who warps memories of all-night family birthday and quinceañera parties with hypnotising sadness, rage and foreboding. Marco Polo Gutierrez was born in Mexicali and grew up in Oakland, California before his family was deported back to Mexico. His music responds via an expressive, individualized vocabulary to the difficulty of modern life in the country: wages stay low while the cost of living rises; cartel violence and political corruption are the rampant norms. Gutierrez operates at the forefront of a spooky, dark mutant of cumbia known as ruidosón, which emerged in Tijuana from a wider pool of styles under the umbrella of ’primal’ or ‘pre-Hispanic’ guarachero. Ruidosón is a particularly political offshoot of guarachero; its producers stood out and stand out for their angry reactions to ex-president Felipe Calderon and to the Institutional Revolutionary Party that gained power via Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012. Gutierrez, both through his music and via social media outlets, is also an honest spokesperson for the universal condition of emotional turbulence: he is well acquainted with soaring highs and bottomless lows.

( SIC ), an improvisation project by noise artist and 3D graphics wizard Julian Bonequi and electronic musician Rodrigo Ambriz, hybridizes savage percussion and extreme vocals into spasmic states and possessive sensations. It ritualistically detonates the primitive and the ecstatic, intuition and self-induced alienation, the bold and the subtle through a series of short, explosive vignettes.Bonequi will appear on vocals, drums, and turntable; Ambriz shares the vocal responsibility and plays tapes and electronics.

Julian Bonequi also appears in this year’s CTM Radio lab with "The Death of the Anthropocene," a work inspired by radio drama and sci-fi movies.


CTM 2017’s Mexico focus is supported by FONCA – National Fund for Arts and Culture Mexico, AMEXCID – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mexico, Dual Year Mexico-Germany Programme and the Embassy of Mexico. In collaboration with

Related Events

Critical Constellations of the Audio-Machine in Mexico

Kunstraum, Fri 27.01.2017, 19:00

Opening of the exhibition curated by Carlos Prieto Acevedo

Electronic Excursions into Alterity

HAU2, Wed 01.02.2017, 19:30

Roberto Morales Manzanares, Carmina Escobar, Guillermo Gallindo, Angelica Castelló


Berghain, Wed 01.02.2017, 22:00

Stefan Fraunberger, ( SIC ), Ex Eye (Colin Stetson, Toby Sumemrfield, Shahzad Ismaily, Greg Fox)

Radical Temperaments

HAU2, Thu 02.02.2017, 19:30

José Manuel Alcántara, Loré Lixenberg, Alexander Bruck, Liminar with Carlos Sandoval


Panorama Bar, Fri 03.02.2017, 21:00

TUUM, James Ferraro, Karima, DEBONAIR, Siete Catorce, Bariş K, Umfang, Courtesy

The World After Tiepolo: America

Radialsystem V, Sat 04.02.2017, 20:00

Ensemble KNM, Liminar

CTM 2017 Radio Lab

HAU2, Sat 04.02.2017, 19:00

Rima Najdi w/ Kathy Alberici & Ana Nieves Moya, Julian Bonequi