Gabriela Lena Frank: Composite Identity

Gabriela Lena Frank: Composite Identity

Gabriela Lena Frank’s compositions are a unique musical response to mestizaje, a state in which cultures can co-exist without one subjugating another.

Written By

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is an ASCAP-award winning composer and music journalist. Among his compositions are Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow for orchestra, the "performance oratorio" MACHUNAS, the 1/4-tone sax quartet Fair and Balanced?, and the 1/6-tone rock band suite Imagined Overtures. His compositions are represented by Black Tea Music. Oteri is the Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and is Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he has been the Editor of its web magazine,, since its founding in 1999.

In conversation with
Frank J. Oteri
February 5, 2008—5:00 p.m.
at the home of Joanne Hubbard Cossa
Transcribed by Julia Lu
Traducido al español por Ulises Solano
Video presentation by Randy Nordschow

The first time I ever met Gabriela Lena Frank was pure serendipity. I was walking down Ninth Avenue in Manhattan and spotted a new Peruvian restaurant. As I was looking at the menu for future reference, Olga Mychajluk, who was then working at G. Schirmer, jumped out the door and exclaimed, “I’m having dinner here with one of our new composers, Gabi Frank; you have to meet her.” Unfortunately I had already eaten dinner; so the conversation never went beyond a few pleasantries.

But soon thereafter I started to hear some of Gabriela’s chamber music, and I was particularly taken with a cello quartet called Las Sombras de los Apus. I knew I had to have a more in-depth talk with her at some point in the future, but making that happen literally took years. For some reason, we were never able to get our schedules synchronized. Every time she visited New York, I was out of town; and whenever I visited the Bay Area, where she is based, she was either somewhere else to attend a premiere or traveling off to Peru to further explore its musical traditions.

Inside Pages:

As luck would have it, her wonderfully compact Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos for flute and cello was chosen to be performed on the opening concert at the 2007 conference of the International Association of Music Information Centres in Wellington, New Zealand, last June, which I knew I would be attending. As soon as the American Music Center learned that her music had been selected, we endeavored to find a way to bring Gabriela along to the conference with us so she could hear the performance and meet with people from music information centers from all over world. At that point, Gabriela and I actually seriously contemplated having a NewMusicBox tête-a-tête in New Zealand. It would have been a cool dateline to post on these pages, but in retrospect it was a tad overambitious.

So we were back to square one trying to get this talk going. Meanwhile I kept hearing more and more of her music so there were many more things I wanted to talk with her about. By the time our talk finally happened, as you’ll read, we had quite a lot to say to each other.