Today (September 6, 2009), three months have passed since the unexpected death in Montréal of Alejandro Rodríguez, a vital figure in the national musical world of the last two decades. As often happens, those who carry out work that is essential to music do so behind the scenes. Alejandro founded Musicarte Productions with his life companion Carolina Ramírez in the mid-1980s with the mission of producing recordings of Venezuelan composers, beginning with a work dedicated to Maestro Sojo. Unlike institutional producers, the young couple decided to invest all their time and their small capital in the creation and commercial distribution of a totally new discography: concert music with a distinctly Venezuelan profile. And all this in the Caracazo crisis years of late-1980s riots and violence, not in the Saudita era of the 1970s, when wealth and calm prevailed. This only increases the merit of his idealism, as he dared to invest in difficult years. It’s a question of faith.
Alejandro was a musician, trained as a sound engineer, grandson of the great poet Alberto Arvelo Torrealba – a solid cultural background united with a quiet temperament that he converted into something all recording projects need and rarely have: a good captain. The music producer. But Alejandro did more than control the quality of the sound takes – he sought out fledgling composers of new Venezuelan classical music, he encouraged groups that had barely hatched, he dreamed up new proposals that required miracles, stretching out the long night hours of recording and editing so the miniscule budgets could generate a palpable catalog of innovation in that decidedly non-commercial fringe that is so important for the elevation of a nation’s identity. They achieved it.
The legacy of Musicarte is important not only for its abundance of works, but for the very meaning of its mission. What persists, after the passing of a friend, is not just a list of important pieces, but the establishment over mere business of a musical ideal clearly focused on Venezuela. Musicarte lay the foundations for a new paradigm of music production. It launched careers. If Alejandro and Carolina had been able to continue their work with financial support, instead of going into professional exile in Canada, undoubtedly we would have today an outstanding catalog of fringe works including chamber music, urban fusion criolla music, ethnic music, young soloists, and all the trickle-down space around the colossal National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras [El Sistema] that has fertilized our musical terrain in unimaginable ways, for which Venezuela deserves a flourishing of private recording productions.
But difficulties abound – the simple collection of money in record stores, impotence in the face of piracy, and perhaps more serious, the lack of cultural vision that permeates the management of financial muscle. If we don’t produce good culture, we’ll remain invaded by junk. Fundamental rule of the cultural economy. There are those who, with an infinitesimal portion of their fortune, could change the course of musical creation in a country that hungers for originality, precisely in the space that Musicarte aspired to occupy. These days, in the worldwide crisis of the recording industry, this course is more complex than ever. (To be fair: if someone is doing interesting work, we’ll review it.) But Alejandro Rodríguez is no longer with us. One missing, and the world is no longer the same. Peace.
Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland