William Ortiz Alvarado

Composer / Educator / Musician


En pos de un Grammy

El Nuevo Día, Espectáculos: Música

Viernes, 20 de julio de 2001, pag.96


Por Mario Alegre Barrios



Surprised, after reading these pages as a disc with one of his works is a candidate for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Classical Album, the composer William Ortiz contacted El Nuevo Día this good news to reveal the details of which appear not entered in the list of candidates which is considered the highest accolade the recording world.

The CD in question is Tango Mata Danzón Eduardo Díaz Muñoz, and Roberto Limón, with the Orchestra of Baja California and the house M & L.


This production includes a concert for guitar Tropicalization, written in 1999 at the request of Roberto Limon to the Orchestra of Baja California, Mexico. "I really surprised to read in The New Day album that had been selected to run for a Grammy," he says. "I did not expect and I really feel happy to be part of this success. As I reported, this concert will be part of the programs that interpret the Orchestra of Baja California on a tour through several cities in Mexico. "


Thus, William Ortiz shared with soprano Ana Maria Martinez the opportunity to make Puerto Rico its first Grammy in a classic category, privilege quite common in popular music genres such as Salsa, Merengue and Latin jazz. In 1999 Roberto Sierra also aspired to this honor by recording Tropical Trio, a work for piano, Violin and Cello.


The joy of Ortiz for this honor comes after having completed another concert for guitar and orchestra, commissioned by the Spanish American Guitar Center, based in the northern Mexican city of Tijuana. "The concert is titled This is the land of quiet and enduring patients for a new awakening, and is dedicated to Vieques," said the composer.

"In November I will travel to Tijuana for the premiere, which will have performances in the wake of Mexico City and San Diego."


The composer William Ortiz wants a Grammy for Best Classical Album.


Freedom Flight. Ortiz y Piorkowski (Centaur 2413)



El Nuevo Día.


By Marjorie Aponte


The Puerto Rican Ortiz joins William James Piorkowski, John Sawers, Julie Newell, Daniel and Susan Royal Ihasz to interpret novel 15 pieces. The Puerto Rican folk music Ortiz offers the essence of six, full, mazurka, pump and dance to create a classical language worthy of study. The originality, expressiveness and rhythmic compositions have high fluidity with notes indicating the talent, commitment and enviable sensitivity of this son of Borinquen. Romance, a piece for soprano and guitar has its origins in Rosa Mystica, a novel by Carlos Varo. The nine works reflect the idiosyncrasies Ortiz island, our roots, to some degree the legendary mystery: Where do we go? However, the six works Pierkowski lean more to the forefront and are influenced by familiar elements of the culture of the composer. The participation of baritone and soprano are more frequent. The excellent guitarist and composer was played by Shakespeare, Venezuela and religious images to work when the staff. Select Uraca to feel how the beauty of each string vibrates. Listen Freedom Flight to continue knowing the valuable contributions of Puerto Ricans to the genre classic.

GÉNERO: Música clásica contemporánea


SONIDO: Excelente



William Ortiz Scoring the street

Village Voice, Music

June 30, 1987. p.76


By Kyle Gann


We white bourgeois classical musician types have become acutely aware of what is lost when an ethnic or folk music is squeezed into the straitjacket of European notation. Reluctantly, we have learned to recognize the cultural insult implicit in, for example, Charles Wakefield Cadman’s romanticized, sanitized American Indian Songs (“From the land of the Sky-Blue Water” being the most infamous). Never again, we promise. However, I don’t believe in undervaluing Euroculture in the haste to expiate our collective guilt, and I don’t think we need to deny the worth of notation.

Village voice

It strikes me that I could write a hip review damning William Ortiz’s June 10 concert at the Alternative Museum for more than his uneven performances. Ortiz, a New York Puerto Rican who got his Ph.D. at SUNY at Buffalo, writes carefully notated compositions based on the street music of his Nuyorican neighborhood. I could talk about how much tamer his work is than the music he’s paying homage to, how the notation merely caricatures the sophisticated nuances that a hot Latin band would give the same material, and a lot of musicians for whom traditional music is sacred turf would yell "Right on!". But I didn’t feel that way. I was struck more by what Ortiz’s notation added to his sources, and by the possibilities that sprang from the two musics (both his own, after all) that he was bringing together.


Using percussion (claves, cowbell, and a variety of drums), electric guitar, flute, and recitation, Ortiz’s music was simple yet tonally sophisticated, suggestive of a Caribbean Hanns Eisler. Ghetto was a rap-medley of texts by Nuyorican poets, Ortiz’s energetic reading encircled by the trills and fluttertongues of Barbara Held’s flute, underlaid by the swells of James Pugliese’s percussion, and abandoned by Jeffrey Schanzer’s inaudible electric guitaring. Ortiz’s primary textural device, a lively Morse-code background of repeated notes, was most effective in the Street Music, where the alto flute, trombone, and vibraphone pushed the idea to an obsessive minimalism. Yet, like a benevolent sprite, the ghost of Ortiz’s teacher Morton Feldman hovered over each score, imparting sonorous touches, partcularly the pitches neutralized by chromatic adjacencies in another register that one finds in the scores of virtually any Feldman student. Such music looked back to a repertoire of Latin-influenced music written in the ’30s by William Russell, Henry Cowell, and Latin Americans such as Carlos Chavez, but the genre still sounds fresh, possibly because its performance today is neglected outside of a few German percussion ensembles.


Admittedly, my favorite piece, Subway (for trombone), exhibited the least ethnicity, possibly because the further that source is from the surface, the more mysterious its freeing influence becomes. This jauntily syncopated number in march time (which Leonard Krech blundered through as though sight-reading) kept teetering on the edge of atonality, only to somersault back into cheery F major every time. But the piece that gave Ortiz’s method the Q.E.D. was the aptly titled Urbanización, a percussion free-for-all that a Latin drummer might have improvised on the spot. Its interplay of dotted rhythms exhibited a far better structural sense than even an expert jazzer could have realized extempore, while some Feldman-y pings and clicks floated away from the main texture to make thoughtful side comments. Given such exquisiteness, the problem is then shifted to the performer, who must overcome the notation for an impression of spontaneity. Anthony Miranda did exactly that, with an abandon that drew the same whistles and “wow”s as a fiery jazz solo. The third world met the first and had a blast.


The dilemma of whether, why, and how much to attempt the nuances of a traditional music in notation is one that a cross-cultural composer will always have thown at him, either out of genuine aesthetic misgiving or mere ethnic territoriality. It was admittedly odd, in Street Music, to bear the ensemble shout in unison “Get off the wall, get off your ass/The mighty Buccaneers are a comin’ a pass.” Santa Fe composer Peter Garland, who has wrestled with it vis-a-vis American Indian music, has arrived at a hands-off attitude, feeling that the music is not his to appropriate. The issue is more sensitive when the composer isn’t from the same culture as the music he’s Westernising, but I’ve heard music by young Navajo musicians that used tamburas and East Indian drones with no apparent unease.


Notating music undeniably robs it of nuances, but it also slows down the mind enough to suggest layers of complexity inaccessible to an improviser. That’s almost a definition of composing: add six such layers and you get Schubert, 50 and you get Boulez. Look at the first draft of Finnegans Wake and you’ll see the process caught halfway. In Ortiz’s case, there were places where the music was a little thin in content, where he could have used a couple of more layers. But that was a refreshing change from most contemporary music, which is too often portentously fat with layers that smother each other. The intricacy lost in Ortiz’s translation of his Puerto Rican sources he restored on another level, resulting in a music that was direct, urgent, free of academic pretensions, and yet never simpleminded.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians
(Revised Edition) Edited By Stanley Sadie By Donald Thompson Ortiz (Alvarado), William (b Salinas, 30 March 1947). Puerto Rican composer. He studied Composition with Campos-Parsi and Veray at the San Juan Conservatory, continuing with Billy Jim Layton and Arel at SUNY, Stony Brook. His doctorate in composition followed studies with Lejaren Hiller and Morton Feldman at SUNY, Buffalo. He was assistant director of Black Mountain College II (1982-), and in 1986 was appointed a teacher at the BayamÛn campus of the University of Puerto Rico. A great deal of Ortiz's music is associated with the 'street music' of the Latino and black sections of the great US urban centres, principally New York City, where he lived during much of his youth. This 'urban-folk' usage, often evoking the style and the spirit of youthful street corner gatherings, reflects Ortiz's vision of his music as the 'violent beauty of urban life: the expression of the shouts in the street - those that are felt, that are muffled'. His expressed intention was to 'convert the language of the street into a legitimate instrument', a goal realized to a great extent in such works as Street Music (1980) and Graffiti Nuyorican (1983). Ortiz's palette has more recently, expanded to embrace a broader range of stylistic references, including insular Puerto Rican and generalized Caribbean allusions; characteristic of this broader vision is his SuspensiÛn de soledad en tres tiempos (1990). Ortiz has actively participated in international congresses since early in his career, and has received commissions from such organizations as the Guitar Society of Toronto, the Puerto Rico SO, the New York State Council on the Arts, Seton Hall University and the National Association of Puerto Rican Composers. WORKS (selective list) Op.
Rican (bilingual street-op), 1986
Kantuta ritual para orch, 1976; Antillas, 1981; Resonancia esférica, 1982; Llegó la banda, 1984;Joceo, str, 1987; Pasacalle, band, 1988; Concierto de metal para un recuerdo, 1989; Suspensión de soledad en tres tiempos, 1990 Vocal. 9 poemas Zen, S, T, fl, gui, 1975; Canto: 28 de septiembre, S, pf, 1975; 3 Songs from El Barrio, Bar, pf, 1977; Elegía a los inocentes caidos, SATB, orch, 1978; Mano de hierro, A, gui, 1987; A capella, 4vv, 1983; Madrigal, Ct, T, B, 1984; A Delicate Fire, A, gui, 1986; Romance, boy S/S, gui, 1988; Romance, chorus, 1988; Unknown Ports from the Full-Time Jungle, S, pf, 1992 Chbr. Str Qt no.1, 1976; Suite, Tercer mundo, fl, rec, 2 gui, perc, 1977; Música, 2 vc, fl, cl, 1978; Rumbo, vc, pf, 1984; Street Music, fl, trbn, 2 perc, 1980; kool Breeze, fl, bn, cl, 1982; Graffiti Nuyorican, perc, pf, 1983; Housing Project, sax qt, 1985; Bolero and Hip-Hop on Myrtle Avenue, ob, pf. 1986; Str Qt no.2, 1987; Caribe urbano, fl, ob, cl, hn, pf, 1990. A Sensitive Mambo in Transformation, elec. gui, synth, drumset, cl, db, 1991; Obra pública, wind qnt, 1992; Loaisai, b cl, mar, 1993; Trío concertante en tres realidades, vn, va, vc, 1995 Perc. Tamboleo, 1972; 124 E. 107th Street, 6 perc, tape, nar/actor, 1979; Bembé, 4 perc, 1981;Urbanización, 1985; Palm Tree with Spanish figurines, trmp, 1987; Rapeo, snare drum, 1988; Eco para un grito gris, mar, 1994 Pf. 4 piezas, 1974; Montuno, 1981; Del tingo al tango, 1984; Danza para Rhonda, 1986; Mulata fantasía, 1987; Bella Aleyda, 1989 Gui. 3 fragmentos, gui, 1973; Pavana, gui/pf, 1977; Dualidad, 2 gui, 1979; Síntesis, gui. tape, 1979; Toque, 4 gui, 1981; Abrazo, 4 gui, 1984 Tape Composición electrónica, 1978; 3 estudios, computer, 1979 Principal publishers: American Composers Editions, A. M.
Percussion, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. North/South, Quadrivium Music BIBLIOGRAPHY D. Thompson
‘Contemporary String Music From Puerto Rico’ American String Teacher, xxxvi/1 (1984). 37-41
‘La música contemporánea en Puerto Rico’, RMC, xxxviii (1984), 110-17
Coriún Aharonián
‘Die gewaltsme Schˆnheit des urbanen Lebens’. Musiktexte, no. 61 (1995), 33-4

City's Sonorus graffiti' inspires composer Ortiz

(San Juan Star, 19 de Junio de 1991).

Ortiz's 'E. 107th St. ' dominates concert by New Music Ensemble

(The Buffalo News, 14 de Noviembre de 1983).

Tránsito de la Orquesta Sinfónica

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