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Artists Arturo Parra

Arturo Parra has been making contemporary music his métier since the earliest days of his career. Cofounder of the first Colombian guitar quartet, Cuarteto Espiral, he traveled around his country of origin as a concert performer. In 1989, he moved to Canada to further his knowledge of contemporary guitar, becoming the first Latin American to be awarded a doctorate in music from the Université de Montréal. Since then he has devoted himself exclusively to composing and performing his own pieces.

A world pioneer of mixed music for guitar and electronic media, he produced the disc Parr(A)cousmatique in 2002 as the result of a collaboration with five of the most prestigious composers on the electroacoustic scene. Five years later came Voz, consisting of four “poems in sound” for guitar and vocal expression. These two discs confirmed the uniqueness of his work and drew high praise from critics around the world.

His compositions and performances have won prizes at the world’s most renowned competitions and festivals, such as Prix Ars Electronica (Austria), Luigi Russolo (Italy), Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France), Musica Nova (Czech Republic), CIMESP (Brazil), ICMC (United States and Spain), and the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (Québec).

A tireless experimenter, Arturo Parra has to date invented over fifty extended guitar techniques and forms of guitar/vocal expression, and continues to expand the expressive range of his instrument through his sonic explorations.

His insatiable curiosity about all forms of expression leads him to collaborate regularly with artists in other disciplines, including literature, electroacoustics, video, dance, mime, theatre, and hand-made cinema. The group Paroles Égales, Theatre for the Ear, which he founded with author and actress Catherine Ego, has for twenty years been the principal locus of his creation of works for guitar and spoken word.

Since 2010, Arturo Parra has been the director of the Department of Guitar and Plucked String Instruments at Juan N Corpas University in Bogotá (Colombia). He divides his artistic activity between Colombia and Canada.


Arturo Parra

Bogotá (Colombia), 1958

Residence: Bogotá (Colombia)

  • Composer
  • Performer (guitar)

On the web

Arturo Parra [Photo: Mario Jean, MADOC, 2012]
Arturo Parra [Photo: Mario Jean, MADOC, 2012]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Catherine Ego, 2008]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Claudia Nelke, 2005]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Édith Michel, 2001]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Édith Michel, 2001]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Édith Michel, 2001]
  • Arturo Parra [Photo: Jorge Parra, 1989]

In the press

Introduction(s) to the Delights of Electroacoustic Music

François Couture,, October 15, 2003

Electroacoustic music is an acquired taste. Like it or not, radio and television have conditioned us from an early age into accepting some musical (tonal and rhythmical) molds as being “normal.” Therefore, electroacoustics, along with other sound-based (in opposition to note-based) forms of musical expression like free improvisation, is perceived as being “abnormal.” That’s why a first exposure to this kind of music often turns into a memorable experience — for better or worse. Many factors come into play, but choosing an album that offers an adequate (i.e. friendly and gentle) introduction to the genre will greatly help in letting the initial esthetic shock turn into an experience of Beauty and mark the beginning of a new adventure in sound.

My goal with this sound path is simply to point out a few titles that I think have the potential to encourage instead of discourage, titles opening a door to a new musical dimension. Of course, this selection can only be subjective. But it might be helpful to new enthusiasts and to aficionados looking for gift ideas that would spread good music around. After all, Christmas is only a few weeks away!


We usually develop new interests from existing interests. What I mean is: we explore music genres that are new to us because a related interest brought us there. That’s why when it comes to electroacoustic music, mixed works (for tape and instrument) or works related to specific topics are often the best place to find a bridge that will gently lead the listener into the new territory. For example, people who enjoy reading travel literature will find in Kristoff K.Roll’s the sublimated narrative of a journey through Central America. Those still young enough to enjoy fairy tales (I’m one of them) will find in Francis Dhomont’s an in-depth reflection on this literary genre as inspired by the works of psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, in the form of a captivating work with multiple narratives (in many languages) and electroacoustic music of a great evocative strength. Lighter and more fanciful, by Roxanne Turcotte finds its source in childlike imagination and is in part aimed at children without over-simplifying its artistic process.

Guitar fans can turn to , a wonderful project for which classical guitarist Arturo Parra co-wrote pieces with some of Quebec’s best electroacoustic composers: Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont (Quebecer at heart, at the very least), Robert Normandeau, and Gilles Gobeil. The latter has just released an album-long piece, , written with and featuring avant-garde guitarist René Lussier. Lussier’s followers and people interested in Goethe’s play Faust (and its rich heritage) will find here an essential point of convergence, another bridge.

Essential listens

Those who want to explore further will probably want to venture into more abstract electroacoustic art. I recommend starting with the Quebec composers. Chauvinism? No way. It’s just that the music of composers like Dhomont, Normandeau, Gobeil, Yves Daoust, or Yves Beaupré seems to me to be more accessible than the music of British or French composers. It is more immediate, has a stronger impact (Gobeil, usually hitting hard), a more pleasant form of lyricism (Daoust, Beaupré), more welcoming architectures and themes (Dhomont, Normandeau). If you need places to start, try Normandeau’s , Gobeil’s , Dhomont’s , and Beaupré’s .

That being said, there are hours upon hours of beauty and fascination to be found in the works of Michel Chion (his powerful ), Bernard Parmegiani (), Jonty Harrsison (), Denis Smalley (), and Natasha Barrett (), but they may seem more difficult or thankless on first listen. And for those interested in where these music come from, the EMF label offers , the complete works of Pierre Schaeffer, the father of musique concrète and grandfather of electroacoustics.

Tiny ideas

A compilation album has the advantage of offering a large selection of artists and esthetics in a small, affordable format. Available at a budget price, proposes a strong sampler of the productions on the label empreintes DIGITALes. The albums and , along with the brand new volume of the series, cull short pieces (often under three minutes) to trigger interrogations and discoveries in those with a short attention span.

And finally, for those of you who want to take their time and explore in short steps, the collection produced by the French label Métamkine contains many wonderful 3" CDs, 20 minutes in duration each, for a reduced price. The catalog includes titles by renown composers such as Michel Chion, Lionel Marchetti, Michèle Bokanowski, Bernhard Günter, and Éliane Radigue. These tiny albums are perfect for gift exchanges.

Of course, all of the above are only recommendations. The best sound path to discovery is the one you follow by yourself, little by little.

Best listens!


  • Nominated for “Album of the year — actuelle, contemporary and electroacoustic music,” Parr(A)cousmatique by guitarist and composer Arturo Parra and Parasites by Diane Labrosse and Martin Tétreault.…

    Tuesday, November 5, 2002 / General

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