«A Monograph Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»
On May 7th they reached San Carlos, a small military post on the Brazil-Venezuela border on the Rio Negro. They were halfway between the Orinoco and the Amazon Rivers, and Humboldt was tempted to follow the Amazon all the way to the Atlantic seaboard of Brazil. The Portuguese authorities in Brazil learned of his expedition through the Rio Negro and issued a warrant for his arrest as a spy and political undesirable and, if captured, he was to be sent to Lisbon. The warrant read, “a foreigner who might possibly conceal plans for the spread of new ideas and dangerous principles among the faithful subjects of this realm at a time when the temper of the nation is in a condition so dangerous and so difficult to deal with.11” Humboldt decided against following the Amazon and, after a stay of only three days, they made way towards the Caribbean coast of Venezuela by way of the enigmatic Casiquiare canal.
The Casiquiare canal combined the so-called “white waters” of the Orinoco and the dreaded and agonizing mosquitoes. Moreover, their canoe began to look more and more like a floating zoo. Besides their dog, species of animals were collected throughout the journey and the collection included a toucan, a hyacinth macaw, seven parrots, two brilliantly colored manakins,
kinkajous), and eight monkeys (two spider monkeys, two nocturnal monkeys, a cacajao, a viudita, and two squirrel monkeys12). Some of the animals roamed the canoe as their pleased and their antics amused the travelers so that sometimes they forgot about the torment of the mosquitoes.
Their journey upstream through the Casiquiare proved to be a challenge as paddling was difficult and the insects returned. Father Zea boasted that the insects in his mission near the Cataracts were the most unpleasant, yet acknowledged that the stings of the Casiquiare insects were the most painful he had ever felt.13 This stretch proved one of the hardest in terms of provisions as it was a sort of desert in which was possible to starve to death rather than being abundant and lush with food sources. They were forced to eat ants and dry cacao beans.
During their journey through the Casiquiare, Humboldt kept precise notes of the longitude and latitude because the maps of the time were very imprecise. His purpose was twofold: to prove that a connection between the Amazon River and the Orinoco indeed existed and to establish a point through which the equatorial line went. They found that the lower part of the Casiquiare was at 2 ° north, on a site of a granite rock, which informed them that the Rio Negro was the one that crossed the equator. This was also important because the equator was the boundary between the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. The Casiquiare proved to be the only waterway between these two gigantic river systems; this was a great success for their expedition because this would require redrawing the maps of South America throughout the world.
its mouth in the Atlantic. They headed for the town of Angostura, today called Ciudad Bolívar, located in the east of Venezuela and near the mouth of the river. To their advantage, they were going with the current, which eased travel and improved spirits. Father Zea left the party at this point and returned to his mission.
The expedition reached the Angostura on June 13th and they were glad to experience civilization once again in this town of 6000 people. Humboldt wrote in his diary, “Long privations give a value to the smallest enjoyments, and I cannot express the pleasure we felt, when we saw for the first time wheaten bread on the Governor’s table.”14 Humboldt and his group had successfully completed the first scientific exploration of an area of 1500 miles of almost unknown territory between headwater areas of the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They had measured the latitude and longitude of more than 50 places, including the Casiquiare canal, taken a series of important magnetic readings, and made a huge collection of plants 12,000 rare or new to science specimens. In every respect, the journey was a remarkable success.
The Europeans had remained free from any serious illness such as with malaria in this foreign place, however that changed when they reached Angostura. Bonpland felt sick for a couple of days before reaching Angostura; Bonpland, Humboldt, and one of the Indians became seriously ill after reaching the town, most likely with typhoid fever that they picked up in the forest. The Indian quickly entered into a coma, but just as quickly was out of it and recovered.
Humboldt treated himself with a local remedy of honey and cortex Angosturae and recovered.
14 Botting, Humboldt and the Cosmos, 136.
Angostura extended to one month before they were fit to travel again.
Their long stay in Angostura prohibited them from reaching the mouth of the Orinoco.
Instead they set north, traversing the llanos, towards Nuevo Barcelona. From there, a British naval ship took them to Cumaná; Humboldt was enchanted with the impeccable gentlemanliness of the British officers and their excellent education. One year from their departure they reached Cumaná; the first phase of the South American expedition was over.
Humboldt and his crew sailed and stayed in Cuba for a couple of months, then returned to the mainland of South America to make their way to Lima through the Andes. Humboldt studied and compared the different plants west of the Amazon. Humboldt never reached the city of Mérida, but he was close since Mérida is also located in the Andes and therefore the vegetation is analogous. Humboldt also never visited Maracaibo but he was the first scientist to describe the Catatumbo Lighting, a series of powerful and sustained lighting flashes on the Maracaibo Lake.
He wrote that these lightning were “electrical explosions that are like a phosphorescent gleam.”15 15 Russell Maddicks, Bradt Travel Guide: Venezuela, (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press Inc., 2011), 421.
composition, one must therefore investigate further the paintings and life of Ferdinand Bellermann. Almost half a century after Humboldt and inspired by his journeys, Ferdinand Bellermann travelled to in Venezuela in 1842, and remained there for over two years with a grant from the King of Prussia to further his studies of tropical landscapes. His landscapes are of the romantic style of visual arts, which the Encyclopedia Britannica defines as those developed in Britain in the late 18th century that depict classical mythology in a bizarre and strange way. In regards to classical landscapes, the next generation of artists developed a style that emphasized “transient and dramatic effects of light, atmosphere, and color to portray a dynamic natural world
took abundant notes about the country, which he would use upon his return to Germany to keep expanding his portfolio. This earned him the name “painter of virgin forests.”17 Bellermann was born in Erfurt on March 14,1814, ten years after Humboldt’s return to Europe, and died in Berlin on August 11, 1889. After his basic schooling, he joined the Weimar Academy of Fine Arts where he studied with Blechen, Schirmer, and J. E. Meyer; he furthered his studies in the Royal Academy of Berlin. Landscapes became Bellermann’s specialty and his early career was spent travelling and painting the landscapes of Thüringen, Harz, Rügen Island, Holland, Belgium, and Norway. His early paintings caught Humboldt’s attention and eventually led to his recommending Bellermann to the King of Prussia;18 Humboldt heard of Bellermann’s landscapes as they were already appreciated in Berlin for their splendor. Humboldt recognized the importance of a visual recollection from the landscapes of South America, especially his beloved Venezuela and Cumaná; thus Humboldt recommended Bellermann’s artistic journey to Venezuela to Fredrick William IV of Prussia, whose contributions to art are still recognized today.
From 1842 to 1846, Bellermann travelled to Venezuela to follow Humboldt’s steps. He journeyed to and painted in Caracas, La Guayra, Puerto Cabello, Colonia Tovar, Cumaná, Cumanacoa, Caripe, La Cueva del Guácharo (The Mine of Fat), San Mateo, Valencia, Mérida, and Maracaibo. Of all these, only three were not visited by Humboldt: Colonia Tovar, a German colony established in Venezuela located between Caracas and San Mateo; Mérida, a cold Andes 16 Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Romanticism", accessed February 05, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/508675/Romanticism/8417/Visual-arts.
17 Inter-American Development Bank, Leading Figures in Venezuelan Painting of the Nineteenth Century, 13.
18 Eduardo Röhl, Exploradores Famosos de la Naturaleza Venezolana, (Caracas: El Compas, 1948), 116.
also in the west of Venezuela.
Like most painters of this period, Bellermann’s paintings fall into two categories- pencil studies and studio paintings. The first type is done in pencil and outdoors; its goal is to depict in more-or-less faithful detail the plants, bushes, and other landscape characteristics which constitute notes for future use. The second category is works done in the studio. Here, the sketches taken in the field are of great importance. “In the first case, artistic interpretation plays no role, and consequently the sketches lack the personal touch that Bellermann conferred upon his studio re-creations of tropical scenes.”19 Bellermann’s paintings are displayed presently in one of the rooms of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie, but they can also be found in other German museums as well as German palaces. There are a total of 650 works by Bellermann that reference Venezuela,20 including sketches and paintings. A selection of sketches of plants, forests, and overall vegetation were published by Hermann Kartsen in 1894 in his “Landschafts un Vegetationsbilder aus den ‘Tropen Südamerikas’” (Landscapes and paintings of tropical vegetation in South America), a scientific publication that describes the vegetation of South America.
19 Inter-American Development Bank, Leading Figures in Venezuelan Painting of the Nineteenth Century, 14.
Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Miradas Alemanas – Bellermann, Accessed February 20 19, 2015, http://portal.iai.spk-berlin.de/Bellermann.144+M52087573ab0.0.html
Sotheby’s, Ferdinand Bellerman: Costa de La Guaira a la Caída del Sol, Public Domain work of art:
Studying Oscher’s musical writing provides insight into his compositional techniques and uncovers evidence of his personality in his music. He is adamant about how he wants the piece to sound in performance and writes out specific fingerings and extended techniques in some movements. No more than four bars are without some kind of indication in between, be it dynamic, tempo, technique, or otherwise. Most of the indications are in Spanish; some tempo markings are especially descriptive and are discussed in detail in this monograph. Oscher also includes some aleatoric events and his use of language is compelling and precise. The length of the piece is purposeful and it’s on the shorter side. In my opinion, this makes the composition not arrogant. It seems that Oscher is not trying to say more or less in each movement than he has to, but milking each melodic line precise as long as it should be. Throughout this chapter, there are connections drawn between this composition and many other influential works from other composers. This connections are strictly personal and are not indicative of the composer’s intentions. Moreover, Oscher is very creative in terms of orchestration. He seldom uses tutti sections, but instead he combines smaller sections of instruments to create very interesting textural-colors. Oscher also uses a quotation device throughout the piece, which unifies the entire piece through these motifs and make for a compelling “storyboard22,” as my professor calls it.
The following graph visually depicts the overall story and structure of the piece. Interestly, the fourth movement (Maracaibo) is the most symmetric and falls right in the middle of the piece.
The last movement draws from every movement except the middle one (Maracaibo) and the freeRiazuelo, Carlos. Conducting classes at LSU, 2012-2015.
Movement 1: A bordo de la Fragata Pizarro This piece begins with “A bordo de la Fragata Pizarro” (Aboard the Pizarro Frigate) and it focuses on the month long journey to Venezuela from Spain crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The first six bars serve as an introduction and follow a regular tempo marking (Maestoso ♩ = 72). The time signature is in ¾ and all instruments have an accent on the first note. The strings and percussion begin f while all the winds have ff. Each consecutive measure brings a dynamic decrease to arrive at p in measure 7. A ritardando on measure 6 makes the change to the allegro more significant.
Oscher’s harmonic pattern is the most interesting aspect of this introduction. Similar to Stravinsky, who used five note patterns throughout his early compositions (e.g. beginning of “Rite of Spring” and finale of “The Firebird”), Oscher used a four-note pattern that changes every two measures. It changes first by ascending a perfect fourth, followed by a whole step. The following image visually represents this pattern on the violins and violas. These harmonic changes refer to those in measures 1, 3, and 5.
woodwinds and brass melodic punctuations. The only exceptions are the “b” on the oboes/horn on measure 3 and the “d” on the clarinets/bassoon, which I have circled on the next image.
Oscher also paired one woodwind instrument with one brass instrument on each punctuation:
first flute with first trumpet, first oboe with first horn, first clarinet with second trumpet, with the