Javier Álvarez (b. Mexico City, 1956) studied clarinet and composition with Mario Lavista before moving to the US in the early 1980s and then to London, where he attended the Royal College of Music and City University. His first electroacoustic works, such as Temazcal (1984) for maracas and tape, date from this time. Mannam(1992) takes inspiration from the ancient Korean zither, kayagum. Winner of a 1993 Prix Ars Electronica distinction, Mannam blends and juxtaposes elements of Korean music with materials and performance techniques drawn from the Mexican folk harp.
A number of Álvarez’s works incorporate elements from Latin American dance genres, like the mambo. InMambo a la Braque (1991) he creates an electroacoustic collage of musical segments drawn from Cuban mambo composer Dámaso Perez Prado’s Caballo Negro (Black Horse). On a larger scale, Álvarez’s Papalotl(1987), for piano and electroacoustic sounds, makes reference to the wider world of dance through its use of complex rhythmic patterns in a synchronized duet between the piano and the electroacoustics part. This work won the 1987 ICEM Prize in Paris as well as awards from the Bourges International Festival and Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica.
In 1993 Álvarez became a Fellow of the Mexican Endowment for the Arts and Culture, an award he held until 1999. He has also received a Mendelssohn Scholarship, the Lionel Robbins Award and a Gemini Fellowship. He has held teaching positions at the University of Hertfordshire and the Malmö Music Academy in Sweden, having also taught composition and computer music technology at City University, Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music. He was a founder member of the Sonic Arts Network and, during the 1993 season, he was Artistic Director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music. After 25 years living in England he returned to Mexico where he was the founding director of the Musical Arts Department of the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán. He now lives in Mérida, Yucatán.