Barrios’s encyclopedic approach to the guitar

Angelica Starr Artelt

A Thesis submitted to the faculty of San Francisco State University

This paper details the compositional style of South American guitar composer Agustín Barrios (1885-1944). The author postulates that there is not a singular identifying component to his work, but rather a juxtaposition of elements paired with a true encyclopedic knowledge of the instrument for which he writes. A historical and analytical study of Latin American culture as it pertains to the life of the composer will preface, followed by an examination of musical developments influencing the composer’s compositional directive. The author will examine the development of the guitar as an instrument, with a focus on the countries and the respective cultures that shaped Barrios, establishing him as a pan-Latin American artist. Further, the author dissects musical and dance components that are identifiable in the composer’s oeuvre, along with an acknowledgement of the vital involvement Western classical music and the Romantic era had on Barrios’s works. This paper will analyze those works that best exemplify Barrios’s musical style, including Suite Andina, La Catedral, and Un Sueño en la Floresta. Lastly, the author posits that Barrios’s music unequivocally exemplified the life he lived and experienced.

Barrios’s encyclopedic approach to the guitar


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