Process and "Por Nuestra Música"

Jun 2023
5-minute read

Being a part of the Humanities Collaborative has been an exciting, time-consuming, and crazy experience over the fall 2022 semester. We faced many challenges figuring out how music programs work and dealing with older computers owned by our student fellows. Besides everything else, our student fellows had to wait for a computer shipment to arrive, which made the music transcription process slower than we expected. With the help of my student fellows, Ashley and Daniel, the first significant portion of our transcription was now complete, and the first part of the transcription and translation process entered the editing phase in spring 2023. We did take some much-deserved time off during the winter holidays to regroup and come back with a fresh mindset in January on how we would proceed. Since then, I was able to work diligently to read and edit all transcriptions to ensure that what we had translated was understandable and that the composer's words are portrayed to the best of our ability. This was the most prolonged process because it takes a great pair of eyes and patience to read through and mark all of the items that do not make sense.

Ashley did a fantastic job translating the French/Italian portion of Por Nuestra Música. Part of the reason that I wanted to choose music students to help with this research was not only to show them what the research aspect of music was like but also to help them integrate their ethnicity and background into this process; this is exactly what Ashley did. She used her knowledge of the Spanish language to help her translate and make sense of the composers' words in English. She never shied away from the challenge and always asked questions on items she did not understand or knew to translate. One of the directives given to Ashley with the translation process was to keep the format of each page of the translation as close as possible to the original; this not only helps the reader but also aligns the items discussed by Felipe Pedrell in the manner in which he intended to write it. Ashley and I worked to translate more than 50 pages of Pedrell's work together in the French and Italian language.

Daniel, on the other hand, did something completely different than the directive given to Ashely. Daniel was tasked with transcribing all of the music in Pedrell's book, Por Nuestra Música, the one I had started during my doctoral degree. It was no easy task, as a lot of the music was challenging to read, not only because it was copied and used from manuscripts by other composers of the Renaissance and Romanic period. Part of the task was to try to find better copies of music written in older notation so that it was easier to read. This part of the process was very time-consuming, not only because it was difficult to read but also because we had very little information to go by to find these items in the original composer's manuscripts. It took a long time to comb through and locate some of the musical notations used. Time-consuming, to say the least, not only to find these pieces but also to transcribe all the other items that were difficult to read. Not only did we have portions of music with notation, but it also had some text combined with it. This made Daniel’s task more daunting because he also had to figure out what the words on the page were and if the way that they were written in the book were indeed correct.

Daniel did a fantastic job of notating things he was having issues with and meeting with me to discuss the composer's intended musical. He was tasked with aligning the measure and the overall aesthetic of the music, which is challenging to do when one is new to using a music program, and some of the music notation had special characters that needed to be added, with us having no way of knowing how to insert them. When this happened, we had to consult the manual for the music program, MuseScore, or look up YouTube videos that could help us figure out how these items were to be added to the music, so again more time had to be spent on figuring out the program's process and its inner workings.

With those two processes are completed, I began working on editing and putting these items together with my translation of Por Nuestra Música. The goal was once I could put all the things together, I would enlist the help of some of my English colleagues to be my second pair of eyes in the editing process to help ensure that I did not miss anything. The other item on our list was to set up an appointment with the EPCC librarians to see which online database and journal in which we would like to see if we could to publish our work. The hope was to find a music journal we could reach out to, to post some of our translations and to appeal to other musicians who study Spanish opera and could use this work as a guide to performances and be inspired to perform some of Pedrell's work.

With the second semester of the Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP, we not only worked on putting everything together, but we collectively decided to translate one more piece of work. This translation is the libretto to Felipe Pedrell's trilogy, written by Victor Balaguer in the Catalan language. Victor Balaguer was a Spanish singer of the 1950s and 1960s. He was known for his versatility in being able to sing both modern and Spanish Zarzuela pieces. This work is the second in existence other than the Italian version written/translated by Jose Ma. Arteaga Pereira was known as a translator, composer, and professor. Jose Ma. Arteaga Pereira was known for translating multiple works. Still, his most iconic item was the translation of Pedrell's opera "El último abencerraje" and "I Pirinei," which coincide with his book Por Nuestra Música. This part of the translation will play a vital role in understanding the trilogy because it goes hand in hand with the music composed by Pedrell. It is also important to note that it allows Pedrell's operas to be performed in multiple languages. This work is also important because it was published in 1892, one year after Pedrell published Por Nuestra Música, but it also includes Por Nuestra Música at the end of the libretto. Our goal was to have everything put together and finished by the end of March 2023 so that we have one month to make final adjustments to all of the items that we have been working with and to ensure that the format is correct so that we have no issues with publication. As we neared this project's completion, the hope was to inspire universities across the nation to take a look at some of Pedrell's work and be inspired to perform it, and I also hope that I will be able to continue to translate and transcribe his works continue with the goal of publishing a collected works edition.

A special thank you goes out to Ashley Garcia and Daniel Trevizo, our Undergraduate Research Fellows, for their hard work and dedication to this project. I would have been able to complete far less of this project without their invaluable help.

Written by Melissa Gurrola, Faculty Fellow

El Paso Community College, The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP

Banner image by Vera Kratochvi at


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