Ibero-American contemporary music ensembles: “ABSTRAI ensemble” as a case study

Fernando dos Santos

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


The ensemble performance involves social and musical interaction between a group of performers. In its practice, communication and interpersonal interaction skills emerge, in which this creative and collaborative process can be considered one of the main properties of musical performance. The artistic transformations that occurred in the last decades brought a dramatic transformation of the place that contemporary music occupies in society. In this sense, the research, practices, processes, performances, and ensembles dedicated exclusively to contemporary music are also affected. The genealogy and activities of ensembles that are responsible for the diffusion and dissemination of contemporary music can show the experience necessary to achieve mastery of skills for ensemble performance, based on aspects as follows: the organization; the instrumentation; the program choices; the repertoire search; the testing techniques; the performance approaches. 

The processes of ensemble performance depend on practical procedures. Therefore, a necessary experience to achieve mastery in interpretation must be complemented by a specialized training discipline. This case study will interconnect the ABSTRAI ensemble (Brazil) activities, related to the dynamics and practices inherent in the interpretation of the pieces from the contemporary repertoire until the premier works. Also, will be discussing the approaches issues from the first album entitled “Experiência” (2018), the result of a dynamic and collaborative work, which reflects the actions of the ensemble in spreading contemporary music, and contributesto the performance as a creation narrative.

Keywords: Contemporary music ensembles, ABSTRAI ensemble, Ensemble performance


The saxophonist, educator, and researcher Fernando dos Santos (1993) is currently working on his Master in Music at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ, Brazil). His research explores the contemporary music performance from 20th to 21st century, focuses on the performance of Ibero-American contemporary music ensembles, and collaboration with composers. As a performer, he is invited to premiere pieces in collaboration with Brazilian and international composers. He participated in concerts of the “XXIX Panaroma de Música Brasileira Atual” (Rio de Janeiro), “Série de Concertos do studio PANaroma com PUTS” (São Paulo), “Festival Música Estranha” (São Paulo), and others. He has also a member founder of In ensemble and has been contributing with Ateliê Contemporâneo (São Paulo) and UFRJ sax ensemble (Rio de Janeiro) for interpretations (also with electronic) of 20th- and 21st-centuries repertoire.