Fronteras means “borders” or “frontiers” in Spanish, and this piece explores that idea in a number of ways. Two big influences in my music is jazz and Mexican popular and folk music. I lived in Mexico for five years, which is where I met my wife, and we continue to make frequent trips there. In a way, you could say I’m married to Mexico! At the same time, I’ve listened to and loved jazz since I was a boy. I have a lot of experience performing in and arranging for jazz bands. This work fuses those two very different influences together in the same piece—a “frontier,” which to my knowledge, has yet to be explored.

At the same time, it is a metaphor for the blending of two cultures: Mexican and American. One cannot have contact with the other without being influenced in some way. The American influence is felt as strongly on the Mexican side of the border, as the Mexican influence is felt on the American side. This is also personal for me, since I’ve been greatly influenced by my time in Mexico, just as my wife is being influenced by her time living here in the States.

I chose the Mexican folk song, La Llorona, as the starting point for this piece, and constructed a “double passacaglia:” one based on the traditional Mexican descending harmonic progression (Am: I — bVII — bVI — V), and the other based on a jazz reharmonization of it (Fma9 — Ebma7(+5) — Gm9 — C7(+5,b9)). The two passacaglias exist separately at first, but over time, the Mexican one takes on more jazz elements, while the jazzy one takes on more Mexican elements until we reach the first climax of the piece, when the two are joined together in various ways, assuming a new identity of both Mexican and American (jazz). This new form of a “double passacaglia” is another “frontier” represented by the title.

Degree Date

Spring 5-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name





Dr. Xi Wang

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Frank

Third Advisor

Dr. Jack Delaney

Subject Area


Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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