Section and Issue
Book Review
Product Attributes
PDF (Download)
Author Nathan Thatcher
New York: Mormon Artists Group, 2016


Reviewer Luke Howard

If pressed, I would say Paco is probably closer to biography than it is to any other literary genre, but this hybrid work is so much more than the life story of a composer. The author, Nathan Thatcher, has penned an extraordinary text—equal parts biography, travelogue, composition catalog, music history, and coming–of–age narrative of a young scholar—that synthesizes a firehose of information into a coherent and compelling story. Thatcher writes with the seasoned voice of an experienced scholar, delving into carefully crafted discussions of analysis, compositional technique, and the technology of music. These are topics that can frequently trip up even the best music writers when engaging a lay audience, but Thatcher manages to write without compromising, oversimplifying, or alienating. What makes this book even more extraordinary is that Thatcher wrote Paco while still an undergraduate composition major in the BYU School of Music. (He has since embarked on graduate study at the University of Michigan.)

This book details Thatcher's encounters with Francisco Estévez Diaz—known to his friends and associates simply as "Paco"—an LDS composer from Spain, who, though deeply connected with the European avant–garde music of the 1970s and '80s, disappeared from the international radar in the latter part of his career. Through the efforts of the Mormon Artists Group and its director, Glen Nelson, Thatcher was invited to skip school for a week and travel to Spain to meet Estévez (now retired); gather as much information as possible about his life, career, and music; collect copies of all his available scores; and organize all of this into an authoritative bio–catalog on the composer. Thatcher's principal credentials for this daunting task, he modestly admits, are that he is himself an LDS composer, he speaks "mission" Spanish, and he was too inexperienced to know how impossible this project was likely to be. Thatcher was just young and naïve enough to give it a shot. The result is a triumph.