Lasting Shadows

This piece is an elegy to the many lives lost during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996). The piece starts with a

“call” in the middle of the night that gradually becomes an elegy sung by the clarinet. From the depth of the low register in the piano emerges a new section marked by a convulsive atmosphere that can symbolize the chaos left by the armed conflict. This section is the climax of the piece and is full of virtuoso passages in both instruments until the trills of the clarinet are cut abruptly by a muted string in the piano, like when a life ends suddenly. This gives way to the final dissolution of the piece characterized by a feeling of dark clouds and fog where all those lives are just “lasting shadows.”

 

Fragments of a Distant Dream

I composed this work as an homage to Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire to join the centennial celebration of its creation in 1912. This piece consists of three movements using texts by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Pessoa published his sonnets in English and hence a translation was not necessary. However, the text seems to show that the author was not a native English speaker, and the roughness of the text was what attracted me in the first place. For this work, I used only fragments of the poems. The piece is built with musical gestures of different types: short notes, long notes, short to long note, long to short note, two short notes to a long note and viceversa, fast figurations, arpeggios, clusters, static prolonged sonorities, repeated notes, glissandi, chordal textures, etc. During the three movements some ideas are recurrent, sometimes as reminiscences and other times as premonitions.

As in a dream, the coherence of ideas is confusing, some ideas are abruptly
interrupted, other are tacitly implied, and others are just quickly replaced by
new ones. The three sonnets pose questions about the impossibility of grasping
each other’s souls, the meaning of reality and whether we will ever comprehend
the mystery outside ourselves. The piece should convey the preoccupation
with “the unknown” and to some extent, it should present the drama involved
with these questions. It is only in that atmosphere of dramatic search and
contemplation of mystery that the piece can fully convey its meaning. Maybe
our life is that distant dream which one day we will only remember as fragments.

 

La Catedral Abandonada

The inspiration of this piece came originally from some photographs of the 16th-century temple of Santiago Quechula in the middle of the river Grijalva in Chiapas, Mexico. I was overwhelmed by the image of a church in ruins in the middle of water. At the same time, during my trip to Strasbourg I visited its cathedral, which celebrated a thousand years from the beginning of its construction. I realized that in our secular age, these majestic buildings have been “abandoned.”

The piece is built around C-sharp, which becomes a recurrent and essential sonority throughout the piece. C-sharp acts as “a call,” like a bell in a church. The insistency of this call at the beginning is transfigured into a delicate atmosphere at the end that tries to approximate a mysterious space. The piece is also built around specific sonorities derived from a note series, giving coherence and consistency to all the pitch material of the piece. Some passages try to create the idea of superposed sound planes, emulating the effect of “echoes,” as in the interior of a cathedral.

 

La Resurrección de la Memoria

La Resurrección de la Memoria (The Resurrection of Memory) (2017). This piece is inspired by two ideas: resurrection and memory. Central to this piece, and also to my latest works is the idea of “coming back,” of “return,” of

“reappearance.” This work was inspired by an exploration of my family roots. There is a history and a story hidden in ourselves that manifests unconsciously in our creative process. The inspiration starts with my grandparents and is a search for the past, an attempt to resurrect it. In this work, I used two approaches to generate ideas: free improvisation on the piano and carefully planned material. In this way I constructed a large form in which both materials alternate. Using double instruments (two pianos, two marimbas and two basses) allowed me to create the effect of mirrors and reverberations. Passages seem to pass back and forth from instrument to instrument, and each instrument constitutes, in some sense, the “memory” of the other. The harp does not have an

alter-ego and thus creates a sense of axis and unity. The piece ends with a final descent of all the material, in search of a transfigured idea of the past.

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