Back in 2007, shortly after the OU Percussion Orchestra performed Limerick Daydreams, Lance Drege and I started talking about a commission for the OU Percussion Press – the same commissioning series that has produced such staples in the repertoire as Maslanka's "Crown of Thorns" and Ewazen's "Palace of Nine Perfections." I already had the seed of an idea for a new piece based on Federico García Lorca's poem "Poema de la Seguiriya Gitana." With other commission projects already underway (like my Concerto for Vibraphone), it took a while for this one to finally take shape. There's nothing quite like a world premiere and recording project to help move things along.
Lorca's poem has a great arc to it, giving way to an overall slow-fast-slow form for the piece. The work divides into 5 primary sections:
La Guitarra ("The Guitar")
El Grito ("The Cry")
Un Silencio Ondulado ("A Rolling Silence")
Tierra de Luz, Cielo de Tierra ("Earth of Light, Sky of Earth")
Lorca was extremely interested in the Spanish gypsy music known as Cante Jondo (or "Deep Song"), which is the purist and most natural precursor to Flamenco music. It is filled with passionate melismatic singing and sparse guitar playing. Great care has been taken to differentiate between the more popular Flamenco form and Cante Jondo, always emphasizing that the latter is the purer and more serious of the two forms.
It is this struggle that is at the heart of "The Cry." The virtuosic melismatic singing is emulated throughout the ensemble in long flourishes that are full of twists and turns. The antiphonal castanet players help bring in the flamenco elements to the piece, as well as the sounds of flamenco dancers tapping, stomping and clapping in rhythm. Most important in composing this piece was that the beautiful words of García Lorca and the form of his poem are represented.
"The Cry" will receive its premiere at the University of Oklahoma by the OU Percussion Orchestra, directed by Dr. Lance Drege, on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. in Sharp Concert Hall. It will likely be webcast, so stay tuned!