Program Notes (Amanece.)

“The commissioning and dedication of Amanece were fulfilled on September 20th, 2014, when the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra premiered the work by Antonio Juan-Marcos, with countertenor Rodrigo Ferreira and conductor José Areán. Weeks before this premiere, the composer ended an 11-year stay in France and to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he began studies for a PhD in composition and started teaching music theory.” – Juan Arturo Brennan

Amanece” is the third and last part of a piece cycle inspired by the poetry of Octavio Paz. I started composing this cycle in 2011, and finished it with the completion of this piece. The full cycle is called “Dos son un Jardín” (Two are a Garden). This title comes from a phrase by Julio Cortázar, “One cronopio is a flower, two [of them] are a garden”—from his book Stories of Cronopios and Famas. I find this quote incredibly sensitive, full of hope and love.

I have chosen three poems by Paz: first piece in the cycle was inspired by a poem called Custodia (Mostrance), from his book Ladera Este (East Slope), and the last two pieces were inspired by Coda and Árbol Adentro, from his book Árbol Adentro. These three poems express sensitive insights and deep reflections about love. Octavio Paz was a man of many reflections and experiences, yet the works that have caused the deepest impact and influence on me thus far are his poems and essays about love. His reflections on love, and the intellectual and aesthetic fashion in which he illuminates them, parallels some of my own experiences and informed my compositional practice while working on this cycle.

In brief, I started building an intimate, secret dialectical relationship with Paz. “Amanece” finds inspiration in the poem Árbol Adentro. For the piece’s title I took one word of significant weight in the poem: leading to the poem’s ending, Paz writes the word “amanece” (daybreak). The word is detached and right-aligned, positioned apart from the rest of the poem, providing visual space and a pause to the poem representing the unhurried time of daybreak. I tried to introduce this same pause at the formal level: leading up to the singer saying the word “amanece,” there is an instrumental orchestral tutti which is progressively built up. In this tutti, two piccolos play melodies based on musical themes from the Papantla Flyer ceremony. Their high tessitura and contour give them an agile and luminous character. I find a symbolic expression in them, as the daybreak’s first rays of sunshine. All the instruments gradually join the tutti until a wide and dense harmonic space is achieved. This gradual tutti as a metaphor of daybreak; a feeling of awakening, from dawn to full sunrise. The Papantla Flyer ceremony is in itself a worship of the Sun, and so I symbolically relate it with “amanece”—a crucial word for both the poem and the piece. The most relevant motives of the Papantla Flyer theme are introduced at the beginning: first in the dark register of the English Horn, and then in a transition passage played by a piccolo and glockenspiel. The melodies from the Papantla Flyers used in the tutti also provide a foundation on which I created the harmonic material that is explored throughout the piece. This tutti section is the only time where the harmony is fully deployed. In spite of the varying mutations and transpositions of the harmonic material, there are two pivotal notes in the low register constantly appearing throughout the piece as one of its several formal unity parameters.

In general, I have a tendency to express my musical personality through a poetry of what is sensitive, fragile, and lyrical. In “Amanece,” I have paid particular attention to achieving a more straightforward expression in both the orchestra gestures and the melody and verbal articulation of the countertenor. Regarding orchestration, I drew on a variety of sonic densities ranging from chamber-like, intimate moments, to passages of intense activity played by the entire orchestra.

As a composer, I am greatly influenced by the music and literature of Mexico that immersed me in as a child.  I remember spending sleepless nights listening to Revueltas’ music, and my hands trembling with emotion while turning the pages of Paz’s “La hija de Rappaccini” (Rappaccini’s Daughter). It is a huge honor and privilege for me to contribute my music to the 100th Anniversary of Octavio Paz, sharing the program with Redes, Silvestre Revueltas, and Ricardo Castro. I owe this privilege to Maestro José Areán and the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, and I dedicate this piece to them.

ÁRBOL ADENTRO
Octavio Paz

Creció en mi frente un árbol.
Creció hacia dentro.
Sus raíces son venas,
nervios sus ramas,
sus confusos follajes pensamientos.
Tus miradas lo encienden
y sus frutos de sombras
son naranjas de sangre,
son granadas de lumbre.
Amanece
en la noche del cuerpo,
allá adentro, en mi frente,
el árbol habla.
Acércate, ¿lo oyes?

A TREE WITHIN
Octavio Paz

A tree has grown in my forehead.
It grew outside-in.
Its roots are veins,
nerves [are] its branches,
Its confusing foliage [is] my thoughts.
Your glances kindle it
and its fruits of shadows
are oranges of blood,
are pomegranates of fire.
Day breaks
in the body’s night,
there, within, in my forehead,
the tree speaks.
Come closer, can you hear it?