Tum Tambor. (2017)

TUM TAMBOR For chamber orchestra, electroacoustic sounds, video and countertenor.
Commemorative Piece of Juan Rulfo’s 100th Anniversary.
Running time: ca. 19′

2017 World Premier
Teatro Principal – Festival Internacional Cervantino, October 14th, 2017.
Conductor: Piere Roulier. Countertenor: Guilhem Terail. Ensemble2e2m. Video: Ian Winters.

Instrumentation: Countertenor / Flute (muta Fl in G) / Oboe (muta english horn) / Bb Clarinet (muta bass clarinet) / Alto Saxophone (muta baryton saxophone) / Trumpet in C / Percussion / Piano / 2 Violins / Viola / Cello / Double bass / Electroacoustic sounds / 2-channel diffusion system.

Program notes:

The first question I asked myself upon being commissioned by the Cervantino International Festival to write a monodrama commemorating the birth centenary of the eminent Mexican writer Juan Rulfo was: how can I be inspired by the very personal and powerful universe of Juan Rulfo and at the same attempt a new approximation to his work, all while keeping an expression of my own?

Some artistic works inspired by Rulfo's writings have dealt with the most immediate expressive and symbolic elements of his texts: loneliness, death, as well as uninhabited and deserted landscapes. After several re-readings of the books of Juan Rulfo and some illuminating conversations with experts of his work, I realized that his deepest poetic potential lies beyond the narrative. With his texts, Rulfo reveals to us something other than his stories: the joy of language itself, manifested by the intimate and sensitive sounds and rhythms of his words and their delicate successions.

It is for this reason that I decided to write a monodrama in which I only use some key words taken from Juan Rulfo's tale, Macario. I wanted to write a piece in which music and video images explored and developed the musicality and the poetic potential of several key words (always taking into consideration the expressive register inherent to the writer's universe). Macario is the ideal short story for this compositional process because in it, the importance of the narrative is rather secondary, and the impressions, the sensations and the atmospheres created by the beauty of the language are the real constructive elements if the story. This tale revolves around sensations and impressions of everyday life. They are told by a character suffering from an unspecified mental illness, in the form of a monologue. The character in question, Macario, is impressed and amazed by the world; especially by nature and the various sounds that he hears throughout his days and nights. Macario is particularly drawn to the sound of a drum played by a local musician from his village. The sound of the drum has an almost hypnotic effect of him and he sometimes strives to recreate the drum sound by hitting his head against the walls.

His reactions to the world go from wonder to fear, also crossing through desire. My idea was to choose a few words related to Macario’s desires, a word related to his fears and some words related to his powerful reactions to the sounds of the drum. Once I selected the key words, I composed a piece in four movements, exploring the sounds of the chosen words as well as the sensations that these words convey in the story. I also wanted the piece to be inspired by the poetic and playful registers of Rulfo’s writing and by his precise descriptions of nature and of the folklore music where Macario hears the hypnotic drum.

The four movements are the following:

I-Preludio Pastoral (Pastoral prelude)
Purely instrumental movement inspired by Macario’s descriptions of nature and of folklore music.

II-Canto del Deseo (Song of Desire)
The countertenor sings a series of key words from the tale, related to Macario’s desires: SALIVA (saliva), LECHE (milk), MIEL (honey), DULCE (sweet), LENGUA (tongue), OBELISCO (obelisk), DORMIDA (asleep), COSQUILLAS (tickles), FLORES (flowers), OJOS (eyes), CIELO (sky), FELIPA.

III-Letras Veladas (Veiled letters)
An exploration of Macario’s fears. The countertenor sings the different letters of the word MIEDO (fear).

IV-Canto del Tambor (Song of the Drum)
The countertenor sings a series of key words from the tale, related to Macario’s description of the drum he hears and imagines: SUENA (sounds), TAMBOR (drum), OÍRLO (to hear it), LEJOS (far), HONDO (deep), PEGARLE (hit it), QUEBRARSE (to break).

Two words are particularly important in story: the onomatopoeia "Tum" and the noun “Drum”. They are related to the sound of the above-mentioned drum. That sound has such a powerful effect on Macario that without it, he seems to be emotionally lost. From these two crucial words, I took the title of my piece.

Audio & Video


Tum Tambor
  1. 1. Tum Tambor