Ritos Elementales

Ritos Elementales

Ritos Elementales


©2016Opus Infinity Press
Length: 15'

Program Notes

One of the nice things about being a composer in the internet age is that every so often someone just runs across some of your music and is interested in performing it.  Percussionist John Lane was looking for repertory for trumpet and percussion duo and came across a piece of mine, and so got in touch.  He found some of my music intriguing and eventually interviewed me for his contemporary music podcast and performed one of my pieces with his percussion ensemble at Sam Houston State University.

One of his interests is music which features a percussionist who also speaks, chants and otherwise delivers a text.  A composer himself, he has written several pieces for this genre and also commissions other composers to write for him.  He asked if I would be interested in writing something for him, and of course, I was.  After some back-and-forth we settled on these ritualistic poems by Salvadoran writer Pedro Geoffroy Rivas.  Rivas, although not well known outside of El Salvador, was probably that country’s premiere man of letters in the 20th Century.  He was also an anthropologist and much of his work deals with pre-Hispanic themes.

At the start of my career, fresh out of college, I lived for several years in Latin America, playing in orchestras and teaching music.  As I was preparing to leave El Salvador in 1978 to take a job in Mexico, a friend of mine presented me with a couple of books of Rivas’ poetry as a going away present.  I was immediately struck by the rhythmic energy of many of them and have wanted to set some of them to music ever since, and this finally seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.  They almost demand to be chanted aloud rather than read silently and I’ve always heard drumming in my mind’s ear when I read them.

Ritos Elementales has three parts, two short outer movements, which are fast throughout, and a middle movement, the emotional core of the work, which has slow outer sections flanking a faster middle section.

It is performed in Spanish, but I provide simple, literal translations of the texts.

  1. para dormir a una culebra (to put a serpent to sleep)

  2. para enterrar a un muerto (to bury a dead man)

  3. para matar a un ocelete (to kill an ocelot)









I. para dormir a una culebra

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

donde andás

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

allí estás

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

ya no comás

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

no te movás

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

dormirás

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

dor mi rás

 

chin chin tor

 

ta  ma  gas

 

sumba  sumba  sumba

 

dor  mi  rás

 

sumba    sumba   sumba

 

ta           ma         gas

 

chin           chin          tor

 

dor              mi              rás

 

sumba           sumba          sumba

 

dor                 mi               rás

 

dor                      mi                    rás

 

mi                         rás

 

rás

 

ssssss            sssssssssss           sssssssssssss

 

II.  para enterrar a un muerto

 

ya oye ya

ya oye ya

ohuaya oye ya

 

que se abra la puerta de turquesa

 

ya oye ya

 

ya se marcha el que estuvo entre nosotros

se va el que se vio en nuestros rostros

nos deja el que anduvo a nuestra lado

el que fue nuestra espejo

el que vino a la vida como un canto

el que se abrió como corola

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

queda su nombre aquí en la tierra

su nombre verdadero que hasta hoy conocemos

la gloria que le fue prestada

 

ya oye ya

 

alzad los estandartes de la despida

vostotros

los que con él hicíesteis reverencia

y digamos que no perecerá su fama

mientras recorre la región del misterio

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

en pintadas vasijas depositad su alimento

llenad de chicha la sagrada cántara

para que no desmaye

para que no padezca sed en la llanura

 

ya oye ya

 

envolved su cuerpo con el manto amarillo

que el nocturno jaguar

le alumbre el camino con sus ojos de jade

que el buho del presagio

guíe sus pasos entre las piedras acechantes

que la sagrada serpiente lo defienda

del viento y d los hielos

que llegue salvo a la casa de mictlantecuhtli

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

esperadlo at la mitad del día

vosotras

las mujeres que morísteis de parto

dadle un atado de plumas

para que merezca su alimento

que pueda ver al sol

que acompañe su marcha golpeando su escudo

que cante y baile junto al árbol florido

haciendo sonar los cascabeles que adornan sus tobillos

 

ya oye ya

 

te vas

te fuiste

ya viene a descarnarte el acrecentador de los hombres

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

ve y extiéndete

ve y extiéndete

espera el diá de la transformación

 

ya oye ya

 

que se cierre la puerta de turquesa

 

ya oye ya

ya oye ya

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

 

 III.  para matar a un ocelete

 

ojo de la noche

míralo

 

nube desatada

síguelo

 

agua sin cauce

páralo

 

flecha de jade

hiérelo

 

míralo

 

síguelo

 

páralo

 

hiérelo

 

que muera ya

 

que muera ya

 

que muera ya

 

ya
 

I.  to put a serpent to sleep

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

where you go

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

there you are

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

you shall eat no more

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

you shall move no more

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

you shall sleep

ta ma gas

 

chin chin tor

sumba sumba sumba

chin chin tor

 

you  shall  sleep

 

chin chin tor

 

ta  ma  gas

 

sumba  sumba  sumba

 

you  shall   sleep

 

sumba    sumba   sumba

 

ta           ma         gas

 

chin           chin          tor

 

you              shall               sleep

 

sumba           sumba          sumba

 

you                 shall               sleep

 

you                      shall                    sleep

 

shall                         sleep

 

sleep

 

ssssss            sssssssssss           sssssssssssss

 

II.  to bury a dead man

 

ya oye ya

ya oye ya

ohuaya oye ya

 

let the turquoise gate open

 

ya oye ya

 

he who walked among us departs

he who we saw in our faces is going

he who walked at our side leaves us

he who was our mirror

he who came to life like a song

he who bloomed like a flower

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

his name remains here on the earth

his true name that we know to this day

the glory that was loaned to him

 

ya oye ya

 

raise the banners of farewell

ye

who bowed with him

and let us say his renown will not perish

while he wanders the region of mystery

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

in painted vessels place his food

fill the sacred pitcher with liquor

so that he does not weaken

so that he suffers not from thirst on the plain

 

ya oye ya

 

wrap his body with the yellow cloak

may the night jaguar

light his way with his eyes of jade

may the foreknowing owl

guide his steps through the spying stones

may the sacred serpent defend him

from the wind and snows

may he arrive safely to the house of mictlantecuhtli

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

await him at midday

ye

women who died in childbirth

give to him a bundle of feathers

so that he might merit his food

may he see the sun

may he accompany his march beating his shield

may he sing and dance next to the flowering tree

sounding the bells which adorn his ankles

 

ya oye ya

 

you are leaving

you have gone

now comes the cultivator of men to strip your flesh

 

ohuaya oye ha

 

go and lie down

go and lie down

await the day of transformation

 

ya oye ya

 

let the turquoise gate close

 

ya oye ya

ya oye ya

 

ohuaya oye ya

 

 

III.  to kill an ocelot

 

eye of the night

watch him

 

untethered cloud

follow him

 

water without riverbed

stop him

 

arrow of jade

wound him

 

watch him

 

follow him

 

stop him

 

wound hiim

 

let him die now

 

let him die now

 

let him die now

 

now

 

 

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