Victor Jara’s Hands

Victor Jara’s Hands

Victor Jara’s Hands

for solo guitar

Length: 12'

Program Notes

Estadio Chile (Toccata)
Canto elegíaco

Víctor Jara (Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez, 1932-1973) was a multi-talented Chilean artist and teacher. He was active as a poet, theater director and, most famously, as a singer/songwriter and one of the founders of the Nueva Canción (New Song) movement in Latin America. In his heyday he was one of the most popular musicians in Latin America, and his songs were-and still are-performed by many important artists around the world as well. Jara was an outspoken activist for social justice, which is reflected in much of his work. He often spoke on behalf of Salvador Allende, the president of Chile who was deposed in the US-backed coup of September 11, 1973, which ended democratic rule in Chile until 1990.

The day after the military takeover, Jara was arrested and, with many other people, taken to the Estadio Chile, a sports stadium in Santiago. He was beaten and tortured before he was shot, and his body dumped outside the stadium. His hands had been destroyed, so that even if he had not been murdered he would never have been able to play the guitar again. The stadium was renamed the Estadio Víctor Jara in 2004.

These two pieces are a small tribute to Jara and his legacy. Estadio Chile (Toccata) attempts to at least suggest the brutality of the coup d’état and its aftermath, while the Canto elegíaco is, as the title suggests, simply an elegy. I originally thought I might include some direct references to Jara’s music, or at least to the Latin-folk style of the Nueva Canción, but ultimately decided against it. Although I love his music and that of his peers, it is not a style I have ever worked in, and I thought it might be wiser not to attempt to appropriate a musical language so different from my own.

Victor Jara’s Hands was written for my friend and colleague, Stephen Mattingly, and is dedicated to him. Writing for guitar is a daunting task for non-guitarists, and he not only gave me a great deal of excellent advice, he loaned me a guitar so I would have an instrument to try things out on.

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