Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet

Alejandro Carrillo Pastrana

Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet (2016)

Choir and chamber orchestra

Dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet, is a piece of music in which meditation space drew all my attention. The piece is saturated with dissonances and unisons, and shows a good number of contrasting timbres. During the piece, it is easy to identify general layers in terms of which ensembles are present. I heard two layers: Orchestra and Choir. When the two layers split into more specific ones, like orchestral and choral sections, it is almost impossible to identify those sections. Because of the split, the choir remains in a unison That is present in the first part of the piece, while the orchestra plays stable long notes in the background before it starts to play a duet along with the choir.

A very important characteristic of the entire piece is how these organic and artificial timbral combinations create a homophonic texture. In order to make those characteristic timbres, the composer uses electronic instruments like electric guitar and keyboard in combination with the orchestra. This use of electric instruments represents a common characteristic of this composer. There are some moments when the dynamics in the choir create different phrase shapes in order to enhance the harmonic tension. Those climax points create a deeper connection with the text. Another characteristic is the lack of rhythm.  Regarding rhythm, the lack of rhythmic patterns helps to maintain the homophonic texture, but there are moments in the climax points when the percussion creates a contrasting polyphonic texture with a contrapuntual mix of rhythms.

As a singer and choral conductor, I found it interesting how the choir keeps the balance and blend perfectly to sound as one voice, even when there are constant changes of colors. There is an evident connection between dynamics and vowel contrast. Every time that the dynamics rise, the vowel shape starts to become wider and open and it goes back to being more closed and taller when it goes soft. Something important that I realized is that sometimes I cannot identify what the text means. This is because the choir took out the vibrato and connects each vowel by just touching the consonants to maintain the texture. After I realized that, I decided to look at the text. It is written in the libretto format. I discovered that the text is not long. This challenges the performer to express the meaning of it and make the diction clear to the listener.

I found this piece not fully representative of the classical western choral tradition. The use of unusual orchestration it is not part of the classical western music traditions. But the repetitive change of vowel shape, and the lack of clarity in the text put it in another stream of the choral repertoire which it can be related to the western choral tradition. It is necessary to add that the use of non-vibrato is a common tool in the contemporary and classical choral repertoire. I was impressed by the beauty and complexity of this work. This inspires me in to look and learn more about this really talented composer.

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