Composition has always been a big part of my life. I remember being seven years old and coming up with melodies and rhythms I would notate with a made-up system just so I could have a way of going back to what once had moved me. Poetic language, metaphors and sonic representations of stories, places, myths and concepts have always fascinated me. A composition can be planned. However, it is for me the deepest process of self-discovery and healing I have come across yet. It is also the most effective way I have to communicate emotions and ideas I could not make understood otherwise. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say a sound is worth a thousand images.
La Xtabay is a Mayan myth about a beautiful woman who according to some, used to conquer men in order to destroy them afterwards. However, each part of the Yucatan peninsula has their own version of the story, making La Xtabay a highly complex character. According to another reading of the legend, La Xtabay was also a very kind-hearted person who took care of the poor and the animals. She was promiscuous but unable to be judged by people in the community because of her good character.
Of course, there is much more to the myth than this. However, there are many aspects of it that seemed contradictory to me in the beginning but that would never be so for someone who grew up in the Mayan community. This fluidity and lack of binary thinking was one of the biggest take-aways from my expedition to the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, expedition for which this piece was written. Taking the previous concepts and borrowing songs from local birds, music modes proven to be used by archeological evidence and musical imitations of historical sonic devices like regional war trumpets, this piece is an attempt to understand the Mayan culture from the eyes of a Westerner.
The piece was arranged for chamber orchestra and premiered somewhere in the jungle far from recording devices in July 2016.
The concept of Ouroboros was the seed for this orchestral composition. Coming to terms with the fact that life is cyclical is necessary to live it fully, in my opinion. Dealing with death, loss and life as naturally as we deal with the seasons is an important part of the human experience.
After one of my first visits to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I saw Turner's painting "The Slave Ship" for the first time in my life. The painting itself shocked me. However, learning more about the Atlantic slave trade and the Zong Massacre revolted me in a way that I needed to put sounds to. Slave Ship is a guided improvisational piece for prepared piano.