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Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

New Andean Songs (2007)
Text Writer
José María Arguedas/Anonymous
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
21 Minutes
Soprano, Mezzo-soprano
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Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank New Andean Songs (2007)
New Andean Songs — for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two percussionists, and two pianists — employ texts that I've long been familiar with — Anonymous and indigenous Peruvian poems collected by the folklorist José María Arguedas (1911-1969). In an attempt to validate the native culture of the Andes, Arguedas collected the tunes, poetry, and folklore of the Quechua Indians, the descendants of the Incas. Of the pro-indigenista writers, he was one of the first to write poetry in Quechua as well as Spanish, and was also a proponent of "mestizaje," a vision of a world that encompasses many cultures without oppression. He often proclaimed himself a modern Quechua man in spite of his fair skin and Western education.

The poems utilized in New Andean Songs are quite old, stemming from the Inca era, and have undoubtedly gone through many changes over the centuries. Nowadays, they are often presented in Spanish, and Arguedas's own translation form the basis for this work. Here, the texts are set to music inspired by the indigenous musical practices and sounds of the Andean mountain cultures of Perú. While the voices are called upon to mimic highland echoes quietly wafting, to hum under/above one another to add atmospheric luster, or to evoke the pulsating repeated notes of zampoña panpipes, the instrumentalists are charged with a similar task, evoking the tremolos and repeated notes of guitars and mandolin-like charangos, the asymmetrical rhythms of clattery drums, and the pleading of women's calls.

— Gabriela Lena Frank

Sample Pages

Gabriela Lena Frank's New Andean Songs, also a Philharmonic commission (and one of the scores written in memory of Sue Knussen, the orchestra's late education director) comes from a very different geography and sensibility. A Berkeley-ite born in 1972, Frank rejoices in her mixed genes -- Peruvian, Chinese and Lithuanian. The Latin side, though, dominates in this cycle for two singers, two pianos and two percussionists. Her texts are indigenous Peruvian poetry full of fantastical and haunting imagery: "My drum will be an egg of an ant"; "He has died . . . only his still guitar is floating in the current." And her score is rich in color and expression. The performance was beautiful. Soprano (Tony Arnold) and mezzo-soprano (Rachel Calloway) were like a single voice entwined in the text. Pianos and percussion, combining elements of sonic fire and ice, never ceased to dazzle. Passion emerged from subtle sounds, and Carneiro conducted alert to quietness and extravagance. With each new piece, Frank becomes a more exciting and necessary voice.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,27/03/2008
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