(“Miracles”) is inspired by my mother’s homeland of Perú. It has been a remarkable, often difficult, yet always joyous experience for me to visit, again and again, this small Andean nation that is home to not only foggy desert coasts but also Amazonian wetlands. Usually a religious and marvelous occurrence, milagro
here refers to the sights and sounds of Perú’s daily life, both past and present, that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels. While probably ordinary to others, to me, as a gringa-latina, they are quietly miraculous, and are portrayed in eight short movements as follows:
I. Milagrito — Capilla del Camino
(“Shrine by the Road”): A brief, earnest, and somewhat austere solo violin opening pays homage to the ubiquitous tiny Catholic shrines erected along the highways throughout the altiplano
, or highlands, silently honoring those who have been killed in roadside accidents. These shrines are humble standouts against large expansive landscapes, seemingly unchanging through time.
II. Milagrito— Zampoñas Rotas
(“Broken Panpipes”): A depiction of ceramic panpipes found at the Cahuachi Temple that were ritualistically broken by a fiery pre-Inca civilization, the Nazca (200 BC to 500 AD), this movement has a violent, jagged-edge quality, employing motifs commonly found in panpipe and other wind instrument music.
III. Milagrito — Mujeres Cantando
(“Women Singing”): Inspired by the sound of indigenous women singing, this movement exaggerates their “clustery” pitch and how their voices separate and converge.
IV. Milagrito — Danza de Tingo María
(“Dance of Tingo María): As one who avoids the largely impenetrable selvas
, or jungles, I did take away a strong impression of this border jungle town as lively and cacophonous. The relentless rhythm and the melodic line of pizzicatos inspired by water drums drive this movement.
V. Milagrito — Sombras de Amantaní
(“Shadows of Amantaní): The remarkable starry nights of this barren island in Lake Titicaca between Perú and Bolivia made for eerie shadows that I could not dodge on my nocturnal walks.
VI. Milagrito — Adios a Churín
(“Goodbye to Churín): Churín is a small city on the side of a mountain with seemingly little horizontal ground, famous for its healing bath waters. I visited during a time when it was on the verge of becoming a ghost town as its youth were migrating in droves to urban coastal cities. Allusions to guitar music are made against a melancholy singing cello line.
VII. Milagrito — Danza de los Muñecos
(“Dance of the Dolls”): Playful in character, this movement is inspired by the brightly colored, almost mannequin-like dolls from the colonial era that are found in small museums and private collections.
VIII. Milagrito — Capilla del Camino
: Throughout my travels over the years, these capilla
sightings have been constant and unyielding, as I expect they will always be as I continue to travel in the future. Where the second violin introduced the piece with una capilla
, it is the first violin who takes up the capilla
theme and ends our journey for now.
— Gabriela Lena Frank