Hilos (Threads, 2010), written for the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, is scored for clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Alluding to the beauty of Peruvian textiles, both in their construction and in their pictorial content of everyday life, the short movements of Hilos are a kind of Peruvian “pictures at an exhibition.” Players are mixed and matched in various combinations, and draw on a myriad of sounds evocative of indigenous music. These include fanciful pizzicatos and widely-spaced tremolos suggesting guitar-like instruments, strong attacks and surging releases suggesting zampona panpipes and quena flutes, glissandi and scratch tones suggesting vocal coloristic effects, and so forth. The movements are:
1. Canto del Altiplano (Songs of the Highlands): A bold piano opening of tremolos sets up rhapsodic lines decorated with the strong attacks and releases one would hear in highland wind instruments.
2. Zapatos de Chincha (Shoes of Chincha): This light-footed movement is inspired by Chincha, a southern coastal town known for its afro-peruano music and dance (including a unique brand of tap). The cello part is especially reminiscent of the cajon, a wooden box that percussionists sit on and strike with hands and feet, extracting a remarkable array of sounds and rhythms.
3. Charanguista Viejo (Old Charango Player): The charango, a ukulele-like instrument traditionally constructed with an armadillo shell, is evoked through tight broken chords and odd tremolos in the piano part alongside quick pizzicato notes in the violin. The violin also has a highly emotional melody line decoration with hints of scratch tones to convey the sounds of an old man’s voice as he accompanies himself singing.
4. Danza de los Diablos (Devil Dance): A tribute to the devil dances of the southern Puno regions of Peru, this movement features “stompy” rhythms, quick dissonant grace notes and a general boldness of spirit.
5. Zumballyu (Spinning Top): A musical depiction of a popular children’s toy in Quechua Indian culture.
6. Juegos (Games): A romp inspired by the teasing games that children play.
7. Yaravillosa: A play on the words “maraviollosa” (marvelous) and “yaravi” (an ancient melancholy Inca song), this movement especially draws on glissandi, tremolo, and surges to evoke typical vocal performance practices.
8. Bombines (Bowler Hats): A humorous dance in homage to the ubiquitous bowler hats worn by mountain women. The “karnavalito” rhythm punctuates throughout.
- Gabriela Lena Frank