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The many intense, unforgettable memories in my musical life include the one of my son Mauri Jr. – as we call him at home – as he sank to his knees in an attitude of deepest respect at the grave of Manuel de Falla, in the crypt we had just discovered under the main altar – below sea level – in the cathedral of Santa Cruz sobre las Aguas in Cadiz. My son already knew Don Manuel’s extraordinary music, including via the ballet El Loco [“The Madman”] I had written for the Spanish National Ballet. It was first performed in September 2004 at the Teatro Real in Madrid, de Falla’s music alternating with my own, freshly composed material – and my son knew very well how important our composer is in the panorama panoply of world music and how enthusiastic his father (me) was: how fruitful his relationship to the Granada playwright Granada Federico Garcia was, as an idea.
Several years ago, my friend Mauro Ceccanti prompted me to write a homage to Manuel de Falla. This work is dedicated to Ceccanti and his family, also marking the 20th anniversary of the Contempoartensemble. It is written for instruments grouped in three “choruses” (I: flute, harp, bass clarinet – II: violin, viola, cello, guitar – III: percussion, piano, contrabass and electronics). At the outset, a soft sonic veil is slowly spread out from C over the harmonic spectrum, leading us like an introduction, constantly accelerating to a pounding texture, drumming like the beginning of a faraway dance or light rainfall, its drops consistently, obsessively pelting down, perhaps a kind of triskelion conjured up spiritually on the roofs of Cadiz, or a picture of the city painted from memory.
A constantly intensifying storm of ascending scales – like crackling flashes in the darkness, light and shadows – leads to a gentler pianissimo section, reminding us in its rocking, wavelike motion of a seductively light breeze, redolent in its aromas of blossoms and the sea and the remote murmur of out-of-the-way marketplaces.
At the end, the delight explodes in sensuous sound, its rhythm dizzying, like a scherzo – a buleria; finally, spectral cascades supported on harmonic columns, so that the music is suggestive of the Phrygian mode or its Andalusian or flamenco variants.
To complete the arch of memory, the finale is structured as a Lamento, an elegy based on traditional forms such as the toná and the martinete.