A Danzon Done my Way


This piece departs from the Cuban musical genre danzón, which is also a dance. The form of a danzón can be understood as an evolutionary process in itself. It starts with a slow introduction called paseo, in which the dancers are walking and relating to each other as in a conversation. The main theme is played next alternating with other themes as the danzón progresses. The final section, which was added some years after the genre had been conceived, is called mambo. This section presents a riff that is repeated in the form of an estribillo. Its tempo is slightly faster and the rhythmic element of the music becomes the priority.

Keeping in mind the structure of the dazón, I had two goals in mind with the composition of this piece. First, to have two coexisting contrasting harmonic worlds. The first harmonic world is a resemblance of the conservative and traditional, emulating the idea of the danzón as an “old” genre. In this harmonic world, tonal centers can be easily identified. The second harmonic world, on the other hand, relies on dissonances intended to disrupt the flow of the traditional harmonic world. My second goal was to play with the tempo of the piece; starting moderately slow and increasing the speed gradually as the work unfolds to end with a fast tempo.

Lastly, I have a personal desire with this work, which is to provide a space for the orchestra to ENJOY as they play this music. The final section of the piece was particularly composed keeping this in mind. I wrote down several solos that alternate with the rest of the orchestra in an antiphonal way, which resembles the Cuban son and salsa. These solos are for me, a glance at the virtuosity that performers of popular Cuban music can display.  They alternate with syncopated riffs played by the rest of the orchestra.

Un danzón a mi manera (A danzón Done my Way) was written for the Michigan State University’s Concert Orchestra.

—Ivette Herryman-Rodríguez

Performers: Michigan State University Concert Orchestra, Spring of 2016. Weimar Arancibia, conductor.

Herryman – Un Danzón a mi manera (Perusal Score)

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