DE OTRO MUNDO is a song cycle composed for HAVEN Trio with the generous support of a Chamber Music America Grant (2021). The three songs in the cycle use text from the poem Domingo Triste (Sad Sunday) by José Julián Martí Pérez, a Cuban author from the 19th century. There is a deep sadness in the text that is related to being far from home. Personally, the music I wrote for this cycle is inspired by my memories of Cuba, and what it has felt like for me to not live there anymore.

The first song portrays through music the pain that the poet carries and is rooted on the theme of home. I use two musical devices: minor sixths, inspired by a memory of learning the song La tarde by Sindo Garay very early in my musical studies. Minor sixths are a taste of home for me. As the song develops, the minor sixths change to other intervals, but remain an essential building block of the music. The second device is what I consider to be a hallmark of Cuban music, which is a turn figure: E-F-E-D#-E (up a minor second and down a minor second with a return to the starting note). I have heard this gesture in many songs and jazz-like improvisations and compositions by Cuban artists.

The second song is inspired by the line in the poem that reads: “ya en mi no queda más que un reflejo mío” (“there is no longer in me more than a reflection of me”). Two musical motives from the first song are recreated in this song, and a progression of chords which roots move by thirds are at the core of this music. The character of the music is somewhat lighter, although the sadness of the poem remains present.

The third song is inspired by two contrasting images in the text: “miro a los hombres como paisajes de otro mundo” (“I look at men as landscapes from another world”) and “el…teatro ardiente de la vida en mi torno”(the…fiery theater of life around me”). The song is also portraying the feelings evoked by the lines: “ya no soy vivo…¡las anclas que me arrancaron de la tierra mía!” (I am no longer alive…the anchors that ripped me off my land!).

I use in this song three E-Bows that are placed on the strings of the piano and produce a sustained sound. This for me represents “another world,” which is paired with chords that move by thirds in the piano to create polytonality. The motion by thirds comes from the previous song in the cycle. Polytonality portrays the presence of two worlds as well as the sound of the E-Bows against the sound of the piano, that is the sound of the piano strings versus the sound of the piano keys.

The music that portrays “the…fiery theater of life around me” is faster and charged with more angular sounds. This section ends in a sort of operatic fashion, when the singer sings: “mis pedazos palpo” (“I can feel my pieces” (as in pieces of his flesh), which is also the climax of the music.

The song ends with the return of the E-Bow sound. In this section, three E-Bows are used to form a chorale texture. The singer sings a lament over the chorale and the clarinet joins the chord progression by playing trills on the notes that change from chord to chord. The ending is a surprise element meant to communicate heaviness and shock.
– Ivette Herryman Rodríguez

Lindsay Kesselman, soprano; Kimberly Luevano, clarinet in Bb; Midori Koga, piano