Santiago is inspired by the melody played by the Chinese cornet in the “Comparsa Santiaguera,” a group of singers, musicians, and dancers that perform in carnivals in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. This melody functions as a call, which precedes the entrance of the percussion and brass instruments that accompany the dance of the comparsa. I have created an elaborated version of this melody that introduces the main three sections of the piece.

The first section is based on a motive taken from the main intervals that form the melody played by the Chinase cornet in the “comparsa.” It is a more lyrical take on such melody. The second section introduces a dance/ lullaby that alternates between two different gestures. This dance is more “European” in style, almost waltz-like, which poses a contrast with the dance-like quality that permeates the final section of the piece. This final section takes its inspiration from the role of the percussion in the “Comparsa Santiaguera.” In addition, short riffs are heard, which are layered to form a thicker texture. The out-of-tune quality of the melody played by the Chinese cornet in the comparsa is exploited. The out-of tune version dialogues with an in-tune version of the melody. The piece ends as a “comparsa” would. The performers walk off stage as in a parade, playing percussive effects with their instruments as they exit the concert hall. As a result, the music gets further and further away, which recreates a “comparsa” walking down the street and its music gradually disappearing as they walk away.

Santiago was commissioned by Truman State University’s Wind Ensemble on occasion of the 2019 edition of the North Star Music Festival.

– Ivette Herryman Rodríguez