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Length: c. 15 minutes

About this Piece

Hacha de trueno (Thunder-stone) is a work for flute and a 16-piece ensemble that includes three percussionists treated practically as co-soloists. It was commissioned by the LA Phil for their Green Umbrella Series and dedicated to outstanding Mexican flutist Alejandro Escuer, with whom I have collaborated for many years.

This work wishes to express the complex processes of resistance and existential self-definition of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, not as a descriptive representation, but rather as an abstract, open, and polysemic sound metaphor. The music emerges from the interactions between diverse materials (some clearly referential, others less so) that manifest themselves as strata juxtaposed both diachronically and synchronically. The intention is not to offer a resolution—or a false glorification—of these interactions, but to confront the contradictory search for meaning that people and musicians from this part of the world experience in different ways.

The musical language is contemporary, but arising from a Latin American and Caribbean context, where strident sonorities mix with lyrical passages, where the rhythmic expression is highly polyphonic, challenging vertical metrical articulations but at the same time creating complex forms of movement, and where the sense of form is the result of circular and accumulative processes of intensification that are projected as a continuum with no foreseeable resolution.

The piece’s initial gesture, an additive accelerando 5+4+3+2+1, manifests itself as an anacrusis (or “pickup movement”) that does not culminate in a clear downbeat but leads to a renewed anacrusic movement, like ocean waves. And this initial gesture is structurally expressed, both in the context of local musical processes of cumulative intensification, as well as in the periodic organization of the work as a whole, which is proportionally a giant 5+4+3+2+1.

Thunder-stones, also known in some places as lightning-stones, are carved so as to have a sharp edge on one side, sometimes using stones that were literally struck by lightning. They have an important symbolic meaning for many peoples around the world. Some Afro-Caribbean cultures consider them to possess a powerful energy coming from the sound of thunder, linked to dance, music, and specifically drums. In the Yoruba tradition (adapted in the Americas by African slaves from the region now known as Nigeria and Benin), the thunder-stone is identified with the Orisha Shango. —Alejandro Cardona