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About this Piece

Cuaderno del Ritmo (Sketchbook of Rhythm) started as a series of free rhythmic sketches based on different ideas from a number of sources, ranging from Indian music to Debussy’s second orchestral nocturne, “Fêtes.”

I explored these rhythmic sources, developing them in new directions, giving priority to those avenues that seemed to accumulate tension. I was seeking to celebrate the power of rhythm to create drama and large-scale form.

In the first movement, I fragmented and deconstructed the rhythmic and melodic phrases of Debussy’s second orchestral nocturne in order to reconstruct them again in a new context. I sought to present these ideas in a more uncertain manner, with more than one pulse running through the music at any given time.

The second movement is a set of rhythmic variations on a simple theme, clearly presented at the beginning of the piece. The title “Aliteraciones” suggests a procedure similar to the one used in poetry where the starting consonant of a word is replaced by another one, changing the rhythm and meaning of the verse while maintaining a strong sense of repetition.

The third movement is based on a piece I composed for marimba solo called “Khan Variations,” a set of eight variations on a traditional theme as sung by the Pakistani singer Ali Khan. As the title “D’après Khan Variations” suggests, in this movement I have subjected the original marimba variations to further transformations that take advantage of the polyphonic possibilities of the nine instruments used in this piece. However, in this new development, the role of the marimba remains central, like a backbone on which the rhythms and phrases played by the other instruments are supported. —Alejandro Viñao