Cambiando Paisajes (Shifting Landscapes) (2003, rev. 2005) 9’
Piano and 2 Percussion (Marimba, Vibraphone, Small Drum Kit & Latin Percussion.
Commissioned for pianist Teresa McCollough by Santa Clara University.
Premiered April 25, 2003 at Santa Clara University, California.
Cambiando Paisajes (Shifting Landscapes) was commissioned by Santa Clara University for pianist Teresa McCollough. The piece explores and develops upon various standard Salsa rhythms and keyboard riffs. Growing up in New York, where we have two big Latin music radio stations (not to mention a huge Latin American population), I’ve long had a quiet love affair with Salsa music, and the thought to integrate this music in a new piece gained momentum for me over a period of several years. In the summer of 2000, on Cinco de Mayo, at the South Street Seaport, I saw a Salsa band whose singer was also the conga player. The rhythmic independence required to carry out the vocal line against a completely different conga part was staggering to me. I traveled to Guanajuato, Mexico in October 2001 for the Cervantino Festival, and gravitated toward the Salsa clubs in town, and subsequently began frequenting some of the Salsa clubs in Manhattan and the Bronx. There’s an excellent movie called Cuba Feliz, that follows an elder, itinerant singer/guitarist named El Gallo (The Cricket) from city to city to village in Cuba, and I was struck by how often a passerby could grab an instrument or percussion, sing along, make up lyrics on the spot. I envy such a broadly participatory music culture. While I had those sounds in my ears for a long time, I hadn’t delved into it much musically. So, as part of a selfish experiment, I began making my ear-training students deal with solfeging Salsa melodies and clapping clave rhythms simultaneously. I learned how to do it first so I could demonstrate. Once I realized I had personally internalized a fair amount of that music, I felt free to write this piece. At the same time, I wasn’t trying to write an actual piece of Salsa music, but rather to see what I could derive from an exploration of these specific materials, namely the clave rhythm and particular piano riffs.