A Chilean folk song, reborn on marimba at Aspen Music Fest
IF YOU GO …
What: Aspen Percussion Ensemble
Where: Harris Concert Hall
When: Monday, Aug. 5, 6 p.m.
How much: $25
Tickets: Aspen Music Festival box office; aspenmusicfestival.com
During the annual solo percussion competition at the Aspen Music Festival and School, an untrained voice and a passion for Chilean folk song from marimba player Jaime Cárdenas-España won over judges.
“It’s one of the most unique solo presentations we’ve ever heard,” said percussion program director Jonathan Haas. “Nobody had ever heard what he’s doing.”
Cárdenas-España won the annual competition — and a spot on Monday night’s Percussion Ensemble program at Harris Concert Hall — with his transcription of Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra’s weepy “El Gavilán (The Sparrow Hawk)” for marimba, with the percussionist himself singing.
He grew up with Parra’s music in Punta Arenas, and recently began attempting to bring it into his own percussion work.
“I loved this song when I was a kid,” said Cárdenas-España, 29, who is in his fourth summer in Aspen while pursuing a master’s at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. “I thought the harmony was really cool. I can’t play guitar, so I thought I could do it with marimba. I got it down on marimba and I started singing to it, and that was surprising because I didn’t think I could sing. It was a lucky strike, I guess.”
Instead of pushing him to find a trained singer to accompany him, Haas and Music Fest faculty have encouraged Cárdenas-España to continue singing the piece himself, and to pursue his folk adaptations for voice and percussion.
“His singing voice is really equal to his percussion playing,” Haas said. “We were taken with that.”
Monday’s concert also includes one of the world’s most well-known percussion works: George Anthiel’s boundary-pushing “Ballet mécanique,” which originally scored an experimental 1926 film by French Cubist Fernand Léger. In its American premiere at Carnegie Hall, Haas noted, the work started a riot because of its noisy and unusual use of industrial tools, airplane propellers, doorbells and four pianos.
It still has the capacity to shock.
“I’ve been programming it for 35 years and never has anyone walked away unprovoked why its intention,” Haas said. “It still hits its mark. You can stir people to think about what they’re listening too.”
The concert also includes a beloved Aspen soloist, the violinist Jennifer Koh, accompanying the ensemble for a Kati Agócs violin concerto, a performance of Charles Wuorinen’s percussion quartet and a work by Pulitzer Prize winner Julie Wolf, titled “Dark Full Ride,” composed entirely for drum set cymbals and hi hats.
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