New Andean Songs


Gabriela Lena Frank

José Maria Arguedas

Performance forces:
sop, mez — 2 perc, 2pno



New Andean Songs — for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two percussionists, and two pianists — employ texts that I’ve long been familiar with — Anonymous and indigenous Peruvian poems collected by the folklorist José María Arguedas (1911-1969). In an attempt to validate the native culture of the Andes, Arguedas collected the tunes, poetry, and folklore of the Quechua Indians, the descendants of the Incas. Of the pro-indigenista writers, he was one of the first to write poetry in Quechua as well as Spanish, and was also a proponent of “mestizaje,” a vision of a world that encompasses many cultures without oppression. He often proclaimed himself a modern Quechua man in spite of his fair skin and Western education. The poems utilized in New Andean Songs are quite old, stemming from the Inca era, and have undoubtedly gone through many changes over the centuries. Nowadays, they are often presented in Spanish, and Arguedas’s own translation form the basis for this work. Here, the texts are set to music inspired by the indigenous musical practices and sounds of the Andean mountain cultures of Perú. While the voices are called upon to mimic highland echoes quietly wafting, to hum under/above one another to add atmospheric luster, or to evoke the pulsating repeated notes of zampoña panpipes, the instrumentalists are charged with a similar task, evoking the tremolos and repeated notes of guitars and mandolin-like charangos, the asymmetrical rhythms of clattery drums, and the pleading of women’s calls. — Gabriela Lena Frank