El Xibalba, a dodecaphonic symphonic poem for big orchestra

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You want dodecaphonic? Here it is. Fasten your seat belts and off we go!

I was fascinated by the Mayan mythology as expressed in the book Popol Vuh, and I tried to evoke the moment of the creation of the world by the gods Tepeuc and Cucumatz in this symphonic poem, which was the first part of a project that should look as follows:

1. The spirit of Tepeuc and Cucumatz 2. Hunahp� and Ixbalanqu�, the twin siblings and their adventures 3. Vucub Caquix and the Four Hundred Boys 4. Zipacn�

Xibalb� is the Mayan equivalent of �paradise.� The word literally means: �the place where one lives in some manner.�

I also had in mind two �career goals� as a composer:

First, to be �modern�, that is, to break loose from classicism, of which, attempts can be seen in the �forced harmonies� of my other works. I thought that Arnold Sch�nberg�s dodecaphonic or �serial� technique was the non plus ultra. At that time (I started writing Xibalb� on 6 June 1968 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico) it was still considered avant-garde indeed while nowadays it is sort of classical.

Second, one of my dreams was to write for big orchestra (the bigger, the better), and so, I believe, I have reached both goals with this (alas, incomplete) piece, which I present here for �show and tell.�

The handwritten score contains marginal notes on orchestration by the Mexican composer Mario Kuri-Aldana, such as: �The harp is not chromatic in fast passages,� or: �Too difficult for the xylophone.� The present �Sibelius� version is corrected by substituting the harp by the piano, according to his indications.

I warmly recommend to everyone to study Sch�nberg�s treatise on (traditional) harmony, which is rather a kind of philosophy of life. The opening sentence of this book is impressive: �This book I have learnt from my students.�

Score ID
Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
4 minutes
Modern classical music

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