Hilda Paredes (1957)

Kamex ch’ab (2010)

pour quatre voix d'hommes et quatuor à cordes

  • Informations générales
    • Date de composition : 2010
    • Durée : 24 minutes
    • Commande: Festival de Música Religiosa de Cuenca
    • Dédicace : à Bety
Effectif détaillé
  • ensemble de voix solistes(contre-ténor solo, 2 ténor solo, basse solo)
  • violon (aussi violon II), violon II, alto, violoncelle

Information sur la création

  • 28 March 2010,  Espagne, Cuenca, Festival de Música Religiosa, Église San Miguel, par le Hilliard Ensemble et la Quatuor Arditti.

Note de programme
The text of Kamech ch’ab is taken from El Ritual de los Bacabe, a compilation of spells and prayers used by the Mayan priests from the aristocracy, which dates back to the time when the first Europeans arrived in Mexico. This compilation contains medical, magic and religious concepts with almost no European influence. The fact that the language is esoteric and symbolic makes it difficult to translate.

For the creation of this work I chose to set fragments taken from the ‘birth of the stone’ ritual: U sihil tok, in which there are multiple references to the Bacabes, the Mayan Gods underlying the Mayan notion that the gods are human creation. There are also references to number four, which is relevant in Mayan mythology, and to the colours they relate to the four cardinal points: yellow, red, white and black. There is also a subtle reference to the human sacrifices that were done to please the gods to prevent droughts.

Ch’ab tex
Yutzil mehene
Utzi uile 
Caix u natab
Cuxanilon                     
We will get for you
Our best children
For the subtle hunger
And thus, it will be interpreted
That we are still alive.

It is known that these sacrifices were about offering the hearts of young victims to appease the gods. In order to emphasize this relationship, I transcribed and transformed the sound of the different pulses we can hear coming from the machines that measure the heart pulse in a cardiology hospital. This becomes a thematic material that recurs throughout the piece. To underline the last phrase of the stanza above mentioned, I quote the only prehispanic Mayan melody which has survived to our days: Konex konex, the same one quoted by the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas in La Noche de los Mayas. Instrumental means were also used to enhance the phonetic qualities of the Mayan language, sonorities that allowed me to extrapolate and expand its semantic content.

The work develops in stanzas that change subtly each time they reappear. Towards the end of the piece, which ends with the only word of European origin, we hear again a reference to the prehispanic melody.

The work was written in 2009-10 for Hilliard Ensemble and the Arditti Quartet, commissioned by the XLIX Festival de Música Religiosa de Cuenca and it is dedicated to my sister Bety, who inspired me while writing it and keeping her company at the cardiology Hospital in Mexico City. I also want to thank Valentina Vapnarsky for her advice in pronunciation and translation of this text.

Hilda Paredes.

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