Noche de Jaranas

I read Silvestre Revueltasthat Alfons recently visited a performance of La Noche de Mayas, so hey, why not add the composer Revueltas to the ‘Past the bridge’ category. I have a couple of sound samples from the Mexican composer but the only ones I actually like are either ‘Sensemaya’ and the ‘Noche de Jaranas’, which is this entry’s sample pick (30+seconds ‘Noche de Jaranas’).

What can I say about this piece: it’s dynamic, up-tempo and, yes, unmistakably Mexican:

[De Jaranas] refers to a quick dance derived from the Spanish fandango. The meter alternates here between rapid 5/8 and 6/8 time, which the strings, sometimes reinforced by winds and percussion, spin out as a sparkling perpetual motion, against which brass instruments occasionally play heroic phrases—typical of the sort of “primary color” orchestration Revueltas favored. As in the first movement, the opening music returns at the end of this movement, which dies out in sudden quiet.

Revueltas was actually a trained classical violin player who eventually ended up in the middle of the Spanish Civil War: If I’m not wrong, during his stay in Spain, he dedicated many pieces to the Spanish poet Federico Lorca (something that’s amiss in the composer’s Wikipedia entry).

I was introduced to Jaranas in late 2000 and it appears that Revueltas music is slowly becoming more popular: I was (for example) extremely surprised (and pleased) to hear that his ‘Sensemaya’ was featured in the graphic novel movie ‘Sin City’. If you have that movie on the shelf, you can’t miss it: it’s played during the movie’s finale/climax.

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4 Responses to Noche de Jaranas

  1. alfons says:

    Besides being a dance, the Jarana1 is also a Mexican percussion guitar associated with the Jaranas dance. In Revueltas’ piece the strings replace the guitar.
    You can also hear from Revueltas’ music that he was a very accomplished violinist. His strings parts are always the most complex, and demanding. I can only describe them as (indeed) perpetual parts that encompass the entire register, in alternating meters, going on for five minutes straight.
    Sometimes I suspect that the “unrefined” sound of his work comes due to lack of interest in other instruments. (It’s probably the same for composers who were trained pianists.)

    1 Jarana (musical instrument) at Wikipedia

  2. Arthur says:

    Whenever I listen to Jaranas, I tend to listen to the bass section (I think played by either bassoon or trombones).

    Also, I thought Sensemaya was Noche de Los Mayas (the first piece of the suite).

  3. alfons says:

    You’re right: Sensemaya and Noche de Los Mayas are entirely different pieces. The latter is typical film music – compared to Revueltas’ concert hall music more ear pleasing.
    Revueltas’ film music also influenced quite a few American film composers, by merit of its peculiar contrasting sounds, not only by its “indigenity”.
    I was asked recently why my interest in “Mexican” sounds: I’m not. The composer, and what they try to achieve with their “Art” interests me. It’s worth mentioning though that dad liked Mexican music.

  4. alfons says:

    |I tend to listen to the bass section
    Yes, the “problem” with how his music incorporates counterpoint, which ofcourse puts him right in the category of the modernists. Think multiple melodic lines (counterpoint), played by different instruments in their own register without respecting tonality. It’s more obvious though in his concert hall music.

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