Keith Allegretti 



Two Movements from New Mexico

for orchestra (2012)

I. Fantasy after Cancion Mixteca

II. Orchestral Matachines

Program Note

The idea for Two Movements from New Mexico came in April, 2012 when I was browsing Rice University's music library, and I encountered an anthology compiled by composer and ethnomusicologist John Donald Robb entitled Hispanic Folk Music of the Southwest. The collection contained about 700 songs, dance tunes, and folk melodies that Robb recorded and transcribed during his lifetime, and I was particularly intrigued by the lengthy section of instrumental and dance melodies. Having developed a great love for the folk-inspired music of composers like Bartok, Stravinsky, Janacek and Lutoslawski, I began to think about how I could create my own folk-inspired piece based on traditional New Mexican music.

The first movement is based on Cancion Mixteca, a 1912 Oaxacan song by composer Jose Lopez Alvarez. The song's original Spanish lyrics begin with, "Que lejos estoy del suelo donde nacido," or, "How far I am from the land where I was born." This line not only describes my situation during recent years (I have lived in Houston and Ann Arbor), but I imagined it also resonated with many who have felt a strong connection to New Mexico. The movement develops Alvarez's melody in a fantasy-like way through fragmentation and extension, eventually ending up in an aesthetic environment very far removed from that of the original song with lush, lyrical counterpoint in high, solo strings. This complete re-contextualization of the melody could be interpreted as an abstract expression of the song's central themes - namely, leaving home and the nostalgia associated with it.

The second movement, Orchestral Matachines is a lively pageant based on the Matachines dance, a ritual dance that incorporates both Pueblo and Hispanic elements. I had the good fortune of seeing the Matachines perform live in Bernalillo, New Mexico in early August of 2012, and many of the melodies in this piece come from that version of the dance. In a set of short movements, each played attacca, the orchestra presents the melodies associated with each part of the pageant: La Entrada (The Entrance), La Malinche (a young girl's dance, representing the historical character of Malinche), El Monarca (The Monarch), La Cruzada (The Crossing Over), La Mudanza (The Change), and Mata el Toro (Killing of the Bull). The piece presents a version of the pageant that colors, embellishes, and spins out the melodies in a traditionally developmental way, somewhat removing them from the austerity of their original context. As its title suggests, this is a piece about stretching the boundaries of a folk idiom through orchestration, creating a newly-stylized interpretation of these vivacious and captivating melodies.

Duration: ca. 12 minutes


3 Flutes (Fl. III = Picc.)
2 Oboes
2 Bb Clarinets
Bass Clarinet
2 Bassoons
4 F Horns
2 C Trumpets
2 Trombones
Bass Trombone
Timpani (five drums)
Percussion (2 players; percussion instruments are not shared)
1: Bass drum, Triangle, Brake Drum, Large Tom, Tambourine, Suspended Cymbal, Tubular Bells
2. Vibraphone, Xylophone, Guiro, Snare drum, Tam-tam

Performance History

December 9, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe Community Orchestra
Oliver Prezant, conductor