Huacas

2008

Huaca means “sacredness” or “holiness” in the Quechua language. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, it is an “ancient Inca and modern Quechua and Aymara religious concept that is variously used to refer to sacred ritual, the state of being after death or any sacred object [or] burial place. Huaca also means spirits that either inhabit or actually are physical phenomena such as waterfalls [or] mountains...” What I find in the concept of huaca most fascinating is the simultaneous possibility that it could be either natural or  human-made; that it could be both object and spirit at the same time.

The text for the work comes from Latin Mass texts, invented text (glossolalia), and  two sources in particular:

Alarcón, Hernando Ruiz de: Tratado de las supersticiones y costumbres gentilicas que oy viuen entre los indios naturales desta Nueva España, 1629.

Andrews, J. Richard and Hassig, Ross, translators: Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions That Today Live Among the Indians Native to This New Spain, 1629. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984; Second Treatise, Chapter 1, pp. 75, 77, 78. (An English translation of the Alarcón treatise).

Alarcón’s Treatise begins as an account of his assignment (by the Spanish Catholic Church) to seek out remnants of indigenous religious practices and to eradicate them. He goes about this task with rude determination but eventually becomes seduced and transformed by the very material he is supposed to exterminate. In the process he learns the Aztec language and, forgetting his original task, extols the virtues of certain parts of the indigenous material under his scrutiny. Moreover, he realizes his total inability to grasp the subject.

I chose texts from the Spanish that describe the intractability of the priest’s task or the downright failure of certain undertakings. The first Aztec text appears in the process as a hallucination: as the air is thinning the priest seeks refuge in his traditions – Gregorian chant, Latin Mass. From the outset, there is a feeling of guilt; his words (“nuestros pecados” - “our sins”) become directly connected to his “impotence” vis-a-vis the unintelligibility of the Aztec language as well as to sections of the Latin Mass. Meanwhile, a full-fledged Aztec recitative poses a counterweight to the initial Spanish one. Basically, stage-by-stage, we go through a “reverse” conquista- the cantata tracks a process where loss of rigid control leads to a light, euphoric, ecstatic state. I thought of Andean thin air, blue skies, immense rocks and a feeling of “anti-gravity” in the course of this metamorphosis. This “transformation” of course is not real - I make it happen in the work. I am setting him on a path of endless spiritual discoveries - my work may well be regarded as an exorcist ritual.

The coloratura soprano is a medium through which all voices speak; in addition to the soprano, the work is scored for a chamber ensemble of flute (also piccolo), clarinet (also bass clarinet), two percussion players, a violin and a violoncello.

Continuum performed the World Premiere of Huacas on April 20, 2008.


Gyula Csapo CA

Gyula Csapó is one of the most prominent composers to come out of the composition class of the late Morton Feldman, as well as a protégé of the late John Cage. Originally from Hungary, Mr. Csapó graduated from the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest in Composision and Music Theory; he also studied privately with Zoltán Jeney and had musical consultations with Albert Simon and György Kurtág.

While still a student of the Academy, he was invited to join the New Music Studio, Hungary's leading avant-garde formation under the mentorship of György Kurtág; his composition Handshake After Shot was premiered at the Great Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest at the suggestion of Zoltán Kocsis in 1979. In 1981 Mr. Csapó received a French Government Scholarship to pursue studies in musical acoustics and computer music with David Wessel and Stephen McAdams at IRCAM, Paris. Meanwhile, his music gained exposure all over Europe; in 1983 he was awarded the Woodburn Fellowship to study with Morton Feldman in the United States. He taught at SUNY in Buffalo and completed his PhD in Composition with financial help from the Soros Foundation. Mr. Csapó was twice awarded grants from the Contemporary Performance Arts Foundation in New York City and in 1990 was invited to teach Orchestration, Music Theory and Contemporary Music Ensemble at McGill University in Montreal, becoming a permanent resident of Canada. He went back to the United States for three years to take up an appointment as Assistant Professor of Composition at Princeton University, and returned to Canada in 1994 to the position he is currently holding, helping New Music to take roots in Saskatoon.

Gyula Caspó’s music is performed world-wide. Hungarian Television has produced a program featuring his music; he had two full performances of his music in New York City and one in Paris; the City of Köln sponsored a full evening of his works at the Alte Feuerwache; and a recording of his A Desert March was issued on the Open Space label in the United States in 1995.

During the 1996-97 academic year, he became Fellow at Collegium Budapest - Institute for Advanced Study, where he continued to work on a five-act "musical tragedy", Phaedra; that same year, he received a grant from the Canada Council to complete three electroacoustic works. A new CD of Mr. Csapó's work is now available, jointly sponsored by the Budapest Music Center and Editio Musica Budapest.

Gyula Csapó is Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Theory at the Department of Music, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon; he is also Artistic Co-director and one of the founders of the annual Saskatoon New Music Festival.

Gyula Csapo