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Temazcal (1984)


The title of this work comes from the Nahuatl (ancient aztec) word literally meaning ” water that burns”. The maracas material throughout my piece is drawn from rhythmic patterns found in most Latin-American traditional musics, namely those from the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. In general, in these compositions the maracas play an acompaniment role within the boundaries of small instrumental ensembles. The only exception is, perhaps, that of the music from the Venezuelan flatlands, where their function surpasses that of a mere punctuation device to become a soloist in its own right. Drawing from this last instance, I envisioned a piece where the player could master short patterns and combine them with great virtuosity to construct larger and complex rhythmic structures. These could then be juxtaposed and set against analogous passages on tape, thus creating an intricate polyrhythmic web that would eventually disintegrate in smitherines, clearing the way for a traditional accompanimental style, inmersed in a sound world reminiscent of the maracas’ habitual environment.

I composed the piece for Luis Julio Toro who first performed it at the EMAS series in London in January 1984. Since receiving an honourable mention at the 1985 Bourges Electro-Acoustic Music Festival, Temazcal has been hailed as a modern classic of percussion repertoire and is regularly performed and broadcast worldwide.



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