I. After a wild introduction, the movement erupts into a rush of activity, with the emphasis on the frenetic solos of the viola. After a brief reminder of the opening, the movement ends with a frenzied toccata.
II. Adagio features long, flowing lines, and gentle counterpoint. There is rarely any sense of accompaniment from any of the instruments, with the viola functioning as a “1st among equals.” The movement is a very loose rondo, but the form is quite free, even meandering.
III. Teaching Piece introduces a very different kind of procedure from the rest of the work. In this movement, the viola introduces a motive or idea and “teaches” it to the next instrument, who picks it up and fashions the idea to make it their own. As the soloist introduces more and more ideas, they are gradually subsumed into the texture. Only occasionally does the soloist emerge to guide the ensemble to the next idea. After briefly losing the initiative in a violent shift of texture, the soloist reemerges as the teacher.
IV. The fourth movement is attacca from Teaching Piece. This somewhat ironically titled movement, Aria semplice, crashes between a simple, folksy motive and a series of highly charged dramatic gestures. The bulk of the movement consists of an immense cadenza. Even when the ensemble is playing, the viola is usually in a completely different sonic world. The movement ends as it began, with a long clarinet tone.
Klang is the German word for “sound.”
i. allegro focoso
ii. lento assai
iii. adagio non falsa
bass drum, suspended cymbal, tam tam, vibraphone
River of Blood is based on a 1980 massacre of Salvadoran peasants at the Rio Sumpul by
US-supported right-wing military forces.
In February 1980, the Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, sent
a letter to President Carter in which he begged him not to send military
aid to the junta that ran [El Salvador]. He said such aid would be used
to "sharpen injustice and repression against the people's organizations"
which were struggling "for respect for their most basic human rights"
… A few weeks later, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass…
On March 7, 1980, two weeks before the assassination, a state of siege had been instituted in El Salvador, and the war against the population began in force (with continued US support and involvement). The first major attack was a big massacre at the Rio Sumpul, a coordinated military operation of the Honduran and Salvadoran armies in which at least 600 people were butchered. Infants were cut to pieces with machetes, and women were tortured and drowned. Pieces of bodies were found in the river for days afterwards.
-Noam Chomsky, from The Crucifixion of El Salvador
River of Blood is not a tone poem mimicking the actions of the day but is rather a collage of images and emotions from that tragic time. Images include violence but also the incredible bravery of Salvadoran journalists who tried to tell their country and their world what was happening, human rights campaigners risking their lives in the face of terror, and the faces of the fishermen who found the bodies of 5 children caught in their fishing traps downstream from the massacre. The work ends with a prayer of mourning and a plea for forgiveness for our complicity.