Jaime Quemain was the editor of an independent newspaper in San Salvador. In 1980 he was arrested by plainclothes men in a cafe. The next day his dead body was found on the street tortured and mutilated with a machete. He was 30. He was almost certainly murdered by paramilitary death squads associated with the Salvadoran army. He was killed at almost the same time and place as the more well known Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who assassinated by Rafael Alvaro Saravia while celebrating mass on Monday, March 24, 1980.
Hay Días is not a poem of political protest. Rather it is a poem expressing the lives of the people during a time of violence and upheaval. This work has moments of dread and visions of death, moments of red-blooded exuberance, and a reminder of the power of crowds to strive for change amid violence and repression. This idea of cycles is expressed by the four stanzas of the poem roughly corresponding to the four seasons of the year: winter/death, spring/sex, summer/heat and violence, and a return to darkness and fear. The piece expresses this by a subtle harmonic progression that leads, over the course of the work, through all 12 key areas before returning to the original c# minor/A Lydian at the close. The poem ends with hope amid terror, the image of a flower growing from a grave. In a final ironic twist, the last bittersweet word of the poem, “flores” (flower), is the name of the right wing Arenero President Francisco Flores who ruled El Salvador from 1999-2004.
This work was composed as a part of The Esoteric’s Polyphonos Competition, polyphonos meaning, “having many voices or manifold in expression.” I was inspired by this idea of many voices to create a work in which each of the many voices within the choir would have a chance to be heard individually. This work features a profusion of intertwining solos and extremely divided textures.