Guajeos

2018

For four-hands piano and electronics

Guajeo (wa-HE-o) can be defined like a typical two or four-bar long melodic/harmonic pattern present in the Caribbean and Afro Cuban related music. It is also known as montuno, and sometimes tumbao. It is traditionally played by the instruments in the rhythm section (usually Cuban tres or piano) and serves as one of the fundamental parts of this music.

Las vueltas que da la vida, is Spanish for the twist and turns of life. In 2015 I had the pleasure to meet Nina Young and Sara Gibson at the NCI in LA organized by LA Phil. Three years later, Nina became a teacher at UT, where I pursue my DMA in composition, and her first guests were… Sara Gibson and her companion Thomas Kotcheff, the piano duo Hocket. I got to write music for these folks and it was a blast.

I had always wanted to write a piano piece influenced by salsa and montunos. These patterns are the core of this music and its implicit syncopation always interested me. For the electronics, I sampled one bar from four of my favorite salsa songs and I went to town with them (It’s really hard to guess them, don’t even try…) These samples are stretched, chopped, transposed, frozen, compressed, granulated, down-sampled, and whatnot. My premise was to explore the possibilities of sampling and the blend of cultures and musical practices through the piece. My colleague, composer Monte Taylor, called this experiment “Trip-hop salsa,” that denomination is somewhat accurate.

Originally written for piano duo Hocket (Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff), this recording was done during amazing three weeks of Ensemble Evolution at Banff with the fantastic pianists Laura Farré-Rozada and Melissa Coppola


Audio recording


Quick video from the performance (not great audio)