• 2vn, va, vc
  • 24 min

Programme Note

Inkarrí for string quartet is based on the post-Conquest indigenous millenarian belief in the "dying and reviving Inca." The derivation of the name itself is a combination of Quechua ("Inka") and Spanish ("rey") which both mean ruler or king. Tied to pachacuti, an Andean notion of succession and renewal over many thousands of years, the Inkarrí myth foretells a time when the Inca king, dethroned by Pizarro and his band of men in 1532, will be reinstated in his rightful place as supreme ruler, thereby returning justice to the world.

The first movement, Harawi del Viracocha, is inspired by one of the oldest surviving song forms of the Andes, the harawi. Usually performed by a bamboo quena flute with little or no accompaniment, it is melancholy and yearning in nature. Viracocha, the supreme deity of the Incas, was the creator of the universe, of the human race, and of all things on earth. Many stories exist regarding Viracocha, among them tales detailing his tutoring the early inhabitants of the earth in agriculture, cultural customs, languages, songs, and religion. After he created the world, Viracocha retreated into the sea, earning his name which signifies "sea-foam."

The second movement, Himno de la Runakuna: Palos y Piedras, paints a picture of the first humans to benefit from Viracocha's instruction. As "runakuna", or people of the earth, they were initially without fire or language, making do with palos (sticks) and piedras (stones). Their music was likewise simple, produced with sticks and stones and interspersed with whistling ("silbando").

In contrast to the simplicity of the second movement, the third movement, Escaramuza de Tawantinsuyu, is ferocious and complex, as the evolving cycles of pachacuti over time bring into existence competing native societies. The continental struggle and skirmish ("escaramuza") was brought to its climax in the creation of the Inca empire, which the Inca kings called Tawantinsuyu ("land of the four united quarters"). In Inca myth, the struggle and diversity between nations was explained by the deliberate actions of Viracocha, who, in creating different people at the onset of the world's existence, imbued them with differing cultural personalities. The spirit of the warring tribes is captured in a "kachampa" in this movement, an Andean dance of combat.

According to the Inkarrí myth, the Spanish Conquest acted as a cataclysm, interrupting the naturally evolving cycles of pachacuti. To this end, the demise of the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, is portrayed in the fourth movement, El Aullido de Atahuallpa. Having recently won a civil war against his half-brother Huascar, Atahuallpa was beheaded by Pizarro after he spent a year as the Spanish conqueror's prisoner, paying huge ransoms of gold in vain. Atahuallpa's "aullido" (howl/shriek) continues to ring in Andean folklore.

The last movement represents pachacuti's prophecy of the return of the Inca king, the Inkarrí. Various beliefs abound as to exactly how and when this golden age will dawn, but many believe that Atahuallpa's head, buried in the ground, has been slowly regrowing its body. When he reaches his feet, a new era of peace and prosperity will begin, harkening a return of Viracocha as well. Indeed, Viracocha and the Inkarrí are sometimes seen as one and the same, and this convergence finds a musical parallel in the last movement which draws on the main theme presented in the first, Harawi del Viracocha.

— Gabriela Lena Frank