• 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.1/timp.3perc/hp/str
  • 3 min 30 s

Programme Note

Fanfarria Son-Risa (2014) was commissioned by the San Antonio Symphony, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Music Director in celebration of their 75th anniversary. My earlier orchestral works based on Mexican subjects include Piñata (1991), Máscaras (1993) and Sinfonía à la Mariachi (1997).

The music is based on "La Risa" (The Laugh), a Mexican folk song in the Jarocho "son" style of Veracruz. The "son" emphasizes syncopated cross rhythms between duple and triple meters, with improvised couplets alternating with a catchy refrain. Unlike other mariachi styles, authentic Jarocho music excludes trumpets and violins and, instead, features only singers, guitars, harps and light percussion. "La Bamba" is the most famous "son." "La Risa" is a laughing song with a refrain that consists almost entirely of "ha, ha, ha" (or, in Spanish, "ja, ja, ja"). The title, Fanfarria Son-Risa, is a pun in Spanish, meaning both "laughing song fanfare" and "smile fanfare" (by combining "son" and "risa" into "sonrisa," the Spanish word for "smile").

The Fanfarria is in variation form, like a Baroque chaconne with a repeating, but constantly-shifting, harmonic sequence. A rowdy introduction leads to a verse and a full-volume refrain. After quieter variations of the introduction, verse and retrain, the original refrain returns, followed by a short coda. The laughing song always appears in triple meter, with multiple counter melodies. The threes are always set against syncopated variations in quadruple meter. The elaborate, polyrythmic layerings create the Ivesian effect of several mariachi bands playing in different locations. The brass, particularly horns and trumpets, have the juiciest parts, with prominent roles for harp, marimba, xylophone and the concertmaster. In homage to Ravel's Boléro, the orchestration changes with each variation, with occasional moments of relaxation along the way, gradually building to a mighty outburst of musical laughter.

— Robert Xavier Rodríguez