Commissioned with the generous support of The Tang Fund on behalf of Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang for The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Co-commissioned by Uppsala Kammerorkester, Rebecca Miller, Chief Conductor.
Unavailable for performance.
I am a believer of human-driven climate change, reluctantly so. That is what three straight years of apocalyptic fires in your beloved home state will do. And I'm left asking: How on earth did we get here?
Many climatologists attribute the origins of humankind's destructive behaviors to the Industrial Revolution, the backdrop to Ludwig van Beethoven's life. Just as the iconic 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy) was coming to life, across an ocean, the exploitation of the New World's natural resources (along with those from Africa and the Indian subcontinent) fueled Europe's churning engines of commerce and technology, with brutal results for native Americans.
Among these people, the Cusco School of Painters were in quiet revolt. Reaching the peak of their expressive power as Beethoven was achieving the same, these largely anonymous Peruvian indios, who had been drafted into a service of pictorial evangelism, mastered oil and canvas to portray scenes from biblical stories. Yet, amidst depictions of European countrysides and visages, images of native birds, animals, flowers, and trees were snuck in, an act of subversive preservation of the gifts of Pachamama ("Mother Earth" in the Inca-Quechua language).
In my choral-orchestral work Pachamama Meets an Ode, Beethoven is treated to a scene of an indigenous painter plying his trade in a Spanish church with Moorish (Mudéjar) arches constructed on the remains of a demolished Inca temple. The painter hides spirits from bygone native cultures (Chavín… Moche… Huarí) amidst European figurines, equipping them with protective natural talismans (huacas) and friendly fauna. He is readying his subjects for their journeys, as paintings, into lands violently transformed by colonization. Even old indigenous myths take on new meanings as a Peruvian pistaqo is no longer simply a highland boogie man, but also an urban capitalist murdering indios for their body fat to grease factory machines.
In our modern day global climate crisis, lands are increasingly fallow, polluted rivers astonishingly burst into flames, and animals (such as the amanto fish, the puna grebe duck, and the viscacha chinchilla rodent) disappear into extinction. Gifts from the past — especially odes — must be looked at with new and searching eyes.
Pachamama asks, challenging us: What of joy?
This work is dedicated to my niece and nephew, Camila and Alexander Frank, who shall inherit the earth.
— Gabriela Lena Frank