la muerte sonriente(ssmttb)
La Muerte Sonriente (The Smiling Death) is a piece written for choir and indigenous instruments inspired by Mexican culture’s perspective about death. This piece expresses nostalgic happiness that is also tragic at the same time, and it is related to the celebration of “The day of the death” in which Mexicans make a tribute to their family and friends that have passed away. The piece uses the indigenous instruments mixed with a Spanish text to highlight the mixture between two cultures: the Spanish and the Indigenous. The singers should sing, dance, and play some of these instruments.
Originally written for six women voices in 2014, La Muerte Sonriente was written and dedicated to the vocal ensemble Túumben Paax and commissioned in part by the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA) in Mexico City. In 2016, it was adapted for the Staccato choir conducted by Marco Ugalde for their tour to Germany. La Muerte Sonriente has been performed by different choirs around the world, and it has been presented in festivals, competitions, and concert halls throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the United States.
From a conductors’ perspective, La Muerte Sonriente is a very interesting and challenging work, both for the choir and the conductor. In my experience, this piece needs a good balance of the different layers in the music, in order to understand the words and the instruments that are essential to its expression.
Rhythm and articulations must be precise and refined, as well as the dynamic markings.
Since this piece is a celebration, the composer asks the choir to sing and dance; this means that if the piece is memorized it will be more effective. However, dance and choreography should be incorporated in a way that highlights the meaning of the text.