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Silvestre Revueltas - "Sensemayá"

Silvestre Rivuletas


Silvestre Revueltas

Born: December 31, 1899, Santiago Papasquiaro, Mexico

Died: October 5, 1940, Mexico City, Mexico

Original Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra

Composed: 1949

Arranged: 1980, by Frank Bencriscutto

Duration: 7 minutes

University of Maryland Wind Orchestra

Saturday, November 5, 2016, 8:00 pm

Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Concert Hall

Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

The University of Maryland at College Park

Sensemayá is based on the Afro-Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén’s poem about a ceremony for the sacrifice of a serpent. Revueltas’s thumping ostinato is the musical echo of Guillén’s refrain: “mayombé, bombe, mayombé.” With its thrilling, obsessive rhythmic thrust—it is written throughout in 7/8 or 7/16—and powerfully dissonant harmonies, this extraordinary little score is as original as anything in European music of the time, but it owes nothing to those distant schools or celebrated composers. It represents one of the signal moments when American music unmistakably came into its own.

“All his music seems preceded by something that is not joy and exhilaration, as some believe, or satire and irony, as other believe,” the Mexican poet Octavio Paz wrote of Revueltas’s output. “That element, better and more pure . . . is his deep-felt but also joyful concern for man, animal, and things. It is the profound empathy with his surrounding which makes the works of this man, so naked, so defenseless, so hurt by the heavens and the people, more significant than those of many of his contemporaries.”

Sensemayá, Nicolás Guillén:

Canto para matar una culebra




La culebra tiene los ojos de vidrio

la culebra viene y se enreda en un palo

Con sus ojos de vidrio, en un palo

Con sus ojos de vidrio

La culebra camina sin patas

La culebra se esconde en la yerba

Caminando se esconde en la yerba

Caminando sin patas




Additional Resources:

Silvestre Revueltas, Sensemayá, arr. Frank Bencriscutto

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Wind Orchestra, Glenn Price, conductor

Silvestre Revueltas, Sensemayá

Orquesta Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana Simón Bolívar, Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

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