Los Murmullos (described below) is the first of twelve works for piano, bookending a new endeavor that I’ve set into motion: The Well-Read Clavier. I plan to write eleven more pieces grounded in literature---a poem, short story, essay or novel---especially meaningful to the pianist I’m writing for. All languages welcome. Although I’m in discussion with a couple of pianists now, there’s room for more! Any pianist who wants to discuss this proposal, please contact me.

The Mexican / American pianist Ana Cervantes initiated a project three years ago, Rumor de Páramo, paying homage to Mexican writer and photographer Juan Rulfo. She commissioned over a dozen composers from several continents to write a work for her, with the proviso that each piece should draw from some aspect of Rulfo’s haunting and hallucinatory novel, Pedro Páramo. The work I wrote for Ana, Los Murmullos (“The Murmurs”), which Rulfo had originally used as the title for his book, requires the performer to vocalize in different ways---to speak, sing, hysterically laugh, whisper, and to use her feet and hands percussively---techniques that are all woven into the music for the piano.

Although this was a far more difficult piece to find my way into than I had anticipated, after reading two translations of Rulfo’s novel, and hearing him read passages from his novel on a recording that Ana sent to her composer cohort, I finally began to break ground on material that I could use, discovering a viable direction for the piece. The end result, as well as the process, was immensely rewarding. I’d now plan to expand this initial composition into a collection of twelve pieces inspired by twelve languages, representing a cultural smorgasbord, each piece reflecting the pianist’s personal relationship to a work of literature.

Ana Cervantes

Crescent City
The Silent Steppe Cantata
Julie’s Garden of
Unearthly Delights

The Well-Read Clavier

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