Full orchestra (6’)
Sambas Riscados (“Scratched Sambas” in Portuguese) is a brief, high-energy work in four sections that imagines a samba performance of dancers whose left legs are four inches longer than their right. Reflecting the disproportionately heavy thump of every other dance step and the slightly diagonal swiveling of hips, the music comes in streams of short, stuttering gestures. These occasionally fall into ruts that sound, at times, like the unexpected skips of a broken record.
The opening music takes a four-note gesture that is continuously poked and prodded in service of the disjunctive movements of our imaginary “dancer.” The second section of the piece initiates a dialogue of competing musical layers, literally repeating the manipulated rhythms of the opening section but adding a second “dancer” to the mix–one that performs the opening music a second later and an octave lower. The focus then becomes not on the further variations of the original four-note gesture but on the interplay between the two offset “performances” and the excited interplay of irregular pulses that they create. Similar layers are continually added to the mélange in shorter durations during a developmental section until they ultimately are shoved forcefully back into metric synchronicity in the final section of the piece.
However, in the violent shoving of these layers into rhythmic unison, the harmonic language of the music suddenly splinters into fragments that shoot out to the registral extremes of the orchestra, similar to the vast web of crystalline veins that spread across the surface of a broken pane of glass. Throughout, the trademark associations of the Brazilian samba genre—the exploding sound of parading drums, the abundance of sequins and feathers, and an infectious, vibrant spirit—are incorporated into this vision.
Performance by Will White (conductor) and the Indiana University Concert Orchestra.