LAS HIJAS DE ERIS
(The Daughters of Eris)
Year of composition: 2007
Commissioned by Certamen Internacional de Bandas “Vila d’Altea”
Length: 23′ approx
Instrumentation: Cello, two percussion players, harp, piano and double symphonic band (View details)
I. Amphilogia (the dispute)
II. Pseudea (the lie)
III. Macas (the battle)
IV. Algea (final lament)
December 2nd, 2007. Certamen Internacional de Bandas Vila d’Altea. Symphonic Division
Symphonic Band CIM La Armónica of Buñol. Frank De Vuyst, conductor
Symphonic Band La Lira Ampostina. Octavi Ruiz, conductor
The music of Las Hijas de Eris is not trying to be beautiful. Nor does it want to entertain or provide a good time but yes, in a certain way, it does want to make us reflect. Clearly nobody questions that it is necessary to work for peace and harmony but it seems as if that is always someone else’s job: when the bombs fall in Iraq or as long as those are other people drowning at sea along with their dreams before reaching our shores, we simply look the other way. Our hypocritical society, and I count myself first among them, has created a bubble of wellbeing which turns us into spectators divorced from this spectacle that is the world and reaches us through an indiscreet window: Unfortunately, the deaths on each television news program make us less uncomfortable all the time. Perhaps some day, but probably not, the world will live in peace and harmony. Until that time, the best antidote that occurs to me is to open up the Pandora’s box of human miseries and look inside without blinking, to see if we feel hurt by seeing ourselves reflected that way and arouse that hidden portion of humanity we still carry inside us. Las Hijas de Eris was conceived with that intention.
The musical approach of the piece involves three main elements: Two ensembles at odds with one another, in our case two bands representing different ideas and the controversy, conflict and violence that comes from that difference of opinion. On the other hand, a cello soloist symbolising the individual human being who suffers, whichever side they may be on, from the destructive action of the groups.
In Greek mythology Eris is the goddess of strife, known in Roman mythology by her Latin name of Discordia. Her counterpart in Greek mythology was Harmony and in the Roman, Concordia. Eris, by Hesiod’s account, had numerous offspring. They were demonic spirits (daimomes) representing some of the most lamentable defects of the human condition. In the following fragment from his Theogony, Hesiod described them like this:
“But the cursed Eris (strife) gave birth to painful Ponos (pain), Lethe (forgetfulness),
Limos (famine) and tearful Algea (sorrows), as well as Hysmine (fighting), Makhai (battles),
the Phonoi (murders) the Androctasiai (massacres), Neikea (quarrels), Pseudea (lies),
Amphilogia (disputes), Dysnomia (lawlessness) and Ate (ruin), all of them inseparable companions.”
I must emphasize that taking recourse in the mythological is only a pretext for giving a metaphorical form to the piece. The really important element obviously is the content. Las Hijas de Eris resorts to mythology to poetically disguise a much cruder reality. From them, I have chosen four to give their name to one of the movements in the piece:
I. Amphilogia (the dispute) (For two bands)
The first movement represents the dispute produced by different ideas. The dialectic confrontation produced by an ideological difference is good. Each person, each social group, has some ideas that in principle should be respected. The problem arrives when the differences in opinion and the debate turn into a confrontation because one of the two parties doesn’t adopt the opinion of the other. That is what this movement is describing. To accomplish that, the two bands enter in the arrangement as different groups and are totally clashing at the end. In addition, this movement sees the first appearance of the cello soloist who, as an individual human being, is sorrowful over the confrontation and suffers because little or nothing can be done to avoid it.
II. Pseudea (the lie) (Two bands in unison with a double brass chorus)
Pseudea describes the lie and denounces the manipulation of the truth with the goal of inevitably carrying us towards destruction. They already know: a lie repeated over and over again gain becomes an irrefutable truth. This movement, with a clear ternary structure (slow-fast-slow) begins with a mysterious, unsettling melody that unpredictably resolves in a swing section in which its trivial yet simultaneously deceptive character tries to describe how the powers-that-be who control the world are capable of falsifying reality to fit their whims. Their aim is to take us wherever they want, without caring even the slightest bit, and, most important of all, without ever losing the smile on their face.
III. Macas (the battle) (For two bands)
This is the movement of maximum confrontation and violence between the two bands. On occasion, each one deliberately performs passages which are totally different from what the other is playing, creating a cacophonous, confusing welter of sound that symbolises the brutality and irrationality of war. This polarisation of the two groups grows increasingly more evident until a final thunderous roar which symbolises total destruction. The movement transmits the final idea that there are no victors in any battle and only one who is defeated: the human being.
IV. Algea (final lament) (For cello, harp, piano and vibraphone)
Following the destruction and after a brief silence, the cello soloist who had been silent the two previous movements reappears. After playing a painful solo melody, the cello is joined by harp, piano and vibraphone to create the small ensemble that separates the two bands onstage. The piece concludes with a delicate tone and paradoxically with a major chord, which bring contradictory feelings to mind even as I write these lines today. I suppose that many people will take it as a halo of hope. Others, in turn, will view it as a simple moment of peace before the end. The truth is that tone, so pure, can leave the end open to multiple interpretations. The two bands do not play during the fourth movement, remember they were destroyed in battle. In war, these things happen.