The Alabados Song

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Paul Bissell

General Info

Year: 2001
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Go Fish Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $20.00   |   Score Only - $0.00




With Tape

Program Notes

The title of this composition, The Alabados Song, stems from a fading tradition of Hispanic/Catholic communities in the southwest United States. As families and entire villages moved in the early 1900s from Mexico and other South American Countries into the United States, they created communities in America not serviced by a formal church or clergy due to their geographical isolation. For religious events these groups had to improvise their own ceremonies, including the ceremony of last rites for the dying. The group's elder males would gather at bedside and recite from the Book of the Alabados, and ancient text with Spanish origins once used to deliver new to remote villages. The book's prose was an odd mix of Catholic imagery, violent war stories and political gossip. The town elders would improvise melodies in a chanting manner over the bedside of the dying, using the book's text in place of a formal last rites ceremony.

The Composition utilizes this idea as a backdrop for a fictitious musical story. The piece does not follow the literary action verbatim, but uses this story as a catalyst for the composition itself. In the original marimba and tape version, there are two narrators, the old woman, and the voice of the spirit of death. The narrative that the composition follows is:

Spirits enter a rural village to take the matriarch of a family away. They call her to get her to go willingly, but her thoughts of the present state are strong and she has too much fight in her. She won't go as they ask. The spirits entice her with dance and reminders that her loved ones have already gone into the beyond. She follows the spirits en route to heaven only to hear the voice of the chanting elders over her body. The wily old woman accommodates the spirits, playing and dancing with them, but as the spirits try to lead her away forever, she suddenly pulls herslef back to reality. The spirits remind the woman that it is her time to die and slowly pull her towards them. In the end, tired and resigned from their calling, she leaves with the spirits for the other world.



Commercial Discography

Recent Performances

Premier: by the composer on March 15, 2001 in Wolfe Recital Hall on the campus of Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas

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Works for Percussion by this Composer

The Alabados Song - Marimba; with Tape
The Alabados Song (Percussion Ens. Ver.) - Marimba; Percussion Octet
The Alabados Song (Wind Ens. Ver.) - Marimba; Wind Ensemble
Archipelago - Multiple Percussion; Flute
The Butterfly - Marimba
Equal Fire - Percussion Sextet
Hangar 84 - Marimba; with Tape
Monster Mudder Truck Pull - Percussion Trio
The Three Hoaxes - Marimba; Clarinet, Cello
Waltz On Themes by Carcassi - Marimba

Additional Resources