This Saturday, I’ll be performing eleven lullabies by Argentine composers with pianist Nancy Pounds. Local friends are welcome to attend. It will be held in Presser Hall on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus and begins at 7:30. I will have a slideshow with Latin American art and translations behind me so that everyone can understand the words. Children are especially welcome! More info here.
I view lullabies as having a special place in the heart of the Argentine nation. The emotional environment of this simple genre, which so quickly elicits feelings of security, maternal protection, and familial love, were welcomed by Argentine audiences throughout the twentieth century, especially during times of political upheaval, social change, or economic uncertainty. The homogenizing effect of these emotions brought together disparate localities of Argentine identity: the middle- or upper-class porteño (city of Buenos Aires) experience, the rural criollo (province of Buenos Aires and beyond) experience, the indigenous pre-colonial experience, and many other spaces in-between.
The first lullaby, for example, written and composed by Enrique Mario Casella, and dedicated to his daughter recalls the familial security of a smaller town in the northern province of Tucumán, amply provided for in 1919 by the sugar cane industry. The second lullaby, written and composed by Julián Aguirre, invokes images of an urban mother or nanny from a well-to-do family, rocking her baby to sleep in a comfortable nursery. The third piece, a children’s chant, encourages students to obey their mothers and go to bed at the appointed hour. The lullaby by Pascual De Rogatis, which falls more clearly into the tradition of Western art song, emphasizes the common theme of how tired a mother is and reminds us that the obvious purpose of the lullaby is to put the baby to sleep so that the mother can get some rest. The two lullabies that follow, by Ana Serrano Redonnet and Gilardo Gilardi, attempt to evoke the “indianist” manner of singing a baby to sleep, with a text that calls upon indigenous deities and a piano accompaniment that imitates the supposed irregularities of indigenous music. Attentive listeners will hear the beating of the bombo (folk drum) and the trilling of the quena (indigenous flute). Alberto Ginastera’s lullaby from his oft-performed set of Cinco canciones popluares argentinas (Five Popular Argentine Songs) layers a simple lullaby against a nostalgic dissonant accompaniment, recalling the nostalgia for simpler, peaceful times in the context of the military movements for heightened control during the 1940s. Lía Cimaglia Espinosa and Carlos Guastavino do us the favor of setting two of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral’s most famous poems, Botoncito and Meciendo, both beautifully represented in the piano accompaniment. One can hear in Meciendo, for example, the gyration of sea water, wind gusts, and rocking chairs, which Guastavino achieves with a continual syncopated rhythmic pattern that pulls our ears to upbeat instead of the downbeat. I end tonight’s set with an a cappella Vocalise by living composer Irma Urteaga as well as her setting of another poem that works with the metaphor of small children as “little flower buds”, which, suddenly and unexpectedly, blossom before our eyes.
Canción de cuna / Lullaby (1919) — Enrique Mario Casella (1891-1948)
from Dos canciones de cuna — Julián Aguirre (1868-1924)
Ea / Sleep now (1923)
from Tres canciones de cuna de estrella florida — Athos Palma (1891-1952)
Canción de pollitos con sueño / Song of the Sleepy Young Chicks (1924)
Canción de cuna / Lullaby (1930) — Pascual De Rogatis (1880-1980)
Canción de la guagua (Arrorró indio) / Baby’s Song (Indian Lullaby) (1939) — Ana Serrano Redonnet (1910-1993)
Canción de cuna india / Indian Lullaby (1942) — Gilardo Gilardi (1889-1963)
from Cinco canciones populares argentinas — Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Arrorró / Lu la lay (1943)
Botoncito / Little Bud (1945) — Lía Cimaglia Espinosa (1906-1998)
from Seis canciones de cuna — Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000)
Meciendo / Rocking (1961)
from Canticos para sonar — Urteaga, Irma (b. 1929)
Vocalise / Vocalise
and Capullito / Little Flower Bud (1993)