The word “Ecbó” refers to an offering, usually food, made to the saints by practioners of the Afro-Cuban religion santería. I chose to write a Cuban-inspired piece after exploring African and Afro-Brazilian music in the composition of other works. As with those pieces, in Ecbó I was interested in the challenge of using elements of popular music in a classical piece without sounding arbitrary or artificial. That is, I didn’t want to simply transcribe Cuban music for the forces at hand, but somehow make it idiomatic and logical, sounding natural within a classical context.
In Ecbó, there is a gradual transition from the effervescent musical material of the opening to the joyful, raucous dance-like music of the ending. The piano functions as the catalyst behind the change of atmosphere, while the flute and oboe provide melodic interest. The bass, which in the opening has a textural function, eventually becomes the backbone of the rhythm section while the other instruments layer solos on top of it. Eventually, the rhythmic energy becomes too great to sustain, and the meter disintegrates, before the instruments coalesce again in an ecstatic ending.
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