Angélica Négron is a composer and instrumentalist from Puerto Rico who has become established in the US although her music is little known in the UK – certainly I have never heard it played on UK radio. That ought to be remedied as I think she is a highly original and talented composer.
‘Marejada’ is a piece for string quartet, electronics and percussion together with original sounds of waves and birds apparently recorded on beaches in Puerto Rico. The piece was composed in interesting circumstances – it was commissioned by The Kronos Quartet (who regularly promote and play new music) with the intention that the players might rehearse and perform the piece during lockdown whilst based in different locations. The composer says that she regarded these conditions as an opportunity rather than a limitation and it has certainly borne fruit.
The piece begins with the gentle sound of waves before a series of short motifs are played pizzicato on the string instruments. The mood here is upbeat and joyful. The pizzicato passages are then interspersed with loud driving motifs in the violins and viola abetted by a pounding beat in the cello, providing a very effective contrast. The format is then repeated in a shortened and slightly varied form and the section ends with a sumptuous passage featuring a rising motif moving from cello to viola to violins. The players then put down their instruments and pick up the percussion instruments which comprise gamelan style gongs and bowls. The instruments are played in turn, supplemented by the sound of waves and birds before the piece ends quietly. This passage adds a sense of calm and contemplation, even spirituality, to the piece.
I think this is a hugely arresting and compelling piece of modern music and you can catch a performance of it by the Kronos Quartet on YouTube. The video also contains some beautiful artwork in the background by Justin Favela, a mixed-media artist, which only enhances the originality and effect of the piece.