On Pregunta No.2: Cóndor

by Jonathan Hannau

I am interested in how one “thing” (an object, a word, a concept, even a person) can be interpreted by means of two or more contrasting collective memories…[t]his piece was written with my mind sitting in the middle of the clash between two contrasting collective memories aroused by the word ‘cóndor.’
— Luis Fernando Amaya, from "Pregunta no.2: Cóndor" ’s program note

When I first heard Luis’ music, I was struck by the beauty and thoughtfulness of his quiet sounds. It drew me in and had me listening closely. It was subtle: full of interesting possibilities. The complexity and magnitude of his music is all the more interesting to observe as he often prepares instruments in a way that can not guarantee the same outcome twice in a performance. The idea of imperfect music coupled with the quiet and introspective worlds that he crafts were what drew me to ask him to compose a piece for piano. Pregunta no. 2: Cóndor is the result of this collaboration.

Diving into the world of microtones, the work explores the timbral possibilities of harmonics on the piano while using two e-bows, a cloth, and a credit card. A world of soaring beautiful sounds envelops the space as strings resonate with veiled drones, similar to a condor soaring high above in the sky. This music is slow, still: almost unmoving. Time becomes stretched and displaced as the score is navigated. Giving freedom to the performer, the proportional placement of harmonics on the score determines the shape of the piece. There are sounds that I myself could not predict would happen. At any point a new vibration could occur from the e-bow touching another string, adding a slight change of color that could not be planned. This freedom makes the performance of the piece all the more exciting. I could change proportions as needed to compensate for spaces, and it gave me space to explore and put in my own personal touch while still respecting the intentions and motives of Luis. In a way, it is like piece of poetry that is never spoken the same way twice, or an adventure story that never has the same ending.

This quiet, almost too serene world comes with a price however. Its unnerving microtonal beatings, harsh gestures that come from out of nowhere, and moments of stillness act as a litany to those who disappeared at the cost of US intervention in the South Americas (a campaign known as "Operation Condor".) Thousands of people who opposed the regime established through US intervention disappeared for what they believed in. Democratic elections were taken away in fear that a communist or socialist party would come into power.  Those who disappeared in these violent times are remembered in this music. Quiet stillness, unnamed civilians, lives who were completely destroyed through fear and misunderstanding are brought to the forefront of this music.

Ultimately through this work, I ask all of you to remember those who have disappeared as a result of injustice, corruption, and intolerance.  I challenge us to look forward to fight for those who deserve a better life with equal rights and opportunities.