To the memory of Coriún Aharonián and
“Experimental,” said someone. In reference to what? To what has been established. To experiment is to transcend canons—socially accepted and validated—to be codes of representation and communication. To experiment is to transgress, to subvert, to destroy, to replace, to oppose a given order.
Insubordination. I do not accept; I do not want; I am not within those limits. Rebelliousness. May the world be other, may it become wide, populated, resounding, soundless, libertarian, revealing, astounding, new. New?
Wide. Interwoven cardinal points. Over here is over there. There is beyond there. We are planet, and we are also the first stone of the genesis, and perhaps the last one. We are everywhere, and yet we are in the county. Wide.
Populated. Others arrived later. Some before. They will come. Let them come. Let’s go. They shall wait for us. Embraces. You are I. We are they. “We” is the multiplication of “all.” It is the game and the balsam. It is the joyful number of movement.
Sonoro. Qué te digo. aaaaaaaaaaa ¡Dilo!2 Goom bá. Tom bá. Caním – bá. Tum tum – bá. Rrrrampascat – shhhh. Tukábm – aaaaaaaaaaa ¡Dilo! Chow chow. Goom goom. Zómbalakatm. Páraparam. aaaaaaaaaaa ¡Dilo! Goom bá – goom bá – goom bá. ¡Dilo! Khunuskiw. There is no such thing. !Dilo! Unerhörte Farben. !Dilo! Nunca te calles. Allin hora qananpaj.
• Cergio Prudencio: 6 Electroacoustic Compositions (CANTVS, 2007)
• Cergio Prudencio: Hay que caminar sonando (with OEIN) (Fundación Otro Arte, 2010)
Soundless. Voyaging through the veins towards inwardness. Do not say anything (Jaime Saenz). Let the mountain speak to you. At night in solitude. Let the sea . . . listen . . . and when it resounds, do not listen. Assess it. It may not resound. Don’t dream. From afar it will come approaching and will silently pass through. When it drops, it will wake.
Libertarian. The sky lands, time gets inverted. No one is/was anyone. What ignited, now smothers. To walk is to remain. To fly. To leave. To return. To remain. The unfolding is the round.
Revealing. I breathe and comprehend. I close my eyes and see the music plunge. I greet someone, and I find myself. While sleeping, I appeal the decrees of the world. Beneath a tree lie the orderings of the universe. There is a tune for the harvest. Someone sings because she/he holds what is intrinsic.
Astounding. Nothing is astounding without astonishment at oneself, at twoself, at some, at all. Astonishment is the emotion assigned to what is chosen. No morning is the same as tomorrow morning—tomorrow, the morning will not be that of the birth of the universe. Loud sonorities resemble the earth. They perform the miracle. The offerings yield abundance.
New. It is unexpected because it is unknown; it is unknown because it is unexpected: that which expands territory, spirit, sonority, soundlessness, freedom, revelations and amazement. All at once.
Experimental. With respect to what? To what has been established. Where? One thing is “what has been established” in the center and another thing, “what has been established” in the periphery. To experiment in order to transcend “what has been established” within the sphere of historical hegemony is an action of autophagy. Some canons are exchanged for others and end up giving continuity to the former as a mechanism that solely reproduces (presumed) cultural supremacy. Incest. The Empire conceives itself as superior and imposes its image and likeness on everyone it reaches, using appropriate tools: sword and cross, cross and sword; culture, culture, culture, and more culture. No sound or visual or audiovisual or literary or scientific experiment developed within the bounds of the metropolis ever affected or questioned its implicit coloniality. To experiment inside the bubble does not happen to be more than a game of trinkets or a play of war—or the acceptable “misconduct”—as long as it perpetuates the lighthouse from which someone looks at the world and shoots vastly. Then he takes selfies. And uploads them. And everyone downloads them. Ironies.
To experiment in the outlyings (here) is something more than transgressing an exhausted aesthetic or renewing a software or inventing an ultratonic scale. Here (in the outlyings), experimentation is the action standing in rebellion against the lighthouse. Blocking its visual field. Warning it. Impugning it. Threatening it. Summoning it to descend to the plains, to look it in the face and exchange holdings and knowledge, and build together, to see if . . . Truce? Agreement? Battle for dignity, survival, honor of the ancestors, foundation of a new world (not the “New World”)? To experiment from subaltern otherness is a political act that becomes aesthetic; the aesthetics that wield the rupture of an unequal, asymmetrical, and unsustainable system. To experiment is to inquire into the amnesia3 of the pre-Hispanic, the pre-pre-Hispanic, and the pre-everything. It is the sovereign volition to accept/replace/construct identity—one or several. I am who invents myself; I am who I was; I am the procreated by those who were who they were, and here I stand. So what!
Experimental. In reference to what? To that: colonial domination. The experimental here could be an action of opposition to the experimental over there, of insubordination to its meanings in intercultural relationships. We are neither equally experimental, nor equal experimentarians. And something is not right when we begin to resemble each other. The experimental is a conditioning category in the colonizer-colonized relationship, where the vanguard (who goes to the front) constitutes a reference of experimentality for those who replicate (go behind), who will never go to the front no matter how far they walk, unless they move from such reference to other vectors of history and of the socio-cultural condition in which they develop or discover themselves.
If a composer (here) chooses to place her/himself in different contexts—and to explain him/herself in/from those contexts, be it, for example, that of the powerful Aymara musics or of the aboriginal traditions of the Philippines or of the popular marimbas of Guatemala or of the gagaku of Japan or that of the drums of Ghana—the experimental as a univocal category loses meaning and ceases to be a reference. New musical creation emerges, then, not as a reaction to the race of illusory and inflationary (unsupported) and fashionable inventions, but as a process of assimilation of unimagined notions related to sound, sonority, time and temporality, organology and technique, control and liberation, nature and dance, etc., and the opening of musical horizons disconnected from—or, at least, independent of, or related to in an egalitarian, non-subaltern way—the colonial matrix. Other problematics are undoubtedly installed beyond the technical or aesthetic (experimental), and in any case, are of an ethical order, configuring transgressive spaces/times of the prevailing hegemony.
Here, in this space/time:
Sound. A spirit, an anima that is not explained in what is physical (acoustic) but in subjectivity. It is someone. A brother. A being that inhabits us. It encircles; it circumscribes; it travels; it is there; it is not there.
Sonority. Cultural construction with sound. Dense. Consistent. “Dirty.” Torn. Compensates for the immensity of geography. It moves the earth, unsettles the clouds, exhilarates the heart.
Time. Spiral. Sphere. (Apparent) return. Past: what can be seen in front, what ensued in constancy before the eyes. Future: what cannot be seen, is behind the body. Past/present/future: permanent state/condition (no flow); also in music—it always returns without ever having left, and it is another but the same. A realm.
Temporality. Time within time. A different time. They who dwell in time. The perception of a time subtracted from time as a consequence of sonorities underway (music) or of complex ritualities: invocation, evocation, offering, attires, movement, libation. Constructed time. We are Gods.
Organology and technique. Musical instruments conceived and built (we are gods) to liberate sound (not to subdue it). If it is “a brother,” may the sound exist in full, without mutilations. The reed pipes are the channel through which sound flows and impacts, not a reformatory. The sikuri4 (siku player5) blows to find it and release it. He knows that, in the knot of the bamboo, it lies waiting. The sikuri blows in dialogue with other sikuri(s), alternating efforts and concurrences to awaken that ajayu6 (soul), in community. They are instruments enchanted by the Sirinu,7 that immanent force of the manqhapacha8 (underworld) that consecrates the spirituality of sound/sonority/tone and delivers it to the sikuluriri9 (luthier) and the wayñuapsuri10 (composer), conscripted in the mission of receiving the sonorous good to bring it to the akapacha11 (this earthly dimension) for the honor of nature and communal rejoicing.
Nature. Earth: provider and mother. Consort of the water given to her by the mountain. Sun, moon, rain, hail, frost. It is appreciated. Ch’allando12 (offering, giving back) is always appreciated. You have to play, dance, celebrate for the good sowing, for the animals (also siblings), for the dead (when they visit), for the new season, for the required rain. Sound/sonority/music, they are never alone. They are “community” together with celebration, sung or prayed words, choreographic traces, colors, the beautification of the llamas, the stirred entrails. Everything is explained in what is other, exists by/for the other. Everything is coupled. Duality of complementary opposites. Opposites that are inverted when time is overturned. What is above will become beneath and the other way around. Who said “experimental”?
I said “experimental.” I said to experiment. I approached, and was dazzled by, the surrounding Aymara world. I discovered it by opening my senses. I found it in the subconscious depths of my ancient self. It gave me a name. Desecrations? I loved the sound/sonority in freedom. I loved it. I became a volcano with its energy. I was wayñuapsuri of consecrations excavated in the secular amnesia13 of the/my ancestors. Remote tones. Archaic flow. Restless pulsions. Desecrations? The freedom of sound set me free. “Free in sound,” proclaimed Graciela Paraskevaídis.14 I loved it. I was welcomed and invited to the apthapi15 of knowledges extirpated from this profuse continent (and from my own inner continent?) throughout the centuries of horror. Comprehension was given to me. Was comprehension given to me? I had reached another place having always been there, without consciousness, crossing the tightrope to go and to return—to bring and to take. Desecrations? To create was to unveil that which (I believe) already sounded before my eyes in a scrambled and confusing past. To create was to imagine. To put on wings. Or to accept them. To hurl off the cliff. Desecrations? Set there/here, it had to be assumed, even at the risk of desecrations or mirages. I loved it. I cried so many times under the influence of vibrant tropas (Aymara musical ensembles). I cried also in the time of the vibrations that were dispensed to me in the guise of “compositions” by the tutelaries. I know that. Do I know? I felt warm air next to me while conducting the Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos (OEIN)16 in a cold church. I would be someone concurrent. I hesitated. Never hesitate. I said “experiment” with my back to myself. On another occasion, we were all scorched by the vibratory power of that OEIN, this time in a church in the Austrian Tyrol. The balance rope had become a bridge. The “extirpated” world was visiting the extirpators’ home three-hundred years later. It was the Taqi Onqoy!17 The reincarnation of the wakas18 (sacred spirits) in the youth, practically children, of that vessel we call OEIN as they became one with their arcane ancestors, there, at the foot of the Alps. I loved it.
What I admire the most in a writer? That he may handle forces that captivate him, that seem to destroy him. That he may own that challenge and dissolve the resistance. That he may destroy language and create language. That he may have no past during the day and be millenary during the night. That he may like pomegranate, which he has never tasted, and that he may like guava, which he tries every day. That he may approach things out of hunger and move away out of repugnance.19
José Lezama Lima
I resonate in this Lezamian challenge, and here I confess: Yes, the forces I dared to approach captivated me. What turbulence in those thunderous circles of air hitting my soul and my body and my mind, logics and standards. I thought I had fallen dejected at one point. I did dissolve the resistance, took up the challenge, destroyed languages (desecrations?) and created my own (or thought I did so), even if I had only dug it out of the mythical void. But I destroyed languages— all those that could take over my freedom: the dominant ones and the dominated ones; the learned and the discovered; those from over there and beyond; and those from over here and further within—not without first having honored them, as the officiant does with the offering consecrated to the fire and whose ashes he then buries for a new germination. Thus, as it is, the music I made is a language destroyed and created and burned and buried and germinated. At the same time, it is all and in any order. I believe I am/have been the “idolater,” the extirpator, and the one reborn in this life—the one that still inquires and makes me restless.
Diaspora. We are at the threshold. We are threshold. Here they came. From one side, European-style composers (European, Latin American, and Bolivian) arrived to face the challenge of creating with sound sources that are unattainable for their, historically hegemonic, musical/cultural categories. From the other side, sikuris, tarqiris, luriris from Aymara communities also arrived, to undertake the unusual mission of teaching (us) what is ancestrally their own, but historically subaltern.
Both were seen here, outside their environmental space.
The first ones had a hard time understanding those musical instruments: pitches, not absolute ones; a “pitch” as a conglomerate—or an approximation or an ambiguity—never a definitive and measurable or wholly controllable concreteness. How to create music with such an unattainable matter, coming from the logic of composing by closing behaviors to all the parameters of sound/music? What does a common composer do with an organic and living element that imposes its own conditions? Do they subdue it? Do they give up? Do they turn a deaf ear? Do they negotiate? Do they switch places? “To compose is to liberate sound,” I concluded when I myself was overwhelmed by these questions in the process of decrypting a number of flutes of multiple organological forms—which arrived in the space/time of contemporaneity—as someone who proffers another planet. The OEIN-composers experience produced many things in repertoire: from impossibles to revelations, passing-through blunders, intuitions, collisions, negations and other results that remain bestowed to this ineffable and questioning continent called OEIN, still open to other explorations and, who knows, to unimaginable unveilings and constructions and inventions and . . . . The scenario proposed is a different one, inverse to the secular colonial order where the North teaches and the South learns; the North paves the way and the South follows behind; the North invents and the South replicates; the North expands and the South contracts. Here, in this experimentality we talk about, the North (either by origin or way of thinking/being) had to learn, to contract, to follow, to feel uncomfortable, far away from its dominant territoriality.
The latter had to deal with the change of position in which they found themselves. In the same way in which the North imposed supremacy over the South, the cities do so over the rural areas. The cities founded during the colonial period became centers of power in the colonial republics, from where, even today, indigenous peoples, peasants, and miners are subjected to conditions of marginalization, exclusion, dependency, or even extermination. In this profound context, the tarqas20 of Kurawara de Carangas21 visited us in the city of La Paz. They came to transmit knowledge, to teach, to perform a technical/aesthetic/cultural model for an OEIN avid for these enigmas. In wielding this, they were there to invert colonial relationships—or at least to compensate them—for an instant of Pacha Kuti,22 where that which is “below” took the place of that which is “above,” and that which is “above” took the place of what is “below.” I am not sure that this difficult interaction was viewed in its profound intercultural dimension by the protagonists on both shores, but something happened. The women of the community, present there to dance and provide food, observed that the women in the OEIN played instruments on a par with the men, in equal competence and practice, breaking patterns of Aymara behavior where it is not for women, at all, to peal or blow, to make the air vibrate for others to dance or to make offerings or to gladden the heart. Coloniality is reproduced in concentric circles: from the North to the South; and in the South, from the metropolis to the countryside; and in the countryside, from men to women; and so on. But, in addition, there are Souths in the North, and Norths in the South; there are fields in the cities, and there are gender sub-alterities everywhere: South, North, cities, and communities. The presumption of superiority of some over the supposed inferiority of others is imbricated in a multiplicity of domains, relationships, and human relations. Coloniality ramifies itself and is installed into all cultural, social, political, and economic levels of the globalized world, and consequently, is installed in structures of thought. Anyone could embody the double role of colonizer and colonized in their daily lives, depending on the sphere of relations and the place they occupy in them. By choice or by condemnation, it is all the same. That is the dramatic state of the times.
To travel is to change perspective. It is to see/hear/feel the same thing from another place and with other senses, or with the same ones, well-baited and well-incited. To travel is to cease to be yourself in order to see/hear/feel other things without moving from the place of origin. To add to the tendency. To oppose the tendency. It is to arrive by choice of journey, to remember and to forget freely. To travel is to set off for exile, leaving land and skin, and never forgetting them; it is to be “those who play, those who listen.”23
May we all make/take the instruments, empty the innards into them, be still at the beck and call of all that sounds, watch the passage of the banished, bear the inheritance, scatter it, reap the fruits, embed its seed, plow furrow, rain oneself, and wait, wait, wait for the susurrus of the snails, the roar of the sprigs, the rumor of the entrails, the prayer of the minerals, and the song of dawn when it is still dusk.
La Paz, January 24, 2022
1“It is necessary to remember”, in Aymara. “Amtaña. v. tr. to remember. To bring something to memory. To determine. || 2. To commemorate. To remember an event. To celebrate, exalt, praise.” (Aymara-Spanish dictionary; Teófilo Layme, Virginia Lucero, Mabel Arteaga. UMSA / Plural Editores)
2“Dilo,” alludes to a typical expression (shout) of Dámaso Pérez Prado, a popular Cuban composer and arranger.
3“Our great loss has been those millions of years without historical record: a vast space of time that probes toward infinity. This is the space that art approaches and is where it is born.” (Nicomedes Suarez, “Manifiesto amnesis”, Editorial La Hoguera, 2010).
4“Sikuri. n. (...) Set of ‘siku’ players.” (Op. Cit.)
5“Siku. s. Zampoña (Panpipes). Musical wind instrument made of several reeds. (...)” (Op. Cit.) Altiplanic Pan flute.
6“Ajayu. s. Spirit. In-material substance of a person. Soul. (...)” (Op. Cit.).
7Sirinu, the giver of music.” They are dangerous beings that can drive whoever listens to their beautiful music mad (...) (Usandizaga, H., “El mundo oscuro y la música en los mitos andinos,” 2011, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies) The wayñuaspuri call on the waterfalls and springs to receive the tune of the Sirinu.
8“Manqha pacha. s. Abyss. Time and space of the depths below the earth, imposing and dangerous (...)” (Op. Cit.).
9“Luriri. s. Author. One who has made or created something.” (Op. Cit.) Sikuluriri, one who makes sikus.
10“Wayñu. s. Joyful music and singing (...)”. “Apsuri. adj. & n. Sacador. One who takes something out.” (Op. Cit.) Wayñuapsuri, “composer” in Aymara; literally, the one who takes out wayñu.
11“Akapacha. s. Actuality. Current time.” (Op. Cit.)
12“Ch’alla. s. (...) | 2. Libation. Action of pouring a drink or liquor to mother Earth asking for help and protection.” (Op. Cit.)
13“Because we cannot remember, we create. Our fictions may be the product of the gaps in our memory.” (Nicomedes Suárez, Op. Cit.)
14“Libres en el sonido” (1997); composition by Graciela Paraskevaídis for cello, clarinet, flute, and violin.
15“Apthapi. s. Compilation. (...) 2. Food collected for Community lunch.” (Op. Cit.)
16OEIN (Experimental Orchestra of Native Instruments) was co-founded by Cergio Prudencio in 1980, who was its director until 2016.
17“Taki Onqoy, [singing disease], was a religious movement (...) in the Peruvian Andes circa 1564. More than a disease, it was a movement of anti-colonial resistance, whose main characteristic was the abandonment of everything that had been brought by the conqueror.” (“Taqui Onkoy. Indigenous resistance in the Central Andes (1565)”; The Thousand-Headed Hydra). “The Taki Unquy was based on the belief that the huacas, abandoned by the expansion of Christianity, could take possession of the indigenous people through the initiatory ecstasy generated by dance and ritual fasting. A ceremony such as this defeated the European god and annulled baptism for them. Thus, the aim of this movement was to defeat the Catholic God, retrieve the baptized indigenous peoples and expel the Spaniards.” (Wikipedia)
18“The vocable huaca, waca or guaca (...) designated all fundamental Inca sacralities: shrines, idols, temples, tombs, mummies, sacred places, animals, those stars from which the aillus, or clans, believed they were descended, the very ancestors, including the main deities, the Sun and the moon (...)” (Wikipedia)
19José Lezama Lima, “Esferaimagen.” Editorial Tusquets, 1969. Translation: www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/rrev/2013/00000046/00000001/art00026
20“Tarqa. n. Musical wind instrument made of wood in one piece.” (Op. Cit.) Vertical flute with wind pipe and six finger holes, always played in troupe or ensemble made up of different sizes, in constant interaction.
21Kurawara de Carangas; population of the department of Oruro, Bolivia, capital of the Sajama province, located almost 4000 meters above sea level.
22Pacha Kuti, time of change. “The kuti consists of the cyclical alternation of opposites, which exchange their respective spatial and hierarchical positions in turns (...)” (Fernando Montes, “La máscara de piedra,” Editorial Armonía, 1999).
23Poem by Jaime Sáenz. (“los que tocan, los que escuchan”). ECO Magazine 269, Bogotá, 1983