A note from the composer

A note from composer Charles Halka on his piece, Por La Fuerza las Tierras, the centerpiece of CONTEXT.

First, I’d like to say how excited I am that Frame Dance chose to feature my music at CONTEXT.  It isn’t often that I get to be a part of such a collaborative and multimedia event, but I really learn a lot from artists in other fields, and future ideas or projects are usually inspired in the process.


In my music, I strive for experimentation whenever possible, but at the same time musical influences from my childhood and adolescence feature quite prominently.  Por la Fuerza las Tierras, the featured work at CONTEXT, is probably one of the clearest examples.  I don’t claim to be an expert on Mexican and Latin American music, but my early exposure to it in elementary school and my annual trips to Mexico during my so-called formative years certainly laid the groundwork for a continued interest this music.


As a composer, though, I was never involved with Mexico until 2009, when Alejandro Escuer, flutist and director of ONIX Ansamble (www.onixansemble.com), contacted me.  I had submitted a work to the ensemble’s composition competition, and while the work was not the winner, Alejandro liked it enough to ask if I would consider writing a new work especially for ONIX.  2010 was to be the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the bicentennial of the Mexican War of Independence, so it was the perfect opportunity to write a work inspired by the very music that helped shape me as a musician and composer.


Along with generous support from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, ONIX put together a concert-film performance titled Viva Zapata! with the aim of commemorating the Revolution and its ideals of human rights and liberal reforms.  My work was included in the performance and premiered by ONIX in Puebla, the site of some of the earliest fighting during the Mexican Revolution.


Por la Fuerza las Tierras, which translates to “[take] the lands by force,” exhibits aggressive and relentless energy in passages of both struggle and celebration.  After an extended moment of respite in the middle of the work, the music gradually gains momentum again and pushes energetically forward to the end.  Given the occasion for which the work was written, both the rhythmic and melodic material are greatly indebted to various Mexican musical styles.


I’ve had the opportunity to see Frame Dance’s work in progress for CONTEXT and feel they’ve really captured the different characters of the piece.  It’s a great feeling knowing the audience will be experiencing my music visually, aurally, and even almost physically.


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