After looking at the list of Revueltas’s orchestral works, I decided to randomly choose Caminos to listen to first. It immediately caught my attention.
With the first big hit, Revueltas grabs the listener’s attention with a trumpet fanfare that can be heard throughout the piece, either slightly altered or heard in different timbres. Once this grand fanfare fades, a new melody is heard in the oboe, but is quickly interrupted by the trumpet fanfare one more time. Finally, we hear the melody introduced by the oboe but played by the full orchestra with a strong ostinato underneath. The brass can be heard over this melody with strong and loud disruptions, almost as if they’re battling for the spotlight with the woodwinds and strings. Revueltas mixes beautiful and very folk-like melodies with harsh dissonances that are constantly disrupting the flow of the work. Loud explosions of percussion are used throughout to add texture and accent the melodic lines. In several different sections, the texture becomes polyphonic as we can hear at least three distinctive lines happening at once: an ostinato line in the bass, the flowing melody on top with fast running lines underneath.
The energy of this piece never slows down with the constant contrasts of instrumental coloring and development of a folk-like tune. The middle section presents a somewhat contrast to the opening as the meter changes from duple to triple and once again, interrupts the upbeat melody that had been heard before, leaving almost a sense of longing and uneasiness. I was relieved to hear the opening trumpet fanfare, but this time played by the woodwinds and strings, that leads us back to a recapitulated statement of the opening section. When a grand and rambunctious last statement of the main theme comes to an abrupt halt, the trumpet fanfare is heard one final time. As if the rest of the orchestra doesn’t like this disruption, they enter with fast moving lines to quickly build to a climactic last note, ending the work with an interesting yet satisfying chord (which sounds like the end of an old cartoon to me).
After listening to the symphonic poem, Caminos, I decided to look up what caminos means in Spanish- a way or path. This title reveals a lot, not only about the composer, but about the varied aspects of Mexico that influenced his compositions. Throughout this piece, I can hear the life of the Mexican people, as if I was walking down these so-called “paths”, and am able to see and hear cars honking, children laughing, and people talking to their neighbors. Although Revueltas was inspired by the lives of the Mexican people, he might not have wanted his music to be categorized as “descriptive” music. However, it’s hard not to create a picture of the Mexico that Revueltas lived in while listening to his music. One way or another, he allows his listeners to see Mexico through his eyes.
Béhague, Gerard. “Indianism in Latin American Art-Music Composition of the 1920s to 1940s: Case Studies from Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.” Latin American Music Review / Revista De Música Latinoamericana 27, no. 1 (2006): 28-37. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/4121693.
Candelaria, Lorenzo. “Silvestre Revueltas at the Dawn of His “American Period”: St. Edward’s College, Austin, Texas (1917-1918).” American Music 22, no. 4 (2004): 502-32. doi:10.2307/3592991.
Mayer-Serra, Otto. “Silvestre Revueltas and Musical Nationalism in Mexico.” The Musical Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1941): 123-45. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/739461.
Stevenson, Robert. “Revueltas, Silvestre.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 7, 2017, http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/23289.