Mirage for three percussionists and electronics is a work of bold sound—and silence—by contemporary Mexican composer Alejandro Romero Anaya. He creates desert landscapes of sparseness through the beginning of this piece marked by fearless silences, intricate slowing rhythms in the woodblocks, and the occasional addition of color from cymbals and crotales. The electronics begin to emerge in the absolute background of the music coloring in the holes between the sparse acoustic parts. The electronics have almost a quality of pixilation to them like when someone takes a picture and manually blows it up in MS Paint to create a distorted version of the original photo. This rawness combined with the absolute precision of sound that acoustic instruments have makes for a very interesting world of timbre.
A descending line begins to be discerned in the electronics. This sound is very similar to the sound of something being dropped off a cliff in the old Looney Toons animations. Once it hits the ground, the music takes on a much more chaotic character with watery sounding electronic lines that are as fleeting as they came. I love that Anaya ends the whole segment with a single clave strike followed by barren silence. This whole arc of the piece thus far feels like someone finding themselves lost in a dry, dry desert, seeing what appears to be water in the distance, running for that sweet, sweet promise of hydration, only to find that it was in fact a mirage and that they are still just as surrounded by austere landscape and brutal heat once more. The following swelling electronic sonorities create distant spires amid the arid soundscape of cymbals and cowbell. After another large “mirage” sound event takes place where the texture thickens and activity is busy it once again thins out, but to beautiful ephemeral whistle sounds that ultimately thin to one whistle and then to silence. This silence is thick. It hangs heavy on the listener and seems to be an endless expanse as there are no new sounds for almost 15”. To continue the mirage narrative, it is like after being duped by a mirage again, the stranded wanderer in the desert has to stand and make the decision whether to just stop and surely die or continue moving on in this wasteland. The music in this third portion is of a more frantic character. It has many more loud accents and nervous rhythmic play from the drums. After the music builds to a final large “mirage” sound event it thins down to distant, grainy electronic noise and ends in a final short burst of percussion that I can only imagine to be the final, choked moment of life as death takes over.
I found this to be a very interesting piece immediately upon listening to it. Anaya has a fantastic rhythmic language that has great life. His varied, yet economical use of timbre adds much depth to the music and an intuitive layer of coherence. Even still, his use of silence gripped me because it makes all the actual sound content all the more deliberate and, as a result, poignant. Beyond all this technical stuff, the way Anaya shapes the piece makes it feel like a story unfolding and, while still definitely somewhat abstract, it is not abjectly so.
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts below. Hope you enjoy the music!