Magayon (2015)

Winner of the Juilliard Orchestra Composition Competition (2015)
Featured in the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute (2016)

Magayon means “beautiful” in the Bicolano language of the Philippines, and it forms part of the name of Daragang Magayon—literally “beautiful maiden”—the central character in the origin myth of Mount Mayon, an active volcano that overlooks my place of birth, the Philippine province of Albay. According to the myth, Magayon, having previously rejected many powerful suitors from distant villages, was set to marry the chieftain Ulap. But as preparations began for a grand, feastly wedding, the jealous hunter Pagtuga intervened, holding Magayon’s father hostage and setting off a brief but deadly skirmish.

When all of the main characters died—most tragically Magayon herself, who was hit by a stray arrow—the entire village went from celebratory anticipation of the wedding to mourning. The maiden was laid to rest on a grave next to her husband-to-be, which the villagers were alarmed to find rising higher and higher each day, accompanied by earthquakes and muffled rumblings of the earth. At last a crater formed, spewing hot ash and rocks.

My piece is concerned less with depicting the myth in its entirety and more with the emotional journey that the story evokes. I kept in mind Mount Mayon’s near-perfect cone in shaping the piece: its three sections (fast–slow–fast) are of roughly equal length and form an almost symmetrical arc, flowing seamlessly from one to the next. I also place less emphasis on the tragedy of the myth, and more on my own sense of wonder toward the mythology of my home country; hence, the piece, though brutal at times, ultimately comes to a triumphant close.

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players: bass drum, tam-tam, 2 suspended cymbals, China cymbal, chimes, glockenspiel, 3 triangles), strings

Duration: 13 minutes

Premiere: April 28, 2015, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY • Juilliard Orchestra; Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor

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