Nuevo Dia literally translated means New Day. This title is one that comes from an almost random set of associations (the renewal of creative impulses with the dawning of each new day, the age in which we live where music and cultures collide on a continual basis, etc.), but somehow seemed to sum up the process of realizing this piece.
The process began with a request from pianist, Abraham Stockman for a chamber piece that incorporated moments of improvisation (one of Abe’s fortes) and that utilized the influence of Salsa music. Having had several experiences with Latin American popular music influencing my own music over the past few years, I was very open to the idea of going down this road even further. At the heart of Salsa music is what is known as the “clave”; a syncopated rhythm often played by a pair of claves that serves as the backbone of a complex layering of other rhythmic ideas played by several other percussion and non-percussion instruments. This complex layering results in a veritable, aural kaleidoscope of subtle accentuations that give this music its unique sound.
This concept was central to the ways in which the instruments interrelated in this piece and the formation of the ensemble itself, which includes piano, percussion, violin, cello and saxophone where the violinist, cellist and saxophonist are required to play percussion instruments at various points throughout. The piece is in three sections where the “clave” is heard at the outset in conjunction with a piano riff that is somewhat typical of piano parts in traditional salsa, but which serves as a motivic point of departure that is developed melodically, rhythmically, is subjected to fragmentation and ultimately becomes the basis of the slow lyrical music in the middle section via a process of gradual, subversive introduction.
The middle section, somewhat of a serenade, gives way to an eerie, dream-like scenario initiated by piano and bells and sustained by sotto voce saxophone writing and string harmonics. This reverie becomes increasingly agitated as the saxophone climbs to its uppermost register and marcato piano stabs replace the gentle bell and pizzicato cello sounds. This agitation is pushed further with the saxophone intimating snippets of the frenetic opening ideas of the piece until eventually, at the moment of greatest tension, it is left alone to pursue a wildly interpreted reprise of the first section.
This final section is a platform for psuedo-improvised solos (of an improvisational quality but written into the music) and a truly improvised solo in the piano part, which is accompanied by the other players who are all playing percussion instruments and at the same time are shouting comments at the soloist to goad him into greater feats of virtuosity. The piece concludes with the rhythmic ideas of the piece coming to the fore through the use of the percussion instruments and various other resources such as clapping, stomping and vocal-percussive sounds. These later resources are as much a part of the music as any of the sounds created on the instruments themselves and signify for me a cellular level of music we carry around with us at all times. And hence the piece ends on the most basic material from which it was conceived.