Serpiente de Turquesas

Recipient of the 2021 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award


Full Orchestra (pgs. 13-34)

Serpiente  de  Turquesas   (for violin & orchestra)

NOV. 2015

About the piece:

Recipient of the 2021 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Serpiente de Turquesas is a piece inspired by the turquoise-colored rivers in the 'Huasteca Mexicana'--a region in Mexico itself nicknamed 'serpiente de turquesas'. The piece explores the religious and figurative associations that such rivers have enjoyed with the 'turquoise snake' since prehispanic times.

The turquoise snake is a symbol that permeates pre-hispanic art and religion. Perhaps the most famous artistic representation is the prehispanic sculpture found in the British Museum: a turquoise-covered, symmetrical sculpture with two heads (one on each end). The turquoise mosaic that covers the sculpture manifests the strong connection of the snake with water in mythology. Prehispanic cultures strongly associated turquoise with water (very much in the same way they associated jade with fire). For this reason, the piece navigates tracing the almost liquid movements of snakes and their figurative relationship to rivers.

At the same time, the two heads in the sculpture are a clear reference to the importance of duality and cyclical thinking in prehispanic understandings of the world. To this end, Serpiente de Turquesas begins as it ends, with the same theme. Multiple phrases are followed by mirrored inversions of themselves in response to the symmetry. The piece's inner sections essentially cycle themselves until they cascade or portal into new sections which, in turn, do the same. In this way, the work contemplates the cyclical nature of reality and meditates on cyclical psychology and cyclical understandings of the world: vital understandings if our civilization is to live in harmony with each other and with nature.

Instrumentation: 2+picc.1.2 / 0.1.2+btbn.1 / 3perc / pn.cl / str



     2 Flute (2nd doubling to Piccolo)

     1 Oboe

     2 Clarinets in Bb

     1 Trumpets in C (Harmon Mute)

     2 Tenor Trombones (Harmon mute)

     Bass Trombone



     Percussion (3 players)

     Percussion 1: Xylophone, Tambourine, Snare Drum, Glockenspiel

     Percussion 2: Hi-hat, Chimes, China Suspended Cymbal, Vibraphone, Marimba

     Percussion 3: Tam-Tam (Large), China Suspended Cymbal, Tubular Bells, Guiro


     Piano (doubling Celesta)

     Violin solo