The  Eleventh  Heaven   (full orchestra)

NOV. 2015

Full Orchestra (pgs. 13-34)

About the piece:

Ilhuícatl-Teotlacuauhco, ‘The Heaven Where the Red God is’


Recipient of the 68th BMI Student Composer Award and the 2020 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, 

Onceavo Cielo (Eleventh Heaven) gets its title from the eleventh strata (level) in the Nahua heavens/cosmogony. This is the strata where Xiuhtecutli (god of fire) and his female counterpart Chantico (goddess of wrath and volcanoes) dwell: the red sky full of rays where the dying Sun and twilight reside. In Nahuatl this heaven is called Ilhuícatl-Teotlacuauhco, ‘the heaven where the red god (is).’ Ilhuícatl, heaven; teotl, god; tlacuauhqui, red; co, place.

In writing this piece I was most fascinated by Xiuhtecutli's role as the starter of time and the weaver of all the cosmological levels, connecting all thirteen heavens, nine underwords, and the human plane of existence via the fire of creation. This is most clearly shown in the first page of the Fejérváry-Mayer Codex which shows Xiuhtecutli surrounded by eight night-lords and the four cardinal directions: at the center of reality. In his hand, he holds the fire of creation. He is the ‘spinal chord’ weaving all the planes of existence (heavens, underworlds, and the human plane) together via time.

At its core, this piece really is about ‘memorability,’ ‘idealization,’ and aesthetic ‘historicism’ as questions of impermanence—the impermanence of time, of believes, of gods, and of music become unavoidable.

Read review by Lisa deBenedictis via CoolCleveland.com


Instrumentation: 2+picc.3.2+Ebcl.2 / 4.3.2+btbn.1 / 4perc / pn.cl.hp / str



     2 Flute (2nd doubling to Piccolo)

     3 Oboes

     Eb Clarinet

     2 Clarinets in Bb

     2 Bassoons


     4 Horns in F

     3 Trumpets in C (Harmon Mute)

     2 Tenor Trombones (Harmon mute)

     Bass Trombone



     Percussion (4 players)

     Percussion 1: Xylophone, Tambourine, Snare Drum, Glockenspiel

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

     Percussion 3: Bass Drum, Maracas, Whip, China Suspended Cymbal

     Percussion 4: Tam-Tam (Large), China Suspended Cymbal, Tubular Bells, Guiro


     Piano (doubling Celesta)






El Onceavo Cielo

The Eleventh Heaven 

2022 rev. W. Premiere at Severance Hall by Carlos Kalmar and the CIM Orchestra.

Recipient of the 68th BMI Student Composer Award and the 

2020 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award