A Terra sem Mal
La Terre sans Mal
for 11 amplified musicians and electronics (2010/2011 - 20 min.)
Commissioned by the French State.
To the Ensemble Le Balcon and to the Guarani Indians
A Terra-sem-Mal (A Land-without-Evil) is not only a place of delights, it is also the only shelter that will occur at the end of the world, "Nan-derikey is above us. The day he will remove the feet under the earth, it will collapse. Today the earth is old and generations no longer thrive. We will revisit those who died. When night will come, the Bat will descend to exterminate them. This night will go down as the blue Jaguar devour us. There will also a Great Fire followed by the the Great Flood. "(1) So, the Guarani people today - ethnic group mainly divided between Paraguay and Brazil - tries to maintain the old myths. Over centuries, the search for Earth-without-this evil prompted the displacement of tribes. However, theses migrations are transmuted today and create sufferings. For the past decades, this nation has suffered greatly (and still suffer) from harm expropriations after multiple government needs to provide new lands for new farms (especially today for providing plants for bio-fuels). Uprooting, crimes against these populations, alcoholism and crimes have become the daily component of these people whose culture suffers from this situation.
The desire to write this piece is part of my commitment as a composer involved in our problematic world. It arises from the wonderful fact that I had to teach in Brazil during the summers of 2008 and 2009. On this occasion, I was surprised to realize how the musicians of this country were not aware of the diversity of their local musical cultures. If the MPB (2) sweat from every street corner, Indian music (or at least their few survivors) remains mostly unknown. Hence my desire to look into it more closely, and its conditions of existence (and ultimately to those who practice it).
Therefore, "The Land without Evil" (3) takes its root in this Indian music. Nevertheless, the work is absolutely not a pastiche or an ethnic transcription. Instead, it leans more towards a "electric" dimension, broadly contemporary, with many references of spectral analysis of Brazilian sounds (which make sense to our ears : forest sounds, chainsaws, firing automatic weapons - from a BBC report on the plight of the Indians - church bells, Guarani words, maracas and shamanic flutes, etc...). Beyond these references, the work tries to tell the daily struggles of these Indians in maintaining a vital space required for the expression of their cultures. Hence the use of amplification and spatialization as a metaphorical point of view. And confront the listener with some form of hearing oppression born of the violent reduction of the sound image initially distributed in a wide area and gradually crushed into a single point, central (middle of the room ). The sound also follows this pattern. Magical and strange sounds are coming from some musicians of the ensemble who are blowing into bottles and articulating some phonemes from shamanic rituals. Phonemes again, taken from a Youtube interview of few Guarani peoples, cut and edited at the end of the piece as a sequence in a MTV-style. Phonemes, at least, processed electronically and congregating in "distortions" of our time when these words are utterly compressed in time. Then remain enigmatic snatches of language, with a Guarani Indian expressing a great lesson in humanity :
When the Creator created us. He made us different from the white man. Our language is different. Whites believe that the Mbya(s) live like them, but it is impossible.
Our lifestyle is not made for the white man. So they will never fully understand it. Similarly, we, about their culture. We live with our culture, even if it is difficult for us. So we try to go our own way in all villages. Whites are doing everything in order to oblige us to live as they live. They did not succeed because they are not Gods. This is how we imagine.
A culture can never be assimilated / adapted to another culture. Even learning the language of the other will never give equality.
If God created the differences, we must respect them. A culture is no better than another.
The work was written at the request of the Ensemble Le Balcon. It was premiered by its dedicatees under the direction of Maxim Pascal on February 25th, 2011 in Paris, Eglise Saint Merri.
"The Land without Evil" results from a commission of the French State.
Please, visit : http://www.survivalfrance.org/peuples/guarani
1. Quoted by Alfred Métraux, Indian Religions and magic of South America, Gallimard, Paris, 1967.
2. Brazilian Popular Music (above all, the Samba)
3. See also: Pierre Clastres The big talk. Myths and sacred chants of Guarani Indians, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1975 / Helen Clastres, La Terre sans Mal, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1975.