Snake Killing at the Symphony

One of my favorite orchestral pieces is Sensemaya by Silvestra Revueltas.  It’s an incredibly visceral piece that was written in Mexico City, and is one of the first widely famous orchestral pieces by a Mexican composer.  It was based on a poem that was about an Afro-Carribean ritual performed while killing a snake.  The piece itself has a snake like sound as the tension is slowly ratcheted up, like a python slowly crushing its prey.  It’s violent, disturbing, and beautiful all at the same time.  Stripped of its origins it is the kind of piece that can take the imagination many places.  Is it the sound of a tribe of cannibals, mysterious ancient ruins, a battle about to take place, or something far stranger?

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