El Oro de los Tigres

for soprano, clarinet, harp and cello

Jack Van Zandt

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for soprano, clarinet, harp and cello

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Composer Jack Van Zandt
Year of Composition 1982 rev. 2005
Duration 8'30"

Categories (all composers) , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-jvz1eodt1


Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was one of the supreme poets and literary innovators of the 20th Century. On the one hand, he was a traditionalist; having absorbed the lessons of the great poets from all over the world as far back as the poetry of ancient civilizations is known. On the other hand, he synthesized contemporary artistic, literary, mathematical and scientific ideas into his work that made it totally of his time. He is known as one of the founders of Magical Realism, a movement of Latin American literature that incorporated dreamy surrealism and fantasy into works containing traditional literary elements of nature, myth, allegory, metaphysics and history.

In his “Tankas,” from his published collection of poetry “The Gold of the Tigers” (El Oro de los Tigres) Borges applied magic realism style to the structure of 8th Century Japanese haiku-like tanka style, or “short song,” a strictly constructed 5-line poem with 31 syllables arranged as 5-7-5-7-7. I found these little poems to be very musical and challenged myself to create tiny songs that stuck to the tankas miniature size and highly-compressed expression.  In a way, these texts are very much like those used by the early expressionist composers—Schoenberg, Webern and Berg—that had great influence over post-war music. At the time I wrote El Oro de los Tigres, I was especially taken with works by the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-75), and his works of the 1950s and 1960s influenced these settings.