Moriviví (world premiere, LA Phil commission with generous support from the MaddocksBrown Fund for New Music)
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, marimba, percussion (crotales, glockenspiel, vibraphone, hi-hat cymbals, triangle, kick drum, claves, cabasa, tambourine, cowbell, and bongos), harp, MIDI keyboard, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: June 2, 2022, Gustavo Dudamel conducting (LAPA co-commission; world premiere)
About this Piece
Mimosa pudica (noun; from Latin: pudica “shy, bashful, or shrinking”)—Prostrate or semierect subshrub of tropical America, and Australia; heavily armed with recurved thorns and having sensitive soft grey green leaflets that fold and droop at night or when touched or cooled. Synonyms: action plant, humble plant, live-and-die, sensitive plant, shame plant, sleeping plant, touch-me-not.
“Moriviví” is a piece inspired by the Mimosa pudica plant. Commonly found in Puerto Rico, where it is known as moriviví (literally, died/lived), this sensitive shrub gently closes its leaves when touched. As a young girl, I loved playing with this plant, marveling at the magical effect of a gentle touch. I would brush my fingertips against every leaf I could, watching them transform over and over again before my eyes. As an adult, I find myself just as fascinated by the different translations of the word moriviví: shameful, fragile, humble, lazy, and resilient. Each conveys a very different narrative, all with a deep connection to the Puerto Rican experience. Historically, these adjectives have been weaponized and used to describe Puerto Ricans, becoming an entire vocabulary of oppression. Yet every one of these words contains multitudes of complexity, awakening countless feelings, entirely dependent on context. I’m interested in the contradictions inherent within these layered definitions and how, in the absence of spoken language, I might translate these intricacies into sound.
I want to embrace radical simplicity in this composition as a way to access my childhood memories of playing with this plant while delving into the intersection of innocence and melodrama built into Moriviví’s literal translation. As someone who has maintained a strong connection to the island despite 15 years in the diaspora, I’m also interested in how sentimentalism and melodrama play into Puerto Rican culture at home and abroad, impacting the way we experience and share stories. Moriviví is a liminal exploration of memory, language, tradition, and identity from the lens of someone attempting to construct space and a sense of belonging in two places simultaneously. —Angélica Negrón