Length: c. 8 minutes
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, piccolo trumpet, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (1=anvil, hi-hat, slapstick, cowbells, cajón, congas, glockenspiel, tubular bells; 2=tam-tam, tom-toms, seed rattle, xylophone; 3=triangle, suspended cymbal, cabasa, bass drum, tam-tam, crotales), piano, harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: May 26, 2022, Gustavo Dudamel conducting
About this Piece
“Shh, shhh… the colorful serpent moves;
Shh, shhh… crawling on the ground;
Shh, shhh… and it seems like a multicolored rainbow, each time its rattle sounds.”
It is said that a multicolored rattlesnake, which had a freshwater spring in its tail, used to live among us. In its wake, it would leave joy and provide water for trees, flowers, and crops.
However, the humans that lived in those lands began to fight among themselves, and those fights scared the snake, which fled underground, leaving drought behind.
Every now and then, the serpent peeks out from below to check whether there is finally peace among humans, but as they continue fighting, the snake hastily returns to the depths, and an earthquake can be felt.
It is said that the snake has not lost hope and still dreams of a day when humans will live in harmony and love each other—then it will return.
La Serpiente de Colores (The Multicolored Snake) is based on a traditional Mexican legend that can be found compiled in the “Third Grade Spanish Reading Book” from the Mexican public elementary school system.
This piece was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director; and written with the support of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores, FONCA. —Francisco Cortés-Álvarez