This past weekend I had the great privilege of premiering my first guitar duet in the esteemed Brooklyn Conservatory of Music as part of a benefit concert. I was joined by the wonderful guitarist Madeleine Davidson, who commissioned the piece for the event -as well as several other wonderful musicians who contributed that day.
The piece is called Ten Kingdoms and is based on the writings of the 16th century Spanish friar Bartolome de las Casas, who famously documented the atrocities committed by the Spaniards in the Americas. After a friend on facebook posted a video citing his writings, I immediately bought his work “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” and couldn’t put it down. He begins the book by mentioning how “no fewer than ten kingdoms” had been completely depopulated and then goes on to describe the process and events that led to this devastation. A pretty amazing history lesson you probably skipped in school.
At the concert, we premiered the first movement, which is based on the text: “Those that arrived from the remotest parts of Spain…and who pride themselves in the name of Christians.” It imagines the excited feelings of those Spaniards setting off on the perilous and naive voyage for riches in the New World; completely oblivious to the events that await them and the natives.
The audience seemed to really enjoy the work; with its inappropriate joyfulness and dark subtext. I’m very grateful that it was so well-received, and I’m even more excited now about finishing the other movements I’ve sketched out, as soon as I get some more time and knowledge. Until then…Thomas