Unknown Pabellón

In 1997, the record company Musicarte released the first work of Pabellón Sin Baranda, the trio whose founders became friends in the Gran Mariscal Orchestra of Ayacucho. Like many other groups of new Venezuelan music, Pabellón was born in the fertile substratum of our National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras (El Sistema), where rubbing shoulders with the demands and creativity of symphonic composers has stimulated in many the desire to explore new avenues in Venezuelan music. Between orchestral rehearsals in the beginning of the 1990s, the beloved Brazilian conductor David Machado listened to the improvisations of flutist Javier Montilla (who trained with the Llanos Symphony) with his oboist companion Rafael Brito playing cuatro, and Pedro Vásquez, a cellist from Margarita who grasped his instrument in an odd way as if it were an ethnic Afro-Latin American instrument. Machado predicted in heavily accented Spanish, “You should form a group – it would be fantastic!” Indeed, the first record confirmed this four years later. The point from which these three superb improvisers saw Venezuelan music posed a very different perspective from that offered at the time by El Cuarteto or Gurrufío, two giants of the genre. The group did not have the seniority or the classical sound of their precursors, who had shown them the way, creating the references, style, and repertory. But these daring musicians served their dishes with much wilder ingredients, spicy hot and close to venomous, without falling into the insufferable criollo promiscuities of jazz or using, God forbid, the embellishing, never-drying varnish of old furniture. It was a new language. Far from the custom of constant strumming, Pollo Brito’s cuatro spun an aerial style saturated with gaitero riffs and starts and oriental regolichados (East Venezuelan tremolos) of asymmetric, almost Indian percussive subdivisions that included the extensive use of rhythmic silence. (Officially he didn’t sing. Today, he is the best popular voice of Venezuela, with a potential that has barely begun to bloom.)

Javier Montilla pronounced the classic melodies of the repertory such as El Frutero or Señor Jou with unheard-of assurance and explosive fragmentation, converting themes into riddles that the pinched, pestered, and jostled cello of Pedro Vásquez harmonized in a way that had little to do with orthodoxy. That structural breach was well suited to the standard Venezuelan repertoire trapped in fairly conservative routines that only records like La Noche del Morrocoy Azul had been able to beat. Pabellón’s first record changed the frozen forms, the symmetrical melodic expositions, the clauses of the discourse. It introduced humor, irony, an exogenous graft like elements of a free and refreshing design that silently influenced many. (I believe this first CD was re-issued recently). Shortly afterwards, Rafael Brito left the group to focus on his own career, replaced by the cuatrista and excellent composer Orlando Cardozo. Eleven years passed and the group reappeared with a second CD in April 2008, reaffirming a conceptual path with music designed for thinking. Listen to the theme Stravismo – a consecration of Stravinsky digested and regurgitated by the merengue worm – or their version of Leo Brouwer’s Danza Característica. By the time you read this, the trio will already have premiered on Friday (November 27, 2009) the Concerto for Pabellón and Orchestra composed by Cardozo, with the Simón Bolívar Symphonic Orchestra under Pablo Castellanos. An important concert: historical and artistic necessity lead us to cross the wires of symphonic music and new Venezuelan music with more daring and frequency.

Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland

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Composer / Writer
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