Codex Mexica: Passion
for the Orchestra of the Americas
* coming soon *
On the occasion of the 500th anniversary in 2021 of the fall of the great Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán and its reconstruction as the heart of Mexico — an event capping the most significant encounter between two cultures in human history — Codex Mexica uses the musical form of The Passion to revisit the various episodes of the fall of Tenochtitlán, shedding light in its uncanny relations and revealing fresh symbols behind the enduring meaning of 500- year-old events that continue to inform contemporary lives and identities.
Codex Mexica presents interwoven, often inverted interpretations, where Spanish, Aztec, Tlaxcalan, and other Natives are marked by moments of deep kindness and severe brutality, by acts of great trust and bitter betrayal, and by a magnetic attraction to the Other and an overpowering repulsion from it. Each of the actors in the story at some point represent the figure of Jesus, and rather than following a “step by step” version of the events Codex Mexica draws parallels between the two narratives, sometimes jumping back and forth between some of the stages but eventually finishing in the same place: The fall of Tenochtitlán and its resurection.
As a special petition by the Orchestra of the Americas, the incorporation of text for the project is done by members of the orchestra instead of a traditional choir. Rather than being a substitution of a choir, I looked for innovative ways to allow the orchestra members to whisper, speak, and sing within reasonable parameters, transforming the traditional symphony orchestra into a symphonic ensemble that both “plays and sings” at the same time.
To complement the music composition, and responding to the sensitivities of contemporary audiences, I commissioned Mexican artist Juan Blanco Villanueva with a visual Codex to be projected on a screen behind the orchestra. Each musical episode is accompanied by a piece of the commissioned codex. The piece can also work without the projections, as a symphonic concert piece. Part I of the piece goes through the first 6 episodes of the narrative as a one continuous piece of music.
The piece also joins the conversation around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal no. 16: peace, justice and strong institutions. If we are to strengthen our institutions for a more just and peaceful Latinamerica, we have to look to the past and engage in uncomfortable, challenging, and painful conversations. Our resurrection after colonisation left deep wounds in