Téenek — Invenciones de Territorio (LA Phil commission)
As the daughter of two founders of the group Los Folkloristas, Gabriela Ortiz grew up immersed in the sounds of Mexican vernacular music. Yet she is also highly trained at some of Mexico’s and Europe’s most esteemed music schools, ultimately obtaining a doctorate from London’s City University. The interaction of street and academy, of improvised traditional music and rigorous electronic formulas, has been crucial in much of her work. The LA Phil commissioned and gave world premiere of Téenek – Invenciones de Territorio in 2017.
Téenek is the language spoken in the Huasteca region, which encompasses the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, Puebla, and Querétaro in Mexico. Its name means “local man,” in reference to all the men and women who belong to a place whose mere existence determines their destinations in time and space: their territories. Indeed, in any region of the world, human beings from any given era determine a way of BEING that transcends time and defines their relationship with their surroundings, no matter what their race, skin color, political borders, or socio-economic condition may be. We are all mortals, just as our domains, differences, borders, and possessions will eventually disappear, if not in decades, over the course of centuries. In the end, human beings transcend such conditions and circumstances by simply BEING, by culturally existing, by everything that remains.
Téenek is a sonorous metaphor of our transcendence, a strength that alludes to a future where there are no borders, but rather, a recognition of the actual particularities and differences between us that propitiate our development while at the same time enriching and uplifting us.
Music thus bears witness to a gradual history of matches and mismatches, of ancient cultures and new symbols, of ways to resist and comprehend the world by imagining sounds and senses, of that vital rhythm that lends meaning to the sense of belonging, and of roots that identify us culturally. Through the plain and simple idea of fitting in, of not dividing but, rather, recognizing otherness, Téenek reflects on the importance of reaffirming identities through fragmentation.
It is precisely because of this that Téenek is composed of a series of apparently dissimilar inventions which find their strength in their differences, enrichment, and musical development: these are interwoven and transformed over time in a discourse that demonstrates how the existence of borders may be diluted in pursuit of the powerful idea that our potential future lies in recognizing our differences. - Alejandro Escuer