In “Here is New York,” E.B. White wrote of a city-within-a-city: the city of those who move to to New York from elsewhere. It is this set, he wrote, “that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements…[they] give it passion.”
New School Jazz faculty Alexis Cuadrado has taken a close look at just such a high-strung, poetic, artistic and passionate emigrant, the Spanish surrealist Federico Garcia Lorca. Cuadrado, himself a transplant, explores in music the collection of poems Lorca wrote during his brief time in New York City. Lorca’s vibrant imagery of life in 1929 starkly captured the city that Cuadrado has come to know himself since moving here from Barcelona.
NPR has now made available online Cuadrado’s explorative jazz compositions that set to music Lorca’s writings. ‘A Lorca Soundscape’ combines several different musical inspirations from Spain, Africa and even waltz rhythms to create jazz pieces that breathe dynamic new life into Lorca’s words. Even though Lorca’s poems were written decades ago they still capture social struggles and experiences similar to those of contemporary New Yorkers, exploring issues including frustration with the financial system and racial discrimination. Not entirely political, some pieces are more contemplative; the composition La Aurora (Dawn) captures a more quiet solitary city moment. Cuadrado says about this piece on his blog, “Harmonically and melodically this may be the most Spanish-sounding song of the collection, perhaps describing the loneliness and melancholy of the Spaniard in the New York wilderness.”
You can listen to the Alexis Cuadrado Group’s original 92Y Tribeca live performance online here.