Regarding the music written for sollozo por pedro jara (1978)

              Before starting to write the music, I thought it would be necessary to re-read the poem and analyze its meaning and, subsequently, analyze its structure to establish “rules” or guidelines for the compositional process. As stated before, the poem consists of 63 verses, which are divided into 5 Series and each Series has three parallel developments:

Table 1: Structure of sollozo por pedro jara







Figure 1: Visual example of the poem (1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 of Series I)[1]

Possible compositional approaches could have been any of the following (there are endless possiblities, these are just the ideas I came up with):

  • Same melody throughout each Series with different written countermelody or accompaniment on each variation.

  • Same melody throughout each Series with different improvised countermelody or accompaniment on each variation.

  • Three melodies sounding simultaneously.

  • One note per syllable or one measure per verse.

  • Modal compositions based on 7-note scales permutations (research done by Prof. Diego Celi), choosing specific modes because of its “brightness” or darkness” depending of the Series’ mood.

  • Design software or an app that enables to randomize the verse order within series with their corresponding musical measure

From all possibilities listed beforehand  I decided to establish a relation measure-verse as the unit to “translate” the poem in a musical way. As each Series has its own mood, I chose to create five different harmonic and melodic ambients to create cohesion within Series and to differentiate each of them:




Before I started to write the music, I established as my main focus to create a melodic statement that could go along with the words, which meant for me not being too busy rhythmically so it would not conflict with the recitation. I chose not to have strong harmonic resolution points with the exception of the 4.3 and 5.3 because there is a heavy resolution in the poem in those developments.

Other aspect I had in mind before starting to compose was to analyze when there were verses that repeated themselves within Series because that would mean to repeat measures:


These are the "rules" I established for myself to approach the process of writing the music:

  1. Tempo was established by the “tempo” of my recitation.

  2. Every time sound, silence and solitude were expressed in words or inferred, I left blank measures.

  3. If some verse was particularly longer, I made time signature changes.

  4. Whenever the author combines two or more words, I wrote a cluster with as many notes as words combined. In a standard-tuned guitar (EADGBE) it is not physically possible to pluck more than three adjacent notes at the same time, so when I needed to record a larger cluster, I did it in two or more takes.

  5. I assigned five notes for the word Pedro and these appear through the series in a similar way as a 'Leitmotiv', sometimes in a melodic way (with variations) and other times as a chord.

  6. There are parts of the poem in which there are clear similarities in adjacent verses. In those parts I chose to make use of motive development techniques in these measures to imitate the structure of the verses.

  7. Dynamics should match exclamations and microclimaxes occurring in every Series. (Because of the structure of the poem, dynamics were identical within the variations).

  8. Quantity of accompaniment was determined by interpretation of the poem and/or by how necessary it was to reflect a certain chord quality, when harmony was an element of coherence and unity between developments of a Series.


            In Series I, I established two different musical phrases or statements, one from verses 3 to 8 and another starting in verse 9 until the end. The harmony is mostly major but I include suspended chords, as my interpretation of this Series as expressing both joy about the birth and a neutral uncertainty about Pedro’s future.

Example 1: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series I (1.1), mm 1-5


            In this part, Pedro’s motive in introduced. I chose notes B, D, E, G, A to allude to him every time his name is mentioned and when the word “hijo” (son) is used. In Series I, this motive appears as a melody (in eighth notes and as a chord).

Example 2: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series I (1.1): Pedro motive, mm 16-19



Another characteristic of the poem that is introduced in this Series is the use of a sort of “scriptio continua” like it is shown in this excerpt of 1.1 in verses 17 and 18:


Figure 1: Excerpt from 1.1[2]

I decided to musically correspond to this choice made by the poet with the use of clusters, combined with the notes of the motive chose for the name Pedro:


            In Series II I rhythmically modify Pedro’s motive to add variety but pitch remains the same. Something interesting of this Series is that the poet states the importance of stone for three pre-Columbian cultures (Rapa-Nui, Inca, Cañari). Since they were only short references, I did not take this into account while composing. As I will explain later in this document, there are some subtle references to this in the mix (because I added recordings to the audio track) but there is no reference to it in the compositions.

Example 3: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series II (2.1): Pedro motive, mm 1-4




Example 4: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series II (2.1): Music imitating the structure of the verses, mm 17-21



  Harmonically, this Series is mostly diatonic but there are parts in which harmony is vertical, since the melody was composed first and I wrote it with a mindset of not having to be completely diatonic. I recorded strings on it, while mixing and these are not notated because it was merely an improvisation upon the musical background. This new element provides tension because it is purposely not always diatonic. I also did this because the music sounded too much like blocks because of the approach I chose for it and the melodic information of the strings adds a missing element of continuity.

            In Series III, as stated before, there is a contrast between people who persist on living  (“nosotros”, us) and Pedro, who chose to end it. I decided to write one melody, which interacts with another one in some points because in the poem there are leaps from one subject of the comparison to the other. I tried to use as much contrary motion as possible during the interaction of the two melodies.

Example 5: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series III (3.2): Interaction of two voices, mm 11-15



    In the three developments of this Series, from verse 24 to the end, the poetic voice uses symbolism related to birds, wind and flying and I tried to express this in the music with legato eighth notes.

            Compared to Series II and III, which were conceived in a more mechanical way, when composing for Series IV, I wanted to write a “lyrical” melody, since it is the most dramatic part of the poem, the emotional climax. Harmonically, it is almost always diatonic. In verses 16 to 18 the “Pedro motive” appears identical in the upper voices in whole notes and the element that provides variety is the bass line.  

Example 6: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series IV (4.1): Pedro chord, mm 13-16


             In the last Series, in verse 18, the words “hijo mío” (beloved son) are accompanied by this same motive. This Series differs from the preceding ones by consisting almost exclusively of minor chords. This creates a different mood, compared to what I had written for the other Series.

Example 7: Paola Proaño, excerpt from Series V (5.1): Non functional harmony, mm 1-5






[1]  Efraín Jara Idrovo, “Weeping for Pedro Jara (Structures for an Elegy)”, trans. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 5, no. 1 (1998): 89-98).

[2] Ibid.

© 2020 tomás proaño

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