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Stephen Drury, piano; Quilapayun
A spectacular performance.
--The New York Times
"The People United" is a series of 6 cycles, each of which consists of 6 stages, in which different musical relationships appear in order: (1) simple events; (2) rhythms; (3) melodies; (4) counterpoints; (5) harmonies; (6) combinations of all these. Each of the larger cycles develops a character suggested by the individual stage to which it corresponds, so that the third cycle is lyrical, the fourth tends toward conflict, the fifth toward simultaneity (the fifth is also the freest), and the sixth recapitulates, in such a way that the first stage is a summary of all of the preceding first stages, the second a summary of the second stages, and so on. Two songs, aside from the theme itself, appear at various points: the Italian revolutionary song "Bandiera Rossa", in reference to the Italian people who in the seventies opened their doors to so many refugees from Chilean fascism, and Hanns Eisler's 1932 antifascist "Solidaritatslied", a reminder that parallels to present threats exist in the past and that it is important to learn from them. After the sixth cycle the pianist is offered the option of improvising a cadenza, which Stephen Drury chooses not to exercise on this recording; but in compensation we are offered a remarkable recording of Sergio Ortega's great song. The extended length of the composition may be an allusion to the idea that the unification of people is a long story and that nothing worth winning is acquired without effort.
--Frederic Rzewski, January 1994
One day in June, 1973, three months before the bombing by Pinochet's military coup, I was walking through the plaza in front of the Palace of Finance in Santiago, Chile, and saw a street singer shouting, "The people united will never be defeated" - a well known Chilean chant for social change. I couldn't stop, and continued across the square, but his incessant chanting followed me and stuck in my mind.
On the following Sunday, after the broadcast of the show "Chile Says No to Civil War", which I directed for Channel 9, we went with a few artists to eat at my house outside Santiago. Upon arrival I sat down at my piano and thought about the experience in the plaza and the events at large. When I reproduced the chant of the people in my head, the chant that could not be restrained, the entire melody exploded from me: I saw it complete and played it in its entirety at once. The text unfurled itself quickly and fell, like falling rocks, upon the melody. In their enthusiasm some of my guests made suggestions that were too rational for the situation I was composing in. Out of courtesy I pretended to accept, but arranged myself to leave the text in its symptomatic landscape.
The song was performed in public two days later by the group Quilapayun in a heavily attended concert in the Alameda.
--Sergio Ortega, on El Pueble Unido
1. ¡El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido! (excerpt from a live concert in Buenos Aires, c. 1975, by Quilapayun) 3:40
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