** Edition of 300 ** Recently created Guatemalan label Identidata is extremely proud to present “Sacratávica”, the very first collected survey of Joaquín Orellana’s compositions. With a career spanning over 50 years of activity across contemporary art, performance, theater and sound art, Orellana is a highly singular figure in Guatamalan culture. Often considered to be the sole avant-garde composer in the country, his work has a deeply interdisciplinary quality. Most of his music was created using an orchestra of his self-built instruments, also known as Útiles Sonoros. Sitting at the border of sculpture, sound installation and musical instrument, these Útiles Sonoros, which he’s been building and developing since the late '60s, are at the center of his artistic activity.
Aside the obvious formal aspect, his compositions also have a strong political message, while being deeply rooted in Guatemalan history, folklore and various identities, both indigenous and modern. Playful opener “Híbrido a presión” was one of the first of his compositions to be performed entirely using the Útiles Sonoros. However, due to its technical complexity the piece was seldom reproduced, except for a later staging that Orellana directed in Louisville, Kentucky. “Ramajes” (1984), initially titled “Evocación profunda y ramajes de una marimba” , tracks the many incarnations of the marimba across history, before reaching its final form as one of Orellana’s instruments by combining vibrational percussion with melody and poetry fragments.
The title track, ‘’Sacratávica’’, represents one of the most ambitious and emotionally charged pieces from the album. An expansive 22 minute composition mixing textures that mimick field recordings and multi-layered vocal melodies culminating in choral catharsis, ‘’Sacratávica’’ deals in baroque maximalism without ever feeling cluttered. For the casual listener, the track immediately stands out, not only because of the moving vocal layered harmonies, but also through its epic scale and strong sonic narrative. Dubbed “Las voces del Rio Negro”, the piece references the massacres that took place in Coban during a period where the army massacred numerous towns, throwing the bodies in the nearby Rio Negro (the Black River). Final track, “Fantoidea”, a glistening, metallic ambient improvisation, was a reimagining of Disney’s Fantasia using Paul Dukas’s “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” as inspiration.
Despite his work being presented in numerous exhibitions and concerts in various prestigious museums and theaters across the world, very few quality recordings exist to date. The only previously available recordings so far or either of very poor quality or did not receive enough attention. This is why, although The compositions presented not being previously unheard, having them all together in a high quality audio object represents a key moment In Guatemalan and Latin American culture.
Recorded on August 31st 2016 during a historical concert attended by over 1000 people at the Centro Cultural Miguel Angel Asturias, designed by Efrain Recinos, one of Guatemala’s leading contemporary artist from the last century, the four pieces were performed by a selection of over 90 musicians (including 60 vocalists) who were already familiar with Orellana’s instruments, cherry-picked from the Guatemalan Conservatory.
For the people behind Identidata, it has been a long and arduous process to put together these pieces. Trying to offer a panoramic view of Orellana’s work, the curators have selected pieces ranging from different decades and artistic periods. “Sacratávica” is a portrait of a singular artist whose work speaks not only to his culture, but carries strong aesthetic sensibilities that resonate universally.