Score published by Tapspace.


In 2015, I spent some time in the Amazon jungle of Peru. I was on a journey of spiritual development and self discovery involving holistic cleansing and psychoactive plant medicines. I spent much of my time there with a shaman and other solo travelers in a maloca, a large, circular structure built from native materials. Four narrow, corrugated, plastic windows were built into the fronds and branches of the roof, rising lengthwise toward the apex. 

Looking up from the inside, even in the darkest hours of nighttime with no electricity, these four windows shone brightly from the moonlight. They formed what eventually looked like a single illuminated shape. Similar to how staring at a familiar word long enough can temporarily morph it into something that looks foreign or absurd, the silhouette of space between these windows took the form of a mysterious but compassionate being–like an all-knowing, maternal figure looking over our group as if to say, “Don’t worry. All is well.”

Windows of the Maloca is a tribute to this experience. My goal was to symbolize the way in which individual components of an ecosystem exist together as a community. No matter how small the organism, it affects some other part of the whole, even if not immediately apparent.

I chose to use a repeating metric framework of 7/8+7/8+7/8+6/8. This structure remains consistent throughout the piece. A faint, repetitive pattern on the rim of a lone snare drum introduces this theme, and various layers and colors slowly start to intervene, painting a complex landscape. This 14-player work is roughly 5.5 minutes in length and presents a flowing, yet contrasting set of moods—sometimes mysterious, occasionally aggressive, and at other times suggesting beauty and hope.

Windows of the Maloca was commissioned by Brandon Kunka, director of the Roswell High School percussion ensemble from Roswell, Georgia. It was premiered at the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA) conference in Athens, Georgia, in January 2017.

—Jim Casella