For many years now, a staple in Del Sol's musical diet has Gabriela Lena Frank's "Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout." The piece, as Gabriela describes, has 6 movements, each inspired by either a different instrument or a different story from her mother's country of Peru. The first movement is entitled "Toyos" - the toyos are the largest in the panpipe family.
What strikes me is how different imagining what something sounds like or feels like versus how what the experience is like in person! While working on the piece, we constantly experiment for getting the "breathiness" of the panpipe in the viola sound and the right kind of "spit" in the pizzicato of the three remaining instruments. In our heads we "knew" roughly how the instrument worked and what sounds we were going for. But the first time that we actually heard live musicians playing toyos - everything changed and became so much clearer. We returned to rehearsal excited and inspired, with a whole new sound world in our ears and then we came up with new ways to replicate those sounds.
I can imagine it is the same feeling of listening to music only ever on CD or the computer, and for the first time walking into a hall and hearing music it in person. There is never any replication of the sound waves that rock your ear drums and your body: truly it's the beauty and mystery of live music.
We are really excited to be collaborating currently with Gabriela and a local Andean ensemble "Chaskinakuy." Gabriela is exploring how she can innovate by combining the sounds of the two ensembles, and the process is entirely interesting, fun, and challenging. For us, to experience up close and personal, the actual instruments - it really changes everything.
Enjoy this video of the toyos - but be sure to check out the collaboration "Incan Insights" - in several installments over the next year in San Francisco Bay Area.