CONCERT FOR PIANO AND RAINFOREST
Piano, rainforest and a camara that turns us into privileged expectators of this symbiosis among Nature and Music.
Pianist Manuel Obregón and filmmaker José Cortés put their talents together to give us a concert amid the forest with the participation of all animals you expect to see in Costa Rica's protected area and that appear in this DVD as the result of a 15 years of work.
“Simbiosis” is a search for sounds that existed before instruments. A search that reaches brilliant moments as in “Dance of the Toledo Bird” (“La Danza de los Toledos”); humorous moments in “Blues of the Howler Monkey” (“Blues del Mono Aullador”) and dramatic ones in “A Requiem for the Golden Toad”, inspired in a nearly mythical species, known to exist only in Monteverde Forest (“Réquiem para el sapo dorado”).
All seven pieces in this DVD were written in Monteverde Rainforest, southwest from Arenal Lake, and they are the result of a 36-hour long recording session, 36 hours of dialogue and compenetration with this universe, a universe filled with moisture, moss and clouds floating through the trees.
“Simbiosis” is edited to join music and images together, intending to show the animals' artistic qualities in their amorous or their acrobatic frenzies, and how amusing the gestures of the animals, a fight over a piece of fruit or the curious coexistence of the species can be.
The images that appear in this DVD are several different types of rainforest in Costa Rica: Carara Rainforest, near the Pacific coast, Tapantí Forest, Braulio Carrillo National Park (high mountain forest located 15 minutes away from San José) and Monteverde Rainforest Biologic Reserve, southwest from Arenal Lake.
To have a better idea of these locations, it's convenient to say that Costa Rica, and Central America in general, has a spinal cord made of volcanoes that emerged from the bottom of the ocean 5 million years ago. Those mountains have two faces, two climates, two ecosystems where the great biological interchange between North and South America took place, with deep influence of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean.
The stage for the pieces heard in this concert, Monteverde is located on this very spinal cord, among the middle height forests that descend towards the Pacific Ocean.
“Simbiosis” was born in 1999 as an experiment of Manuel Obregón, where he entered the forest with his piano to compose music and to establish a dialogue with the animals.
Five years later, the extraordinary images registered by José Cortés, united both languages and succeed in transporting us to the forest, pianoforte included.
Born in San José in 1961, Manuel Obregón was raised within a family of a profound political tradition. He started studying piano at the age of 7 with his grandmother Mercedes Valverde, and continued studying in the University of Costa Rica Conservatory and in the Superior Royal Conservatory in Madrid. In 1982, he began his studies of Jazz and Flamenco in the “Aula de Música Moderna y Jazz” with Jean Luc Vallet in Barcelona, Spain, and with Silvano Bazan in the Swiss Jazz School of Brna, Switzerland.
Pianist, composer and producer, author of over 15 Cds as a soloist and over 15 Cds as a guest musician and producer. He has concentrated his creative work in Central American music and his relationship to nature for the last 10 years. In January 2002, he managed to gather 14 musicians from he 7 countries in Central America and to start the first regional musical ensamble known as La Orquesta de la Papaya. In January 2003, this iniciative grows to include more artists, technicians and producers in order to rescue and to make Central American music better known worldwide. Their primary objectives are to record, produce and distribute music from the area, since it is one of the most interesting yet more unknown artistic expressions in the world.
In October 2000, he recived the Concert of the Year Award given by musical critics in New Orléans and the Honorary International Citizen recognition given by the Mayor of New Orléans, Mr. Marc H. Morial.
His desire to experiment has lead Manuel Obregón down the roads of theater, film and dance. Jazz has been the foundation of his musical ideas and the finest vehicle to connect with nature and with traditional musicians. Obregón has accomplished a synthesis between academic formation, tradition and experimenting, an evolution that can be traced back in his recordings as a soloist and with numerous bands he has formed: Afro cosmos, Cahuita, Cuarteto Esporádico de Jazz, Gospel Caribe, La Orquesta de la Papaya and grupo Malpaís, among others.
Manuel Obregón has translated to piano the works of talented paraguayan guitarrist Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1940), and ofered a concert in Costa Rica's National Theater in 1997. He later recordes these translations in Klangstudio Leyh, one of Germany's top recording studios and presented his record in may 2000.
He also recorded: Piano Solo (1992), “Concierto del Farolito”(1993), “Sortilegio”(1994), “Piano y Ángel Ausente”(1995), “Sin Ton ni Son” (1996), “Pasión”(1997), Simbiosis (1998), “La Isla de la Pasión”(1999), “Génesis”(2000), “OM”(2001) “Manuel Obregón y la Orquesta de la Papaya” (2002), Wade in the Water (2003).
He has received several awards from the Costa Rican Composers and Musical Authors'Association (ACAM) and the award for Best Original Music given by the Cremona Film Festival in Italy for the soundtrack of "Password, una mirada en la oscuridad”, a Costa Rican film.
“Simbiosis” and La Orquesta de la Papaya have bee two major highlights in a bright musical career that has had concerts in Europe and the American Continent, musical research, CD recordings and the birth of Papaya Music recording label.
José Cortés is a costarrican filmmaker who has explored remote lands in America documenting the continet's wildlife or the lifestyle of its native communities, tracking down sharks and humpback whales deep in ocean waters.
Cortés has shot over 300 documentaries for Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet and for numerous international organizations devoted to conservation, such as WWF, Nature Conservancy and Peregrine Fund.
Cortés lent his valuable archive of images to “Simbiosis”, an archive accumulated throughout 15 yeras of filming in national parks and other protected areas of Costa Rica.
1) Preludio (Prelude)
“Preludio” proposes spending a day in the forest from sunrise to dusk.
The birds' song announces day and the voice of the howler monkeys wakes a colony of ants who are responsible of carving holes in the forest's ceiling to activate its impressive machine or regeneration.
The presence of the jaguar activates the sensors of the bush. It's like casting a stone in the middle of a lake. An enormous amount of birds and mammals shout the alarm from the treetops. The jaguar hunts in the water, land and trees. It'll eat anything that weighs over two pounds: monkeys, sloths, turtles, iguanas. That's why, when it appears, the harmony of the forest disintegrates.
2) Conversación con jilgueros (Conversation with Finches)
With their grey and blue feathers, the finch gets confused with the fog and sings. He sings to allow the female to reach him. Some consider him a bluesy singer, because the greyer the day gets, the more intense his voice gets. The camera takes us through the seven layers of forest, in search of a singer that is never seen.
The search offers a different reward: the bell-bird with its shrill, long-reach tone, and an explosion of colorful and strange plumage in every corner of the bush.
3) Danza con Toledos (Dance with Toledo birds)
The mating ritual of Toledo birds is one of the most interesting shows in the rainforest. In this ritual, two males engage in the dance: an apprentice and a mentor, but only the mentor has the right to mate with the female. Apprentices have to wait at least 3 years to get their adult plumage, then they have the possibility of aspiring a female.
Wide angles of the forest show how this exhuberant vegetation prospers even at the foot of a volcano that dashes stones, ash and incandescent materials. Arenal Volcano, located in the central area of Costa Rica, started its activity in 1968 and all of the rainforest that surrounds it remains virtually intact.
4) Hadas y duendes (Fairies and Elves)
Oropendolas (birds from the Oriolidae family) play an interesting game with the mist. The birds like to weave their nests in the highest branches of the rainforest. They dominate the heights from there and the camera dives into the bush in search for the elves of the rainforest: hummingbirds, those magical creatures that polinize numerous plants.
Its metabolism burns such an enormous amount of energy (twice their weight every day) that they lower their heart rate at night and enter a sort of hibernating state. Thi is the only way they can endure the labor scheduled for each day: paying a visit to some 2,500 to 5,000 flowers.
5) Blues del mono aullador (Blues of the Howler Monkey)
Monkeys and anteaters move to the rythm of blues, a flock of toucans attack a papaya tree, a heron moves its neck like a sea snake, and the melody fills with laughter the forest's everyday life.
The main performer in this blues is the howler monkey, who makes believe he is a gorila using his powerful and deep voice that cut through the tree branches. His diet is so low in protein that his throaty howl helps him locat other monkey troops and spare unnecessary movements.
6) Un sueño en la lluvia (A dream in the Rain)
The rain is the forest's biological clock, the one in charge of keeping Natures machine of regeneration working, where waterfalls and mist converge.
Rainforests are designed to “milk” the clouds. In this ecosystem, where there are no smooth surfaces, where the trees are covered in moss, orchids, parasite plants and hundreds of small plants, water begins ist cycle in the wings of the birds that endure the heavy shower on a tree branch and travels through all the corners all the way to the swamp, where trees grow, up to their knees in water.
7) Réquiem para el sapo dorado (A Requiem for the Golden Toad)
The Red Book on endangered species mentions the golden toad as one of the species of anphibians that have misteriously disapperared from the face of the earth in the las 15 years.
Its habitat was restricted to the Monteverde Reserve (in the middle of the Costa Rican territory) where the small toads were only seen during their mating season.
“A Requiem for the Golden Toad” is the most dramatic piece in “Simbiosis”. A few images are enough to pull us into the environmento of commotion animals suffer when a wound is left open in the bush. When a sloth falls from the guarumo tree is as if their last hope fell to the ground, because the guarumo tree is a useless tree from the point of view of lumberjacks, but it is vital to give shelter to hundreds of birds, monkey and other mammals. The sloth that looks for a new tree to cling to, while the ants flee from the path of its shaken body, transmits the drama among tha inhabitants of the forest much more clearly than any speech about deforestation.