ABOUT "13 B'AK'TUN"
A b’ak’tun is a measure of time (144,000 days or approximately 394 years) that was devised by the ancient Mayas to help them track of long periods of time that were not accommodated by the solar and lunar calendars they used on a daily basis. On December 21, 2012 the 13th turn of the B’ak’tun will be completed since the beginning of the era when the long-count calendar count begins. This calendar system allowed them to predict solar eclipses with great accuracy and align their sacred buildings to the movement of the sun and the stars.
Sones de México Ensemble is a non-profit music organization and a sextet of talented musicians with a mission to promote greater appreciation of Mexican folk and traditional music and culture through innovative performance, education, and dissemination.
On this momentous occasion, this new composition is an homage to the cultural achievement of the ancient and modern Mayan people. It is also a way to dispel false and sensationalist stories about a supposed doomsday prediction attributed to the Mayans for the end of the 13-B’ak’tun. In fact, modern-day Mayas will receive this day with celebrations and prayers of gratitude.
The inspiration for this piece came from the number system and mathematical prowess that the Mayans demonstrated in their calendar and architecture. The piece consists of 14 sections, one for zero (the Mayas were one of the earliest civilizations to use a symbol to represent zero) and one section for each of the B’ak’tun cycles since the beginning of our era. Each section is numerically related to each of the cycles. Thus, 0-B’ak’tun features a thirteen count of silence in honor of number zero, 1-B’ak’tun is a solo flute, 2-B’ak’tun is a duet of flute and tun (a slit-drum) in 2/4 time, 3-B’ak’tun is a trio of bass, guitar and marimba in 3/4 time. 4-B’ak’tun is a quartet in 4/4 with harp, violin, guitar, and tortoise shell, 5-B’ak’tun is a percussion quintet in a meter of 5/4, and so on, each section growing in size and complexity until reaching 13-B’ak’tun, a procession in a meter of 13/8 that rather than reaching a fateful end it fades away in celebration indicating that the world will live on.
It is worth pointing some details about a couple of other interesting sections: 7-B’ak’tun, in 7/8 time, uses mostly instruments that are rubbed or scraped: two scrape sticks, a güiro (scraped gourd), matraca (ratchet/noisemaker), a quijada (a donkey jaw where the teeth are scraped with a deer antler and rattled), a pandero (a tambourine played by rubbing a wet finger across the skin), and a water drum (a capsized gourd floating on water). Also, 10-B’ak’tun features the poem “Maltishxic” (Gratitude) read by the author Carlos Mejía, a Guatemalan master marimba player and a good friend, in his native language Maya Quiche.
Lastly, All the melodies in the piece stem from a tone sequence of 13 notes, the highest of which is 13 degrees in the scale above the lowest. So, you could say this theme is 13 x 13. The theme is subdivided into three motifs, which is played in different variations forwards, backwards or upside down in different keys and meters. We hope you enjoy the piece.
—Juan Díes, December 2012.
“13-B’ak’tun” (13:00) [single version]
music and words by Juan Díes
Sones de México Ensemble, Inc. (ASCAP)
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
poem “Maltioshxic” by Carlos Mejía. Used by permission.
Performed by Sones de México Ensemble:
Víctor Pichardo (music director) —flute, guitar, percussion
Juan Díes—bass, guitar, mandolin, percussion
Lorena Iñiguez—vihuela, percussion
Juan Rivera—violin, mandolin, percussion
Zacbé Pichardo—harp, marimba, percussion
Javier Saume-Mazzei—drums, percussion
Jim Massoth, flute & saxes
Víctor García, trumpet
Carlos Mejía, poet
Recorded and mastered by Steve Yates, at Steve Yates Recording, Morton Grove, IL.
Original cover mandala by Héctor Duarte