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The Marvelous and Intriguing Adventures of Cabeza de Vaca

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Turner Cabeza de Vaca
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This composition is a musical impression of the book “La relación y comentarios”. This translates as “The Account and Commentaries”, written by the famous explorer and anthropologist Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. He was one of four survivors of the 1527 Narvaez Expedition, which shipwrecked off the Texas Gulf Coast around Matagorda Bay. In his book, he tells how the local Karankawa and Coahuiltecan Indians kidnapped and enslaved his group for four years. During this time, he discovered that he had a strange gift of healing. He quickly distinguished himself (and thereby saving himself and the others) by healing sick and wounded Native Americans from all over the Texas area. Eventually the healer-explorer found an opportunity to escape. He, with his comrades, fled West into New Spain, which is modern-day Mexico. For more information about this amazing story, click here.

The tone poem begins with a dramatic opening followed by the sounds of the untamed Texas Gulf Coast. Afterwards, the first strains of the work’s main theme appear. Then the unmistakable Spanish sounds of Cabeza de Vaca’s theme segue the piece into the introduction of the Karankawa encounter and the explorers’ enslavement. Soon, Cabeza de Vaca discovers his unworldly gift of healing, and becomes revered as a miracle worker. Seeing a sudden opportunity to escape, he and his compatriots flee and make their way down to Mexico.

TAMUK Horn Society and the 54th International Horn Symposium in Kingsville, Texas commissioned this work. Additionally, by way of connection, Cabeza de Vaca passed very close to Kingsville, Texas en route to Mexico. Also, to close the connection, Kerry Turner was born in 1960 in Kingsville.

Cabeza de Vaca was composed in Perdonone, Italy and Brussels, Belgium in November, 2021. Although it is written for only two percussionists, it can also be performed more easily by adding extra players.