“Birria” from Tierkreis


Program Note

In considering the idea of an “Angeleno” companion piece to the Capricorn movement of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis, I thought about what goats have to do with life in L.A. I live in Highland Park, a largely Mexican-American neighborhood since the white flight of the mid-1960s. Despite the rapid gentrification of the 2000s, this neighborhood is still home to numerous purveyors of Mexican cuisine, who sometimes offer bírria, a stew from Jalisco traditionally made with chili-pepper based goat meat adobo. In Spanish, “bírria” describes things without value or quality. The dish’s name originates with the Conquistadors who, facing an overpopulation of tough goats that they did not know how to eat, gave them to native people in Mexico, who marinated the meat in indigenous styles and cooked it underground, with delicious results.

This piece takes inspiration from this origin story and the cooking process of bírria presented in YouTube videos – introducing dry ingredients, blending the salsa, marinating, and pressure-cooking. The gradually unwinding music box spins into the whirling of a blender. I also had in mind ‘La Negra’ and other examples of son jalisciense, and some songs by Lila Downs, Natalia LaFourcade, and Mexican Institute of Sound. Though the setting and ensemble here is very different, I was looking for that sense of joy.

About Carolyn Chen

Carolyn Chen has made music for supermarket, demolition district, and the dark. Her work reconfigures the everyday to retune habits of our ears, through sound, text, light, image, and movement.…