top of page

El Pájaro Cautivo (The Captive Bird)

El Pájaro Cautivo starts from the image of a caged bird—though it is more generally about feeling trapped. At first the instruments only use four pitches. Gradually the flute begins to add pitches, as if attempting to stretch the boundaries. It sometimes adds them very obviously, and other times sneaks them in as passing notes. The other instruments attempt to drown out each new pitch that they notice; however, they lose track of which pitches are “allowed” and gradually begin to incorporate new pitches into their own material. By the middle of the piece, all the instruments have begun to use the entire chromatic. The flute then “escapes”—literally moving out of the box created by the other instruments—and leads them in a fast heterophonic canon. However, the other instruments, led by piano and percussion, begin to tighten the cage again in a highly rhythmic and syncopated section based on multiple ostinati. They chase the flute back to its opening position, caged in by the other instruments. The box tightens on the other instruments as well as the flute, so that by the end, none can play more than two pitches.


Instrumentation: Flute, Clarinet, Piano, Percussion, Violin, Violoncello

 This piece makes use of spatial elements. The performers should be seated according to the following diagram. The Flutist will start out in the center position (position A; inside the Cage). At the measures designated in the score, the Flutist will slowly walk to positions B, C, D, and finally ending back in position A. For ease of performance, the flutist should have music stands at all four locations.

seating chart with clarinet.jpg
bottom of page