Nadie puede dar lo que no tiene

Commissioned By
Commissioned by the Massachussets Institute of Fine Arts for the Victory Players, Tian Hui Ng, Music Director.
 Premiered By the Victory Players, Tian Hui Ng, conducting, at WGBH Studios, Boston, June, 2021.
Program Note
I don’t want to be a colony, neither of
Spain nor of the United States.
What are the Puerto Rican people
doing that they don’t rise up?
                                           –Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betánces
Puerto Rico has been a colony since 1493. It’s time it cease being one.
Nadie puede dar lo que no tiene (No One Can Give What they Don’t Have), was commissioned by the Massachussetts Institute of Fine Art for the Victory Players, Tian Hui Ng, Music Director, as part of the final round of their El Puerto Rico project. Its title is taken from a famous utterance of the 19th century independence leader, Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betánces about the Spanish government’s unwillingness to reform or sever their relationship with their colonies in the Caribbean. Betánces was part of a group of
revolutionaries who organized el grito de Lares (the Lares uprising), a failed uprising of Puerto Rican patriots seeking independence from Spain that took place on September 23, 1868.
The piece takes its material from the traditional plena, “Que bonita bandera” (What a Beautiful Flag!), which has become a nationalist anthem for many Puerto Ricans. Nadie puede dar…begins with inexorable harmonic and rhythmic dissonance belying the anger of the uprising’s organizers. Eventually, a lone, long melody in the cello is heard over the continued angry gestures and a new flurry of activity from the percussion. As the percussion becomes more frantic, the other instruments join the cello in singing its revolutionary song. After a virtuoso percussion cadenza, the instruments rejoin the
proceedings in a more organized manner, culminating in a unison statement of “Que bonita bandera” by all involved. Unification does not last long, however, as the ensemble, like the revolutionaries of 1868, become disorganized, lose track of each other, chaos reigns, and the music evaporates like menfleeing into a countryside.