RVLXNS is a collection of three symphonic poems that form a symphony with three movements. Each poem explores a distinct aspect of the Taínos, the Arawak indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean, including the islands of Borikén (Puerto Rico) and Kiskeya (Dominican Republic and Haiti), along with the neighboring Caribs during the 15th century, when Europeans arrived.

According to writings by Bartolomé de las Casas, the friar who accompanied one of the Spanish expeditions in the early 16th century, the Taínos had a primarily peaceful and thriving society that focused on agriculture, trade, crafts, art, music, sports, and communal engagement, rather than war and violence. The arrival of the conquistadors proved catastrophic, as the Taínos were forced into harsh labor and slavery while many of their women were taken as concubines, and any dissent or resistance was violently supressed. Moreover, diseases brought by the Europeans, such as smallpox, further decimated the Taíno population.

The estimation is that by the mid-16th century the Taíno society had almost completely disintegrated. Little remains of them except for a small number of enclaves of descendants of those who had escaped into exile, a few archeological examples of villages and settlements, a few dozen words from their language adopted by Spanish-speaking peoples throughout the Caribbean, and any genetic traits that may have persisted over the centuries as a result of the conquistadors taking Taíno women as their own.

RVLXNS was created as a tribute to the Taíno people, their culture, their beliefs, their hopes and fears.
The three symphonic poems that make up RVLXNS are all palindromes, each lasting 10 minutes (600 seconds exactly), with their middle points located precisely at the 5-minute (300-second) mark. The first and last poems serve as mirror reflections of one another, while the middle poem acts as a central plateau, creating an overarching palindrome across the three poems.

In composing the symphony, I used common time exclusively, but relied on quick tempos or large-scale thematic structures to create hypermeters, with shifting sets of beats on a macrocospic level and sometimes logarithmic sequences of hyperbeats.

I made an effort to avoid any rhythmic or stylistic clichés that would try to recreate a Taíno musical style. Instead, any use of non-traditional instruments, such as wooden windchimes or a seashell, is purposed only to serve the representation of a particular Taíno story or character.

RVLXNS was written between 2016 and 2018.

-Dan Román
Juracán Juracán
Anacaona Anacaona
Revolución Revoluciones
The term "hurricane" derives from the name of Juracán (Hurakan), which was known by the Taínos as a force of cyclonic destruction in service of the god[dess] of chaos, Guabancex.

Rather than simply recreating the sound of a storm, I aimed to evoke the feelings of awe and terror that the Taínos may have experienced during such a phenomenon.

Having experienced Hurricane Hugo in 1989, I can most vividly recall the sounds produced by the wind, ranging from those similar to a jetliner taking off, or a freight train speeding by, to deep and raging growls of a massive monster in the sky. It is only reasonable that, in the absence of meteorological understanding of a tropical storm, anyone might have seen it as a supernatural event.

The palindromic structure of the piece is designed to resemble the cyclonic structure of a typical hurricane, with bands of winds spiraling out from the center, and a clearly defined eye providing temporary respite and a sense of eerie stillness. There are also two climactic zeniths, representing Juracán's rage in full force and its terrifying voice from the sky.

Wind, rain, and flowing water serve as unifying themes across the entire symphony, musically represented in this and the next two poems.

This piece was composed in the fall of 2016, just a year before the devastation caused by Hurricane María.
Anacaona, a Taíno chieftain and composer of songs called areytos, rebelled against the conquistadors in the early 16th century in response to the oppression and abuse suffered by her people. She was later captured by the Spaniards and given an ultimatum: become the concubine of one of her captors or face execution. She chose the latter, joining her fellow Taíno insurgents in death and defiance against the conquistadors.

This composition combines various popular songs that have payed tribute to Anacaona and merges them into a single motif, augmented to occupy the entire half of the piece (120 measures long), and which then appears in the retrograde in the second half. At the same time, the motif gradually ascends from octave to octave, symbolizing Anacaona's emotional and spiritual journey. Her journey is momentarily interrupted twice by events of terrible consequence and gruesome injustice, but finally reaches into the realms of air and stars, as we also hear a distant call of her name, perhaps coming from her spirit ancestors, perhaps echoing from generations to come.

This piece was composed in the fall of 2017, just before the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, echoed Anacaona's plight by becoming a vocal and defiant critic of the US federal government's inadequate response to the devastation caused by Hurricane María.
The traditional story of the drowning of Diego Salcedo by the Taínos in 1511 is often presented as an attempt to test the belief in the divine nature of the conquistadors. This interpretation, however, assumes that the Taínos were more primitive and naive than the historical evidence suggests. It's possible that the drowning was meant as a political message in response to forced religious conversion, which included baptism by either affusion or immersion according to the Christian traditions of the late Middle Ages.

This musical composition is inspired by the series of uprisings by the Taínos and Caribs against the conquistadors during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, with the drowning of Salcedo serving as a central and pivotal event.

Although the uprisings ultimately failed, due in large part to the European soldiers' technological superiority, the tales of rebellion still preserve historical accounts of daring attacks from the jungles and forests across the Caribbean islands. As such, as the music builds towards its conclusion, it tries to evoke a sense of momentum carried into the future.

This piece was composed between the spring and fall of 2018, shortly before massive public demonstrations and protests forced Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign in August of 2019. His resignation came after making a series of crude and demeaning comments about political adversaries, including Carmen Yulín Cruz, who had advocated for victims of Hurricane María.
Juracán Juracán video Anacaona Anacaona video Revolución Revoluciones video
Copyright © Dan Román