El Payaso - M. A Cruz (2006) (Score and Parts)
Intermediate El Payaso

A work composed in a Spanish/Classical style. This is a programmatic piece in E major exhibiting strong thematic material influenced by Torroba, Bach, and Jenkins. It is also the 1st prize composition of the Austin Classical Guitar Society sponsored 2006 Guitars Galore composition competition. .


Introducing the world’s greatest clown, El Payaso! - who accomplishes amazing feats in two incredible acts for thousands around the world.

El Payaso knows that a successful performance begins with his brilliant capacity to stall his two main events for the purpose of inebriating his audience with anticipation. So he warms them up withtalents of slapstick and dancing, intertwining his physical comedy with graceful movements of leaping and twirling.

Dazzled by his abilities, the audience watches with great expectations for his first colossal feature. To their amazement, an enormous canon is wheeled into the ring pointing upward at an 80 degree angle and yet, there is no net in sight. Only El Payaso is brave enough to attempt such a feat, for he intends to defy gravity at the height of his ascent with only the assistance of an umbrella that will help ease his way gracefully back to earth.The spectators observe his finale with speechless tongues and minds in disbelief. El Payaso juggles three flaming knives while balancing an elephant on his nose. His observers would be even more amazed at all of these accomplishments if only they knew that he achieves all this while intoxicated.

Within the eight bar introduction, this programatic work establiinterpolating hints of “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite” by Karl L. King . shes a circus theme by The main theme is then presented and serves as a leitmotif to depict El Payaso in obeisance, acknowledging the reception of his audience, not only following the fanfare/introduction, but also following each “act” or section. Within the main theme of only eight bars, the listener will hear a high E consisting of one eighth note duration preceded by a D# grace note. This is provided to portray the image of El Payaso sneaking a swig from his flask. The opening of the B section borrows the rhythm from the final measure of the main theme to spin a new idea into a musical picture of frolic and dance representing the prelude to his audience.The C section is developed from the opening rhythm of the main theme and is incidental to set up the anticipation of his first main act. The listener will actually hear the sound of the canon achieved by the guitarist’s use of the soundboard as a percussion instrument followed by ascending chromatic dissonance painting El Payaso’s flight. His descent is achieved musically through two measures of simple harmonic progression topped with a light falling melody .The leitmotif returns with a new harmonic foundation of questionable clarity with the intent to put the listener in the head of El Payaso and his growing state of intoxication. Like the C section, the D section borrows the opening rhythm of the main theme and too, functions incidentally as a buildup for the concluding act. The juggling is achieved musicallythrough eight measures of pentatonic minimalism exchanged between guitars one and two while guitars three and four depict the sound of the elephant balancing in distress. With one final bow, the curtain closes on El Payaso. Rewarding himself, he takes one last indulgence from his flask represented by the penultimate note of the piece.

El Payaso was born in Bronx, New York on January 17th, 1885. He was the only child of Ricardo Jose and Amelia Maria Ferdinando, direct descendants of Queen Isabella of Spain from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. His parents migrated from Andalucia, Spain to the United States in 1878 to become circus performers. El Payaso’s given name was Blas Jose Ferdinando.

Born into circus life, El Payaso took to juggling by the time he learned to walk. Taught by the best, he was considered a prodigy and made his premiere by the age of four. As a very small child his parents would always remind him that his greatness was innate due to the fact that he had royalty in his blood and that he was a “Spanish King”.

The first tragedy to beset El Payaso was when he was only six years old. His father, a trapeze artist who worked without a net, was performing brilliantly as always. From one of the entry ways came the sound of a gun shot. The bullet pierced the heart of his father sending him plummeting to his death at the feet of his young son.

Now with his mother as his only family, El Payaso had to cope with the gruesome memory of his father’s death and mysterious murder. Investigations would reveal nothing for years.

His mother, an historical circus figure because she was one of only a few known female clowns, longed to leave the circus life. When El Payaso was only ten years old and already an established circus performer juggling bowling pins while catching pies in the face, his mother convinced El Payaso to stay with the circus while she moved off to New Zealand to live with a lawyer whom she had married.

His mother choosing another man over him was the second greatest tragedy in his life. Before sheleft, his mother gave him her female clown costume, including her big red nose, telling him if he wore her costume, his success as a clown would be much greater. And so he did. The audiences laughed hysterically. He wore her costume until he outgrew it. But for the rest of his career he would always wear her nose. El Payaso never saw his mother again.

The tragic events of his father’s death and his mother’s departure took a serious emotional toll on El Payaso. At the young age of twelve, he turned to alcohol for comfort.

At the age of eighteen, El Payaso finally came into his own when he had the idea to balance an animal on his nose while juggling knives. The first version of this act was with a raccoon. From there he moved on to a pig. The success of this act would urge him to use a greater, much larger animal. His original choice had been a bear. In one tragic performance, a minor miscalculation on the part of El Payaso sent the bear into an unexpected fall. The bear mauled El Payaso in retaliation, cracking two of his ribs and puncturing his flesh near the spleen. It took him four months to recover, giving him plenty of time to rethink his act. He concluded that the animal must be docile in nature and preferably one without claws.

The elephant act proved to be his greatest achievement and gave him world recognition. But not without a price. Since he could only work with baby elephants, he was constantly having to train them, denying himself a social life. Loneliness and alcohol were his constant companions, leaving him alone with only his thoughts and his anguish.

To further deal with the memory of his father’s death, El Payaso added to his routine the human canon ball bit. This act was the physical manifestation of how the fatal bullet intended for his father should have been the object of divine intervention. In his mind he preferred to see the bullet stop in midair and fall to earth without incident. Every night, in front of thousands of people, El Payaso, in a sense, had become his father’s bullet.

El Payaso knew that he was tempting fate by working without a net. Unlike his father, who relied on his genius for his safety, El Payaso’s safety was dependent on the proper function of his umbrella. He knew that if his umbrella should ever fail to open, he would never survive the fall. The way he preferred to justify this potentially deadly outcome was that his death would be the sacrifice of his own life for his father’s.

Around the time of the Great Depression, the popularity of the circus had diminished leaving the circus company in financial hardship. During the previous successful years, the proprietors had always provided for everyone's needs, all the while telling them that they shouldn’t worry about retirement as their pensions were growing expediently. But the proprietors squandered the pensions on their extravagant lifestyle leaving nothing for anyone when the company finally closed in 1935.

It wasn’t long before the world had forgotten El Payaso.

He was penniless and homeless, wandering the streets telling anyone who would listen about his great accomplishment of balancing an elephant on his nose while juggling three flaming knives. Of course everyone thought it was absurd and passed him off as mentally unstable.The mysterious death of his father was finally solved and revealed to El Payaso at the age of fifty-three. The murderer was none other than his mother’s second husband, the lawyer. El Payaso was also given a suicide note which read, “My beloved son Blasito, please forgive me. I’ve always known the truth of your father’s death, and that is why I could never face you again. I am only comforted in knowing that you have gone on to be a great success”.

Shortly after learning this bitter truth, El Payaso, indigent without a single possession, was found dead in a dark alley off the streets of New York City, wearing a paper crown and clutching the onlytwo things that ever meant anything to him throughout his entire life. In his left hand, an empty bottle of Jack Danials. In his right, his mother’s clown nose.



Catalog MP408