Centuries before computers even existed, we already had what we now call music technology. Technology in the musical sphere is nothing more than the application of technical knowledge to the development of the expressive capacity of sound. Throughout history, music technology has included organological science as well as perfecting musical notation. We should remember that music is not only an auditory phenomenon but also a visual phenomenon. Musicians make music not only by listening but also by looking at either another musician playing, notes on a sheet music, or the screen of a computer while trying to interact with software.
Whether it’s a laptop or a couple of maracas as an instrument, the truth is that music technology depends a lot on its visual representation in two dimensions. It is precisely this dependency that has worried Manuel Alejandro Rangel for several years. And this is why, in the following pages, the Venezuelan maraquero, guitar player and composer presents the world his unusual response to this concern. It
is a method to disaggregate and visually represent the interpretive practice of Venezuelan maracas following a system appropriate to the autochthonous tech- nique of the instrument, a factor that is traditionally transmitted orally and not in writing. Through this new method, Manuel Rangel synthesizes an instrumental practice that super cially appears to be an arcane mosaic of rhythmic gestures to turn it into a sequence of relatively simple – but very precise – movements that are ruled by a totally logical choreography.
We must be clear: this method is the creation of a sensitive musician who lives in the maraquero ́s world and has the logic of an engineer. Only an individual with these characteristics is able to realize that the so-called “maracas” is not ONE instrument but TWO instruments that are made to play independent rhythms, but intertwined in continuous counterpoint. This is how Manuel Rangel understood that the notation of this counterpoint has to obey its organological reality, making the bigram an essential, practical and highly idiomatic option to write the gestures of maracas.
By making each of the two bells that make up the maracas independent, and at the same time consolidate in only ve movements and several links, the under- standing of the broad gestural repertoire of the contemporary maraquero, the author gives us what we might call the theory of the language of Venezuelan maracas, raising awareness through this gift about the existence of a grammar that has always been the base of this language.
Just as Guido de Arezzo promoted music technology in the eleventh century by teaching us a simple method of “singing” songs like they had never been sung before, ten centuries later Manuel Rangel also boosts musical technology by teaching us a simple method of writing and interpreting unpublished compositions that demand maracas in their instrumental templates.
It is precisely in the context of a contemporary work with maracas at the center that I have been minimally involved as a participant in this technological advance of the 21st century. Thanks to the fact that Manuel Rangel was faced with the challenge of deciphering the solo part of my concert for maracas and orchestra, today I nd myself writing the prologue of this method that I am sure will help to reconcile the musical vision of the contemporary composer and the endogenous technique of the Venezuelan maracas.
I believe that I ́m lucky to be able to live this process and to observe that the technological advances throughout the history of music did not happen as a result of artistic whims, but rather as a response to de ciencies or interpretative needs.
Finally, it is important to mention that I am con dent that this method will not
be interpreted by its readers as a call to impose the yoke of musical notation on a language that has existed perfectly well as an oral tradition. Rather it is my hope that this method is interpreted as a proposal to free the language of the maracas from the limitations that the strictly auditory world imposes on it, adding another dimension through which interpreters, musicologists and composers can approach this language of a more intimate and trustworthy way.