Clarice Assad


(2013) Nhanderú

Overture For Orchestra

Duration: c.a. (8 minutes) | Commissioned by the Albany Symphony |

Program Notes

NHANDERU pronounced (/nyuh.dey.roo/) means “God” in Tupi-Guarani, which is a subfamily of the Tupian languages spoken by a group of indigenous peoples living in areas of the Amazon basin. Natives from Tupi-Guarani tribes, like many other societies, often practiced a ritual called rainmaking (or rain dance) which is intended to invoke rain through prayer.

During the ceremony, they summoned spirits of the land as well as their ancestors to bring in the rain to ensure soil fertility and abundant harvest and to frighten away the spirits of the lost world. In most rituals, the “dancers” embody one or more spirits (a higher power) expressed through rhythmic gestures and movements.  In addition to chanting, some instruments, such as rattles of various sizes and types, flutes, and drums, are used.  Legends have it that the rain provoked by the ritual holds the spirits of ancient chiefs. When the water droplets begin to fall, it sets off a great battle between our reality and the spiritual world.

The composition NHANDERÚ bases itself on the connection between the material and the unseen worlds, focusing on ritualistic practices through faith, prayer, and gratitude. As with any musical work, it can be interpreted in many different ways., However, my work tends to be quite visual, and I usually like to imagine vivid scenarios, which inspire me to create a stronger sense of timing. Programmatic in nature, the piece develops narratively and is a musical portrait of a rain dance ritual from beginning to end.  It is divided into four main parts. The beginning (awakening), the development section (summoning/rainfall/gratitude), and the coda, which is a return to the beginning, in a cyclical form, which creates a parody between the water cycle and the cycle of life. To create a vivid listening experience, the score calls for vocalizing, finger-snapping, clapping, body tapping, and percussion instruments, which imitate sounds of nature.

“The piece was about a rainmaking ritual and as such had some vivid effects from the percussion section, as well as having the musicians clap, click their fingers, rub their hands together and chatter. This, too, provided some visual appeal…Assad used dark harmonies and colors, some lovely lush lyricism with sweeps of sound, and thick rhythmic sections. Overall, the piece was interesting in its ethnic inspiration, and the large crowd seemed to like it.”



Piccolo | 2 Flutes | 3 Oboes (doubling) | English Horn | 2 Bb Clarinets | Bass Clarinet | Bassoons | Contrabassoon |4 F Horns |C Trumpets | 3 Trombones | Tuba | Timpani (32’, 32’’, 29’’, 26’’) |Percussion (3 Players) Harp | Piano | Strings

1. lg.bass drum*1, vibraphone, congas, thunder sheet, plastic bag, woodblocks, tam-tam,
2. wind chimes, large, med. suspended. cymbal, sizzle cymbal, lg. bass drum, lg. cabasa, brake drum, lg. rainstick, tubular bells, various bird whistles*2
3. wood chimes, lg. tam-tam, lg. susp. cymbal, drumset, various bird whistles*2, frog, marimba

*1 (instruments in italic are shared between players) *2 (whistle suggestions: cuckoo whistle, wooden two-tone whistle, bird imitation whistle, little owl whistle, owl’s call whistle, twittering bamboo-single or double slitted, clay bird whistle) The choice of whistles and order in which they appear are up to the performer.

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