Compositions by Darwin Aquino


Click on each title to read about each composition, and listen to audio samples. For a full catalog of compositions by Darwin Aquino, please click here.

Una Isla, Dos Mundos (2015) – for Flute and Violin

The Hispaniola island is currently living through a challenging period in its history. This beautiful piece of land in the heart of the Caribbean is on a constant quest for its identity: sometimes a single identity, sometimes split. History repeats itself with different characters and in different circumstances. The same has happened and will continue to happen in different parts of the globe. What could the composer add to this discussion? Nothing better than music.

In Una Isla: Dos Mundos, I continue my research about the African-based folkloric elements of our island, expanding on the instrumentation by adding percussion instruments to the performer’s lines: bongo, whistle, windchimes, triangle, and cajón. The resulting soundworld is a series of new colors inspired by music from the Gagá and Rará traditions from Dominican Republic and Haiti, respectively. Throughout the score I’ve cited the original townships where the original versions of the melodic and rhythmic materials are from.

This work is divided in four large sections to be played attaca: Gagá, Ragá, Gára, and Rága, which represent the symbiotic relationship of these two cultural manifestations. The structure, note values, and measure-structures stem from a relationship with numbers one and two, and their multiples. Consequently, there is one instrument that becomes two, two parts which become four, and four structures that are two and one, etc. This interaction breaks internal barriers and reaches its climax when the audience is invited to sing, along the flute and violin, a sweet Rará melody.

A short time ago, when migratory issues in the Hispaniola island became a hot topic, a very simple idea invaded my mind: not all answers need to be spoken in words.

Como un Vestido Ajeno (2014) - Song Cycle for Soprano and Viola

A very subtle poem from dominican poetess Carmen Martínez Bonilla serves as inspiration for this work. A special tuning on the lower strings of the Viola supports the expressive Soprano song, which deals about our existence: “My life is like a borrowed dress”. Continuing the song cycle, “Perfume” (2013, for Mezzo-soprano and Piano), this piece alternates between Viola solos and voice passages being executed in many different ways.

En el Mejor Momento de mi Vida (2013) - Broken Chaconne for Cello

The traditional Chaconne, usually found in Baroque dance suites, can be identified by its anacruses and harmonic ostinati on the lower register. This principle, with some modifications, is taken to the Cello with its infinite resources. Unstable pickups, register changes, contrasting dynamics, and vigorous caribbean rhythms are juxtaposed with the “Canto a San Antonio”, one of the principal ceremonial songs in the dominican popular religious tradition. This work, composed as a “Caribbean Cappriccio” for solo Cello, was written for the Panamanian cellist Isaac Casal.

Perfume (2013) - Song Cycle for Mezzo-soprano and piano

Two modern Dominican poems from writers Altagracia Saviñon and Carmen Martinez Bonilla are the basis for three songs: “Las Flores”, “Eternidad Cansada” and “Mi Vaso Verde”, which are connected. The texts are combined to declaim issues about existence and death. Perfume, flower and water serve as symbolism. Two glasses of water stroked by the singer with pitches C# and A enrich the sonorities of the last song.

Vom Imaginatio Folkloricus (2013) - for Violin and Violoncello

In memoriam Josue Santana

The title is a combination of words from many cultures that displays the Dominican syncretism. It is a musical journey in four sections portraying the capitana and jacana dance, which connects with funeral music. A Haitian phrase “li retire ma’n chagrin” serves to open the third section as a prelude to Fugagá, a vibrant fugue resembling the powerful music from the Gagá.

Cantata para Amansar la Muerte (2011) for Soprano, Tenor, Mixed Choir, and Orchestra

In memoriam Carlos Piantini

On Good Friday, Santo Domingo is surrounded by religious music and prayers that will expand the listener’s imagination. These spiritual sounds are set in a Latin-American “folkloric” cantata illustrating the poems of two modern Dominican writers: Leon David (Cincuenta Sonetos para Amansar la Muerte) and Manuel Rueda (Congregación del Cuerpo Unico).

I – Pasacalle (Andante) II – Santo Entierro (Tranquilo / Procesion / Lento) III – Espiritu Santo (Tempo di congo)

Jacana per Tessitura (2011) - for Violin Solo

The incessant rhythm of the Jacana dance infuses every passage of this brilliant piece, a Caribbean caprice for solo violin. Sensitive and calm sections are interrupted by rapid changes of register (tessitura). The Jacana is part of the Sarandunga, a ritual celebration in the southwest region of the Dominican Republic.

Lluvia Antillana: a tropicaine kuartet (2010-2011) for String Quartet

Commissioned for the “Lluvia Antillana” art exposition in Santo Domingo. The string players alternate between performing with their traditional instruments and Dominican folkloric instruments such as claves, metal güirapandero (tambourine) y caja. The thematic and rhythmic material of the piece emanates from Hispanic and African music that culminates with a short version of the American song “Singing in the Rain” (1952).

I – Allegro Moderato II – Calmo, expresivo III – Energico!

Aquino has very well listened to the French composers, Boulez or Varese, developing in this piece a deeply personal language and an inventive mastery for writing to the orchestra

Hervé Konig

Premiere of "Espacio Ritual" by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, La Musique au Jour le Jour

Sarandunga (2010) - for Eight Cellos


This work is inspired by the ritual complex of “Sarandunga”, an African musical tradition in the south of the Dominican Republic. It elaborates and synthesizes two special rhythms of the ritual: “Capitana” and “Bomba eh!”, resulting in new sonorities together with the superposition of two religious chants: “San Antonio” (F# Major) and “Mama Sie” (D Major), which become the themes of the piece. The players are challenged to combine singing, percussive effects and instrumental techniques to emulate the folkloric sound of the sarandunga.

La obra se inspira en el complejo ritual de la “Sarandunga”, manifestación musical de herencia africana de la Republica Dominicana. La misma elabora y sintetiza dos ritmos esenciales del ritual: “Capitana” y “Bomba eh!”, aportando una nueva sonoridad resultado de la superposición de dos cantos importantes de la religiosidad popular dominicana: “San Antonio” (fa # mayor) y “Mama Sie” (re mayor), que se convierten en los temas de la pieza. Los interpretes son retados a combinar las técnicas instrumentales con estos cantos: “san antonio eh! Por que yo te quiero san antonio eh…” / “ae mama sie yo monte mi lua…”; acompañados de toques percusivos y sonoridades que emulan el uso de los instrumentos folklóricos en la sarandunga.

YOAminicana (2010) - for Orchestra

A brief folkloric overture dedicated to the Youth Orchestra of the Americas in its visit to Santo Domingo. This exuberant work keeps on Aquino’s former orchestral pieces, “Congofonía” and “Espacio Ritual”. The bucolic sounds of palos, gaga, congos and sarandunga are combined in two sections, divided by a tender solo trumpet. A ritual minimalism advancing from the clarinets brings the piece to a fiery end.

Espacio Ritual (2007) - for Orchestra

A synthesis of ritual and popular Afro-Dominican music collides in this powerful piece for large orchestra. Expressive textures captured from the musical diversity of our island (palos, gaga, salves, congos) culminate in the sonic recreation of a Dominican ritual festivity.

“[…]Apresar una visión poética, la transformación de los grandes clichés en una contemporaneidad. Es una visión del universo sonoro de todos los tiempos conviviendo en un mismo instante[…]”

(Leo Brower, Cuba)


Click here to see the manuscript for “Espacio Ritual”

Congofonía (2008) - for Orchestra

In memoriam Sixto Minier, leader of the Congos

Congofonía is inspired in the Caribbean musical expressions of the Congos of Villa Mella Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit, a bucolic African community in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Their music, known as Congo, is based on simple ostinato structures played with rustic percussion instruments accompanying a repetitive plainchant. The orchestration also exhibits sonorities from the Gagá (Dominican- Haitian music) and the Rará (Haitian).

White Mechanism (2006) - for Piano Solo

In memoriam Gyorgi Ligeti White Mechanism was one of the titles selected by Hungarian composer Gyorgi Ligeti (1925-2006) to name his piano studies. Ligeti’s first book of piano studies and string quartet No. 2 are masterpieces designed with exciting ostinato and mechanic structures. The piece is an homage composed at the moment of his death.

Articulata (2006) - for Violin and Violoncello

In how many ways can the same passage be played?… The intention of Articulata is to explore the endless possibilities of altering sound on the stringed instruments. Composed in five contrasting modules, the middle section marked “as fast as possible” resembles a cadenza where the players have lost their mind performing extreme articulations!

Ountó (2006) - for Flute and Violoncello

“tumba para el tumbo del agua que retumba parido del tumbo de un tambor” (Manuel Rueda – “Las Metamorfosis de Makandal”) This percussive text inspires the piece, where the flute and violoncello follow improvised percussion patterns of Dominican music displaying extended techniques. Ountó is the spirit of drums in the Voodoo tradition, with its fascinating popular music known as palos and gagá.

Insomnia Suite (2003) - for Orchestra

The plot behinds this imaginative piece is autobiographical. A young composer can’t sleep because is unable to express the vast musical ideas on his mind. Battling with insomnia, finally he falls into the deepest dream depicted by the roaring of the violoncellos to wake up transformed. Music now flows but insomnia has not disappeared. A final joyful dance based on his dream liberates the composer.

Celdas (2000) - for Horn and Piano

Celdas (“Prison Cells”) describes the spiritual path of an evolving soul that surpasses its inner prison, transcending to complete enlightenment. The piece features spatial writing, extreme sonorities and timbre effects. Natural harmonics for the piano, clusters and changes of textures in the horn, move the piece from fragmentation of motives to a expressive tonal theme at the end.