Diario dun Camiño was commissioned in 2013, partly in celebration of the 120th anniversary of Federico Mompouʼs birth. For some time prior, I had wanted to walk the famous Camino Francés, an ancient pilgrimage route that winds, at its end, through Galicia and ends in Santiago de Compostela. That Mompou lectured at Música en Compostela for many years was a coincidence I could not pass up, and I decided to make the pilgrimage and compose this piece en route.
Beginning in Samos, at its imposing medieval monastery, I walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, each day keeping a sonic diary of the trip. Besides the morning bells at the monastery of Samos (O mosteiro de Samos), which symbolically began my journey (and begins this work), my “entries” included notations of birds (paxaros), evening bells (campás no serán), a hypnotically asymmetrical ticking clock (reloxo), and musical depictions of fog and wind (brétema e vento), double rainbows (arcos da vella), and a solitary willow (un salgueiro solitario). Easily one of the most naturally beautiful areas Iʼve visited, the geography of Galicia itself was a continuous inspiration, as was the quiet and deliberateness attending the walk itself.
I assembled the work from these sketches upon arrival in Santiago de Compostela, the fortunate beneficiary of the use of a fine piano situated in a chapel in the stunning Parador “Hostal dos Reis Católicos,” a hotel on the northern side of the Praza do Obradoiro that was commissioned as a hospital for sick pilgrims by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1499.
While walking the Camino Francés, I imagined that my piece would end majestically, with an evocation of the great catedral, or inspired by the ancient and important Codex Calixtinus; instead, the work ends quietly, depicting the ticking of a clock in a tiny church of Santiago (igrexa de Santiago) in the equally tiny village of Boente. The moment of reflection that this clock represents, sitting quietly, resting, while time limped on its inexorable way, seemed much more reflective of the “meaning” of the Camino than the overwhelming grandeur of the great city. It also brought me back to Mompou, the original inspiration of the work, whose music so often magically evokes a time-outside-of-time, and aspires to a measured, meditative quiet.