Jeremy Haladyna

Excerpts from The Mayan Cycle

Innova 754


1.     Borgia from DEMON ZERO [4:08]

            live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD


2.     PRECIOUS FIRST RAT [5:37]

        Lisa-Maree Amos, alto flute

        Jeremy Haladyna, celesta


3.     Escalation from DEMON ZERO [3:57]

            live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD


4.     GODPOTS (Ollas) [13:28]

        Areon Flutes


5.     Luubchords from DEMON ZERO [4:13]

        live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD




        UCSB Young Artists String Quartet  

        Jeremy Haladyna, scratch turntable





8. Snake Mountain from TOLLAN [5:58]

        Michele Forrest, oboe

        Jeremy Haladyna, organ 



    [Hearts of Yucatán] [18:06]


        Sergio Ortiz, narration


Over twenty years and eight visits to the Mayan region, American composer Jeremy Haladyna has ventured ever more deeply into the magic and mystery of Maya culture, and given something back in the form of his unique body of work,  THE MAYAN CYCLE.  Spanning media and genre, from music for a single instrument,  to voice,  to computer,  to DVD-audio,  to full orchestra, this wide variety of pieces seeks to address everything from the most ancient roots of Mayan cosmology to contemporary Mayan political struggles.  Here is a selection from the Cycle.


1. Borgia from DEMON ZERO

[2006]  [4:08]

Author’s realization, 2007. 

In “Luubscale” by J.H.

Version for live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD-R



[2000]   [5:37]

Lisa-Maree Amos,  alto flute

Jeremy Haladyna, celesta


3. Escalation from DEMON ZERO [2006]  [3:57]

Author’s realization, 2007. 

In “Luubscale” by J.H.

Version for live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD-R


4.      GODPOTS (Ollas) 

[2003, rev. 2008]  [13:28]

Version for four players with “xaman”

Live recording 2008 final round,

Fischoff Competition 

Areon Flutes: Kassey Le Bow,  Amelia Vitarelli, Jill Heinke, Tamara Maddaford—the four playing all sizes of flutes and ocarinas.


5.  Luubchords from DEMON ZERO [2006] [4:13]

Author’s realization, 2007. 

In “Luubscale” by J.H.

Version for live scratch tracks and 2-channel CD-R


6.      ONLY ARMADILLOS THEY DANCED [2008] [5:21]

For string quartet and live scratch turntable

UCSB Young Artists String Quartet:  Dimitry Olevsky, 1st violin; Katie Waltman, 2nd violin;  Kimberly Fitch, viola; Kathryn Mendenhall, cello.  Jeremy Haladyna, scratch turntable


7.      INTELLIGENT LIFE ON OTHER FLUTES [1990]    [7:01]

electroacoustic work on sampled ceramic ocarinas                 


8.      Snake Mountain from TOLLAN [2007-8] [5:58]

Michele Forrest,  oboe

Jeremy Haladyna, organ        



[Hearts of Yucatán]  [1991-2]  [18:06]

For 2-channel digital audio.

Sergio Ortiz,  narration

DEMON ZERO  [2006]  [total: 12:18]

for live scratch tracks and 4-channel DVD-A  [or, 2-channel CD-R]. 

In “Luubscale,” 39 notes, by J.H. 

Live performance.

Performance order: Luubchords, Escalation, Borgia


   A Mayan-inspired work starring a scratch turntable?  It seems unlikely.  But read on….the scratching in this piece is both necessary and allegorical.

   For the ancient (and present-day) Maya, “zero” is a different sort of concept.  Not absence, but potential.  Not void, but completion.  Not the end of calendar time, but a resting place.  And if one thing to which “zero” equates is the luub,  or “great resting place,” that only underlines the perilous difficulties and uncertainties in getting there.  For in order to reach the luub, a number of heavenly bodies must cooperate in an elegant mathematical dance that had better not go wrong.

   Since inventing and composing in “Mayascale” in 1999, I had been wanting to put Mayan calendar time into sound again on a bigger scale.  This I managed to do by late January 2006…in the form of “Luubscale,” an Earth/Venus system of 39 notes exactly interpreting the great luub cycle of 104 years.  For it is only that often that Earth years, Venus years (as we Earthlings observe them) and the Mayan sacred almanac all fall into momentary alignment.

   All sounds heard in this piece that smack in any way of pitch (even the howler monkeys I recorded in Mexico) have been carefully tuned into this 39-note system, which has no relation whatsoever to any Western-based tuning or music theory.

   Is there even so basic a foothold as an octave?  Not really, unless one were to factor the entire scale as a pseudo-octave, since it takes the whole six and one half piano octaves of the scale for Earth and Venus to cycle round to share the same pitch again.  But only turn to the troublesome 260-day almanac, astrological tool of the Mayan priests, and the real agony begins.  As the almanac also trudges up note-by-note there is no synchrony with Earth or Venus—through the whole of the scale.  It would take exactly thirteen entire scales  [or, think Kurzweil keyboards] stacked end-on-end to make this happen, and it would happen, but in an astral frequency range lost altogether on humans.

   So, returning to scratching and the metaphor.  The metaphor for the difficulty in getting these megacycles to align is the scratching.  The stereo scratchtracks are also tuned into the Luubscale system and were prepared right alongside the main tracks.  Moreover, they are exactly the same length as the main tracks, even if that should become a fiction as soon as the CD operator signals the scratcher to start.  Here is the key: “fiction” because the scratching is potentially non-linear.  From that moment there are two systems of time in friction-based competition—and the time readout on the turntable will never again match that of the main tracks exactly.  Yet the challenge tossed to the soloist is to make this time battle succeed…to somehow bring these twin systems into accommodation, just as if they were an allegory for two grinding wheels of Mayan time.


I.  Luubchords (track 5):  Thirteen chords in an ascending progression are besieged and imperiled by the scratching, which represents non-linear time.  Each chord represents an entire “Luub” scale—one of 13 bricks stacked one on another in an ascent to the great Zero, or unity, of 37, 960 days (104 yrs.).


II. Escalation (track 3):  Two Mayan time-wheels of today really do turn in this movement: one on phases of the moon and the other on the sacred almanac divided into quarters.  Since they don’t match up, the Maya of highland Guatemala overlap (imbricate) them, then climb mountains on mathematically dictated nights in ritual observances.  The scratching here exactly marks the imbricated portions at first,  then becomes freer.


III.  Borgia (track 1):  The time crisis has passed, not without great tension, and we are safely and peacefully on the other side of “zero.”   A mystical contemplation in “Luubscale” of the Codex Borgia, the ancient Mexican picturebook in which evidence for Mayan Venus numbers was found.



   In the mythical tradition of the ancient Maya,  a rodent has a large role in saving the world as we know it.  Precious First-Rat helps the twin Hero Boys to avenge the death of their father at the hands of the Lords of Darkness.  These young boys, First Lord and First Jaguar (or, favoring their more exotic Maya names,   Hunahpu and Xblanque) succeed in outwitting the Death Lords at every stroke, through their courage and their cunning.  And it is all a question of a metaphorical  BALLGAME.

   The death of First Father,  who sired the Hero Twins, came with a ballgame.  One could hardly  have expected the Lords of the Underworld to play fair, and they didn’t.  They prepared a razor-sharp ball covered with crushed bone  for the  match with  First Father.  Sadly, he  never  even plays-–he  is  decapitated after failing a pre-game trial.  In the end, he will be “reassembled” by his Twin Boys,  but only after they have proven themselves in trials.  Little by little, the Twins come to an understanding of their mission of vengeance.  It is as though they are “predestined”  to accomplish the final victory, with the help of Precious First-Rat.

   Precious First Rat tells them about the old ballgame equipment that had belonged to their father and which is still in their Grandmother’s house,   way up in the rafters, tied up there.  The twins are very excited and make a bargain with this Progenitor-Rat.     In exchange for a steady supply of squash seeds, corn and beans (literally until the end of Time), he will dash up into the rafters and chew away at the bindings with great industry  (flute solo,  p. 1) until the ballgame equipment, cut loose, tumbles down.

   In order to distract their Grandmother, the Hero Twins ask her to make them their favorite chili sauce.  She does so, and reflected in the steaming hot chili sauce bowls the Twin Boys see the image of Precious First-Rat up in the rafters, hard at work.  When the time is finally right, the Twins, professing their great thirst now after the chili sauce, manage to lure their Grandmother outside to get them water.  Then they snatch up the ballgame equipment as it tumbles to the ground, the rubber ball bouncing  (bars 122-125).

   Soon thereafter the Hero Twins,  practicing in the ballcourt, offend the Underworld gods with all the noise they are making “topside.”  Monster Owls are dispatched to summon them to play down below.  With their newfound equipment, they  jump at any such chance, and are successful before the big game in foiling a whole series of dastardly tricks and deeds set up by the Lords of Xibalba.  And they are successful in the big game, too, even though one Twin must  “lose his head” on the way to final victory.  

   Was Precious First-Rat, then, their  knowing friend and ally?  The carved panel from Toniná in the Mexican state of Chiapas gives us cause for wonder.  Is he mocking the Lord of Death by grinning and following so closely behind?  Or is he a conspirator, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, intending to equip the Hero Twins only so as to hasten their demise?  The answer to this mystery,  we are sure, lies somewhere in the manic and tangled blueprint of a tiny rodent brain (synapse-is, mm.26-38).   


GODPOTS (Ollas) [2003, rev. 2008]


   Godpots recounts the strange rite of the most isolated Mayan group,  the Lacandón,  such as it was witnessed around the turn of the century by the American archaeologist Alfred Tozzer.  Now losing their cultural identity to interaction with and assimilation by modern Mexico, the Lacandón were comparatively untainted when visited by Tozzer.  

   Tozzer witnessed a rite among a supposedly “primitive” tribe which nonetheless unified a great many aspects of the Mayan vision of cosmology, space and time.  What needed to happen each year was this: on the advent of the new corn harvest, the first fruits had to be offered to the gods in a lengthy ceremony which lasted sometimes up to a month.  Images of gods were built into the rims and sides of incense burners and these clay sculptures were kept together in a fenced enclosure and raised off the ground on altars: literally a “god-house.”  Corn, meat, fermented beverages and other fare were repeatedly “fed” to these small representations of the essential deities…this, along with all-important “copal” incense.   Eventually,  the entire population of the encampment would partake in the eating, but not until the gods had been well satisfied.  Just as with the course of the sun in the sky, the Maya would have the “ollas” or “braseritos” facing east to begin with.  Then, as they gained power,  they were turned 90 degrees to face the center.   Eventually some, who were losing power and being replaced by new images, were turned 90 degrees again to face the west as their influence waned.  Every year certain of these were “phased out” and replaced by newly made images.  At the end of the ceremony, these older, western-facing ones would be quietly removed to an isolated place in the jungle, and left there, secretly cached.  

   In the music, the flutists undergo this same acquisition of power with their transit from one side of the stage to its center.  Then as the “power” wanes, they migrate to the far end and one by one self-extinguish.  In all this they are urged and egged on by a xaman who concludes the piece with a dark meditation on the bass flute.

   The ceremony of the godpots or ollas is thus about the necessity for man to participate in nature’s constant renewal, acknowledging it and assisting it in order to help perpetuate it.    It also gave man a chance to “plead his case” with nature, attempting to influence variables such as rain,  fire, hurricanes, disease and so on through a delicate balancing act with the idols–favoring those who could propitiate much needed gifts of nature in a given season, and slighting those who seemed to the Maya “out of balance.”


For string quartet and scratch turntable

Only armadillos they danced… 

[Mayan Popol Vuh, part III]


   Hunahpu and Xblanque, the Maya heroes, are twin boys whose lively victory over the lords of the Underworld avenges the death of their father.  This snapshot/scene from the Mayan epic story finds them dancing for the dismal Lords of Misery.  They do an entire suite of character dances…armadillo, weasel, whippoorwill, sword swallowing, and a dance on stilts.  We hear only their armadillo dance, suggested by the scruffy noise of the turntable.  In fact all its scruffy sound is made from digitally “scraping” and “scratching” a hard shell very like that of the armadillo.

   The chief lords of the Underworld, One and Seven Death, are captivated by the frankly magical and superhuman feats of the boys, and this will prove their undoing as they demand to be let in on the fun.        This little occasional piece has comforted me like a penance for all those armadillos I flattened while driving Texas highways a few decades back.  Their poor eyesight marks them as frequent sacrificial offerings to the center median or to the dusty shoulder.  But what they lack in lateral quickness,  these armor-clad amblers make up for in vertical lift,  since—quite without basketball shoes—they are capable of jumping directly up several feet from a standing start.  This springiness finds its way into the core material of the piece in various rambunctious ways.

   The new, untried combination of Scratch [turntable] and Scrape [string quartet] I use here actually seems wholly natural given the parameters both use to modify the sound.  Pressure and speed are the heart of the equation, and neither turntable nor violin bow will respond the same way twice without real attention to these common variables...made surer only by practice.   

   Thirteen, that essential Mayan factor, needed to be salient in the hero boys’ dance.  A canonic section has violins trading statements of a 3-bar phrase with viola.  The time signature through the canon shifts so as to constantly state 13 in this way:  7/6/7,  6/7/6, 7/6/7,  6/7/6  eighth notes.  These two canonic voices sharing the stage are, of course, the boy twins:  Hunahpu and Xblanque.  The canon grows more and more furious as the two pound the ground in a miniature Mexican hat dance, the gyrations of their little legs photographed in the cello.




   This electroacoustic composition treats sampled ceramic-fired flutes to an harmonic treatment in floating, reverberant space.  Interestingly, the pitch system is the Turkish one, based on 53 commas to the octave.  But the instrumental sounds are very Mayan and would be not out of place in the 8th century.  These sounds recall their most magnificent Mayan cognates:  the tiny figural sculptures that are also instruments, found in abundance on the island of Jaina in Campeche…and in a modern collection at the Popol Vuh museum, Guatemala City.


TOLLAN [2008]

   II. Snake Mountain


   I had wanted for some time to attempt a piece for the raspy reed stops of UCSB’s Lehmann Hall organ, allied to the Mesoamerican concept of Tollan, “Place of the Reeds.”  The addition of an oboe would make the reed metaphor more salient still.  In this case, the Mayan name for this reedy place, Puh, is neither as comely nor as universally recognized as the Nahuatl one.  But though names might differ, all the peoples of the region revered this same fuzzy locale.  Why?  The answer: Tollan was the birthplace of prehistory, the place that furnished the patron gods, the divine ancestors whose beneficence smiled on the ancient urban centers of Central America.

   For the Aztecs, it was a violent place.  From atop Snake Mountain, always a prominent feature on any site map of Tollan, the dismembered body of Coyolxauhqui was thrown down in disgrace.  This was her punishment for matricide, and it was meted out by the wrathful Huitzilopochtli, the solar hummingbird and battle-god of the Aztecs.

   That old legend regarding Coatepec, or Snake Mountain, leapt startlingly to life in 1968 when, in digging tunnels for the Mexico City subway, workers found an ornately carved stone at the foot of what proved to be the ancient Aztec main temple pyramid.  This was a momentous find:  the Templo Mayor, and at its feet, a large, ornately carved stone representing the dismembered body of Coyolxauhqui, as though the pieces of her carcass had been thrown down from Snake Mountain just as in the story.

   But if we really would find the first--and authentic--”Place of the Reeds,” it would be the Olmecs, shrouded in mystery, who would likely write the map, taking us into their marshy homelands of Gulf Coastal Mexico.  This early proto-culture is only now yielding its secrets to scholars, and these included the gifts of the calendar and writing system to the Maya and all the great following central cultures.  Their mystique, hidden behind reeds, is their strange obsession with were-jaguars (compare: were-wolves) and the snake cult.

   In summer 2007, my carefully laid plan to revisit the Maya region having been blown into tatters by a hurricane, I went looking fo Tollan.  For we have a United States Tollan, a place so ancient that it speaks mutely of human occupation too early for any writing system, and thus is only distantly echoed in Paiute Indian legend.  Nevada’s ancient Lake Lahontan is nearly dry now, but small pockets of lakeshore still remain, surrounded by priceless caves that have yielded human remains impossibly old.

   Near Pyramid Lake and Spirit Cave, I found what I was looking for, and more.  I was shown ancient skulls from the “place of the reeds” hidden away in kitchen cabinets.  In just a few days, I fell smack into a disturbing and suppressed “X-files” world of archeology that I never imagined could exist.  But it does.   


PUCZIKAL PETEN [Hearts of Yucatán] (English version) (1991-2).


   Here is a musical reaction to that collision of two worlds brought about by the Spanish conquest of the Mayan empire.  The wrenching change that resulted was on an order that we can nowadays scarcely imagine...and look for again only in the context of contact with empires intergalactic.  In this striking document from the year 1562, a village schoolmaster admits having been party to a Mayan heart sacrifice–undertaken inside the village church!  He is the “witness” of this third person account, committed to paper in the presence of the infamous Diego de Landa, head Provincial of all the Franciscan missions of the Yucatán.  This confession, like the others Landa compiled for his dossier, was most likely extracted via torture: all the same, for some historians there is too much richness of detail—and consistency one to another–in these verbally delivered accounts for them all to have been invented on the spot.  It seems indeed possible that the Indians,  only just conquered,  continued their sacrificial ways in secret–often at night–while keeping up appearances for the Spanish.  Landa would predicate a horrendous, swift, and most excessive response on these depositions.  To this many Maya succumbed.  No heroes nor villains are profiled in this musical rendering of their intrigue, only a certain marveling at the strength of human conviction when torn between belief systems and fueled by oppression.  



archives of Don Diego Quijada, Lord Mayor of Yucatán. I. pp. 103-8.

English translation: Inga Clendinnen, used by permission of Cambridge Univ. Press.



   Dr. JEREMY HALADYNA, Director of UC Santa Barbara’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music, holds prizes and academic qualifications from three countries. Jeremy, a laureate of the Lili Boulanger Prize and diplômé of the history-rich Schola Cantorum on Paris’ Left Bank,  also holds advanced degrees from the University of Surrey (U.K.) and the Univ. of California.  He has taught undergraduate composition at UCSB since 1991, and was named to its permanent faculty in March, 2000.  His own past teachers include William Kraft, Karl Korte, Eugene Kurtz, Jacques Charpentier, and Joseph Schwantner.

   In addition to his performing activity he teaches orchestration and is on the faculty of the College of Creative Studies, UCSB. As pianist, composer, conductor and organist, he has long been committed to the espousal of new music. His own music has been heard at Carnegie (Weill) Hall; King’s College, London; St. John’s Smith Square, London; South Bank Centre, London; the Monday Evening Concerts, Los Angeles; St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; All Saints Church, London; BMIC, London; and the National Museum of Art, Mexico City. In December 1999 he premiered his The Vision Serpent at the Chopin Academy, Warsaw during a guest residency, also lecturing on his “Mayan Cycle,” already some 20 years in evolution.

   In September, 2007, Godpots (Ollas) from the cycle came to Carnegie Hall, and then to the 2008 finals of the Fischoff Chamber Competition.  In October,  2000 he was invited to present excerpts from the cycle as the subject of a colloquium at Kings College, London.   In 2009, excerpts were similarly presented to audiences in Istanbul.   Both  En la Estera del Chilam Balam and Aluxes! from the cycle have been previously released on Neuma records. In music of William Kraft, he is recorded as pianist on CRI and Albany.

   His Mayan Cycle now stretches to twenty-six pieces, including Zaquico’xol,  El Llanto de Izamal, The Maya Curse Pedro de Alvarado, Pok-ta-Pok,  The Oracle of 13 Sky, Copal, and the Jaguar Poems.   Details at:


      Australian flutist Lisa-Maree Amos, has appeared as Guest Principal Flute with the Boston Symphony and the Pacific Symphony in the USA, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London including the famous Prom Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, and as Principal Flute of the Colorado Music Festival where she has performed many concertos and chamber works and given masterclasses.  Ms. Amos has recorded for NMC,  BMIC, Innova recordings, BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM in London, and has broadcast across the USA for many classical music stations and programs. She has received awards from the Royal College of Music, English Speaking Union, Countess of Munster Trust, Aspen Music Festival and was twice the recipient of the Chamber Music Award from the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center in the USA. A prizewinner from the Royal Over-Seas League in London, Lisa-Maree made her Wigmore Hall debut in 2003 with Jane’s Minstrels – and she traveled with this contemporary ensemble to the USA and Scandinavia in addition to many Festivals (Harrogate, Spitalfields, Brighton amongst others).  In addition to performing with many of the orchestras in London for over a decade, Ms Amos was a Live Music Now artist and a member of several small ensembles that performed nationwide in Festivals and Concert Series.        Lisa-Maree was recently appointed as Principal Flute of Orchestra Victoria based in Melbourne, Australia, and enjoys a variety of musical activities from recording, chamber ensemble and large orchestral performances and working with the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.


       AREON FLUTES,  a professional flute chamber music ensemble, provides audiences a fresh new outlook on traditional chamber music.  Noted for innovative programming and collaborations, Areon is quickly establishing itself in the USA as a premier chamber music ensemble.  In addition to utilizing the traditional “four C flutes” model, Areon Flutes incorporates every member of the flute family in its programming.  The group’s performances are notable for creatively engaging its audiences with unique staging, theatrics and choreography.

   Within the past few seasons, Areon Flutes–featuring flutists Jill Heinke, Kassey LeBow, Tamara Maddaford and Amelia Vitarelli–has received high praise for their remarkable performances.  Their New York debut in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in September, 2007 received rave reviews: “These players know what kind of new music pleases audiences and critics alike” and “The group itself was memorable; they are a treat to all the senses” [Anthony Aibel, New York Concert Review]. 

   In May 2008, Areon Flutes was awarded the Bronze Medal at the prestigious and internationally recognized Fischoff Chamber Music Competition at Notre Dame University.  This recognition marked the first time in the competition’s 35-year history that a flute chamber music ensemble reached this elite position.  For a current schedule of Areon events and more detailed information, please visit:



UCSB is the only of the UC campuses to offer a graduate string quartet program,  which was founded in 1985.  Receiving special funding from the Humanities Division of the College of Letters and Science, it supports four talented young players who concertize together as the Young Artists String Quartet.  Additionally the group enhances music-making in departmental efforts across the board, notably new music.  This group attracts applicants far and wide and has frequently included foreign nationals.  Its current membership as reflected on this recording: Dimitry Olevsky, 1st violin;  Katie Waltman, 2nd violin; Kimberly Fitch, viola;  Kathryn Mendenhall, cello.  

Tracks 1-3,  5-6,  recorded at UCSB Sound Recording, Kerr Hall


Recording and Mastering Engineer:  

Kevin Kelly

Editing:  Kevin Kelly, Jeremy Haladyna


Portrait of Jeremy Haladyna by Danielle Terhune, 2008.


Godpots is a live recording from the 2008 Fischoff National Chamber Competition, final round.  Used by permission.


All booklet notes on the works are by the composer.


This recording and liner notes ©2009 Jeremy Haladyna.  All Rights Reserved.


The Mayan Cycle website is:


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