Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods in my native city of Lisbon. The name is believed to be derived from the word al-hamma or “baths” in Arabic, and the area is known to be abundant in underground fountains and baths. An imaginary vocal line sings an unknown and foreign language while the underlying string section portrays the poetic idea of a continual presence of water. Like wayfarers strolling through the labyrinthine streets of Alfama at dawn, individual instruments arise from and submerge into the watery fabric. The different instrumental sections are layered on top of each other like the strata that delineate Alfama’s various historical periods. Sounds burst forth, echoed in different contexts and at various speeds. The work is divided into two parts, the second section mirroring the initial statement as the wayfarer eventually rediscovers the entrance path to the magical neighborhood of Alfama.
Revised version with soprano voice is also available. Premiered by the Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra, cond. Joana Carneiro, featuring soprano Ana Maria Pinto. Please see Vocal Works.