Music mentioned in House of the Scorpion

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Lately, I have been researching the music mentioned in Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.  I didn’t use much of it this year, but have always played a sound file of the call of the Inca Dove – more on that below.

Two or more references are made to the Catholic hymn “Buenos Dias, Paloma Blanca.”  This is a hymn or song to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Matt sings it to himself in “Prison” (page 44), while caressing a dove’s feather he found.  Celia sings it to him on page 60, to sooth him when he becomes difficult.  Finally, Matt weaves the song into the story he is telling Fidelito a story of Maria’s life in the convent (page 346).

Buenos Dias Paloma Blanca – lyrics and sound file.  My husband and I found an MP3 ranchera version on ITunes – I will include the link later.  Be careful, there are a lot of songs with “paloma blanca” in them, but there is only one hymn.   Here are the lyrics – I cannot seem to find the English translation:

Buenos días, Paloma Blanca
Hoy te vengo a saludar.
Saludando tu belleza
En tu trono celestial.
Eres Madre del creador
Y a mi corazón encantas
Grácias te doy con amor
Buenos días, Paloma Blanca.

Niña linda, niña santa
Tu dulce nombre alabar.
Porque eres tan sacrosanta
Hoy te vengo a saludar.
Reluciente como el alba
Pura, sencilla y sin mancha
Qué gusto recibe mi alma!
Buenos días, Paloma Blanca.

Que linda está la mañana
El aroma de las flores.
Despiden suaves olores
Antes de romper el alba.
Mi pecho con voz ufana
Grácias te da, Madre mía
En este dichoso día
Antes de romper el alba.

Cielo azul yo te convido
En este dichoso día.
A que prestes tu hermosura
A las flores de María.
Madre mía de Guadalupe
Dáme ya tu bendición
Recibe éstas mañanitas
De un humilde corazón.

Reference is also made to the call of a dove – both times during El Patron’s recounting of his childhood story.  The first time is, I think, during El Patron’s first meeting with Matt, and the second is during his last visit before he dies.  Both times, the effect is of a Greek chorus – at the same point in the story, the dove call sounds like someone saying “no hope, no hope”.  I did a little research and there is a breed of dove found in the southern United States called the Inca Dove – I believe that’s the dove in the story.  Here is a sound file with the bird’s call.  Here is another where the descriptor mentions that it can sound like “no hope.”

In the middle of the book – I’ll find the page number later – Matt sits at the piano and plays a thundering rendition of  The Turkish March by Mozart.  Here is a link to a sound bite – I had to go through a lot of them to find something that didn’t sound too wussy.  It is supposed to be an angry rendition – Matt is frustrated when he plays it.

Finally, in Chapter 38, Matt plays the Adagio from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 upon his return to Opium.  I think that it is supposed to be the “calm” before the stormy story Celia and the others have to tell about the downfall of Opium.

Finally, there’s The Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly.  This is chosen as funereal music by El Patron and is sung by a choir of eejits, bringing people to tears.  Celia says, “He was an evil man, but the music would break your heart.”  So, although El Patron was too busy being a gangster to learn to play music, he still is portrayed as a connoisseur.  It was not easy to find a free version of this that was not a YouTube video and also sounded appropriately “haunting” – here is one.

A bit of trivia – I found that it was also used in the final murder scene of Heavenly Creatures .  Pretty chilling in that context.

I am having my husband burn a copy of these sounds to a disc so that I can have it handy for future lesson plans.

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3 responses »

  1. Dear Celeste,
    A better recording of the Inca dove’s call can be found if you google “Tree of Live Web Project” and “Inca Dove”. This is the typical “No Hope” call. My brother used to play the Turkish March vigorously as a boy (It is, after all, a march). That was in my memory. You have the correct hymn for “Paloma Blanca”. If they ever make a movie of Scorpion, I hope they use “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Rodrigo as a background. That was one of my inspirations for the book. Thank you for writing about the music, because it is very important to me. All the best, Nancy Farmer

  2. Pingback: The House of Scorpions « The Book Reviews – Website

  3. The first verse is something like this. (I did have to run some words through a translator :P)

    “Good day White Dove.
    Today I come to you to salute.
    I greet your beauty,
    On your celestial trone.
    You are Mother of the creator
    and my heart you enchant”

    PS: The lyrics are pretty deep!

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