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ADVENTURES ON THE JOB | EXAMPLES FROM LIFE

Jungle Sounds Have Had Lasting Effect

Christopher Bercel, 44, Antigua, Guatemala

June 23, 1997

In 1990 I was working as an architectural designer for a prestigious New York architecture firm. As a fifth-generation Californian, it was fulfilling to be working on the L.A. Central Library addition. One day during a lunch break, I passed a Yamaha synthesizer showroom and after undergoing an "electronically induced religious experience," I purchased my first synthesizer.

When architecture work was slow to naught in the early '90s, I went to Central America looking for business opportunities and hoping to find my musical muse. My business deals never quite materialized, but my business partner suggested I sell tapes of my music. He has since become my manager.

Before long, my "family" of synthesizers had grown to four, and I drove them through the jungles of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. On a visit to the Peten jungle, I was struck by the sound of ambient flutes and bird sounds. I felt inspired to compose New Age music based on Mayan culture and the ecological biosphere.

From the top of Temple 4 at Tikal [Mayan ruins], I composed "Calendario," based on the interlocking cycles of time of the Mayan calendar. Other pieces of music followed, inspired by the rituals and mythology of the highland plains' indigenous Americans of Solola and the colonial culture of Antigua, Guatemala.

As word got out of the gringo loco and his synthesizers, I received requests to perform, including a solo concert at the national theater in Guatemala City, sponsored by the U.S. and Mexican embassies. I am visiting L.A. to manufacture CDs of my music, which I will be selling back in Guatemala.

My first CD is titled "Lost Pages," which refers to the lost Mayan manuscripts destroyed by the Yucatan governor in the mid-16th century and the neo-discoveries of Central America. Also in the works is a CD project based on the poems of Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities.

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