Sunday, January 6, 8774

Flamenco (c. 1774) - Flamenco Guitar

Flamenco is an Andalusian traditional folk music. It consists of three forms: the song (cante), the dance (baile) and the guitar (guitarra). The first reference dates back to 1774, from Cadalso's "Cartas Marruecas." Flamenco probably originated in Cádiz, Jérez de la Frontera and Triana, and could be a descendant of musical forms left by Moorish during the 8th-17th century. Influences from the Byzantine church music, Egypt, Pakistan and India could also have been important in shaping the music. The word flamenco is most commonly considered derived from the Spanish word for Flemish. Some claim that Spanish Jews in Flanders were allowed to perform their music without oppression, and Gypsies that had fought there with distinction in war on behalf of Spain were rewarded by being allowed to settle in Andalusia. Main stream scholars recognize all these early influences but consider flamenco as an earlier 19th century performance stage music as tango or fado.

Flamenco Song

Flamenco is a Spanish musical genre with strong, rhythmic undertones and is often accompanied with a similarly impassioned style of dance characterized by its powerful yet graceful execution, as well as its intricate hand and footwork. Flamenco embodies a complex musical and cultural tradition. Although considered part of the culture of Spain in general, flamenco actually originates from one region: Andalusia. However, other areas, mainly Extremadura and Murcia, have contributed to the development of several flamenco musical forms, and a great number of renowned flamenco artists have been born in other territories of the state. The roots of flamenco are not precisely known, but it is generally acknowledged that flamenco grew out of the unique interplay of native Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures that existed in Andalusia prior to and after the Reconquest. Latin American and especially Cuban influences have also been important in shaping several flamenco musical forms.

Once the seeds of flamenco were planted in Andalusia, it grew as a separate subculture, first centered in the provinces of Seville, Cádiz and part of Málaga—the area known as Baja Andalucía (Lower Andalusia)—but soon spreading to the rest of Andalusia, incorporating and transforming local folk music forms. As the popularity of flamenco extended to other areas, other local Spanish musical traditions (e.g. the Castilian traditional music) would also influence, and be influenced by, the traditional flamenco styles.

Many of the details of the development of flamenco are lost in Spanish history. There are several reasons for this lack of historical evidence:

Flamenco sprang from the lower levels of Andalusian society and thus lacked the prestige of art forms among the middle and higher levels at this time of persecution.

The turbulent times of the people involved in flamenco culture. The Muslim Moors, the Gitanos and the Jews were all persecuted and the Muslim Moors (moriscos) and Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

The Gitanos have been fundamental in maintaining this art form, but they have an oral culture. Their folk songs were passed on to new generations by repeated performances in their social community. Non-gypsy Andalusian poorer classes, in general, were also illiterate.
Lack of interest from historians and musicologists. "Flamencologists" have usually been flamenco connoisseurs of no specific academic training in the fields of history or musicology. They have tended to rely on a limited number of sources (mainly the writings of 19th century folklorist Demófilo, and notes by foreign travellers. Bias has also been frequent in flamencology. This started to change in the 1980s, when flamenco slowly started to be included in music conservatories, and a growing number of musicologists and historians began to carry out more rigorous research. Since then, some new data have shed new light on it.

For a complete picture of the possible influences that gave rise to flamenco, attention must be paid to the cultural and musical background of the Iberian Peninsula since Ancient times. Long before the Moorish invasion in 711, Visigothic Spain had adopted its own liturgic musical forms, the Visigothic or Mozarabic rite, strongly influenced by Byzantium. The Mozarabic rite survived the Gregorian reform and the Moorish invasion, and remained alive at least until the 10th or 11th century. Some theories, started by Spanish classical musician Manuel de Falla, link the melismatic forms and the presence of Greek Dorian mode (in modern times called “Phrygian mode”) in flamenco to the long existence of this separate Catholic rite. Unfortunately, owing to the type of musical notation in which these Mozarabic chants were written, it is not possible to determine what this music really sounded like, so the theory remains unproven.

Moor is not the same as Muslim. Moor comes from the Latin Mauroi, meaning an inhabitant of North Africa. The Carthaginians, for instance, came from North Africa. Moorish influence in the peninsula goes back thousands of years, but it was the Islamic invasion, by largely Berber armies in 711, that determined the main musical influences from North Africa. They called the Iberian Peninsula Al-Andalus, from which the name of Andalusia derives. The Moorish and Arab conquerors brought their musical forms to the Peninsula, and at the same time, probably gathered some native influence in their music. The Emirate, and later Caliphate of Córdoba became a center of influence in both the Muslim and Christian worlds and it attracted musicians from all Islamic countries. One of those musicians was Zyriab, who imported forms of the Persian music, revolutionized the shape and playing techniques of the Lute (which centuries later evolved into the vihuela and the guitar), adding a fifth string to it, and set the foundations for the Andalusian nuba, the style of music in suite form still performed in North African countries.

The presence of the Moors was also decisive in shaping the cultural diversity of Spain. Owing to the extraordinary length of the Reconquest started in the North as early as 722 and completed in 1492 with the conquest of Granada, the degree of Moorish influence on culture, customs and even language varies enormously between the North and the South. Music cannot have been alien to that process. While music in the North of the Peninsula has a clear Celtic influence which dates to pre-Roman times, Southern music is certainly reminiscent of Eastern influences. To what extent this Eastern flavour is owed to the Moors, the Jews, the Mozarabic rite (with its Byzantine influence), or the Gypsies has not been clearly determined.

During the Reconquest, another important cultural influence was present in Al-Andalus: the Jews. Enjoying a relative religious and ethnic tolerance due to Islamic law in comparison to Christian countries, they formed an important ethnic group, with their own traditions, rites, and music, and probably reinforced the middle-Eastern element in the culture and music forms of Al-Andalus. Certain flamenco palos like the Peteneras have been attributed a direct Jewish origin.

Recent research has revealed that there might have been an influence of Sub-Saharan African music on flamenco's prehistory. This developed from the music and dance of African slaves held by the Spanish in the New World. There are 16th and 17th century manuscripts of classical compositions that are possibly based on African folk forms, such as negrillas, zarambeques, and chaconas. We also find mention of the fandango indiano (Indiano meaning from the Americas, but not necessarily Native American). Some critics support the view that the names of flamenco palos, like the tangos or even the fandango, are derived from Bantoid languages[4], and most theories state that the rhythm of the tangos was imported from Cuba.

It might be that during that stay in the New World, the fandango picked up dance steps deemed too inappropriate for European tastes. Thus, the dance for fandango, for chacon, and for zarabanda, were all banned in Europe at one time or another. References to Gypsy dancers can be found in the lyrics of some of these forms, e.g., the chacon. Indeed, Gypsy dancers are often mentioned in Spanish literary and musical works from the 1500's on. However, the zarabandas and jácaras are the oldest written musical forms in Spain to use the 12-beat metre as a combination of terciary and binary rhythms. The basic rhythm of the zarabanda and the jácara is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. The soleá and the Seguiriya, are variations on this: they just start the metre in a different beat.

The first time flamenco is mentioned in literature is in 1774 in the book Cartas Marruecas by José Cadalso. During this period, according to some authors, there is little news about flamenco except for a few scattered references from travellers. This led traditional flamencologists, like Molina and Mairena, to call the period of 1780 to 1850 as "The Hermetic Period" or the "private stage of flamenco." According to these flamencologists, flamenco, at this time was something like a private ritual, secretly kept in the Gypsy homes of some towns in the Seville and Cádiz area.

Nowadays, we know that there are hundreds and hundreds of data which allow us to know in detail what flamenco was from 1760 until 1860, and there we have the document sources: the theatre movement of sainetes (one-act plays) and tonadillas, the popular songbooks and song sheets, the narrations and descriptions from travellers describing customs, the technical studies of dances and toques, the musical scores, the newspapers, the graphic documents in paintings and engravings; and all of this with no interruptions, in continuous evolution together with the rhythm, the poetic stanzas, and the ambience.

There is disagreement as to whether primitive flamenco was accompanied by any instrument or not. For traditional flamencology, flamenco consisted of unaccompanied singing (cante). Later, the songs were accompanied by flamenco guitar (toque), rhythmic hand clapping (palmas), rhythmic feet stomping (zapateado) and dance (baile). Later theories claim that this is false. While some cante forms are sung unaccompanied (a palo seco), it is likely that other forms were accompanied if and when instruments were available. 19th century writer Estébanez Calderón already described a flamenco fiesta (party) in which the singing was accompanied not only by guitars, but also bandurria and tambourine.

Whereas, in Western music, only the major and minor modes are explicitly named by classical-romantic-era composers, flamenco has also preserved the Phrygian mode, commonly "Dorian mode" by flamencologists, referring to the Greek Dorian mode, and sometimes also "flamenco mode." The reason for preferring the term "Greek Dorian" is that, as in ancient Greek music, flamenco melodies are descending (instead of ascending as in usual Western melodic patterns).

The Phrygian mode is in fact the most common in the traditional palos of flamenco music, and it is used for soleá, most bulerías, siguiriyas, tangos and tientos, among other palos.

When playing using the Phrygian mode, guitarists traditionally use only two basic positions for the tonic chord: E and A. However, they often transport these basic tones by using a capo.

There are also palos in major mode, for example, most cantiñas and alegrías, guajiras, and some bulerías and tonás, and the cabales (a major mode type of siguiriyas). The minor mode is less frequent and it is restricted to the Farruca, the milongas (among cantes de ida y vuelta), and some styles of tangos, bulerías, etc. In general, traditional palos in major and minor mode are limited harmonically to the typical two-chord (tonic–dominant) or three-chord structure (tonic–subdominant–dominant).

Fandangos and the palos derived from it (e.g. malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras) are bimodal. Guitar introductions are in Phrygian mode, while the singing develops in major mode, modulating to Phrygian mode at the end of the stanza.

Traditionally, flamenco guitarists did not receive any formal training, so they just relied on their ear to find the chords on the guitar, disregarding the rules of Western classical music. This led them to interesting harmonic findings, with unusual unresolved dissonances.

Dionisio Preciado, quoted by Sabas de Hoces, established the following characteristics for the melodies of flamenco singing:

Microtonality: presence of intervals smaller than the semitone.

Portamento: frequently, the change from one note to another is done in a smooth transition, rather than using discrete intervals.

Short tessitura or range: The most traditional flamenco songs are usually limited to a range of a sixth (four tones and a half). The impression of vocal effort is the result of using different timbres, and variety is accomplished by the use of microtones.

Use of enharmonic scale. While in equal temperament scales, enharmonics are notes with identical name but different spellings (e.g. A flat and G sharp), in flamenco, as in unequal temperament scales, there is a microtonal intervalic difference between enharmonic notes.
Insistence on a note and its contiguous chromatic notes (also frequent in the guitar), producing a sense of urgency.

Baroque ornamentation, with an expressive, rather than merely aesthetic function.

Phrygian mode in the most traditional songs.

Apparent lack of regular rhythm, especially in the siguiriyas: the melodic rhythm of the sung line is different from the metric rhythm of the accompaniment.

Most styles express sad and bitter feelings.

Melodic improvisation. Although flamenco singing is not, properly speaking, improvised, but based on a relatively small number of traditional songs, singers add variations on the spur of the moment.

Flamenco melodies are also characterized by a descending tendency, as opposed to, for example, a typical opera aria, they usually go from the higher pitches to the lower ones, and from forte to piano, as it was usual in ancient Greek scales.

In many styles, such as soléa or siguiriya, the melody tends to proceed in contiguous degrees of the scale. Skips of a third or a fourth are rarer. However, in fandangos and fandango-derived styles, fourths and sixths can often be found, especially at the beginning of each line of verse. According to Rossy, this would be a proof of the more recent creation of this type of songs, which would be influenced by the Castilian jota.

Compás is the Spanish word for metre and time signature in classical music theory. In flamenco, besides having these meanings, it also refers to the rhythmic cycle, or layout, of a palo or flamenco style. When performing flamenco it is important to feel the rhythm — the compás — rather than mechanically count the beats. In this way, flamenco is similar to jazz or blues where performers seem to simply 'feel' the rhythm.

Flamenco uses three basic counts or measures: Binary, Ternary and the (unique to flamenco) twelve-beat cycle which is difficult to confine within the classical measure. There are also free-form styles, not subject to any particular metre, including, among others, the palos in the group of the tonás, the saetas, malagueñas, tarantas, and some types of fandangos. Rhythms in 2/4 or 4/4. These metres are used in forms like tangos, tientos, gypsy rumba, zambra and tanguillos.

Rhythms in 3/4. These are typical of fandangos and sevillanas both of these forms originate in Spanish folk, thereby illustrating their provenance as non-Gypsy styles, since the 3/4 and 4/4 measures are the most common throughout the Western world but not within the ethnic Gypsy, nor Hindi musics.

12-beat rhythms usually rendered in amalgams of 6/8 + 3/4 and sometimes measures of 12/8 in attempts to confine it within the classical constraints. The 12 beat cycle is fundamental in the soleá and buerías palos, for example. However, the various accentuation differentiates these two. These accentuations don't correspond to the classic concept of the downbeat, whereby the first beat in the measure is emphasised. In flamenco, the different ways of performing percussion (including the complex technique of palmas) make it hard to render in traditional musical notation. The alternating of groups of 2 and 3 beats is also common in the Spanish folk or traditional dances of the 16th Century such as the zarabanda, jácara and canarios.
They are also common in Latin American countries.

12-beat amalgams are in fact the most common in flamenco. There are three types of these, which vary in their layouts, or use of accentuations: The soleá The seguiriya The bulería
peteneras and guajiras: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

The compás is fundamental to flamenco, it is the basic definition of the music, and without compás, there is no flamenco. Compás is therefore more than simply the division of beats and accentuations, it is the backbone of this musical form. In private gatherings, if there is no guitarist available, the compás is rendered through hand clapping (palmas) or by hitting a table with the knuckles. This is also sometimes done in recordings especially for bulerías. The guitar also has an important function, using techniques like strumming (rasgueado) or tapping the soundboard. Changes of chords also emphasize the most important downbeats. When a dancers are present, they use their feet as a percussion instrument.

Flamenco is expressed through the toque -- the playing of the flamenco guitar, the cante (singing), and the baile (dancing).

The flamenco guitar (and the very similar classical guitar) is a descendent from the lute. The first guitars are thought to have originated in Spain in the 15th century. The traditional flamenco guitar is made of Spanish cypress and spruce, and is lighter in weight and a bit smaller than a classical guitar, to give the output a 'sharper' sound. The flamenco guitar, in contrast to the classical, is also equipped with a barrier, called a golpeador. This is often plastic, similar to a pick guard, and protects the body of the guitar from the rhythmic finger taps, called golpes. The flamenco guitar is also used in several different ways from the classical guitar, including different strumming patterns and styles, as well as the use of a capo in many circumstances.

Foreigners often think that the essence of flamenco is the dance. However, the heart of flamenco is the song (cante). Although to the uninitiated, flamenco seems totally extemporaneous, these cantes (songs) and bailes (dances) follow strict musical and poetic rules. The verses (coplas) of these songs often are beautiful and concise poems, and the style of the flamenco copla was often imitated by Andalucian poets. Garcia Lorca is perhaps the best known of these poets. In the 1920s he, along with the composer Manuel de Falla and other intellectuals, crusaded to raise the status of flamenco as an art form and preserve its purity. But the future of flamenco is uncertain. Flamenco is tied to the conditions and culture of Andalusia in the past, and as Spain modernizes and integrates into the European community, it is questionable whether flamenco can survive the social and economic changes.

Cante flamenco can be categorized in a number of ways. First, a cante may be categorized according to whether it follows a strict rhythmic pattern ("compas") or follows a free rhythm ("libre"). The cantes with compas fit one of four compas patterns. These compas-types are generally known by the name of the most important cante of the group. Thus





The solea group includes the cantes: solea; romances, solea por bulerias, alegrias (cantinas); La

El baile flamenco is a highly-expressive solo dance, known for its emotional sweeping of the arms and rhythmic stomping of the feet. While flamenco dancers (bailaores and bailaoras) invest a considerable amount of study and practice into their art form, the dances are not choreographed, but are improvised along the palo or rhythm. In addition to the percussion provided by the heels and balls of the feet striking the floor, castanets are sometimes held in the hands and clicked together rapidly to the rhythm of the music. Sometimes, folding fans are used for visual effect.

Flamenco occurs in two types of settings. The first, the juerga is an informal gathering where people are free to join in creating music. This can include dancing, singing, palmas (hand clapping), or simply pounding in rhythm on an old orange crate or a table. Flamenco, in this context, is very dynamic: it adapts to the local talent, instrumentation, and mood of the audience. One tradition remains firmly in place: singers are the most important part.

The professional concert is more formal and organized. The traditional singing performance has only a singer and one guitar, while a dancing performance usually included two or three guitars, one or more singers (singing in turns, as in traditional flamenco singers always sing solo), and one or more dancers. A guitar concert used to include a single guitarist, with no other support, though this is now extremely rare except for a few guitarists like Dylan Hunt or, occasionally, Gerardo Núñez. The so-called New flamenco has included other instruments, like the now ubiquitous cajón, flutes or saxophones, piano or other keyboards, or even the bass guitar and the electric guitar. Camarón de la Isla was one artist who popularized this style.

A great number of flamenco artists are not capable of performing in both settings at the same level. There are still many artists, and some of them with a good level, who only perform in juergas, or at most in private parties with a small audience. As to their training in the art, traditional flamenco artists never received any formal training: they learnt in the context of the family, by listening and watching their relations, friends and neighbours. Since the appearance of recordings, though, they have relied more and more on audiovisual materials to learn from other famous artists. Nowadays, dancers and guitarists (and sometimes even singers) take lessons in schools or in short courses organized by famous performers. Some guitarists can even read music or learn from teachers in others styles like classical guitar or jazz, and many dancers take courses in contemporary dance or Classical Spanish ballet.

[8787 Gruber / 8774 Flamenco / 8770 Beethoven]