Sketches of Spain: Musical Folklores of Andalusia and Catalonia by Caroline Louis
/ January 4, 2007
Of the many regions comprising the current
Spanish territory, Andalusia and Catalonia, polarized geographically
and culturally, both possess unique and interesting musical traditions.
Andalusia is considered the heart of Spanish musical folklore, whereas
Catalonia is seen as the home of Spanish “art” music.
Located to the very south of the Iberian
Peninsula, and separated from Morocco only by the Strait of Gibraltar,
Andalusia was invaded by Moslems in 711 A.D. The occupation lasted eight
centuries and undoubtedly had a profound influence on many aspects of
Andalusian culture, including its musical folklore, which is one of
the richest and most original in the world. Much of the Spanish musical
idiom which has been exported throughout the world originates from Andalusia--the
image of Flamenco, for instance, with guitarists playing for colorful
dancers and expressive vocalists, is typically Andalusian. The Moorish
influence is present to this day in Andalusian music, when it comes
to, for example, the use of microtonality--a microtonal interval being
smaller than the smallest tonal unit used in the equal-temperament tuning
system, the semitone, whereas the Arab tone-
system developed in the Medieval period accounts for quarter-tones.
Flamenco is not only derived from Moorish
culture, but also Gypsy and Jewish traditions. All three ethnic groups
remained present in Spain as minorities after the Reconquista,
and were targeted by the Spanish Inquisition. This common suffering
was important in the development of Flamenco to express affliction and
sorrow. Cante Jondo (or Hondo), the typical vocal style
of Flamenco, and perhaps the core of Andalusian folk music, has been
imitated, if not emulated, by many composers of the region. Characteristics
of Cante Jondo include the frequent use of portamento (which
can be described as “sliding” from note to note instead of intonating
each pitch with precision), a rather small ambitus rarely extending
over a fifth or a sixth and the practice of modulation through microtonal
enharmony. Also typical is the use of non-regular meter, the alternation
of simple and compound time, such as 3/4 and 6/8, and the emphasis,
through seemingly obsessive repetition, of a single note.
Andalusia is the home of such great composers
as Joaquin Turina, Andrés Segovia and Manuel de Falla, often regarded
as the most important Spanish composer of the 20th Century. De Falla
himself conducted extensive research on the development of Andalusian
music, trying to determine the particular musical elements inherited
from Byzantine, Moslem and Gypsy influence.
Home of Spanish “art” music, Catalonia
nurtured many of Spain's most highly educated musicologists, performers
and composers, with such musicians having earned considerable international
acclaim and collegial recognition. Among the most famous Catalan composers
and performers are Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Felipe Pedrell,
Jaime Pahissa, Gaspar Cassadó, Ricardo Viñes, and Pablo Casals.
Located in the North-East of Spain, Catalonia
was not significantly affected by the Moslem invasion, and therefore
its music reflects little of the Moorish influence. Its people, with
their own language, have long claimed their autonomy from Spanish authority,
mainly from a cultural viewpoint. Typical Catalan musical forms include
the sardana and the jota, the first being a two-part dance presumably
inherited from ancient Greek tradition and updated in the 19th Century
by composer Josep Ventura, whose modern version of the sardana begins
with a slow, dramatic section followed by an energetic and up-lifting
one. Sardanas are performed by musical ensembles called Coblas, which
are prevalent in Catalonia. Indeed, ensemble music is very present in
this musical tradition, especially for brass wind instruments. The jota,
which does not especially originate from Catalonia, is generally a dance
in 3/8 which alternates dominant and tonic harmonies. Although jotas
are performed in other regions of Spain such as Aragon, Catalan vocalists'
deliberate display of freedom when singing makes this type of jota rather
unique. It is also much slower in pace than the more common jotas. Catalan
folk songs tend to include the interval of the augmented second, though
it is not of constant use, and a very typical feature of this music
is the frequent use of chromaticism, as the tonic and mediant of the
diatonic scale are often altered.
These are only a few of the folkloric
elements which have inspired the great Spanish composers of the 19th
and 20th Centuries. In the early 1800s, Spanish musicians Felipe Pedrell
and Francisco Asenjo Barbieri engaged in a Nationalist celebration and
appropriation of the folkloric musical materials in reaction to the
domination throughout Europe of Italian opera and the German symphony.
Many other composers soon followed in their footsteps, which led to
a revival of Spanish music as an internationally recognized body of
high quality art. This is not to say that from that point Spanish composers
would only rely on folkloric elements in their music, but the study
and appreciation of their musical heritage definitely launched Spanish
composers in a new direction.
I Musici, Yuli Turovsky, director.“Violonchello
Español”, an evening of art music inspired by Spanish folkloric traditions,
December 21, 2006, 8 p.m., Pollack Hall-555 Sherbrooke West. (514) 398-4547.