Wednesday, May 11, 2011

History of Flamenco #2

 It is clear that the gypsies have outlived their age. God meant for us to live off the fat of the land, moving from place to place feeding on wild fruits and fowl and abundant animal life, never abusing as the payo does, never depleting our sources, never causing the extinction of entire species of animals, never exploiting, but merely taking what is needed. But now, through a complex puzzle of cause and effect not even understood by the payo himself all the lands have fences, the fruits and domestic animals’ owners, and the wild life is disappearing because of its exploitation by the so-called civilized people. The gypsies should have been cut up for steaks along with the rest of the wild life, because we no longer belong. If we wish to follow our natural instincts, to pursue our way of life, to retain our integrity we have no other recourse but to steal our daily food and to camp on the property of others. The fool payo does not understand that we are the last of Gods children, and they are merely slaves to a system which reduces their lives to insignificance.” He finishes with;“We are the symbol of everything they lack; integrity, individualism, freedom. They cannot permit the gypsy to  be the constant reminder of the ball-less void of their lives, so they have humiliated us, attempting to  break our spirit, banished us to city slums.., they have truly sinned by denying Gods children their intended existence. ”
     Pohren at a later date talked to another nomadic Gypsy he had seen in passing who described himself as from a noble Gypsy family from Yugoslavia who lost their fortune during world war II. He spoke seven languages, was obviously educated  and spoke intelligently and clearly of their life and philosophy. Pohren asked him why he preferred his rootless existence to a normal payo life.
     He replied with a dissertation; “Hombre, do you realize what it is to live with nature, to amble alongside this old cart in the sun and sleep under the stars, to have no ties and do exactly as I damn well please? When we desire entertainment we travel to gypsy reunions and fiestas, where there is always plenty of food, drink and good times. When we need money we perform in town plazas and taverns-what we earn in a week of performing carries us over for a month or two. You see, I have no need for payo necessities or luxuries. I have no desire to own a house, or a car, or to go to work everyday like a half-brain. It seems to me that the payo works all of his life for things that he does not really want or need.
     He sits in a cluttered office dreaming of open fields and mountains and beaches, and when he finally is allowed a vacation he travels to a resort area milling with people and pushes his way around for two weeks and spends his savings. He lives in fear and anxiety of his employer, a possible depression or war, old age, and a thousand other things either completely beyond his control or not worth the effort. But we, in our simple existence, have everything that we need to be happy.
     I have a wonderful talented family. If we feel like spending the summer on a beach, or in a mountain forest, we do so. We have friends and relatives in all parts of Spain. Of course there are hardships- the rain and cold, occasional hunger-but the life of no one is perfect. En fin, as long as we are left alone, we can’t ask for anything more. You look like you understand what I am trying to say. Verdad?”
    “Yes, I;m afraid I do, only too clearly,” I replied, adding in a soft undertone, more for myself than for the old gypsy, “thats the problem.”In Pohren’s comment on the new 2005 edition he adds to his work of over 40 years ago ; “Those I considered the most interesting, the itinerants, have nearly disappeared during this period (the last 40 years).” The reasons he thinks them gone are; the authorities, fast moving traffic, racism which spells danger for the gypsy camper, T.V. and video, which have made people lose interest in street and tavern entertainment, illicit drugs-destroyed the gypsies as it seemed a way to provide for their lifestyle which left them in addiction and incarceration; all of these brought an end to their lifestyle, and to the flamenco that Pohren was exposed to in the early sixties.
      For me, it is a lesson; I take what I can from Divine inspiration, what the flamenco’s call duende, and let art propel me, while attempting to find material which does not tax my art or philosophy. I can take from this musical form and add it to my art, learning that it is already encompassed in my vision of the world and the soul. It is new to me, and adds spice, flavor to my already satisfying interests. As Flamenco is the encapsulation of this sorrow it truly is weltschmertz, and as we watch what they call the payo, or the unconscionable businessman gobble up the world and spit out toxic waste, we cannot be too surprised.  
     Though we have given some of the possible sources for the term Flamenco, I agree with Pohren that it is a mispronunciation of the Arabic words “felag” and “mengu”, felagmengu which means “fugitive peasant; from Arabic to Spanish, Flamenco.
     There are many different forms of Flamenco, inspired by different cities, towns, and villages, and perhaps by different tribes. These are the Alboreas(dawn of the day) a wedding song, it included a virtue test, performed with a white handkerchief which if removed from the virgin with the blood rose proved she was worthy of marriage. Another is the Alegrias, the most dominant of the styles from Cadiz from the more ancient Soleares and Jaleos. It is lighter or happier than its roots, and enjoyed for its mirth. Next the Bamberas which is only sung often during springtime and summer, when swings are hung usually for young full skirted girls compete to see who can be swung higher (ropes are attached to the swings and tugged from the ground). the Bamberas are sung while peeking at the girls legs. The Bulerias occupy a supreme position in the world of Flamenco, being its most flexible form, majestic and constantly evolving. The Caleseras,Campinlleros,Cantinas, Cana and Polo, the Caracoles, Carceleras, Cartageneras, Chuflas, Colombianas, Danza Mora, Debla, Fandangos, Fandanguillos, Farruca, Garrotin, Granainas, Gaujiras, Jaleos, Livianas, Malaguenas, Marianas, Martinetes, Milongas, and numerous others, finely detailed in D.E.Pohrens book. 
      It is this merging of musical styles which brought all the wisdom of the ancients into a continually evolving form of music which is portable and enjoyed by most. This makes east meet west, old continue on through new, and the middle ages continue through the current middle ages. In many customs of the Flamencos, and you must understand this as a culture which goes beyond Gypsy Jew or Spainiard, numerous traditions left over from the middle ages are still practiced.
     I have seen that guitar music actually comes from the Spanish forms, or rather that they (the Spanish) used the Guitar more and as recorded history would have it, first. In this timeliness, we are led to believe that guitar music is Spanish, when in reality we might find that the Spanish adopted a love for the music of the guitar, and that this love has lasted for so long,that the Spanish are credited with the musical form, when in fact the music may have predated the Spanish.
     The Italians and French embraced it next, but the merging of the old culture lost to Europe and brought back to Europeans by the Andalusian Moors has restored the feel of the ancient mysteries, and offers hints to the mysticism of art. This loss of the music of the guitar which predated the Spanish may have been caused by the reign of terror caused by the false Christians, who took control of Rome and attempted to regulate art and science. They often saw anything which led to mirth in need of suppression, finding devils under every bed, when the devils may actually have resided in their own souls.
     Pohren believes that the guitar is a descendant of the Greek Kithara (zither), and that it is fairly certain that it was introduced into Europe by way of Spain, by the Arab singer and musician Ziryab in the 9th century. He was called by the reigning Califa to teach court musicians songs and their accompaniments on a four stringed guitar-type instrument. In time one string and then another were added to Ziryab’s guitar, and the present day guitar came into being.
     Scales are scales, and the way music on the physical instrument is put together is going to sound Spanish, if they are the first ones to have played, yet truly there is only guitar music, which is like Oud or Lute music in the Guitar style. To say that Arabic culture invented the Oud is difficult, as Rome and Greece and others before were musical civilizations throughout North Africa and the Middle east. This leads us to the development of the Guitar as an instrument which tells us more about the styles and how they evolved. The shape and influence of the instrument physically influences the way the music will sound, the way scales are shaped and chosen for use, and the sympathy for chords and their applicability. The musician who is inclined to improvise will often be influenced by the instrument he is playing on.
     We are everyday learning about how much more advanced ancient civilization was. The Vikings seen as a rabble by the English and French who despised them have now been resurrected by historical finds into quite an enlightened civilization. What the Romans knew and did, how they played and loved is still often speculations in development. That Greece took most of its culture from Egypt and Babylon is more true than many would like to admit. How much of ancient Babylon remains in music today, we know they practiced Democracy there long before the Greeks, and that they were great architects, practiced medicine and education in many forms, and that they had plumbing. living in apartment buildings several stories high.
     How can we judge what their music was like. We know the Egyptians loved music, we know of a few of their instruments. In the Seventh century the Abbassid dynasty had specific rules for music played on the oud, which means they used stringed instruments unlike the harp. In Ancient Egypt there are depictions of stringed guitar like instruments in their pictographs, yet none survive, so we cannot know for sure (excepting the Coptic era guitar which is post Greek conquest.), as is the same in the case of the Abbassids who were the descendants of ancient Babylon-Iraq, of the cast of direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.
     For us so little survives from the dark ages, that we must piece together a philosophy of music and the instruments it was played upon, leaving an open mind to be corrected or transformed by some later discovery. Too many people make statements based upon few facts, and only follow the herd, which is often too inexperienced to offer a final judgement in these matters. We must quest to find the roots and inspirations to revive the ancient arts and meld them into our modern artistry, so that all that was beauty can live on through us. We must be pragmatists of necessity, and use all we can.

     The guitar as we know it today has had similar forms which go back to the 1400 and 1500’s.

This is a 5 course Vihuela. There has been much conjecture over when this instrument came into being, and when it evolved into the guitar, or if they existed together. Where contempt arises is in the fact that we cannot truly know, but only take bits and pieces of information and decide what to believe in. There is a certificate of examination of Juan Rodriguez of 27 December 1578, for example, which tells us that he was examined in the making of a Vihuela with a sunken rose and a guitar in the same manner. This is evidence of the guitar in period.
     In John Playford’s Musick’s delight on the Cittern, who was trying to oust the fashionable guitar, says this in his preface;
     Not a city dame, though a tapwife, but is anxious to have her daughter taught by Monsieur Kirkshaivibus on the Gitar  which instrument is but a new old one, used in the time of Queen Mary as appears by a book printed in English of instructions and lessons for the same about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, being not much different from the Cithren only was strung with gut strings, this with wyre which was in more esteem (till of late years) than the guittar.
   It is difficult to determine whether or not they used six string guitars, and I believe they may have, there is a picture of one at the end of this post. The ornate workmanship is quite remarkable and shows to us that in the renaissance there was more than just the lute.
     I have the belief that the guitar or something like it was in use before the sixteenth century, but there is no hard evidence of that. The Spanish were probably the first makers of guitars , four five and six course guitars in recorded history. Harvey Turnbull’s The guitar from the Renaissance to the present day is an excellent source of information. The bold strummer ltd, is a great source for this book and other materials.
     Gregoire Brayssing of Augsberg had left Germany after the defeat of Frederick the Elector of Saxony at the battle of Muhlberg in 1547. He had written the Quart Livre de Tabulature de Guiterre in 1553, which gives us evidence of guitar music as early as then.
     It seems to me that some form if not the form of the modern acoustic guitar was used in the 1500’s. The earliest reference to the Rasgueado and complaint about the seeming transition from the five course Vihuela to the Guitar is noted in this writing from Corvarrubias ;
    “This instrument has been highly regarded until the present time, and has had most excellent musicians, but since guitars were invented, those who devote themselves to a study of the vihuela are small in number. It has been a great loss, as all kinds of plucked music could be played on it : but now the guitar is no more than a cow-bell, so easy to play, especially rasguedo, there is not a stable lad who is not a musician on the guitar.”
     This musical style which Corvarrubias complains of can be found in Guitarra Espanola by Amat, a doctor. It can be deduced that the subject is somewhat older then the 1596 date of this publication, as doctors often take up an art long after it comes into being.
     Corvarrubias complained about this lazy music of the guitar, because people like the good doctor Amat played as hobbyists and did not have the skills of those who played the Vihuela. The Vihuela was either 4 or 5 courses, that is it consisted of doubled sets of strings, with sometimes only one string for the lowest base string. Corvarrubias’ lamenting of the change from Vihuela to the easier Guitar lends me to believe that modern guitar dates to the late 1500’s. Most examples of the guitar in museums in this period are like Vihuela’s, which does not negate the possibility that something similar to our modern six string was in use then. It is quite possible that the modern guitar may date much earlier than this in the hidden circles of southern Europe. No one can know for sure.
     I believe that older established musicians used the doubled stringed instruments, and that it was an established form, and that the more bohemian types experimented with single and double combinations, as single stringed instruments allow for more speed than double stringed, and both have distinct and enjoyable sounds. For songs which require speed, quick strumming and chord changes, single strings are best. When playing slower more rhythmic or melodious tunes, the double stringed instruments are best, especially when a droning string is used to fill in the sound.
    I suppose by now you are wondering where this will end. I could offer you much more information. If you have a more in depth interest try reading these books;
The guitar from the renaissance to the present day. by Harvey turnbull The bold strummer  Westport Conn.
The art of Flamenco by D.E. Pohren Also printed by the bold strummer.
Flamenco all you wanted to know by Emma Martinez.Mel Bay Publications, Pacific Mo.
Guitart Flamenco Guitar w/c.d. of music. Rome Italy. Can be found in most better classical and ancient musical instrument stores.

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