Early Music America Fall 2012 - (Page 29)

Reconstructing Spanish Songs from theTime of Cervantes A found in Spanish, Italian, and French guitar and harp books from the 17th and early 18th centuries, where the villano, chacona, españoleta, and folia appear side by side with popular Italian tunes like Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco, the aria di Firenze and the ballo di MantoTesoro de la lengua castellana, o española va. Because they were heard in the the(Madrid, 1611) aters, taverns, and street corners, it was assumed the guitarist would be NYONE DEVISING a program of music familiar with them. The melodies from the age of Cervantes and Lope and rhythm of these popular tunes de Vega can draw on the beautiful solo are not usually given, for the early songs of Juan Hidalgo and José Marín, as guitar books employ a particular syswell as plentiful examples of sacred tem of notation or tablature known in music and polyphonic song. But the Spanish as alfabeto, in which letters reppopular songs that all the stable boys resent the various chord shapes of the were presumably singing and playing on guitarist’s left hand. (The letters do not their guitars, or the racy songs and correspond to the root of the chord, as dances with which the entertainers at modern guitar chord symbols do: in the the public theaters spiced their example below, the letter “O” signifies a interludes and plays—they are much G minor chord on the modern guitar). harder to come by. Covarrubias tells us A series of vertical strokes indicates the that the guitar was as ubiquitous in up-and-down strumming pattern of the 17th-century Spain as it is in popular right hand: those below the horizontal culture today: actors sang to it on the line are downward strums with the stage, barbers played it in their shops, back of the fingers or the thumb; those from below balconies young men with above, an up-stroke with the index guitars serenaded their loves. But not finger (Ex. 1). much of this music comes down to us in a usable form. To reconstruct a popular Ex. 1 ballad from Shakespeare’s England, one can often match a surviving text with one of the hundreds of popular tunes found in the virginal books and lute books of the time. In Spain, the hunt for popular music is more elusive. Reconstructing popular Spanish songs requires both the detective work of the musicologist and the intuition of the improvising performer. Sometimes popular melodies are incorporated into learned polyphonic works, but often the only musical source for a tune is an instrumental rendition, in the form of basic chordal patterns and instrumental variations, without lyrics. These are Now the guitar is nothing more than a cowbell; so easy to play, especially in strumming, that there is no stable boy who is not a musician of the guitar. While re-creating the art of popular song as it was practiced in 17th-century Spain might seem like tilting at windmills, a combination of research and intuition can get us close By Grant Herreid Early Music America Fall 2012 29

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Early Music America Fall 2012

Editor’s Note
EMA Competition
Sound Bytes
Musings: Listening Forward
Profile: A Classical Playlist on Your Cable Television
Recording Reviews
Reconstructing Spanish Songs from the Time of Cervantes
Janet See: Traversist on Two Continents
Musical Mosaic Explores “Perspectives of Interspersing Peoples”
Book Reviews
Ad Index
In Conclusion: Conducting Early Music

Early Music America Fall 2012