folk music

folk music
   Spanish folk music falls into three broad categories, which are not always clearly delineated. In the first place, there is the musicological definition of folk music, that is, the popular musical and poetic heritage of the various cultures and regions of the peninsula, reflecting the rhythm of the seasons in an agricultural society. The late arrival of industrialization in Spain has facilitated the preservation and transmission of this tradition. The second category consists of more widely disseminated popular music, prior to the Anglo-American invasion of the 1960s, in which traditional forms are re-worked and adapted to the taste of a mass public. Third, the 1960s see the emergence, mainly in university circles, of a movement deriving from American folk music, which evolves either towards musicological research, or towards protest songs.
   The first systematic study of Spanish folk music was carried out by the Andalusian Antonio Machado Álvarez, the father of the poets Antonio and Manuel Machado. In 1883, Machado Álvarez published an inventory of all aspects of folklore, a kind of ethnographical catalogue, which included traditional popular music. From that date on, several musicologists have collected, catalogued and studied documentary evidence on the enormous variety of folk music, placing it in the context of Mediterranean Europe, as defined by ethnomusicologists. The most widespread form in the Spanish folkmusic repertoire is the song, especially the cuarteta, a stanza of four verses of eight syllables, with an alternating rhyme (a b a b), which can be either assonantal or consonantal. The popular name for this form is the copla. This term is also applied to the commonest musical form, where a single melodic phrase takes in a stanza of the text, divided into two periods, which are each divided into two sub-periods. The canción is formed by a copla and an estribillo (refrain), stanza and refrain alternating.
   Another very characteristic form in the traditional repertoire is the romance, or ballad, an eight-syllable narrative form, in which a well-known story is set to music. Ballads were still being handed down among the rural population in the mid to late twentieth century.
   The essentially agricultural character of Spanish society remained unchanged, in many regions, until the early 1960s. This not only ensured the survival of traditional melodies and words, but also provided a stable environment in which new compositions could take root in the collective memory alongside older forms, a process which requires the passage of about a generation. The songs of Antonio Machín or Concha Piquer, popularized via the radio, were some of the earliest examples of this commercialization of popular music, which simply used traditional tunes which would have been familiar to their listeners.
   The Catalan novelist Manuel Vázquez Montalbán has studied the history of the Spanish popular song, and has coined the phrase canción national to describe the blend of stage-music and traditional song which made its appearance in the 1920s, and became firmly entrenched in the period after the Civil War. According to Vázquez Montalbán, the success of this kind of music is partly due to the poets of the "Generation of 1927", many of them Andalusians, and keen students of folklore. Manuel Machado, Villalón, García Lorca and Alberti were fascinated by the Andalusian cante hondo or cante jondo (literally "deep song"), and by motifs from the ballads. In this respect they stand within a tradition of sophisticated popularization which goes back to the great lyric poets of the seventeenth century.
   The type of music described by Vázquez Montalbán has a metrical scheme very similar to that of the ballad. Andalusian pronunciation is virtually obligatory, and images and themes are taken from traditional lyric. It is, in fact, a music which fosters the conventional idea of "typically Spanish", which made it particularly congenial to Francoist culture. The image of Spanishness derived from British and French romantic travellers of the nineteenth century was overlaid with the Francoist ethos of individualism versus communism, of the Hispanic race and the muchvaunted "historical destiny" of Spain, the whole blend having a strong undercurrent of sensuality. Crimes of passion are a frequent theme of these songs, and, despite its compatibility with Francoism, there is in this music a savage, inchoate revolt against the sexual and social norms laid down by church and state, a safety valve against the political repression of the time, the roots of which nevertheless reach far back into the past. Industrial development in the 1960s facilitated the appearance of a new kind of "folk", deriving from Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, rather than from the indigenous music of the countryside. The father of this tradition of Spanish folk music is Joaquín Díaz, who, nevertheless, devoted a great deal of time and effort to the study and popularization of the Spanish popular music heritage, as Machado had done before him. The group "Nuestro Pequeño Mundo" (Our Small World), which produced its first recording in 1968, was initially heavily influenced by American examples, especially "The Weavers", but gradually moved towards a greater concentration on Spanish traditional song. Another Castilian group, from Segovia, "Nuevo Mester de Juglaría" (New Minstrels), developed away from the Angloamerican instrumentation and harmonies of "Nuestro Pequeño Mundo" towards an effort of popularization of motifs collected in the villages of Old Castile, which were then worked into new compositions which used traditional patterns and rhythms. A similar activity was carried out in Andalusia by "Jarcha", while in 1967 in Catalonia the "Grup de Folk" emerged, closely connected with the Nova Cançó. Other regions produced similar groups: in the Canaries, "Los Sabandeños"; in Galicia, "Voces Ceibes"; in Euskadi, "Ez Dok Amairu"; and in Valencia "Al Tall". In general, these groups have a strong element of nationalism, insisting on using their own language, Catalan, Galician or Basque, and rediscovering characteristic melodic forms as markers of national identity. The greater normalization of regional cultural and political life since the transition to democracy has brought about a decline in their influence, though it is still present.
   Further reading
   - Crivillé i Bargalló, J. (1983) Historia de la música española. Vol. 7. El folklore musical, Madrid: Alianza (the best account of Spanish folk from a musicological point of view; deals with traditional repertory, song and dances as well as flamenco).
   - Ordovás, J. (1991) " Pop music", in A.Ramos Gascón (ed.) Spain Today: In Search of Modernity, Madrid: Cátedra (gives a summary of the copla in its development until 1990).
   - Vázquez Montalban, M. (1970) Crónica sentimental de España, Barcelona: Lumen (provides a very lively and striking panorama of the relationships between folklore, subculture and the age of dictatorship).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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