Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Can a musical spirit exist with different instrumentations?
2007/03/31, 20:44
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed, Thoughts

So yesterday, I received the comment on my last post by Zata, who expressed the idea that true flamenco would never include violin.
I responded back to Zata, but even as I woke up this afternoon to a pale sunny day (isn’t spring break great!?) I’m still nagged by this question of authenticity and what is essential for a work of music to still be considered in the style of something specific, like flamenco for example.

Does music ever stay the same from its inception? How much change can happen before it doesn’t morphe into something else? How is the spirit of music expressed, no matter what instrument is used? Are there some genres that depend more on instrumentation and others which depend less on it?

I tried looking within to explore some of these questions.
What types of instrumentations could still be considered rock? What makes rock? Can a string quartet be rock?
How about pop music?
And since I’ve been studying mariachi along with flamenco, what about mariachi music?
What needs to stay intact to be mariachi.

Perhaps some of these inherently require instruments…for example, electric guitars for rock…a singer for American pop music…and the violin, guitarrón, vihuela, and guitar for mariachi…but then can the addition of something non-traditional change that?

If flamenco is played by a guitarrista, cantante and bailadores, can it still be flamenco with just the addition of violin? What about percussion? I mentioned earlier how the cajón was introduced in the 1970s from someone who had seen it in Peru and felt it would sound good with flamenco. Even the castañuelas, castanets, which are commonly and almost exclusively associated with flamenco, were new at one time in the last 100 years. [Scottish Arts Council]. The guitar/guitarra may not have been an original member of the flamenco tradition. Some sources say flamenco was originally the singing and the palmas, and the guitar came later.

“It can not remain stagnant, because its eclectic origin is an undeniable fact,” writes Luis Clemente on, “Flamenco is all about absorption and metabolism. The concept of fusion is very old.” [Flamenco: 200 years young].

“Clearly, those that have made their mark on history are those that have blazed their own trails…” [Clemente, Flamenco:200 years young].

Even from what I’ve read about the gypsies…how they had traveled so far, absorbing remnants of the cultures they passed through or where they stayed…the conversion of many to Christianity…and Spain’s history, show how cultures have mixed and so have their arts and musics. One of the most surprising and interesting parts of Spain’s history I learned there were the mixing and clashing of cultures… The mixed architecture, the Moorish, Jewish, and Christian traditions and people…and even the Basque, visigoths in the Extremadura region, Gallegos, Catalán, Valencianos, and people from Andalucía along with the Castellanos.
I guess these things are captivating to me being an American (and by that I mean a Mexican-Italian-Spanish-English-German-Irish-Scottish-Portuguese-American, with my given name that is Hebrew, French, and a Spanish surname). I had babysitters who were Native American and from India. My life has been all about the contributions of so many. If something is easily categorized in a neat little package, I almost always feel like something is being overlooked or neglected! Most people view things the opposite.

To what extent is hybridization and hyphenization a good and/or bad thing?

What are the benefits and the disadvantages of being a purist vs. a fusionist?
Can a violin play flamenco and capture the aesthetics and essences valued in this genre? Why or why not?

“It is not true that certain types of music have existed in a sort of static form within its own culture from the time the culture came into being and up to more recent times, or that this is the first time that people have borrowed from each other…and then took a chance by breaking with the accepted norm.” [Einar Solbu, “A Performance Perspective.”]

“You should not change things that are classic. You should leave them intact….It is not good for humanity for everything to be the same….But there are some limits….On the taco, put salsa de tomate, salsa verde, salsa de chipotle, put whatever salsa you like. But just don’t put ketchup.” [Nati Cano, from Daniel Sheehy, “Mariachi in America”].


2 Comments so far
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It is dangerous to write about musical genres that do not have too many bibliographic sources because it is very obvious that you know nothing about either. You cannot just post these things and act like you are an expert (I bet you cite yourself, that is how vain you must be). Instead of citing Nati Cano’s stupid ketchup example (which is the best Sheehy could do at that time), you should PLAY the music, LIVE it, and after 5 years of being completely IMMERSED in the culture, you will be humbled like the rest of us who have lived this music our entire lives. You are not adding nothing new – Laura Sobrino already has most of this in her website. Read it, and read the other references on mariachi, before filling the internet with your trash on mariachi violin.
Thank you,
Valeria Pinzón

Comment by Valeria Pinzón

You obviously did not read my blog or even why I made those posts in the first place.

Vain, citing myself, and claiming to be an expert? Hardly. Those original posts were for a class project in undergrad for which we were instructed to make a blog and explore a genre of music. The blog was focused on what I learned about flamenco violin, and therefore had no intention of adding anything new to the research about mariachi violin.

You wouldn’t know from my blog but I have been immersed in mariachi music and the culture. I have stayed for extended periods of time with my family in Mexico over the last several years. The small research project I did conduct about mariachi was designed to explore my heritage and for that reason it began with immersion in the culture long before hitting the books. I have now been performing mariachi for the last few years. No need to tell me that those aspects are important; however it is not always necessary to be a proficient performer in the genre one studies. Plenty of brilliant studies have been made by people who were not proficient performers of what they study, but were close with the culture, the musicians, asked great questions, and made interesting interpretations of the music. Of course, the field is not free of flawed studies, but all of these factors depend on the culture, the music, the topic one is investigating, and the approach the researcher takes.

As far as flamenco violin, I was just exploring what was out there as a hobby. I did not delve into a scholarly study and in the end, the product of that was a list of violin players who experiment in the style, nothing more. I do not believe that just because something is new or more recent that it is not worth studying. Are you trying to argue that I shouldn’t have looked into flamenco violin just because nobody else has or because nothing has been published? I hardly find that argument convincing, and I feel strongly that almost any ethnomusicologist would agree that it would be poor reasoning to abandon a study solely based on the absence of previously published materials. A major part of the work of an ethnomusicologist is based on interviews, observations, and experiences anyways (hence the “ethno” part coming from “ethnography”), so the deficiency of published resources does not have to hinder one’s learning and investigation.

In this post, I referenced mariachi because when I was in Mexico and learning mariachi music, I was told by multiple mariachis and Mexican citizens that the violin is an essential part of the ensemble (Quite literally, I was told “Without the violin, it’s not mariachi!”). The post you commented on was just a questioning of the role that instrumentation has in defining a genre (two resources I have read since this entry that discuss instrumentation issues and authenticity are Barry Shank’s Dissident Identities and Charles Lindholm’s Culture and Authenticity). Again, not an expert opinion or even something that was an attempt to “contribute” to the references about mariachi music.

This type of lashing out is not professional and is unnecessary. Slanderous comments and snarky messages are generally symptomatic of people who are insecure and have questionable motives.
In the future, if you believe a fact is incorrect, please be more mature and less of a troll about it. I am open to people forwarding me their concerns, suggestions for corrections, and citations. In return, I have also been willing to share my sources of information if someone is interested in where I learned something.

If you cannot comport yourself in such a way, please find something better to do with your time and discontinue reading my blog.

Comment by Jessie

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