Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Cultural Outsiders – Some Misconceptions of Flamenco and Spaniards
2007/04/15, 03:41
Filed under: Global Music Ed

Some cultural outsiders, especially those in Spain who are aware of the social issues of gypsies and Spaniards, view this as music of “bad” people, or criminals. They see it as a poor art form of a lower social class.
One night while I was in Madrid, before I was able to see a flamenco show, my señora was watching a children’s talent show from the south/Andalucía. Two little girls (they called themselves something along the lines of “azucar” or sugar…brown sugar and something? I forget…) were singing and clapping a flamenco song (I think they may have written it themselves). My señora turned to me and told me, “that is the music of bad people from the south. Only bad people sing that.” At that time I did not know much about the context of flamenco at all, so I was confused, but as I learned more about the oppression of the Roma culture, it made more sense to me!

Others view flamenco as something as 100% Spaniard…like they might with Bull Fights, Paella, and Sangría (like I had thought before living in Spain). The image of the dancer in the colorful dresses accompanied by guitarists and castanets is often tied to people’s schemas of Spain. This stereotype of Spanish culture is to the dislike of Spaniards in other regions who do not feel Flamenco is a representation of their own culture. It’s like going to Louisiana, or Texas, and expecting the same as you would in New York!!

Spain is very fragmented, as far as cultural identity goes, and there are many traditions throughout the peninsula, including dialects (not everyone speaks Spanish there as their first language!!) This fascinated and surprised me, since coming from Spanish classes just in the United States, you always seem to just learn that some people speak with the “th”, “lisp” sound, “theta” for “zeta” and they use the vosotros form.
Some examples: People from the Extramdura region may have blue eyes and possibly blonde hair, fair skin, etc. because the Visigoths had settled that part of the peninsula (my friend Carlos Moreno, a violin/viol luthier in Madrid was from Extremadura and had blue eyes, and he was telling me about his family tree).
People of the Basque country, were actually their own state for along time…and part of the Basque lands is in France also. These people were heavily oppressed, especially by the likes of the dictator, Franco. Their language is so old it’s not linguistically related to anything (Euskera). There is a saying there that jokes about how old the culture is. They sell pinxos instead of tapas, and they’re not free with drinks. Picasso’s painting “Guernica” (in Reina Sofia in Madrid, I had class there a few times) is about a horrible and tragic event dealing with Franco and Hitler.
Valenciano, Gallego, Catalán, Castellano (“Spanish”), Romaní/Calé, and Euskera are just SOME of the other languages spoken in Spain! If you have cable television there, you can channel surf and see the differences in languages of stations from different regions.
Here is a place where you can read some basic information about the regions, although it’s not too involved with historical information.


As far as cultural outsiders, there are also those who have made deep, symbolic connections between the dancers and flamingos, the guitarists and spiders weaving webs, and who analyze the music with analogies and symbols, like astrological and astronomical and mystical systems, that the Flamenco artists themselves do not discuss or feel they are connected to, a lot of which I found in the liner notes to flamenco records from the 1950s. In hindsight from over a half a century later, it seems quite ridiculous to me that “experts” on flamenco would come up with these “analyzations.” It’s one thing to have one’s own reaction to music, but it’s crazy to see how people try to speak for others without having a clear understanding of the “other” people.

Although I’ll discuss key concepts of flamenco at a later time, I can say definitively that…
a) Flamenco dancing is not trying to capture the image of a flamingo.
b) The guitarists are not the symbol of a spider weaving a web.
c) In all the analytical literature I have found from flamenco artists themselves, they NEVER mention anything about a pitch and rhythmic system devised around the zodiac.
d) Not all gypsy people are bad, like my señora had tried to tell me, and certainly not all flamenco artists are “bad.”


Malabarista de Semáforo
2007/04/15, 02:36
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

Malabarista de Semáforo (from De La Felicidad) is the piece I focused on for my project for the Global Music Education course.

The performance in class last week went pretty well (I transcribed about the first 40 seconds of the piece…covering the main themes but not overburdening myself with the solo sections, at least for the time being since it was just a short performance we were supposed to do). I really love this piece! Ara is awesome!

Attached is a .pdf of my basic analysis of the piece, along with some observations I noted about the violin and how Ara plays and sounds.

Pretty much I just noted the different sections that I heard and tried to describe them.

In the harmony section I am reading in the Teoría Musical de Flamenco by Lola Fernández, she writes that Flamenco uses the Modal System (Phrygian, majorized Phrygian, Ionian, mixed modes, Flamenco mode), Tonal System (Major and Minor), Modal+Tonal System (Flamenco mode with either a major mode/bimodality, or a minor mode).

Ms. Fernández refers to the (Mi)E Phrygian (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E), the “majorized” E Phrygian (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D#, E), and the flamenco mode (E, F, G#, A, B, C, D, E). If a triad is made of each step of the flamenco mode, the chords/triads are I – Major, II – Major, III – Major, IV – minor, V – diminished, VI – Major, VII – minor.

I believe that Malabarista de Semáforo is in the flamenco mode of Mi (or E), with some accidentals, ornaments and embellishments created by Ara Malikian and the guitarist José Luís Montón.

The flamenco rhythmic system is probably one of the very hardest for me to catch on to at this point. I understand it, but the application of it is very hard for me! I’m thinking that this particular piece is following a Soleá form, or at least from the family of the Soleá, but I may be wrong.

As for the title, I’m not quite sure how to translate it. “Traffic Light/Semaphore Juggler”, “Juggler of the Semafore” (???) Maybe it has to do with the traffic light alternating three colors like the juggler will juggle at least 3 balls or objects? Maybe in the piece it has to do with the alternating solo sections or how the two musicians perceived the form or structure? Or maybe none of what I am thinking? Ahh, who knows!


Some words to live by…
2007/04/06, 22:22
Filed under: Thoughts

I can always count on my best friend Lauren for thinking of and/or passing along words of wisdom. I am so lucky to have some of the amazing friends I have and she is definitely one of them. Here are some things to think about…

The Great Paradox

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend
more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses
and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more
degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more
experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
– – –
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too
little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too
tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
– – –
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our
values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
– – –
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years
to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We
conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things,
but not better things.
– – –
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the
atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan
more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We
build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies
than ever, but we communicate less and less.
– – –
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days
of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality,
one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from
cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the
showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology
can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to
share this insight, or to just hit delete.
– – –
Remember, spend some time with your loved ones because they are not
going to be around forever.
– – –
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
– – –
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you,
because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it
doesn’t cost a cent.
– – –
Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but
most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes
from deep inside of you.
– – –
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for
someday that person will not be there again.
– – –
Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the
precious thoughts in your mind.
– – –

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the
moments that take our breath away.
– – –
-George Carlin

and one that Audrey Hepburn is credited for reciting often (although she’s not the author):

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness…
For lovely eyes, seekout the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone