Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

A quick hello!
2007/11/15, 02:13
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed, Thoughts

So the last few months flew by very fast. The autumn has flirted with winter and summer here…strange temperatures and fluctuations…fickle weather of Central New York. One day it is sunny and pushing 60 degrees, when just a few days ago it was beautifully snowing (although nothing stuck). Most of the leaves are off the trees, and there’s that sweet smell of decay in the air. I went to Beaver Lake the other day with my friends and enjoyed a cheery yellow and red carpet on the forest floor.

Fall is my favorite time of the year in New York.

So anyways, student teaching has been quite the experience…and so has applying for graduate schools!
I’ve been trying to work on my arrangement of a mariachi song for string orchestra (and possibly harp, trumpet, voice, and guitar) and soon I will be preparing for presenting some of my research at the SAM conference in San Antonio!

As far as something flamenco related, I’ve heard wind of another flamenco violinist from Kristin Molnar…

That’s all for now! Time for working on graduate applications some more 🙂


Current happenings and reads…
2007/05/25, 19:28
Filed under: Global Music Ed

So a few more weeks have passed…final projects, final exams, graduation!!!, observations for student teaching…a very busy time! I’ve just been back and forth trying to keep up with practicing and my research, along with all the packing and unpacking (my least favorite thing in the world after doing laundry).

I’ve purchased two books with the last of my grant money that I plan on reading in the next month or so.
One is Song of the Outcasts: An Introduction to Flamenco by Robin Totton,
and the other is Princes Amongst Men by Garth Cartwright. (This book focuses on Gypsy musicians from the Balkan states, not southern Spain, but I figured because of the ties of being Gypsy and musicians, it would be eye opening for me and others).

I recommended Princes Amongst Men, based on the synopsis of the book, in the social justice unit I made for the end of the semester as a possibility for a cross-curricular collaboration with a literature circle in a reading/arts class. I will post the lesson eventually, and plan on reading the book to see how it can be utilized even better.
The Totton book I found about a week and a half ago online and thought it would be great for me to read it to have a better understanding.
I’ve started with the Totton book, about two chapters. I like it so far because the author is trying to delve under the surface of the commercialized flamenco, and stresses his place of a cultural outsider who has had the fortunate opportunity to be accepted into the gypsy community and has worked to have a better understanding of their lives and how flamenco music is a part of it. I can already say that this will be one of my recommended books.

After observing with one of my sponsor teachers for next semester’s student teaching, I’m getting really excited to try and make an arrangement of a piece for string orchestra that can be used as a learning tool to introduce flamenco concepts to students in a string ensemble setting.
I also received Sibelius notation software in the mail yesterday, so that is equally exciting!

I’ll definitely want feedback about the lesson plans and everything once I post them, so if you read this and know anything about flamenco, be ready!

I’m still here! …Flamenco as social justice?
2007/05/03, 13:44
Filed under: Global Music Ed

So I had a brief hiatus… three very busy weeks with rehearsals, concerts (one with Leon Fleischer!!), my own hour recital, projects, presentations, you name it!

But anyways, I’m contintuing focusing on flamenco for another project in Global Music Education, dealing with social justice this time. I want to learn more about the social problems that exist with their culture clashing with Spain and other western ideas about not being nomadic and “democracy” and all these things. What I will be doing is devising a lesson plan (or unit) that will cover flamenco and social justice issues and then having it critiqued by the class. I feel that these issues are important to understand the cultural context of the Roma people.

That being said, I’m interested in trying to find a variety of mediums to explore this. Are there any recommendations for novels, books fiction and non-fiction, articles, movies, shows, plays…other types of art that I can couple with the music and use to help people explore this culture?
I would particularly be interested in showing both sides…so if there’s literature, a movie, or anything else (especially if it’s in Spanish or English) that comes from either the Roma point of view, and/or from an outsider’s point of view, I would love to know!! I think it would be highly valuable to show BOTH sides.

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!


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”].

Flamenco Violinists
2007/03/30, 03:46
Filed under: Flamenco Violin, Global Music Ed

It’s kind of funny that I picked flamenco violin to investigate. Most people haven’t even heard that it exists, but for some reason I just figured…why not!? It’s like I was blindfolded and found my way instinctively across a busy street!  A friend of mine and Giovanni’s, Chris, showed me some of his flamenco CDs and told me about The one interview on with Ara Malikian is what started me on the search of who was out there in the flamenco violinist world…if that even existed!

The following are violinists (or bowed string players) that I found by…
a) searching the musicians database on,, and
b) asking around in Madrid and looking in the Guía del Ocio. One of the guitar luthiers (José Romero) had a musicians database that listed just Ara Malikian and David Moreira under flamenco violinists.
c) Granada (Gran Vía Discos flamenco store). I asked the clerk…”show me the flamenco violinists,” and her reply was…”Well…Ara Malikian…He’s the only one!” (Later I find out, he’s practically the only SOLO flamenco violinist…many of the others collaborate with other musicians/groups, or kind of freelance and experiment with it).
d) Other websites like,,, and

** Ara Malikian (Armenian, moved to Spain in 1999) [Sample recordings: De La Felicidad and Manantial]
** Bernardo Parrilla (Born in Cádiz of Gypsy family, brother plays flute in flamenco.) [Sample Recording: Tomatito’s Guitarra Gitana ]
** David Moreira (plays for Casa Patas tablao) [Sample DVD: Casa Patas – Furia Maya].
** Luca Ciarla (from Italy,, [Sample Recording: Rosso Gitano]
** Laurence Stevenson (Roger Scannura and Ritmo Flamenco,, [Sample Recordings: ¡encore! and Noche Flamenca].
**Kristin Molnar She’s got quite the biography! (Born in Paris to Hungarian and Roma/Gypsy parents and began violin at age 4. Has been featured with flamenco group in Montreal, Peña Flamenca.
Alexis Lefevre (Born in Paris, raised in Italy, 2000 moved to Seville)
Jallal Chekkara (violin, lute, cante)(Moroccan (Tetouan), father and grandfather very involved with the music scenes in Morocco and Andalusía)
Nicasio Moreno (cello, 1989 Arte y Artistas, Catalina’s page)
Batio (cello, listed in Casa Patas flyer).
Faiçal Kourrich (found on A Moroccan violinist who has collaborated on some flamenco works).

I have had the pleasure of being able to communicate through emails with Roger Scannura, Luca Ciarla, and Kristin Molnar, and hope to be able to talk with them more along with contact a couple other players!

Neptune KristinMolnar LaurenceStevenson LucaCiarla

I’ll write more about their playing in the future!