The Fusion of so-called “Classical” and Folk Music – by Christine Gevert
Generally we expect to hear Western “classical” music in a concert hall or church, and assume that such a setting in which we are today is no proper place for folk music, which belongs to other more informal environments, and perhaps even social circles. In reality this is not quite so, as both genres are much more connected than we might think. While Western classical music is defined by having elements of complexity and formality, and therefore being written out, or notated since the 9th century, folk music is mostly a type of traditional and generally rural music that originally was passed down through families and other small social groups. Folk music, associated with paganism, was excluded as the Christian religion expanded in medieval Europe. But it was included again as the era of the Renaissance with its humanistic ideals began. It is then when folk tunes, texts, rhythms, and the harmonic progressions found their way back into sacred polyphony and secular vocal and instrumental compositions. This trend lessened over time during the Baroque era, and intensified again in the late 18th and during the 19th centuries when folk and rural aesthetic became popular, and nationalistic movements grew stronger in Europe. Something similar occurred in the New World throughout the colonization, and the development of the new American nations in the 19th century. The Western European culture and aesthetics merged with local indigenous traditions, and this fusion colored both the “classical” and the folk music. This subject is much deeper than what we are able to touch upon here, and it also includes the painful subject of the African slaves, who were brought to the American continent. Their cultural legacy plays an important role in much of the music that we so often simply call “Latino” (Latin American).
This program will explore a few aspects of this vast and complex fusion of styles, as well as how Latin American music evolved in different countries. The common denominator is the folk dance. We have chosen three Baroque works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philip Telemann that have a direct connection to Polish folk music. Their titles or movements contain direct allusion at the style: Concerto Polonois (“Polish Concert”) representing Telemann’s connection to Polish folk music, and the movements in Bach’s Orchestra Suite: Polonaise (a Polish dance, whose roots are folk wedding dances), and Badinerie (a French dance that evolved from an English country dance). The third Baroque work, the opening movement of Bach’s monumental sacred motet for double Chorus “Singet dem Herrn” (Sing to the Lord) in our own instrumental arrangement, uses the rhythm of the ‘polonaise’ as a tribute to his patron August III of Poland, as extensively explained by Polish musicologist and Bach scholar Szymon Paczkowski in his 2016 publication “Polish Style in the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach.”
From Latin America we present three contemporary works based on Latin American folk rhythms and tunes, and traditional Mexican, and South American folklore dance tunes in our own instrumental arrangements. Some of the harmonies and bass lines of the Mexican dances show a direct connection to the European Baroque. This inspired us to create improvisations in Baroque style on the bass patterns to introduce them. The connection to Europe is also evident in the use of the 19th century German Polka, which after being introduced by the colonizers became a popular Northern Mexican genre called “norteño.”
The History of Mariachi Music – by Job Salazar
The word mariachi’ appears to have originated from a now extinct language of the Coca Indians (one of the oldest indigenous groups living in what is now the state of Nayarit, Mexico). The mariachi is an ensemble, not necessarily a genre of music. The ensemble has evolved since its beginnings in the 18th century. It originally included stringed instruments, such as the vihuela (a 5-string guitar-like instrument, very popular in Spanish-Renaissance) guitarrón (a large fretless bass guitar), harp (a smaller one than the modern pedal harp), guitar, and violins. Played by an all-men-band, mariachi music began as performance of instrumental versions of sones (regional traditional folk tunes). Eventually at the beginning of the 20th century trumpets were added, and vocal songs became the essence of its repertoire, mainly sung by men.
Around the 1940’s women started to have a presence role in the mariachi, and by the 21st century women started to form all-female mariachi ensembles. Now many countries around the world have their own mariachi bands with musicians of non-Mexican descent.
The mariachi originated as consequence of the Spanish colonization in Mexico, bringing together the New and Old Worlds. While the colonization itself was troubling and dark for the Mexican people, the manifestation of a new cultural identity in the voice of the mariachi emerged as something utterly beautiful and full of life – a unique Mexican sound, a sound that represents the meeting of the Indigenous civilizations, of the African enslaved people, and the Spanish colonizers; a sound that has voices the hope and higher aspiration of humanity.
Latin American Dances and their Regional Differences – by Carlos Boltes
This program features some of the most popular genres of Latin American dance music: the huayno, the cueca and the salsa.
The Chilean cueca, the Argentinian zamba, and the Peruvian marinera are variations of the same dance, and all have the same origin: the zambacueca. The Peruvian zambacueca has elements such as African rhythms combined with Spanish Fandango and indigenous dances. In Chile the name was shortened and continued to evolve. One distinctive characteristic is its poly-rhythmic nature with three against two. After the 19th century Pacific War between Chile and Peru, the popular “cueca chilena” was renamed marinera in Peru to honor their naval combatants. In Argentina the same dance was named zamba and became much slower, perhaps as a result of the colder climate and the vast and lonely geography of the lowlands (pampa). The evolution of the cueca in Chile brought about many different versions of the dance. One of them is the cueca de salón – with greater Spanish influence and more refined to cater to the taste of the high society. Each of the national versions of the cueca dance is distinct and different.
The huayno (also huayño) is another very popular Andean folk dance, prevalent mainly in Peru, Bolivia and Chile, and their neighboring countries. The rhythm is long-short-short is an Afro-indigenous fusion: the African rhythm being much faster than the indigenous one of the Incas. In Argentina it is called carnavalito, and in Chile trote, which is even slower, as is the Peruvian version. Peru was the seat of the Spanish royal court, and therefore its music tends to be more refined, with stronger European influence. In Bolivia the indigenous influence prevailed. For example, the Peruvian charango (a small Andean stringed instrument of the lute family) is more similar to the Spanish guitar, while the Bolivian charango is more rustic, using an armadillo shell as its body.
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica “Classical Music”; Wikipedia articles “Folk Music”, “Polka”, “Polonaise”, “Cueca”, “Huayno”, “Mariachi”
About Perpetuo forever – by Dan Román (composer)
The Perpetuo Forever pieces are an attempt to meld two seemingly dissimilar musical traditions: minimalist and process music, with its repetitive ostinatos and gradual development, and folkloric and popular dance music emerging from Puerto Rico, which includes genres such as the Bomba, Plena, Salsa, and Mambo. These two traditions turned out to have great affinity to one another due to the use of layered rhythms and a sense of perpetual drive and reiteration.