A Trilogy of Arts The development of Flamenco can be thought of and understood as three distinct but complementary styles that fuse in the service of the flamenco way of life . Through song, dance, and rhythms, the flamenco’s conception of self and mode of existence is celebrated.
The development of Flamenco can be thought of and understood as three distinct but
complementary styles that fuse in the service of the flamenco way of life. Through song,
dance, and rhythms, the flamenco’s conception of self and mode of existence is celebrated.
During quieter moments shared over a bottle of sherry, there may be recitation of
poetry in the presence or absence of guitar. The modern influences of world music,
especially jazz, add still more variation in instrumentation, such as flute, bass guitar
and a hollow wooden box called a cajón.
A Musical Journey Through Andalusia
Without the song, flamenco would
not exist. It is by far the most
integral and important aspect of
the art, respected above both the
dance and the
guitar by nearly all aficionados.
AestheticsFor those accustomed to the sounds of Western singing, flamenco singing might better be described as wailing. A smooth, velvety voice is not considered ideal. Rather, the ideal voice of a cantaor is rough and scratching. It has been described as “the howling of wolves in the Tundra.” The voice is often cracked and split, and has a hoarse, sharp, and grating quality to it. This is called “voz afila,” and represents the strong historical and social oppositional nature of flamencos. The experience of flamencos has always been against the grain, and this mode of existence is mirrored through not only lamenting lyrics but also the texture and quality of the voice.
PitchesFlamenco singing does not always consist of pitches that are recognized as degrees of a tonal scale. Rather, the singer weaves around pitches, utilizing quartertones while pushing or pulling the emphasis to enhance the emotional expression of the song.
The goal of the dancer is to
reveal in a physical
form what emotion is
being expressed through
the singer and guitar.
movements are integral to a
good performance of any
flamenco dancer. It is through
these embodiments that
bailoras reveal their pain, sorrow, joy, or happiness
at specific moments of a song.
BodyAll movements are improvised within the structure of a song form. Movements differ, though all share a common grace. Upper body movements are purposely constrained. Flamenco, in contrast to ballet, is a heavier, earth centered dance that is based on mature eroticism, and as a result we do not see light or airy jumps. This demonstrates an acceptance, rather than a rejection, of gravity.
Feet Stamping feet (zapateo), another component of the Flamenco dance, anchors the baile. Originally performed barefoot, heelwork is now important for its rhythmic contributions in addition to dance patterns.
The unsung hero of
is the guitarist. In the
mind of a flamenco, the
guitar exists in the
shadow and the service
of the singer
and dancer, although
is now becoming more
guitar is known for
Intricate right-hand technique, whose purpose
lies in the enhancement and support of the overall rhythm. A specific technique, rasqueado, is characterized by rolling chords.
ImprovisationThe guitarist must be familiar with all song forms as well as basic chord progressions within each form, as everything else is improvised, taking cues from both singer and dancer. Usually, this takes place in the Phrygian mode.
Research conducted by Sara Hughes primarily through
ethnographic field research in Spring 2004 in Seville, Spain
under the direction of Dr. Christopher Smith.
A Way of Life
When asked what flamenco is, an artist will often reply that flamenco is a way of life rather than a form of music. It is true that Flamenco is not easy to define. It cannot be transcribed in the western musical system because of its diversity in mode, tone, and rhythm. More importantly, emotional nuances and stresses of the expressive forces that are the spine of flamenco cannot be notated. Flamenco is a direct and sincere expression of fundamental human sentiments.
The art form saturates the province, and can be heard raining through loudspeakers in supermarkets as well as microphones at clubs and theatres every day of the week. Rhythms ingrained in the hearts and minds of the Sevillanos are clapped out by old men standing behind newspaper stands and young people riding the bus on their way to school. Flamenco can be found in any of Sevilla’s 300 city plazas. For the Sevillanos, Flamenco's profound expression of sorrow and joy is more than an electrifying song and dance form; it's a way of life.
Spanish poet Garcia Lorca once wrote that duende, the mysterious, untranslatable emotional charge that gives flamenco its overwhelming power, emanates from "the final blood-filled room of the soul.”
Today Flamenco is evolving at an unprecedented rate due to changes in Spanish politics, global economics, and global media. Flamenco is often fused with Jazz, hip hop, African and Cuban rhythms and others. These new approaches to Flamenco are called Nuevo Flamenco, the next phase in Flamenco’s evolution.
Other Rhythmic Components
Palmas- Polyrhythmic patterns are clapped out by audience or ensemble members.
PitosFinger snapping, tongue clicking, and even knuckle or fingernail drumming on a tabletop, are all examples of pitos.
CastanetsThese are a Spanish-classical influence and are played in some dances, including the Sevillanas.
Jaleo Anyone present during a flamenco performance may often shout words of encouragement. Some popular phrases to shout are “ESO ES!” “OLE!” and “Que Toque Bien!”
Example of the overlaying rhythms of the buleria.
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Basic rhythmic pattern: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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Parallel rhythm: 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
Map by Paco Sevilla