My interest in Sanz’s Zarabanda started innocently enough with noticing its use of the hemiola device.
For those not familiar with the term, hemiola is a re-articulation of notes within a given meter where say 3 notes are played in a time allotted to 2 notes or vice versa. It takes its name from the Greek word hemiolios or 1 and a half. This little Sanz piece uses a distribution within ¾ of essentially a measure of 6/8 followed by a measure of ¾ so, 123 123 12 12 12. The 6/8 measure has 2 strong beats with the ¾ measure following 3 strong beats. Three (3) divided by 2 and you get 1 ½.. Many confuse the effect with polyrhythm but while polyrhythmic pulses are implied, only one “line “ is going on. There are sections in the middle of Sanz’s Canarios that use hemiola but that piece is mostly 6/8. This zarabanda uses the effect throughout. Then, further whetting my interest, there was the name Zarabanda which sounded at least related somehow to the more familiar Sarabande. Just playing around at my desk and beating the thing with my fingers faster and faster and then just tapping the accented notes something familiar clicked at just the right tempo. It was Bernstein, West Side Story, America as in I like to BE in a MER I CA, the same hemiola as the Sanz Zarabanda but way up-tempo. Could there be a connection?
Even though a Broadway show, Bernstein, the trained classical musician, had to do some bit of research I’m guessing about Caribbean music before undertaking WSS. As for myself, not quite as well-trained, I went the other way into the past with Sanz looking for what my musical intuition thought might have black roots. Everything I found pointed to the same answer, that is that hemiola was introduced to Spain in the early 16th century but by whom? And that the Zarabanda was considered to be a dance thought to be immoral and “probably introduced from Central America.”
The Zarabanda was mentioned by Cervantes as being “invented in hell” The singing and dancing of the style had been banned first in 1538 for obscenity, then again in 1585 and 1630. I wondered why the thing required re-banning every 50 years or so. It must have been something good! The dancing of it was “furious” utilizing percussion and castanets. Guitar accompaniment when danced and sung, was strummed, no fingerstyle here. This was starting to look very flamenco. Flamenco I was sure though had Gypsy and possible Moorish connections. I re-checked my poor knowledge in that area and found that flamenco is a fusion art comprised of (cante gitano) gypsy songs and Andalucian folk music, Jewish music etc. and had been known to that region of Spain as far back as the early 16th century, so possibly something from the New World had been thrown into the fusion mix.
I had known and remembered that the Chaconne (Fr.) also had roots in the New World as another “lewd dance” danced and sung to off color lyrics mocking the clergy or just being a vehicle for life affirmation (rocking out 1530’s style?)
Vida vida vidita bona, bamonas a chacona, vida vida vidita bona, bamonas a Castilla or Life, life good life, let’s dance the chaconne, life, life good life, let’s go to Castille. I had been using older sites of Spanish musicology to not much avail, then I stumbled on some recent publications. Janheinz Jahn, art historian and literary scholar 1918-1973, states in his 1961 book Muntu: African Culture and The Western World,” the Chacona was a dance and musical form learned by Spanish settlers from African Slaves in 16th century Cuba and taken back to Spain.” The first slave ships arrived in Cuba in 1522. (Wik.)
Taken back it was “cleaned up” over time until formalized in European terms to a “slow dance in triple time with a theme of 4 measures done as a set of variations on a harmonic progression.” And here I had thought the British invasion bands of the 60’s had exploited black music! Could I find a similar link to the Zarabanda? The key was before me in the name itself and Africa. The European Sarabande was also,” a slow dance in triple meter and sometimes having the distinctive feature of having the 2nd and 3rd beats tied giving it a feel of a quarter note and a half note in alternation.”(Wik.) Had the European Sarabande been the “cleaned up “ version of the “invention from hell”?
Zarabanda as I’ve noted provided the clue, in Ned Sublette’s book, Cuba And its Music: From the First drums to the Mambo, “as in the case of the sarabande, a European "classical" dance and music that Sublette traces to Zarabanda, the Congo god of iron, rendered as music in Cuba, then exported to Spain, "through the servant's entrance, of course." (As an aside Zarabanda, the god of Iron is also powerful medicine against voodoo.) That solved, the few musical examples I found even those utilizing a guitar (Baroque) similar to that of Sanz shows a Zarabanda while still retaining the hemiola effect already in the process despite its European bannings, of getting “cleaned up” In all likelihood those first Spanish settlers were not afforded instrumental examples of these rhythms but rather vocal chants in hemiola. It was probably a simple enough rhythmic device compared to the probable other, more difficult ones the settlers heard that could be understood by them. I remembered an African cyclic rhythm taught to me by a boyhood composer friend . The chant is based on 5 syllables, in this case changed to English as, All We Can Do Is. All, the first syllable gets 2 beats with the remaining 4 getting 1 each so a total of 6 beats in the first line of the cycle. In the next line all goes to one beat and WE gets 2 beats. The line still totals 6 beats. This continues in succession until IS is reached. On that final line Is will get 3 beats so 6x4 +7 for the last line, a beat cycle of 31 beats! The word getting extra beats 2 or 3 as the case may be gets a strong vocal stress. I had a hard time doing it really quickly. I asked him how fast it should be done, “As fast as possible is good” This, I was also told, was a basic rhythmic pattern and not very complex. Doing it under my breath on public transportation in the 70’s it’s no wonder I always kept an empty seat next to myself on the train. LOL
I recorded no less than 6 examples of this piece before choosing one of a tempo far more moderate than would be found in its original (slave) form. The unusual trilling on opening and middle figures to my ears sounded like the roll of castanets and indeed they were used in this dance. I did hear a version on the net about the same tempo as the one I’m doing here using that half empty measure to tap on the guitar (golpe?) or perhaps a space for zapateado? (boot taps) I did one like that and rejected it. There are also the measures at the end which beckons the player with a woman’s voice soaring up the fingerboard to play lyrically which I also did. Basically like the Albeniz version of Sevilla which I believe is a classical musicians stylized impression of the Sevillanas and not to be taken literally AS a Sevillanas, this zarabanda is an impression as well by Sanz, trained in music along with Corbetta in Europe. It’s a dance for the mind, the real Zarabanda I believe, is probably the one, up-tempo and furious with hand clapping that takes place in West Side Story.
As an addendum I inserted in front of the Zarabanda what I’m calling a Zarabanda Rustica or rustic Zarabanda using Sanz’s chord pattern of D G D A at the tempo of Bernstein’s number and strummed as was done when it was done as a dance and song with percussion etc. It is perhaps what Sanz heard or something similar The version that the first whites heard from the slaves as was mentioned likely a vocalization but as to what it actually sounded like, that, we’ll probably never know.
I wrote and made this mp3 in April I think and as the proposed H.I.P. forum didn't happen, I'll offer this here with my dedication to and thanks to Azalais in helping me through my ongoing computer retardation and for other material she kindly provided for me. Oh and that should be Espagnol not Epagnol you see. Actually it should be Espanol but hey i'm Italian.
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Last edited by tomc on Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.