Sanz, Gaspar - Zarabanda

Archive of on-line classical guitar lessons from previous years.
Forum rules
The classical guitar lessons are free. They are aimed at the isolated amateur who does not have access to a teacher. To join the class, apply for registration into the students group.

PDF, MP3, Vidéos, Lessons : Level D01 - Level D02 - Level D03 - Level D04 - Level D05 - Level D06 - Level D07 - Level D08 - Level D09 - Level D10 - Level D11 - Level D12.

Sanz, Gaspar - Zarabanda

Post by tomc » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:41 pm

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.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by tomc on Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Post by Trystramys » Tue Jun 06, 2006 2:21 am

all i can say is WOW! ...for both the explanation and mp3. :shock:

that was quite an enjoyable read, and the comparisons between the pieces were very interesting. i'll never be able to listen to a Sanz piece again without thinking of the 'whys' and 'hows', and the 'what's in a name?' phrase will echo in mind for sometime.

truly, that was an enjoyable read-and-listen for me, so a big THANK YOU for sharing this with us. :D

if you have anymore, please feel free to share. :D

User avatar
Jean-François Delcamp
Posts: 4530
Joined: Sun May 30, 2004 7:49 pm
Location: Brest, France

Post by Jean-François Delcamp » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:18 am

:bravo: Tomc

:idea: :arrow: Collection of classical guitar sheet music > [PDF] Gaspar Sanz: Zarabanda
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
:( + ♫ = :)


Post by tomc » Tue Jun 06, 2006 4:53 pm

My thanks Trystramys and JFD. I hope this doesn't get buried down here. :lol:

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:07 pm

Thanks Tom. I can't get that damn rhythm out of my head now, and I caught myself humming the tune to the baby last night as I was putting her to bed! :wink:

But seriously, thanks, this is well played (as always), and definitely catchy.

Also interesting. It wouldn't surprise me if Bernstein specifically had this Zarabanda rhythm in mind, considering his immesely broad musical knowledge and his tendency to sythnthesize many different styles into his music. And it is sung by an allegedly Spanish-speaking immigrant, so it's quite possible that he intentionally incorporated rhythms with a folk/Spanish feel.

Thanks for posting this. Although I have to say I'm not sure why it was moved. I would have missed it here if I hadn't seen it first in the Early Music forum...


Post by tomc » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:19 pm

You know Chris I searched around looking for a link to Bernstein and this particular Zarabanda and I could not find reference to it. But I looked because I also believed he knew it specifically. It was really quite exciting to me to have this thing come upon me. The H.I.P. forum didn't happen but it was encouraged to put whatever stuff that one came up with somewhere LOL, so I put it in Early Music. There is a thread in Public Space about the whole H.I.P. mess. Clemens was going to do something too but now has little incentive. I put this up because as I've said I finished it way back in April. Thanks and sorry about the earworm. :lol:


Post by Azalais » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:55 pm

I thank you so much for this Tom...

I feel as though Gaspar Sanz has been my teacher forever (Perhaps since the first time I heard my brother's Julian Bream (1965) and Narcisco Yepes (1968) LPs?) When I finally took up trying to play myself, I started with Sanz' 1697 book INSTRUCCION DE MUSICA SOBRE LA GVTARRA ESPAÑOLA (I'm still working on the translations :oops: and trying to record a few pieces)

The beauty of these pieces is that they are "approachable" for beginners, but they are so beautiful, that to play them well (with "deftness" as Sanz calls it) will keep me working for a lifetime. Even the deceptively "easy" pieces seem to get MORE complex as my level of skill slowly improves... It is a bit like working with a child's coloring book... when you are a rank beginner, you can scribble wildly and have a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, when you are in the "adolescent" phase, (where I probably am now) you become compulsive about staying within the lines and making it "representational"... and finally, when you reach various levels of maturity, (as I have heard others do) you can take the idea anywhere your inspiration leads you... even if it means going back to the Zen simplicity of the basic notes played in slow motion.

This Zarabanda was one of the first pieces that I tried to learn... and I STILL can't play it the way i WANT to... :roll: but I keep trying :oops:

Thank you again Tom. I really appreciate the work you have put into this and hope that we can keep doing more of these Early Music "tutorials".



Post by tomc » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:56 pm

Oh you're welcome Az :D

Florentin Tise

Post by Florentin Tise » Mon Jul 24, 2006 11:40 am

Thank you Tom for taking the time to provide this valuable information, and also for the beautiful playing.

I wonder if Bach was aware of the origins of the chaconne dance.


Post by tomc » Tue Jul 25, 2006 6:50 pm

You're welcome Flo.

Floretin wrote:

"I wonder if Bach was aware of the origins of the chaconne dance."
I don't know but I wouldn't put it past him.
Someone a while back here though did joke that if you played Bach's chaconne at double the tempo it would sound like a tango. so maybe he wasn't joking.
Actually I think if you check any given dictiionary, they do say "a dance, South American in origin." So, close enough LOL


Post by fuyioioih » Mon Apr 02, 2007 3:05 am

Here's a link to a Flamenco site where rhythm is discussed. It's the first place I've seen the various rhythmic forms explained. They are based in hemiola.
Where you start in the pattern determines the form. I guess it's similar to modes in scales.

Dave W


Post by Dave W » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:10 pm

Trystramys wrote:all i can say is WOW! ...for both the explanation and mp3. :shock:
that was quite an enjoyable read, and the comparisons between the pieces were very interesting. i'll never be able to listen to a Sanz piece again without thinking of the 'whys' and 'hows', and the 'what's in a name?' phrase will echo in mind for sometime.truly, that was an enjoyable read-and-listen for me, so a big THANK YOU for sharing this with us. :D if you have anymore, please feel free to share. :D
I gotta say that this excellent submission also works for me & I'll be coming back to this post & others in the topic area again & again. Thanks for your time & effort. Incidentally I'm working on some Sans at the moment, albeit from a Midi file, your example has extended my at this stage menial attempts.Gosh another target to aim at, they never stop. Cheers. :merci:


Re: Sanz, Gaspar - Zarabanda

Post by marcus.2 » Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:50 pm

Thanks a million. I Need to hear that Inspiration! Regards, marcus. :bravo:


Re: Sanz, Gaspar - Zarabanda

Post by Rospo » Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:54 am

:shock: :o :shock: ..... I found a appropriate word, I suppose..... BELLISSIMO :D
:bravo: and :merci:
Alex :bye:

Ole Thofte

Re: Sanz, Gaspar - Zarabanda

Post by Ole Thofte » Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:11 am

Thanks! That is an inspiring post. Hemiola... didn't know the concept until now, but I know West Side story from way back. I didn't really like the song though, wonder why? But I really like your process in discovering about the cultural, musical and religious connections in a historical context. And you've managed to really get thoroughly around the subject and create an interest in Sarabande and a new angle to Gaspar Sanz. I'd really like to see more posts like this, even if it takes an effort to read, reflect about it and search a little further on the net.


Return to “Classical guitar lessons archive”