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The Music of Spain has a vibrant and long history which has had an important impact on music in Western culture. Although the music of Spain is often associated with traditions like flamenco and the spanish guitar, Spanish music is in fact incredibly diverse from region to region. Flamenco, for example, is an Andalusian musical genre, which, contrary to popular belief, is not widespread outside that region. In contrast, the music of Galicia has more in common with its Celtic cousins in Ireland and France than with the unique Basque music right next door. Other regional styles of folk music abound in Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile, and Asturias. The contemporary music scene in Spain, centered in Madrid and Barcelona, has made strong contributions to contemporary music within the areas of Pop, rock, hip hop, and heavy metal music. Spain has also had an important role within the history of classical music from Renaissance composers like Tomás Luis de Victoria to the zarzuela of Spanish opera to the passionate ballets of Manuel de Falla and the guitarist Pepe Romero.

opera classic music musica clasica placido domingo montserrat caballe placido domingo
Early history
In Spain, several very different cultural streams came together in the first centuries of the Christian era: the Roman culture, which was dominant for several hundred years, and which brought with it the music and ideas of Ancient Greece; early Christians, who had their own version of the Roman Rite; the Visigoths, an East Germanic tribe who overran the Iberian peninsula in the fifth century; Jews of the diaspora; and eventually the Arabs, or the Moors as the group was sometimes known. Determining exactly which spices flavored the stew, and in what proportion, is difficult after almost two thousand years, but the result was a number of musical styles and traditions, some of them considerably different from what developed in the rest of Europe.

Isidore of Seville wrote about music in the sixth century. His influences were predominantly Greek, and yet he was an original thinker, and recorded some of the first information about the early music of the Christian church. He perhaps is most famous in music history for declaring that it was not possible to notate sounds—an assertion which reveals his ignorance of the notational system of ancient Greece, so that knowledge had to have been lost by the time he was writing.
Paco de Lucia, spanish guitar guitarra española

Under the Moors, who were usually tolerant of other religions during the seven hundred years of
their influence, both Christianity and Judaism, with their associated music and ritual, flourished. Music notation developed in Spain as early as the eighth century (the so-called Visigothic neumes) to notate the chant and other sacred music of the Christian church, but this obscure notation has not yet been deciphered by scholars, and exists only in small fragments. The music of the Christian church in Spain is known as Mozarabic Chant, and developed in isolation, not subject to the enforced codification of Gregorian chant under the guidance of Rome around the time of Charlemagne. At the time of the reconquista, this music was almost entirely extirpated: once Rome had control over the Christians of the Iberian peninsula, the regular Roman rite was imposed, and locally developed sacred music was banned, burned, or otherwise eliminated. The style of Spanish popular songs of the time is presumed to be closely related to the style of Moorish music. Music of the King Alfonso X Cantigas de Santa Maria is considered likely to show influence from Islamic sources. Other important medieval sources include the Codex Calixtinus collection from Santiago de Compostela and the Codex Las Huelgas. The so-called Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (red book) is an important devotional collection from the fourteenth century.

Renaissance and Baroque

In the early Renaissance, Mateo Flecha el viejo and the Castilian dramatist Juan del Encina rank among the main composers in the post-Ars Nova period. Some renaissance songbooks are the Cancionero de Palacio, the Cancionero de Medinaceli, the Cancionero de Upsala (it is kept in Carolina Rediviva library), the Cancionero de la Colombina, and the later Cancionero de la Sablonara. The organist Antonio de Cabezón stands out for his keyboard compostions and mastery.

Early 16th century polyphonic vocal style developed in Spain was closely related to the style of the Franco-Flemish composers. Melting of styles occurred during the period when the Holy Roman Empire and Burgundy were part of the dominions under Charles I(king of Spain from 1516 to 1556), since composers from the North both visited Spain, and native Spaniards travelled within the empire, which extended to the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Music for vihuela by Luis de Milán, Alonso Mudarra and Luis de Narváez stands as one of the main achievements of the period. The Aragonese Gaspar Sanz was the author of the first learning method for guitar. The great Spanish composers of the Renaissance included Francisco Guerrero and Cristóbal de Morales, both of whom spent a significant portion of their careers in Rome. The great Spanish composer of the late Renaissance, who reached a level of polyphonic perfection and expressive intensity equal or even superior to Palestrina and Lassus, was Tomás Luis de Victoria, who also spent much of his life in Rome. Most Spanish composers returned home late in their careers to spread their musical knowledge in their native land or at the service of the Court of Philip II at the late 1500s.

18th to 20th centuries

By the end of the 17th century the "classical" musical culture of Spain was in decline, and was to remain that way until the 19th century. Classicism in Spain, when it arrived, was inspired on Italian models, as in the works of Antonio Soler. Some outstanding Italian composers as Domenico Scarlatti or Luigi Boccherini were appointed at the Madrid court. The short-lived Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga is credited as the main beginner of Romantic sinfonism in Spain.

Fernando Sor, Dionisio Aguado, Francisco Tárrega and Miguel Llobet are known as composers of guitar music. Fine literature for violin was created by Pablo Sarasate and Jesús de Monasterio.

Zarzuela, a native form of light opera, is a secular musical form which developed in the early 17th century. Some beloved zarzuela composers are Ruperto Chapí, Federico Chueca and Tomás Bretón.

Musical creativity mainly moved into areas of folk and popular music until the nationalist revival of the late Romantic era. Spanish composers of this period include Felipe Pedrell, Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, Joaquín Turina, Manuel de Falla, Jesús Guridi, Ernesto Halffter, Federico Mompou, Salvador Bacarisse, and Joaquín Rodrigo.


Main article: Flamenco
Flamenco is an Andalusian traditional folk music. It consists of three forms: the song (cante), the dance (baile) and the guitar (guitarra). The first reference dates back to 1774, from Cadalso's "Cartas Marruecas". Flamenco probably originated in Cádiz, Jérez de la Frontera and Triana, and could be a descendant of musical forms left by Moorish during the 8th-17th century. Influences from the Byzantine church music, Egypt, Pakistan and India could also have been important in shaping the music. Many of the details of the development of flamenco are lost in Spanish history. There are several reasons for this lack of historical evidence:

Flamenco sprang from the lower levels of Andalusian society and thus lacked the prestige of art forms among the middle and higher levels at this time of persecution. The turbulent times of the people involved in flamenco culture. The Muslim Moors, the Gitanos and the Jews were all persecuted and the Muslim Moors (moriscos) and Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. The Gitanos have been fundamental in maintaining this art form, but they have an oral culture. Their folk songs were passed on to new generations by repeated performances in their social community. Non-gypsy Andalusian poorer classes, in general, were also illiterate.

Lack of interest from historians and musicologists. "Flamencologists" have usually been flamenco connoisseurs of no specific academic training in the fields of history or musicology. They have tended to rely on a limited number of sources (mainly the writings of 19th century folklorist Demófilo,[1] and notes by foreign travellers. Bias has also been frequent in flamencology. This started to change in the 1980s, when flamenco slowly started to be included in music conservatories, and a growing number of musicologists and historians began to carry out more rigorous research. Since then, some new data have shed new light on it. (Ríos Ruiz, 1997:14). Main stream scholars recognize all these early influences but consider flamenco as an earlier 19th century performance stage music as tango or fado.

There are questions not only about the origins of the music and dances of flamenco, but also about the origins of the very word flamenco. George Borrow writes that the word flemenc is synonymous with "Gypsy"). The word flamenco also means Flemish in Spanish. Some claim that Spanish Jews in Flanders were allowed to perform their music without oppression, and Gypsies that had fought there with distinction in war on behalf of Spain were rewarded by being allowed to settle in Andalusia. Blas Infante, in his book Orígenes de los Flamencos y Secreto del Cante Jondo, controversially argued that the word flamenco comes from Hispano-Arabic word fellahmengu, which would mean "expelled peasant" after the end of the Moorish reign. Some Turkish musicians proudly claim that the world flamenco comes from a character named "Falah Menge", supposedly an Arab gipsy from Turkey who brought the sound to Andalusia. This claim has not been proved, and there is no evidence of the existence of this musician.

Pop Music

Although Spanish pop music is currently flourishing, the industry suffered for many years under Francisco Franco's regime, with few outlets for Spanish performers during the 1930s through the 1970s. Regardless, American and British music, especially rock and roll, had a profound impact on Spanish audiences and musicians. The Benidorm International Song Festival,founded in 1959 in Benidorm, became an early venue where musicians could perform contemporary music for Spanish audiences. Inspired by the Italian San Remo Music Festival, this festival was followed by a wave of similar music festivals in places like Barcelona, Majorca and the Canary Islands. Many of the major Spanish pop stars of the era rose to fame through these music festivals. An injured Real Madrid player-turned-singer, for example, became the world-famous Julio Iglesias.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, tourism boomed, bringing yet more musical styles from the rest of the continent and abroad. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that Spain's burgeoning pop music industry began to take off. During this time a cultural reawakening known as La Movida Madrileña produced an explosion of new art, film and music that reverberates to this day. Once derivative and out-of-step with Anglo-American musical trends, contemporary Spanish pop is as risky and cutting-edge as any scene in the world, and encompasses everything from shiny electronica and Eurodisco, to homegrown blues, rock, punk, ska, reggae and hip-hop to name a few. Artist like Alejandro Sanz, have become successful internationally, selling million of albums worldwide and winning major music awards such as the coveted Grammy Award.

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