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Rob

Posts: 60
Joined: Apr. 26 2004
 

How long is a piece of string? 

...or when is a piece finished?

As many of you will have gathered, I am fairly new to flamenco. Like most students of flamenco guitar I am getting swamped by the variety of forms, rhythms, falsetas, etc, etc. It seems we pick up bits here and there (a falseta from one player, a rhythm compas from another) and try to weave them together to form ‘our’ bulerias, soleares, etc.

In my previous incarnations as a lute/classical/blues player I was used to having a piece that I would learn from beginning to end: a self-contained unit which could include areas of improvisation. I’m used to changing the written score, and have played blues improv for years - so I’m not one of those more restricted classical players who need everything written out.

So when it comes to learning flamenco guitar, I’m faced with something a little different. The modular approach to composition seems the most common - assemble a dozen or so falsetas that sound nice together, throw in a few rhythm compases and, hey presto, we have a piece. The falsetas could be a mixture of traditional ones slightly adapted enough to convince ourselves that it is ‘our own’, and new ones which we call modern. But this modular approach is too easy, in one respect. What makes one falseta belong to one piece and not to another? They are so interchangeable. Very few players, even the greats, manage to transcend this structure. Vicente Amigo does, sometimes.

So I’m wondering, as I compile various falsetas, when one piece is finished and when another begins? Anyone else share this concern? Is the modular approach a constriction or a liberation?

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 6:39:54
 
Florian

Posts: 9240
Joined: Jul. 14 2003
From: Adelaide/Australia

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Rob .. I want so much to answer this question but i am not exactly sure what the question is. Can you word it differently or brake it down for me ?

I understand the points you are making above is just the question that has me scratching my head like i am an idiot .
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 7:48:48
 
Jon Boyes

Posts: 1377
Joined: Jul. 10 2003
 

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

quote:

ORIGINAL: Rob
So I’m wondering, as I compile various falsetas, when one piece is finished and when another begins? Anyone else share this concern? Is the modular approach a constriction or a liberation?


I think in flamenco the idea of a composition or set piece is mainly of use for didactic reasons, unless you are a soloist planning an album.

In other words, IMO a student studying soleares for the first time will benefit from learning a set sequence of of falsetas and rhythm compas, in order to get a feel for the compas as a whole, the accents etc, etc.

In the real world of performance, guitarists will 'compose' on the spot, drawing on their extensive volcabulary of falsetas to suit the situation (and obviously there are big differences playing solo vs accompanying, and for that matter accompanying baile vs accompanying cante).

Paco has probably composed hundreds of bulerias falsetas and I doubt he ever plays a bulerias the same way twice in concert. However, I am sure as far as his and other top soloists recordings go though, that their toques ARE more tightly arranged - mainly to avoid duplication of what they have already recorded.

This probably doensn't answer your question at all, does it...

Jon
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 9:19:27
 
Billyboy

 

Posts: 389
Joined: Aug. 18 2003
 

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Jon Boyes

Also I think you need to look at where the flamenco guitar came from, Baile and Cante, taking it out of context, ie solo works and the forms dont always make musical sense, especially if your listning habits have been main stream music, or 4/4 3/4 etc
Dave
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 10:06:45
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Billyboy

Hi Rob,
The main thing I've found out in this music is that you can never get satisfactory answers to questions, just opinions. LOL!
Another difficulty is in knowing the question to ask.
I think Dave made a good point in saying that a lot of difficulties arise from listening to Flamenco from a "western/classical" viewpoint.

I think the guitar in Flamenco can only really be understood in the context of supporting the cante or baile.
Solo guitar is a relatively recent thing, and even now, it is not rated all that highly by Spanish Flamencos (except other guitarists), even though it has been the main factor in Flamenco's huge rise in popularity outside Spain.
I remember reading a review of Paco Peña's first album by a Classical player, who commented that his pieces have a clear introduction, a middle and an end, unlike a lot of other Flamenco guitarists he had heard.
I have to agree with him here, as around that time quite a lot of solo guitar pieces I heard had some kind of an intro, then a string of falsetas, then just stopped. LOL!
The guitar has become infinitely more sophisticated now, with complex syncopation, chords and structure as well as requiring a near virtuoso technique even to get your foot on the bottom rung of the ladder as a professional.
Also, the solo artist is rare these days, being replaced by musical combos featuring other instruments, so a more structured arrangement is required.
I agree with Jon that a "modular" approach is helpful to us learners, as it's often the only way we can put something together to play.
But it's obviously not as simple as that, as you can't take a mixture of falsetas from say, PdL, Sabicas and Sanlucar and join them up, for even if they fit "technically", the overall piece won't scan.
I am totally amazed by the variations that guitarists come up with in exploring the tonal and rhythmic landscapes of the various toques.
As a learner myself, I tend to "modularize" stuff in order to get a grip on some of the material, but I have been listening to things, like certain "simple" Bulerias falsetas where the phrasing is 18 beats long etc, so the opportunities for creativity, both tonally and rhythmically are seemingly endless.

BTW I know this has not even begun to answer your original questions!

cheers

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 10:56:00
 
Rob

Posts: 60
Joined: Apr. 26 2004
 

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Yeah, I'm not sure what my question is either!

I'm just getting a little frustrated in nailing just what exactly flamenco guitar is all about - but I guess I never will!

I've listened to a lot of different styles of music - I even spent six weeks studying with Sufi musicians in Istanbul - so I do have an awareness of music other that 4/4. I guess that I am beginning to miss something in flamenco guitar, and that something might be what classical guys call 'motif development' - taking a melodic phrase and exploring it to death. Now I'm not saying that such a thing does not exist in flamenco guitar (clearly it does) but maybe it only exists on a micro level, whereas the outer form is not as developed (because if it was, it would run the risk of changing into something else).

Och, just ignore me! If Croatia beat England tonight I'll be my old self again in the morning!

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 15:10:18
 
Miguel de Maria

Posts: 3527
Joined: Oct. 20 2003
From: Phoenix, AZ

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Rob, flamenco guitar sucks... ask any cantaor or bailaor. One thing you'll get to hear over and over again is, "in Spain, the singer is ALWAYS the center of attention, not you, stupid guitarist, so just sit in the corner and drink your sherry." The guitarist is basically the jukebox for the rest of the party. Your falsetas exist to set the tone for the singer, to convince the drunken, hoarse-voiced Andalucian to get in touch with his darkest emotions. Your rasgeaduos are practiced just to help the dancer keep her rhythm. Only among other guitarists, us abused and disenfranchised folk, will you be admired for your composition skills. And come to think of it, guitarists are often quite forgiving of other guitarists. Maybe that's why a lot of flamenco pieces aren't really "composed" after all.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 15:19:11
 
Escribano

Posts: 6305
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

quote:

If Croatia beat England tonight I'll be my old self again in the morning!


Never forget an Englishman administers this forum I hope we lose just to cheer you up! Interesting thread though.

_____________________________

Foro Flamenco founder and Admin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 15:25:50
 
Jim Opfer

Posts: 1876
Joined: Jul. 19 2003
From: Glasgow, Scotland.

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Good thread Rob.

It's interesting to read your thoughts on what it all means, if anything?

I've never been interested in any other type of guitar playing, well, not totally true, I did dabble a bit in contemporary folk in my teens when I was learning chords and finger picking.

But it's always been flamenco that grabbed me. As you know, I've no formal training and know knowledge of musical theory so I just go through a process of finding and remembering things I like and disgarding things I don't.

When I play somewhere, I always find myself sitting on a chair and depending how I feel, I'll suddenly decide to play Solea or Tangos or something else. So I start without knowing were I'll go, I mean, I know a few routes but take decissions when I get to junctions. It's a bit scarry but the only way that I know. Sometimes it works and quite often it doesn't.

So my 'string' just sort of develops and I try to become detached and just play. I don't know the fingerboard well enough to be able to claim that I can compose on the spot, but I do try to respond to my impulses.

If I'm a bit nervous, I can simplify my playing and that's very very helpful till I feel fine and then I can open out more.

I read comments from some players on the Forum who learn a piece that's just on the edge of their ability and they perform in dread of the 'hard bit' 2/3 rds the way through in case they mess up. Well using my method, if I felt nervy, I'd just miss it out

I think the guys have made some really good points (above). Guitar IS the support act and to understand the complexity in your question, you should imagine a situation where you're playing folk guitar for some new American songwriter, except he will change the tune as he goes and you have to follow and he'll also throw in verses that he might make up there and then. He might want to speed up at the end or go slow in the middle, he can't tell you because he makes it up as he goes along. At the end he'll get all the applause.

Now to take that and do it as a solo!

Cheers
Jim.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 17:48:19
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Rob,
Once I read to my utter amazement on the back of an LP cover that Soleares, Alegrias, Bulerias was done to a 12 count cycle with the main accents on 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12.
I put my records back on and listened....
Viola! It all made sense now!
I had suddenly "cracked" the secret of Flamenco guitar....
From then on it was only a matter of working on the "fiddly" bits and getting my picado a bit faster and cleaner and I'd got it nailed.
That was 35 years ago..

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 21:05:38
 
Rob

Posts: 60
Joined: Apr. 26 2004
 

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Escribano

quote:

ORIGINAL: Escribano

Never forget an Englishman administers this forum I hope we lose just to cheer you up! Interesting thread though.


Damn...you won...misery misery misery....time for a siguiriya...

Only kidding...good luck with the rest of it.

As for my original post - I can't remember what the hell I was talking about.

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 21:13:58
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Ron.M

However.....
Despite more information available these days via Books, Videos, DVDs etc..
I see History still repeats itself....
'Cos it seems as soon as an average student these days has worked out the basic 12 beat compás the next challenge is to do a Bulerias in E Flat or B or something without a capo, 'cos this A and B Flat thing is just sooo...old hat!
(I'm not referring to you Rob, but just a lot of things I've read on the guitar forums in the last couple of years)

LOL!

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 21:14:45
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

Hey Rob,
Maybe Madeira will be saddened by her team's loss.
I think it would be a truly honorable duty as a friend and as a Scotsman to go round right now and comfort her?

Hmmm...


Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 21:54:02
 
Escribano

Posts: 6305
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: How long is a piece of string? (in reply to Rob

quote:

Damn...you won...misery misery misery....time for a siguiriya...


4-2 4-2 4-2, Rooney, Rooney, Rooney! For now

_____________________________

Foro Flamenco founder and Admin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 21 2004 22:08:58
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