• Christina Pluhar on South America’s Living Baroque in the Cultural Melting Pot

    On March 14, with a host of guests—including vocalist Lucilla Galeazzi, soprano Raquel Andueza, and clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi—L’Arpeggiata performs improvisations and music from the Baroque, alongside the traditional South American folk music featured in their latest album Los pajaros perdidos. Here—from the liner notes from that album—L'Arpeggiata's Christina Pluhar delves into the close relationship between European baroque instruments and their modern South American counterparts.

    If one examines the numerous types of plucked instruments found in South America today, it is immediately obvious that they differ very little from their European Baroque equivalents.

    Before the Spanish colonization of South America, there were no plucked instruments in the indigenous culture. The South American arpa llanera, cuatro, bandolin, charango, jarana, and requinto as we know them today are direct descendants of instruments introduced from Spain, among them the lute, Baroque guitar, and Renaissance harp. The instruments used in South America today and their playing techniques have developed locally over the centuries and adapted to the indigenous songs, dances, and rhythms, but their ultimate ancestry remains unmistakable.

    If we now turn our attention to the origins and harmonic structure of South American dances and songs, it may generally be stated that their melodies and harmonies are close to Baroque models. There are also rhythmic features from Europe, such as the Baroque hemiola (when there are two measures in triple meter that are redistributed to sound like three measures in duple meter) and elements of flamenco music. Almost all the musical forms in South America have developed a polyrhythmic dimension that can be traced back to hybridizations of three cultures: Indian, Spanish, and African. Dance and song, originally considered a unit, only crystallized into separate art forms in the 20th century. From the harmonic point of view, Argentina has deviated the furthest from Baroque models, although traditional rhythmic patterns may still be observed in modern Argentinian musical forms.

    Click here to read Pluhar's in-depth account of the various instruments and styles > 


    Perspectives: L'Arpeggiata
    March 14, L'Arpeggiata: Los pajaros perdidos
    March 15, L'Arpeggiata: Via Crucis
    March 16, L'Arpeggiata: La Tarantella: Antidotum Tarantulae
    March 17, L'Arpeggiata: Los Impossibles: Spanish and Neapolitan Music from the 17th Century

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