- Lorca in Tune with Falla: Literary and Musical Interludes by Nelson R. Orringer
Manuel de Falla, Federico García Lorca, Poema del Cante Jondo, Romancero Gitano, La Vida Breve, El Amor Brujo, El Sombrero de Tres Picos, Noches en los jardines de España, Harpsichord Concerto, El Retablo de Maese Pedro, Soneto a Córdoba, Flamenco, Cante Jondo, Isaac Albéniz, Iberia, Sevilla, Granada, Andalusia, Nelson R. Orringer, Walter Aaron Clark
In their respective realms of literature and music, Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) and Manuel de Falla (1876–1946) are perhaps the two best-known and most respected figures that Spain produced in the twentieth century. And it is no coincidence that they were very closely connected, as they moved in the same cultural circles and shared a passion for the folklore of their native Andalusia. However, what this valuable volume teaches us is that we must learn to “listen” to Lorca and “read” Falla, in order to understand not only their respective works but also an entire epoch in Spanish arts and letters.
Orringer begins with an introduction examining the intersection of these two men’s lives and the impact they had on one another. They first met in Granada in 1919 and soon “developed a friendship, a deep affection and mutual respect” (13), hiking through the countryside to collect music and verse. These forays culminated in the First Cante Jondo Contest, devoted to flamenco “deep song,” which they organized in Granada in 1922. However, Falla and Lorca were not content merely to collect specimens of folklore, in the way one might collect butterflies. Rather, Lorca “imitated in poetry what Falla attempted in music by passing folk images through the filters of new avant-garde metaphors seeking the essences of their referents” (6). In this and other respects, both men were far ahead of the society in which they lived, as their attempts to rescue and rejuvenate Andalusian folklore [End Page 235] met with the “indifference or hostility of many Granadans towards their musical heritage” (7).
Lorca was himself an inquisitive and accomplished musician. He studied piano and also learned from local Gypsies how to play the guitar. In view of this, it comes as no surprise that he conceived of his poetry in a very musical way, as a succession of durations, articulations, intonations, and formal structures. Given Lorca’s close relationship with Falla, Orringer is on solid ground in asserting that “Lorca wrote much poetry and theatre ‘in the style of’ Falla” (18).
Chapter 1 lays bare the profound influence of music on Lorca even before meeting Falla. He studied the masterworks of the Central European Romantic tradition, as well as contemporary compositions by Debussy and Ravel. But his eventual acquaintance with Falla’s music would inspire nearly religious awe: “Falla is a saint . . . a mystic. I venerate no one like Falla” (35). However, unlike his idol, Lorca substituted for Catholicism “a personal religion of art, pan-erotic, intimate, and high-minded” (35). His faith in music led him “to establish analogies between poetry and music in verse and prose” (37).
Ensuing chapters take us on an intellectual odyssey through masterworks by both men. Chapter 2 searches for the “Andalusian wellsprings” of the Fantasía Baetica for piano and the “Baladilla de los tres ríos” from Poema del cante jondo (PCJ). In Orringer’s opinion, Falla and Lorca felt “torn between their attraction to the beauty of Granada and their aversion to what is merely picturesque about it” (52–53). Lorca’s transcendent vision of Granada leads him to compose works that are “no longer poetry that merely speaks of music, but verse that aspires to be verbal music” (53).
It is easier to invoke cante jondo than to explain it, for this type of music is an experience, not a thought; a feeling, not a theory. Chapters 3–5 continue to focus on PCJ, especially those parts inspired by the Siguiriya gitana, Soleá, and Saeta, the three most jondo of all palos (styles of song...