Ideology, Identity, and Process

Nov 2023
10-minute read

In 1880, after playing some of the fragments of his trilogy Los Pirineos, the text by Victor Balaguer, Pedrell spent the better part of a year from August 7, 1891, to about June 6, 1891, composing the music to his trilogy, while at the same time taking notes that explained what methods he used and what was his mission. It is in his first publication in September of 1891, that we see a definitive starting point to a national ideology. Not only did he build on theoretical foundations but utilized foundations laid by other composers that would explain and embody the music of Spain.

According to Francesc Bonastre and Fracesc Cortéz, two Barcelona professors who rediscovered Por Nuestra Música and helped with the republication of this work, believed that this “book/pamphlet, could very well be the most important document in the Spanish culture, that helps musicians understand this Hispanic musical nationalism that evolved after the 19th century.” Through this particular work, Pedrell is about to then develop his compositional skills, which is very evident in Los Pirineos. Pedrell felt that he needed to explain why there was such a difference in the compositional styles of all of his previous works versus this one. It seems that, “he also saw a need to represent as a radical proposal for the future,” the future of music. Cortéz and Bonastre believed that “he wanted to be, fundamentally, a justification of the new direction that Spanish music would take in the operatic medium.” Pedrell believed that the “novelty of music lies above all in the elements used in the concept that surrounds them, whose organicity is enshrined in the European panorama of its time, with innovative and differentiated characteristics.” This work, Pedrell’s, Por Nuestra Música, has a very common link to the European national schools and their concepts of music composition, especially those of popular singing.

What is amazing about the process of translating his book, is that you not only see these popular elements, but you also see elements of traditional music/technique. Pedrell rationalizes how these two concepts can work together, but also how they are so different from one another. He does his best represent these aspects in the music of Los Pirineos.  I truly believe that like Cortéz and Bonastre, Pedrell “corrected the excessive evaluation of the originality of the music, made by romantic aesthetics, and anticipated some currents of musicology, which in turn relativizes the personal component of much of the music oh the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, while separating the language and technique from the universe of the creation itself.”  Not only do you see these elements in Pedrell’s trilogy, but you also see how he used Wagnerism, a phenomenon that started in the 1900’s and where Wagner’s operas served as models of incorporating concepts of elements in the music that were mythical in nature, erotic, and daring to say the least. This is very evident in the over structure of Pedrell’s compositions, which the additions of chromaticism, but also elements from the Italians, who at the time had invaded the Spanish music. It is not surprising that Pedrell adds these elements, especially since many composers embedded musical elements that were not of their own culture in their music, just like Renaissance composers like Du Fay or De Prez. It truly has been remarkable to be able to see this on each page that we have translated. 

As we move forward with the final translation of Victor Balaguer’s libretto to what Pedrell used to set the music to, we can see all of the elements listed above on a much deeper level.  It amazes me that Pedrell was able to take these elements and really try to give a name, a face to the, as sense of identity to the music of Spain and make it uniquely theirs.  We, over the course of these seven months, really tried to make sure that what Pedrell was trying to portray is done in the upmost delicate manner to ensure none of those elements are not lost. At times, the process to get everything put together seemed to be a slow one.  We had taken some time to adjust the sheet music that was transcribed from its original so that it looked as close to the original as possible.  We also worked on locating some of the older manuscripts that Pedrell used in his book to ensure that we have as clean of copy we can find from the older scanned manuscripts.  Our original timeline ran a bit behind schedule, but were hoping to eventually catch up by April. 

At work translating Los Pirineos. 

Collectively, myself and our two Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellows are working hard to get this finished as soon as possible, but we still needed to meet with the library to figure out what direction we wanted to go regarding any potential publishing aspects.  I still hope that as we continue with the research, we will be able to publish a hard copy of this amazing book, which would be a great tool that would be helpful to all major colleges and university in their efforts of performing Spanish music as authentic as possible. It would not only allow these programs to dive into proper technique but also portray the correct emotional aesthetics. 

This process has truly been a dream come true for me as an advocate for Spanish music, but also as someone who truly loves the stories, the culture, and the language. “In the manifesto 'For Our Music,' we also observe the sense granted by Pedrell to the relations between music and musicology, understanding the second as a science to the service of the first.” This ideal is not revolutionary, but it is also very different to what other schools in Europe were doing at the time. Pedrell truly wanted for the essence of the work to speak for itself. He wanted people to be exposed to it and find reasons to how this music, even music from before his time, should be performed:  giving attention to the details of the music and the text, which together work hand-in-hand to evoke all the elements of emotions and colors that speak to what the national style or sound of Spain really is like, speech that to the people of this region and captivated the very essence of their everyday life. 

This process has truly been exciting, and frustrating all in one, but it has fueled a fire inside of me, a sense of duty, really, to ensure that all of these elements are covered in every aspect of my performance and career as a vocalist, whose background very much comes from these pieces. This would not people possible if it were not for The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP and, most importantly, for my two wonderful students, Ashley, and Daniel for all of their hard work over these last two semesters of 2022–2023. 

Written by Melissa Gurrola, Faculty Fellow

El Paso Community College, The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP

Images courtesy of Melissa Gurrola.

Works Cited

Pedrell, Felipe. Diccionario biográfico y bibliográfico de músicos y escritores de música españoles, portugueses é hispano-americanos antiguos y moderno. Barcelona:Tip. de V. Berdós y Feliu, 1894. Microfilm.

 ________. Los Pirineos: Trilogia en 3 cuadros (actos) y un prólogo: poema Catalán de Victor Balaguer. Obra completa para canto y piano ed. Barcelona: Pujol, 1912.

 ________. Por Nuestra Música: Algunas observaciones sobre la magna cuestión de una escuela lírico nacional motivadas por la Trilogía (tres cuadros y un prólogo). Barcelona: Impr. de Heinrich y Ca, 1891.

 ________. Por Nuestra Música. 1891. Reprint, Publicacions de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: Bellaterra, 1991.


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