Cuatro Estilos Criollos - Guitar
This new assesment of the cuatro's history is based on findings indicating that within each tradition, the two cuatros differed dramatically in the number of their. The differences are such that it is difficult to explain how the two instruments came to share the same name for so long, but folk memory on the Island has fused two traditions into an apparently logical explanation. It is this confusion that gives rise to the frequently-asked question: "How come it's called a cuatro if it has ten strings? Read about other interesting cuatro variants.
The ancient tradition: The four-string Cuatro. The great four-and-eight string cuatrista Tuto Feliciano as a child playing his first "cuatro antiguo" According to Feliciano, who backed the famed singer Ramito, the instrument was still being played in by himself and others exclusively around the Yauco region He complained of its musical and technical limitations and admired the versatility of the modern ten-string form, although he didn't cross over to the ten-string form until Ramito himself demanded it of him.
The early tradition of the cuatro begins with the four-single-string cuatro, the oldest form of the instrument. The instrument's four strings--usually made of dried strips of small-animal guts or strips of rawhide were usually tuned,. The earliest way to play the instrument was to only fret the top three strings, E a d, relegating the fourth, the lowest pitch string, as a "pedal," that is, constantly playing in the background unchanged in pitch, like a drone. Its was a modal technique that dated to the 13th century. It is believed that the cuatro can be traced back in this configuration to the earliest days of the Spanish colonial times.
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It was tuned and strung in ways that were similar to the plucked instruments of 16th century Spain. Over the centuries rustic cuatros tuned this way with a keyhole shape were usually seen in the towns of the Island, brightening up both religious ceremonies and secular events. The instrument most often heard in the hills and remote outskirts was the tiny, simple tiple. In time, the cuatro's presence spread to all corners of the Island.
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The four-string cuatro--its strings made of gut--often played the part of the bombardin a small German tuba--also called Euphonium--which regularly soloed portions of the Danza in interludes called the bombardino in big-city Puerto Rican Salon orchestras of the 19th century, and at the same time was played by jibaros in the Island's most isolated communities. But they nonetheless had to overcome the considerable technical limitations of the ancient tuning scheme, which created formidable difficulties in it's execution.
These undoubtedly led to the instrument's ultimate demise in the 20th century, despite efforts to modernize its stringing as we will see below. The modern tradition: The ten-string Cuatro. The ancient cuatro tradition was alreay established across the Island when during the last half of the 19th century a new form of the instrument appears along the northern coast. The new form adopted many of the characteristics of contemporary string instruments visiting the Island from Spain, Italy and the United States.
These new instruments, also called "cuatro" borrowed the visitors' doubled-up metal strings. This is the form that has endured as the modern cuatro today.
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Elder musicians we interviewed from the Southern coast of the Island refer to the modern cuatro pejoratively as the "Spanish cuatro," saying "that cuatro isn't from here As we can plainly see, the early cuatro and the modern cuatro are two very different instruments. It is hardly likely, and probably incorrect to suggest that one derives from the other. Durin the first quarter of the 20th century, this new Puerto Rican instrument spreads along the Northern coast of the Island, while the four- and eight-string cuatro remain active, though moribund, in the Central and Southern regions.
We've theorized that during this same period the cuatro that was strung in the modern configuration which had from its inception been built with the same keyhole shape as the early cuatro adopts its new violin-shaped outline in the larger Northern cities of the Island. To his marvelous skill; to the pervasive impact of the new radio medium; and to the severe musical limitations of the tuning and stringing of the early form of the instrument, we owe the eventual ascendancy and the universalization of the modern cuatro in Puerto Rico.
It's a mystery how the violin-shaped, ten wire-string instrument retained the name cuatro , even though it shared hardly any legacy of the early cuatro, be it in its form, tuning or stringing. Perhaps because they shared all these similarities, Puerto Ricans bequeathed the same name cuatro to two instrument that were so very different.
The Early Rural string cuatros. These were the earliest cuatros with the modern tuning and stringing, yet they still retained the early cuatro's keyhole shape. A photograph of a rare relic of a very early violin-shaped string cuatro found in the United States. It's owner, a self-proclaimed expert on American Civil War artifacts, claimed that it was brought to the United States at about the time of the American Civil War.
If this were true it would upend many of the assumptions of the time-line of this instrument. We believe that the modern form of the cuatro which is so widely used by Puerto Ricans today, a ten-string instrument with inch metal strings and a violin-like outline, appeared early in the twentieth century in the northern-center coastal towns of the island. A modern cuatro made by webmaster William Cumpiano. The Eight-String Cuatro: the early cuatro's attempt at modernity.
For a relatively short period in cuatro history, a small crop of extraordinarily beautiful instruments emerged in the southern coast of Puerto Rico, in the region including the cities of Yauco and Ponce during the decades of Although recordings exist of the eight-string cuatro playing popular music, the instrument was most commonly heard in performance of what has been called Puerto Rican classical music: mazurcas, danzas, valses, fox-trots, polcas, pasillos and other otros salon-music genres. This new instrument form retained precisely the same string scale and tuning as its four-string cuatro antiguo forebear.
However, it differed significantly by its use of steel strings configured in four double-string courses. The eight-string cuatro also differed from the early cuatro in its shape, which we believe was inspired by the influx of North American mandolins that were currently in vogue across the Americas.
Cuatro Estilos Criollos - Guitar
Indeed its stringing was precisely the same as the mandolin: four doubled metal string courses tuned in unison. But just like its predecessor the early four-string cuatro, its ancient tuning scheme made the eight-string difficult to play by any but the most skilled players. So the instrument disappeared together with the obsolete four-string cuatro by the early s.
Gourd cuatro. String instrument soundboxes made from dried gourds proliferated during remote times in cultures of ancient West African civilizations. As a consequence, it is reasonable to infer that the Puerto Rican tradition of making stringed instruments using the dried out shell of the fruit of the gourd bush is derived from the cultural memories of enslaved West Africans that were brought to the Island before the twentieth century. Although this configuration is rare nowadays, cuatristas still play it and even the late, great Maso Rivera recorded an entire record album on a gourd cuatro.
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Maso Rivera dedicated an entire recording of tunes played on a gourd cuatro. A small number of extremely elegant eight and ten string cuatros were made during a brief period between the twenties and forties, we believe by Yauco artisan Juan Olivera and others, that were based on the wedge-semicircular form but varied distinctively by have a soft waist, rather than the sharp waist of its early cuatro forebears. The Cuatro Project recently acquired a relic of a "southern cuatro" recently to add to its instrument collection, as seen below:. Oriente Pasaje Arageo Suite Homenaje a Duarte Fantasia Pavana Giga Cuatro Valses Venezolanos Vals 1: Tatiana Vals 2: Andrena Vals 3: Natalia Vals 4: Yacamb Sonata Allegro Cancin Bolera Dos canciones de Cuna Ana Florencia Ana Cristina Ferdinando Carulli , was the true promoter of the Parisian "Guitaromania", his prestige remained unfortunatly and inexplicably tied for a long time to didactic production and to the well known "methods", op.
Nevertheless, thanks to a careful interest in recent years and the subsequent discovery of many unknown works, new light is shining on the composer. The present CD presents a significant selection of solo pieces that covers nearly all of Carulli's Parisian creative span. In addition, we find the special occasion to be able to listen some singular pieces for voice and guitar dedicated to the celebrated Madame Grassini Napoleonic "imperial singer". Get it here: www. Polonaise op.
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