This Workshop was proposed to be presented at the ISME CONFERENCE- BERGEN 2002- SAMSPEL. It was accepted but was not presented due personal reasons.


by Maria del Carmen Aguilar

Argentinian folk music, as well as all Latin American’s has its roots in a mixture of Spanish tradition, which was introduced into South America by the conquerors, and the music both of the native peoples and of the African slaves. Due to different  geographic, historic  and economical factors, these musical influences  were mixed in diverse proportions in each one of the South American regions. Because of this, though it is possible to point out some similar elements, each country and region has songs and dances  with special features.

African influence on Argentinian music can be find in the Candombe and the Milonga, two rhythms of the “urban” folklore, and on some rural rhythms which are played in the coastal area of the country.

Although a great part of the native people living in the Argentinina territory were exterminated at the time of the Spanish conquest is it possible to find some traces of their cultures on the Argentine folklore in some words and idioms in native languages, in some pentatonic melodies, in some dances and in certain instruments as the sikus (Pan flute) or the quena (reed flute that plays the pentatonic scale).

So, the origin of Argentine folklore must be sought in the Spanish music of the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries, the time when the conquest and colonization of the territory took place. From there comes the six-by-eight combined with three-by-four rhythms, the type of poetry that is used in the songs, the guitar and other chord instruments like the charango, the steps of some dances, and, of course, the Major-minor tonal system with some reminiscences of the mediaeval modes and related harmonic system. All this material was transformed and adapted to define some strong regional features that are very interesting to observe and offer a generous source of educational material.

The Choral Workshop

Community and school choirs can be sought no only as a recreative and social meeting point but as excellent tools for introducing people into the secrets of musical features. Choral activity is, in many cases, the only musical activity that many people can do. So, the educational role of the choir should be assumed as a responsibiliry by conductors and music teachers.

The harmonic features of music can be thaught easily through the choir activity, but  to do so, a programme of special exercises should be planned. Taking as starting point the normal ability for unison singing, the concept of harmonization can be introduced by focusing the perception on the bass-line that accompanies the melody. Improvisation of new melodies and elaboration of small arrangements on the same harmonic pattern, as well of the singing of canons and the accompaniment of melodies with parallel thirds allows the singers to understand the mechanisms of the harmonic device and prepares them for the study of more complex choral works.

Following these ideas, this workshop will be concentred in some Argentininan traditional folklore features that can be useful for the harmonic education of singers. Through the combination of simple harmonic patterns with interesting rhytmyc features, and vice-versa, Argentininan traditional music allows a great variety of exercises of vocal rhythmic improvisation, two and three voices singing, form perception and related dance activities.

The Vidalita is a slow Minor-Mode song performed in the Pampa region of Argentina. Its harmonic pattern shows the three main chords of the Minor Mode,  based on a three-beat measure. This song is usually sung by two voices in parallel thirds and has improvised lyrics on a four verses of six syllabes stanza.

Activities:       - improvisation on the rhythmic pattern of the lyrics
                        - harmonic / rhythmic pattern. Bass line
                        - singing in parallel thirds
                        - three voices singing (melody, parallel third and bass)

The Vidala is a slow type of songs performed in the Puna region (a 3,550 meter high plateau in the Andes mountains). These songs are always sung in parallel thirds, using a bi-modal scale: the upper voice sings in Dorian Mode (minor mode with a sharpened sixth degree) and the bottom voice sings in Aeolian Mode. They are played “a cappella” to the  accompaniment of a drum called “caja”.

Activities:       - singing and improvisation on the bi-modal scale
                        -  singing of a Vidala in parallel thirds

The Carnavalito or Huayno is a musical genre performed in the Puna region. Some Carnavalito also use the bi-modal scale but others develop their melodies on the minor- pentatonic scale. Pentatonic melodies are accompanied by the Minor-Mode normal harmony, which includes sounds that don’t belong in the  pentatonic scale. Theese songs are often sung with the accompaniment of guitar or charango (a small guitar made of the armadillo shell provided with 5 double strings) and percussion: “caja”or “bombo”( a big drum) and a bunch of goat’s hooves. The Carnavalito is also a free choreograhed dance.

 Activities:      - basic rhythmic pattern and basic step of the dance
                        - singing of the minor-pentatonic scale
                        - melody of a Carnavalito, harmonic accompaniment
                        - harmonic pattern of the Introduction to a Carnavalito. Vocal improvisation
                        - singing of a three part arrangement
                        - dance

The Gato is a song performed in the Central and Northern region of Argentina. It is also a dance, which is performed either by a couple -who do not hold each other- or by two couples placed at right angles. Its choreography is set and the musical form, i.e. the succession of sung and instrumental parts corresponds to the choreography. The rhythm makes use of the six-by-eight combined with three-by-four measures. The lyrics are loose stanzas using a combination of 7 and 5 syllabes, that are improvised in many cases, which means that there is not neccesarily any thematic relationship among them. The harmonic pattern consists in a four-bars module in Major Mode: I - V - V - I , which accompanies the melody of the strophes and allows to improvise in the Introduction and Interludes between the strophes.

Activities:       - improvisation on the rhythmic pattern in 6/8 crossed with 3/4
                        - basic step of the dance
                        - improvisation of lyrics
                        - vocal improvisation on the harmonic pattern: introduction, interludes and melody of the strophes
                        - auditive analysis of the musical form
                        - choreography of the dance related to the musical form
                        - singing and dancing of the complete Gato