The ideological roots of neopopularism can be found in the German romantics, who translated Spanish romances a century before Menéndez Pidal. The larger context for Lorca’s recuperation of folk music and poetry is a movement in European (and American) culture that inserts folk traditions into elite forms of poetry and music. In this talk I want to concentrate on the musical part of this legacy. Significant composers who form part of this tradition include Rimsky-Korsakov, Isaac Albéniz, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, Igor Stravinski, and Bela Bartok. On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, George Crumb, and Osvaldo Golijov exemplify this phenomenon.
Lorca, I would argue, is a pivotal figure in this movement. Since Bizet’s Carmen, Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1887 Cappricio Espagnol (and works by Albéniz in the 1880s), Spanish music has represented a certain “folkloric” element in European classical music. Debussy and Ravel paid homage to Spain. Lorca loved Debussy’s music and collaborated with Falla. Three of his major lectures, “Arquitectura del cante jondo,” “Las canciones de cuna españolas,” and “Juego y teoría del duende,” are treatments of traditional forms of Spanish song, although the duende lecture is much more than that. In one of the chapters of my book in progess, What Lorca Knew, I compare Lorca’s duende to Roland Barthes’s “grain of the voice,” which also treats the problem of musical performance in a nationalist context.
Musical settings and adaptations of Lorca’s poetry and theater abound: I can think of no other other modern poet in any language who has inspired as diverse a range of composers and performers. The explanation of the quantity and variety of Lorquian music is double. As we have seen, Lorca’s literary achievement is already intertwined with musical expression and with traditions of musical folklorism. Secondly, adaptations of Lorca are numerous and varied in general, spanning poetry, theater, and the visual arts: we would expect the musicians to get into the act as well.
Time will not permit an adequate survey of Lorca’s musical legacy: the playlist I initially developed for this talk lasted twenty-three minutes, longer than I have for my entire presentation. Instead, I want to put forward a very simple idea: