Research on Flamenco: Tree With Many Branches
La investigación sobre el flamenco: árbol de muchas ramas
Luis Pascual Cordero Sánchez, PhD. (1)
(1) Francisco de Vitoria University. Madrid, Spain.
Translated by: Jeffrey Weiner
Those old posters of flamenco’s styles—palosif you wish—of which there are still few like a genealogical tree with many branches, are still found in peñas, tablaos, private homes, and taverns. Sometimes they even appear in university lecture halls and conservatories, where flamenco has finally been incorporated into the teaching curriculum. In the same way, it could well become a subject for researchers because, like flamenco itself, research into this art is a tree with innumerable branches, united by the common trunk of scientific methodology.
The growth of this flamenco tree of knowledge is closely tied to research that is increasingly coming out of conservatories, as well as from departments of musicology and music studies at the university. Called upon to become host departments for obvious reasons, they must now become guides. This is especially true at this point in history when any reluctance to study these arts—once considered merely popular—has largely been overcome. The remarkable spread and internationalization of flamenco has culminated in a global institutional dignity: in 2010, UNESCO declared the art of flamenco an intangible asset of humanity.
Just as the genealogy of flamenco grows out of the trunk of the tonás and the primitive cantes and branches off into soleá,siguiriya, and tangos, these branches proliferate into still others. The research that began with musicology also bifurcates infinitely, making research on flamenco, like flamenco itself, a tree with many branches. It is a genuinely interdisciplinary field of study. Not in vain, the nineteenth-century investigations led by the anthropologistand folklorist Machado y Álvarez, Demófilo,came to fruition in the mid-twentieth century by way of literature.Numerous writers became the first flamencologists, with Ricardo Molina andAntonio Mairena spearheading the movement.
If we look at these hybrid origins, it is easy to explain the influence and persistence that anthropology and philology have had on flamenco research. However, this has evolved much more and has become professionalized and diversified into the performing arts, dance, and the study of performance.
Flamenco has also penetrated the fields of sociology, political science, and film studies; more recent disciplines in Spanish Academia, such as gender studies; and even in fields so“un-flamenco” as medicine, biometrics, and biomechanics—in short, the experimental sciences. The emergence of archives and museums—with the one dedicated to Camarón as the most recent significant example—gives way to museology and archival science. These are areas incorporated into flamenco research; they should continue to play an important role in the collection, restoration, and preservation of materials today—otherwise very neglected, but nevertheless crucial as primary sources. As demonstrated already in an editorial from the previous issue, the original romantic “flamencology” has given way to legitimately multidisciplinary and scientific research.
Without a forward-looking approach and institutional support, it is futile to attempt to verify this state of affairs. The final objective is none other than to maintain this trend, this reality, of studying flamenco without neglecting the musical and performative aspects. In order to provide richness and diversity of perspective, it should be done from an interdisciplinary perspective.
It is well know that scientific researchhas costs that cannot be systematically assumed and borne by researchers personally. Furthermore, far-reaching research, in any of the branches of study related to flamenco, cannot be carried out without the decisive financial support of the administrations, both national and regional. But the regional must be in plural, since this responsibility cannot fall only on Andalusia, the cradle of an art that has spread throughout The Bull-Hide and has been exported abroad where more and more professors study cantejondo, its dance and its musical instruments.
In keeping with the most basic idea of the migration of flamenco, if the border territories to the north of Andalusia have their own styles, if the migrating livestock herders spread flamenco throughout the central meseta, if Madrid is the northernmost flamenco city, if migration took flamenco to Catalonia and prompted its evolution, if celebrities, such as Vicente Escudero, Sabicas or Carmen Amaya were born in Valladolid, Pamplona, and Barcelona respectively, and if flamenco is one of the greatest symbols of our identity abroad, then funding for its research belongs to many regional governments and, of course, to the central administration. The declaration of flamenco as a field of study, in recognition of its interdisciplinary nature, at an accredited level of research, teaching, and credentials, will be the increasingly necessary and urgent, definitive step to dignify, invest, and reposition flamenco studies.
The fruits of this research will have to be put to the service of teaching. Beyond the historical role that flamencology chairs have played at universities, substantive research will nurture the courses of studies that are already underway in the form of Masters, and that could well multiply over the country. In conclusion, it is specifically through the maintenance of the interdisciplinary nature of flamenco studies, through institutional support, and via academic training that the roots of the flamenco tree can be nurtured; and there is still much room for growth in all areas of research.