An important argument is that the aesthetic world of the Andalusi tradition “suffuses and conjoins the past and the present,” and that this becomes especially acute through an exploration of the sensorial aspects of this tradition. This means: music, affect, and the “fondo sonoro”  

Andalucismo as a challenge to European ontology

Andalucistas are concerned with how the political present of Andalucia is shaped by Iberia’s Muslim and Jewish past, as well as by the continued presence of the Roma, and the ways in which those historical imprints create overlapping historical presents. That is: in Andalucismo thought, the cultivation of a historical sensibility that makes evident, and valorizes, the ties between Andalucia and Al-Andalus, is central to an articulation of the present. It is for this reason that Hirschkind believes that andalucistas occupy a privileged position when it comes to the articulation of a critique of European ontology.

Ethics of disorientation

The disorientation that necessarily ensues from centering the sensorial schema in the approach to historical pasts, in opposition to liberal multiculturalism and historiography’s epistemic values, premised on temporal unity and on the idea of a frozen, retrievable past that can be uncomplicatedly articulated within the discursive and historical parameters of the European project. By attuning to the past via the senses, the categories of identity and affiliation that correspond to these discourses dissolve in the presence of the possibility of other geographic and politic imaginaries. The “chronotope of mediodia”: Andalucia as the now that extends eastward to the Mediterranean and “backward” to the medieval past.

Chapter 3 ~ Sounding Out the Past

Much of the debate around where Flamenco song comes from reflects deeper concerns about the status of Spanishness and its contested place within a European identity. Two antagonistic theories exemplified in Garcia Lorca’s theory versus Catalan musicologist Felipe Pedrell’s. The latter defends cante’s origins in Byzantine liturgical song, while for Lorca, the “gitano (Roma) voice” is that of the “exiled and persecuted,” with the same undertones as that “of the Moriscos defeated” (100).

The Catalan expert declares that the Muslims contributed “nothing essential” to Spanish music, that they were “the ones to be influenced.” Pedrell’s words shock me for how unhesitatingly they rely on the assumption of distinctiveness, of clearly delineated boundaries between agents in the came of cultural transmission. I am always surprised when somebody’s arguments rely on this unproblematic funcitoning of the dialectic dyad, but even more so in the field of musicology, based as it is on such a dynamic phenomenon, music, across time and space, as if in transforming isn’t embedded the experience of being transformed, and viceversa.

Pedrell’s vision didn’t exist in a vacuum, and would find traction even today, as belonging to a branch of thought set on “expunging the Arab and Islamic elements from Spanish and European cultural forms.”

Regardless, or precisely because, of this anti dialectic sentiment, the origins question has never been important to my research questions. As H points out, what matters here is that for andalucistas, music, notably Flamenco cante, has historically been a fecund ground of self-exploration, a field where Spain’s Arab and Islamic heritage has been “conceptually explored and aesthetically elaborated.”

“Fondo sonoro”: a place of convergence and communion between Andalusi music (with its roots in north Africa, where it is mostly played today) and flamenco. The improvisational act exploits this sonorous foundation, this commonality beyond representation and narrative, by attuning into and revealing shared “patterns” among these traditions, patents “latent in this fondo.” H sees this foundation as both musical and historical: the “articulations it makes possible” are both of a musical and temporal nature, where the “inherited medieval world and its thematization” reveals itself as an “important condition of contemporary social and political life.’ Improv allows the musicians to articulate both an aesthetic commonality and a common understanding of the way that overlapping temporalities make up an irreducibly heterogeneous past, one that cannot be told narratively but must be sensed, through music.

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