Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Brook Zern’s flamenco bio/CV

Introducing… Brook Zern – From Guitar Review #37, Fall, 1972

Guitar Review #37 of Fall, 1972, carried my first column, devoted to the flamenco methods available at the time.  As usual with new writers, they included an introduction:

BROOK ZERN lived in Andalusia for many years.  He has played and talked about flamenco music on many New York radio programs (including his own WBAI series, “Flamenco”), on National Educational Television, at the Society of the Classic Guitar, and at schools and colleges.  He is currently teaching a university course in the music and culture of flamenco at the New School for Social Research in New York City, where he also teaches guitar privately.

“I was born in 1941, the son a a Pennsylvania Dutch advertising copywriter who had a Mittyesque delusion that he was actually a flamenco guitarist.  I don’t know what he did in the offce, but at home he played flamenco guitar incessantly for the first twenty years of my life,  He got pretty good, but the music drove me nuts.  Maybe it was overexposure — it’s hard to sleep during a thundering zapateado — or maybe I sensed that he wanted me to learn flamenco, and felt honor-bound never to do what my parents wanted.

“Anyway, I finally left home for college and the absence of flamenco music drove me nuts.  I snuck back home, took my father’s Velázquez guitar and headed for his teacher’s apartment.  I learned a lot from Fidel Zabal — about flamenco and much more.  After graduating from Columbia College, I went to Spain with my wife and started studying guitar in Seville and the outlying towns.  I studied with all the good guitarists I could find, asked dumb questions, and read the existing literature — mostly worthless — on flamenco.

“Now I am an advertising copywriter with a Mittyesque delusion that I am a flamenco guitarist.  I consider this to be a rare form of genetic defect.”

February 9, 2015   2 Comments

Brook Zern — Biographical Data

A few decades ago, a music magazine asked me for a bio.  I submitted the following, which for some reason they did not publish:

Brook Zern — Biographical Data:

Manuel Amaya Cortés Heredia “El Morucho”, the youngest of that legendary clan’s eleven children, was born to a life of freedom, wandering by day and sleeping beneath the stars.  As a carefree youth, he quickly acquired great fame among his people for his prodigious mastery of deep flamenco song, as well as his astounding guitar playing and his electrifying flamenco dancing.

Yet deep within him, there lay an unquiet and questing soul which could not rest content.

“One day our caravan happened to pass through the suburbs,” he recalls, “and I saw an advertising copywriter getting off the commuter train with a briefcase in his hand.  At that instant, I knew at last what I had always wanted to be.

“During the night, I stole away from the campfire and ran back to that same neighborhood.  Of course, you can imagine the suspicion and mistrust with which I was greeted.  After all, I knew nothing of the strange laws and secretive customs of these exotic people.  I only knew that in my heart of hearts, this was where I truly belonged.

“I won’t bore you with the details of my long struggle for acceptance — those difficult days of rebuff and rejection.  Many times I almost gave up, convinced that the mysterious quality I sought so desperately was something that these people carried in the blood, something that could never be fully apprehended by an outsider.

“But gradually I began to gain their respect, and finally their acceptance.  And I’ll never forget the day when, after undergoing the rite of “interview”, I actually became a copywriter myself!

“On that same day, they even gave me my own ‘name’ in their unique dialect: Brook Zern.

“All that was long ago, of course.  But even today, as I sit at my desk from nine to five typing jingles and commercials and writing my mortgage checks, I often stop to reflect upon my good fortune and the singular chain of events that brought me such fulfillment.  And sometimes, I can’t help wondering — what would have become of me if I hadn’t happened to see that commuter so long ago…”

June 25, 2014   No Comments

Flamenco Wars, Continued – The implications of El Planeta’s musical orbit – translated with comments by Brook Zern

Earlier today, I posted a translation of a long article by Manuel Bohórquez about the early flamenco singer called El Planeta.

Now an actual expert has commented on it.  He is Alvaro de la Fuente Espejo, whose site is “Puente Genil con el Flamenco”  After noting that Sr. Bohórquez will be speaking in Puente Genil next week, he says:

“Having distanced himself , with firm decisiveness and conviction, from the romantic theories and legends that have always dominated – and contaminated – the complex world of flamenco, Manuel, with scientific method, clear-sighted honesty and utter tenacity, is bringing us new data about the creators of flamenco in the Nineteenth Century – facts that little by little are serving to derail, come what may, false myths.  A clear example is this article that caused a furor in the field when it was published three years ago.  Traditional flamencology has always considered El Planeta a great bulwark of the flamenco art of Seville’s famous barrio de Triana, and a native of that place.  Well, Manuel demonstrates that this Gypsy singer was actually born in Cadiz and spent 20 years living in Malaga, a city that is always reviled by traditional flamencology.  Some conclusions:

Another mythic singer has been shown not to have come from Triana.

By spending so many years in Malaga, he could have been influenced by Malaga’s song, and have influenced it in turn.

After 20 years in Malaga, he did not leave a school, nor any trace of his song there.

Won’t we be confused with respect to the true magnitude/importance of this singer?

And as in this example, esteemed friends, there is much more that Manuel will be giving us  in the future, with generosity, in his talk next week.

End of the notice.

Translator’s note:  Señor Bohórquez is indeed one of the flamenco experts who have recanted and renounced the once-dominant “romantic” stance concerning flamenco.

It was indeed surprising all around to find that a crucial historic figure like El Planeta was from Cadiz – though that city is relatively mainstream in the traditional hierarchy.  It was more surprising to see that he spent so much of his later life in Malaga, which is really out of the loop where hard-core, hard-listening flamenco is concerned.

It’s difficult to relate the presumed sobriety and depth of Planeta’s art to Malaga – yes, it would be easier for the diminishing band of unconvinced non-converts to link it to Triana, or to Jerez, in terms of density/gravity/tragedy.

And it’s interesting to wonder why Planeta’s way of singing had no impact in Malaga – maybe tragedy withers in the warm sun and balmy breezes of that town’s Mediterranean beaches.  Maybe Planeta liked it there, but couldn’t peddle his grave art in Malaga (the long article said he died forgotten), and so he took it to Triana, where it was documented, when he wanted to sing and be appreciated.

So it’s hard to draw firm lines showing that the locales where Planeta lived somehow derail the crucial tenets of the reviled Romantic approach to flamenco – though it would’ve been neater and more expected all around that Planeta came from one of the the romantics’ revered “cradles of flamenco”, Jerez and Seville (and their satellite towns).

Bohórquez may have some more documentary deconstructivist surprises ready to level against the romanticist surmises I prefer.  Stay tuned, and thanks for bearing with me in this voyage to an insanely obscure realm of flamencology.

And why do I think that if documents had proved Planeta was not a Gypsy, the unwavering new wavers, who sometimes ban “the G-word” from their allegedly objective discussions, would be dancing in the streets?

P.S.  I see that the post’s author, Álvaro de la Fuente, is a professor at an institution named for José María Pemán, a journalist, poet, novelist and right-wing intellectual.  Well, Pemán was on a Spanish jury that awarded me a major journalism prize and sixteen hundred bucks in 1972 for an article about flamenco that I wrote for the New York Times – and a more rabidly romanticist screed you’ll never find.  (It’s in this blog somewhere, if you search for Finca Espartero.)

If that claim doesn’t prove that I’m right and everyone else is wrong, note that Enrique Llobet, who might’ve been a real musician, was also on the jury.

Further proof of my wisdom?  Another man on the panel was Manuel Aznar, a Fascist journalist/politician and the father of a recent Prime Minister of Spain, José María Aznar –yet another rightist bad guy.

You doubt my word?  Well, here’s my translation of a Spanish news account of the prize.

What, you doubt the veracity of my translations?  Now you’re talking:

The Melia Journalism Prize, endowed with 100,000 pesetas and awarded by a select panel of artists and writers including José María Pemán, Enrique Llobet, Joaquin Calvo and Manuel Aznar, has been awarded to the American journalist Brook Zern for his work on flamenco published in The New York Times.”

“Brook Zern is a concert guitarist who specializes in flamenco, as well as a student of flamenco in general, whose knowledge has earned him positions in several U.S. universities. He is a contributor to “Flamenco”, Spain’s only magazine on the subject, and recently in New York he provided the introductions and extensive program notes for the debut performances of the singer Enrique Morente and the guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar. The prize-winning article describes the Finca Espartero in the town of Morón, which offers the visitor a chance to experience serious flamenco first-hand.”

– Aula de Flamencología, Noticia de Mundo Flamenco, El Noticiero (Cartagena, Spain, December 22, 1973)

January 24, 2014   1 Comment

Madonna Will Open a Flamenco Academy in Los Angeles – Article from Spain’s El Mundo – translated with comments by Brook Zern

From the December 30, 2013 edition of El Mundo, one of Spain’s most respected newspapers

The Least Known Facet of the Pop Star

Madonna Will Open a Flamenco Academy in Los Angeles

[Subheads]

• A trusted person is now choosing the future professors of flamenco dance and song

• The artist has expressed admiration for Sara Baras’s dance and Ketama’s music

• She also showed off a frilly red flamenco dress in a video and attended a performance of El Farruco

By José de Santiago

The least known facet of Madonna is her afición (passion) for flamenco.  Her admiration of the art is so strong that she wants to open a school in Los Angeles, and a person she trusts [una persona de su confianza] is now selecting those who will become the future teachers [profesores] in the California city.

Her afición dates to the end of the nineties, when she spent several days in Madrid and combined pleasure with work.  At that time, accompanied by Miguel Bosé [the hugely popular singer, Latin Grammy winner, and son of Spanish actress Lucia Bosé and the legendary bullfighter Luís Miguel Dominguín]; Pedro Almodóvar [the acclaimed filmmaker]; Rosario Flores [the Latin Grammy winning singer and actress, and daughter of Spain’s most famous singer-actress, Lola Flores]; and a group of friends, she went to a flamenco fiesta at the home of Piedad Aguirre [sister of Esperanza Aguirre [titled the Countess of Bornos; once President of Madrid, now President of Madrid’s Partido Popular, Spain’s ruling rightist party, and the first woman to be appointed Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.]

The next day, the singer said she was ecstatic about the dancing of [the terrific flamenco dancer] Sara Baras and the magic of the songs of La Barbería del Sur and Ketama [two then-hot flamenco fusion groups doing pop songs with a flamenco feel].  It’s said that the americana then went to a juerga [a free-form flamenco jam session] until after 4 a.m.. and that she struck up a close friendship [entabló una buena amistad] with Antonio Carmona [a member of Ketama along with others from his famed Gypsy family from Granada; son of the great flamenco guitarist Juan Habichuela, perhaps the best living accompanist for flamenco singers; and nephew of the brilliant guitarist Pepe Habichuela, a noted flamenco virtuoso and pioneer in working with jazz artists like bassist Dave Holland to create new musical blends].

Also, in the eighties she gave a wink to flamenco when she chose a red frilly dress  for the video of her pop song “La isla bonita”.  And last year, during her world tour dubbed MDNA, she was accompanied by a flamenco dancer.

During another Spanish visit, she was determined to see a flamenco dance production starring Antonio Fernandez Montoya “Farruco”, [a great flamenco dancer and namesake of his grandfather, revered as possibly the finest dancer in living memory] at which she ended up dancing in the middle of a road to the astonishment of the group.  “Farruco”, who is now 25, confessed that if Madonna had fallen in love with his dancing, he felt the same about her generosity and humility.

End of article.  The original is at http://www.elmundo.es/loc/2013/12/30/52bdea7422601d747c8b4583.html

Translator’s notes and comments:

1)  I have added the information in brackets.

2)  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and in hard-core flamenco circles, no quarter is asked and none is given.  (When I dared to challenge an opinion voiced by the great guitarist Pepe Habichuela who’s mentioned above, he said, “You know what’s wrong with you?”  I said no.  He said, “Your mouth is too big and your ears are too small.”)

Madonna certainly knows what and who she likes at any given moment, but her fragmentary inklings about flamenco do not bode well for a potentially important cultural institution like a well-funded, high-profile flamenco academy.

Instant history:  For a long time, flamenco was in the clutches of an ingrown group of traditionalist tastemakers who revered the existing art and respected its inflexible rules and regulations.  In the early seventies, flamenco was shaken by a revolution led by the great guitarist Paco de Lucía and his friend and collaborator, the great singer Camarón de la Isla.  At first, the changes were subtle — guitar harmonies taken from Western music, or freer vocal lines; soon, however, their shared vision began to transform the art.

New instruments and entire orchestras supplanted the singer’s traditional lone-guitar accompaniment, while the fifty or so song forms were augmented by mixing, mashing, blending and fusing flamenco with many other musical styles.  Meanwhile, the paradigm of the lone guitar soloist — think Carlos Montoya or the great virtuoso Sabicas — was eradicated by Paco’s decision to instead front jazz-style instrumental groups with bass, percussion, horns, flutes and harmonicas.  Not to be outmoderned, flamenco dancers, too, began begging and borrowing elements from ballet, jazz, hip-hop and yes, modern.

So purism is passé, and traditionalists are termed the Taliban.  Fusion rules, so there are no rules.  But flamenco can only be stretched so far before it distorts or fractures.  If anything goes, flamenco will inevitably become something else.  And when you’re negotiating this minefield, you gotta know your stuff.

Assuming this alleged news story didn’t spring full-blown from the forehead of a flak looking for a daily press mention, I hope and expect that Madonna’s designated deputy understands these realities.  Ketama doesn’t do flamenco, though its members certainly could if they want to.  La Barberia del Sur didn’t do flamenco either, and probably couldn’t [correction -- my friend Arturo Martínez points out that members of this fusion group, too, have impeccable real-flamenco credentials from the Extremadura region -- the guitarist Juan José Suarez is the son of the fine singer Ramón el Portugues -- and they even linked up with the Carmona/Habichuela family of Ketama fame  at certain points].

Farruco and his whole family are glorious flamenco artists, but this clan vehemently rejects the current fusion trends that in their estimation dilute or pollute this incredible cultural creation (see/seek nearby Farruco entries in this blog.)

Madonna, like virtually all Americans, won’t like real flamenco song, which is the antithesis of pop; it’s a high compliment to say that a certain singer “hiere” (wounds) the prepared listener.  She also won’t enjoy listening to actual flamenco guitar, as opposed to that lone flamenco-ish lick she used to spice up “La Isla Bonita”.  And, like many Americans, she might like good flamenco dancing, whether traditional or transgressive.

A hypothetical wealthy flamenco artist who suddenly got a crush on certain American rock or jazz artists and decided to open an Academy of Rock in Spain’s flamenco capital of Seville would only succeed by admitting he or she didn’t know Richie Havens from Richard Penniman (Little Richard, to you), and hiring qualified help.

And vice versa, natch.  Be sure your “trusted person” knows the difference between the soleá de Joaquin el de la Paula and the malagueña doble de Enrique el Mellizo, and then hand over all the money and decisions to them.

(For a shockingly negligible price by your standards, I’m instantly available to head your brilliant project– my bio is in here somewhere, and yes, it casually drops the name of  King Juan Carlos the First of Spain who knighted me for the dissemination of Spanish culture in America — does that outrank your gal-pal, Ms.Aguirre?

And for a few dollars more, I will abjectly recant my prissy purism and my arch-traditionalist, obviously obsolete obstructionist false ideologies and get with the program.

Thank you for your kind consideration, Ms. Ciccone, and I love those coney things you wear in front, the ones you copied from Lady Gaga, and think they would add an interesting and dangerous new dimension to those boring, unpointy flamenco costumes we see all too often these days.

(Free hint: In the singing classes at your new Academy — I hear the architect Renzo Piano needs work — do not apply that electronic sonic retouching machine you use to correct your wavering pitch for recordings and concerts.  In flamenco singing, so-called microtonal intervals are an intrinsic element of this non-Western art, indebted to Arab and other distant vocal traditions.  That’s just one of the many qualities that make serious flamenco singing so wildly unpopular in this country — suffice it to say that my father, who taught me my first flamenco guitar music, had an early hi-fi record that featured great flamenco singing.  It was called “Music to Speed the Parting Guest.”

It always worked.

(Don’t go away, Mad.  Just go away.  Trust me, in this one single area you aren’t merely like a virgin; you are a virgin,)

Hope to see all my flamenco friends at the open auditions at the L.A. Coliseum on…

Brook Zern

brookzern@gmail.com

December 30, 2013   15 Comments

Brook Zern’s Flamenco Bio/CV

CURRICULUM

BROOK ZERN

Address (U.S.)

P.O. Box 3063, West Tisbury, MA 02575

Address (Spain)

Plaza de la Compañía, 11, 11403 Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz)

Telephone : (914) 484 4015

email: brookzern@gmail.com

Website: www.flamencoexperience.com

Blog: www.flamencoexperience.com/blog

HONORS

 

In 2008, King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Brook Zern for his work in the dissemination of Spanish Culture in the U.S.  Zern received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Queen Isabella (Cruz de Oficial de la Orden de Isabela la Catolica), the highest honor that Spain can bestow on a foreigner.  This is the first time that this rare recognition has been given for the examination, explanation and illumination of the art of flamenco in all its facets, within its cultural and historical context.

 

ARTICLES

 

Author of the U.S. contribution, Spanish petition to UNESCO, May 2004, documenting flamenco’s long presence and continuing impact in the New World and requesting that flamenco be declared an Oral Heritage of Mankind, contributed at request of Spanish flamenco authority Jose Luis Ortiz Nuevo.

 

“Flamenco: For the Purist It’s a Ritual, not a Spectacle”, The New York Times, Nov. 19, 1972 (New York) (This article was awarded Spain’s prestigious Melia Journalism Prize (Madrid, 1972).  Translated into Spanish and published in Spain’s leading publication on the subject, “Flamenco” (March, 1974)

 

“Mario Escudero: Flamenco Guitar Virtuoso”, The New York Times, February 3, 1984 (New York)

“Sabicas: Gypsy Genius”, The Village Voice, May 7, 1979 (New York)

 

“Duende on Hudson Street: Agujetas Sings Flamenco in New York”, The Village Voice, June 17, 1976 (New York)

 

“Paralelismo y Coincidencia Entre el Cante Negro de los EEUU y el Cante Gitano de Andalucía”, Flamenco (February, 1973. First scholarly article to analyze parallels and similarities in the origins and traditions of Spanish flamenco and American jazz/blues.

Article requested by Francisco Vallecillo, first director of the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco in Jerez, Spain. Article reprinted in El Candil 31 (1984), Sevilla Flamenca, Anuario Flamenco de la Fundación Andaluza de Flamenco (Jerez, 1988), Etudes Tsiganes (Paris, 1993).

 

“Flamenco: More than Meets the Ear”, Frets, The Magazine of Acoustic String Instruments 1(6): 35-37 (August, 1986)

 

Guitar Review 41: Special Issue devoted to Flamenco Guitar. Edited by Brook Zern with articles by Brook Zern, Don E. Pohren and others, 1975 (New York)

 

“Flamenco: An Overview”, Guitar Review No. 44, 1976 (New York)

 

“Paco de Lucía, The World’s Most Advanced Guitarist in Any Idiom”, Guitar Review No. 48, 1977. (New York) [Note: this appraisal of Paco de Lucía, now acknowledged as the supreme figure in his field, was quoted above a picture of the aging artist on the lobby poster for a concert at the Boston Opera House in April of 2012 -- 35 years after it was written; it may still be true.]

 

“The Art of Flamenco”, Music Journal, XXXIV(4), 1986  (New York)

 

“Notes on Flamenco and the Guitar”, Program, 2nd New York International Festival of Guitar, September, 1983-July, 1984

“Changing Perspectives on the Gypsy Contribution to Flamenco”, program notes for Festival Flamenco Gitano, New York and Los Angeles, (2012)

 

“Sabicas (1912-1990): Requiem for the Maestro”, Guitar Review #66, 1990

“Strum und Drang: A Flamenco Caper in Seville”, The New York Times, September 15, 1971, (New York).

 

Regular contributor to all American flamenco publications, including Flamenco Information Service Letter, the first such publication 1967-1970) (New York): Jaleo (1976-1980) (San Diego, California) and Journal of Flamenco Artistry, (1988-1994) (Los Angeles, California).

“Messengers: The Foreign Invasion of Flamenco Territory in the 1960’s”, essay for the catalog of the photographic exposition “Flamenco Project” appearing in Madrid, Seville and other Spanish cities, organized by Steve Kahn, published by Cajasol (Spain) (2010)

 

Regular contributor to leading Spanish Internet publication devoted to flamenco, deflamenco.com. and other internet outlets Articles in deflamenco.com on guitarists Sabicas, Carlos Montoya, Diego del Gastor, Javier Molina and others. (2002 – Present)  Also contributed hundreds of articles and commentaries to U.S. based flamenco discussion groups. (1995-present)

 

 

Numerous citations of articles in books by Spanish authorities including “El Toque Flamenco” (Alianza Editoria, Madrid, 2003) y “Discoteca ideal de Flamenco” (Planeta, Barcelona, 1995) by A.A. Caballero, and “Paco de Lucía en Vivo” (Plaza Abierta, Madrid, 2003),by Juan José Téllez.

 

Citation of articles on the jacket of the final LP recording by the legendary guitarist  Sabicas published in Spain, Adiós a la Guitarra de Sabicas – Maestros de la Guitarra –Vol. 4 (Hispavox 056 79 4643 (1990).

 

Subject of articles about efforts to promote greater understanding and appreciation of flamenco in the U.S. in numerous Spanish publications including Blanco y Negro, El Pais and Diario de Sevilla.

Numerous articles in the blog www.flamencoexperience.com/blog

 

BOOKS

 

Book for Concert Series Program: Flamenco, Arrow Press, for Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, New York, 1997. “A thick, nicely illustrated book with informative historical notes by Brook Zern proved a useful guide.” — The New York Times

100 Years of Gypsy Studies (Various authors) Matt T. Salo, Editor, Gypsy Lore Society Publications, 1990.  Author of Chapter: The Evolution of the Flamenco Guitar

 

The Classical Guitar Book: A Complete History (Various authors) Balofon, San Francisco, California, 2002; Author of chapter: Flamenco Guitar: Setting the Scene

 

The Classical Guitar (Various authors); Outline Press, London, England, 1997;  Author of chapter Flamenco: Evolution of an Art Form

 

100 Years of Flamenco in New York – 1913-2013 (Various authors); The New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 2013; Author of chapter on Flamenco Guitar in New York City …And Through It All, the Dance Had a Partner

EDITING

 

Flamenco Editor, Guitar Review, New York, 1971-present. Writes, edits and assigns articles on flamenco Magazine Publisher by New York Society of the Classic Guitar, where he served as a member of the board of directors from 1970-2001.

(In this capacity, he had numerous opportunities to speak with the classical guitarist Andres Segovia, ultimately obtaining an article for Guitar Review in which Segovia offered his long-sought opinions and recollections about flamenco, it’s history and its great artists.)

TEACHING

 

University Course: “Flamenco, The Art and The Life”, The New School University, New York, (1972-1973) – first university course dedicated to the academic study of flamenco music and its cultural context offered outside of Spain (and evidently the first anywhere).

Consultant on Flamenco, Ethnomusicology Department de Columbia University (1976-present)

Contributing Scholar, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Foundation for Iberian Music (2004-present)

University Course: “Flamenco: New Trends in an Old Art”, City University of New York (CUNY) (2004, 2007)

Taught all classes related to flamenco for the Graduate Course in Spanish Music at City University of New York (CUNY), at request of Professor of Ethnomusicology Peter Manuel and Professor of Music Antoni Piza, (2005-2006)

Taught classes on flamenco at the university level for departments of ethnomusicology, sociology and anthropology at Columbia University, Harvard University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Colorado, Wagner College and others.  (1984-present)

 

Presents talks and films about flamenco for children in primary and secondary schools, in English and in Spanish. (1975-present)

 

 

INFORMATION AND EDUCATION

 

Broadcast talks More than 100 appearances on radio programs and numerous television shows in the U.S.  In addition, appearances on Spanish National Television (TVE) and other radio and television shows there including Onda Jerez and TVA (Andalusia).

Provides information for members of the U.S. press. Helps to orient reporters, writers and critics on the subject; frequently cited in reporting on flamenco as a “flamenco historian” (The New York Times) and “flamenco expert” (The New Yorker, New York Daily News, New York Post, The Washington Post and others).

 

Provides orientation in flamenco topics for academics and other researchers – Advises professors and other academics and graduate students, film directors and others about topics for theses, films, books and other publications.

 

Teaches flamenco guitar – After studying the flamenco guitar tradition intensively with many legendary masters of the instrument, Zern began sharing the music with students, professionals and aficionados in U.S. and in Spain and has continued to do so for five decades.

 

CONFERENCES AND PUBLIC TALKS:

 

National Gallery, Washington D.C., and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 2010 (April) “Well-intentioned, Ill-fated: DeFalla and the 1922 Flamenco Song Contest in Granada – The valiant effort of Manuel de Falla, Federico Garcia Lorca and other Spanish intellectuals to prevent the extinction of deep flamenco song.” 

University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, 2002: “Tradition, Evolution, Fusion and Confusion: Flamenco at the Crossroads”, presented at the invitation of Professor William Washabaugh, author of “Flamenco: Power, Passion and Popular Politics” a book for which the films of the Rito y Geografía series were a main topic.

Gypsy Lore Society, Washington, D.C., 1986: “Gypsy and Non-Gypsy Elements in Flamenco Song and Guitar” for the First National Conference on Gypsy Musical Traditions.

Barnard College, New York City, 1985: “Music to Speed the Parting Guest: Why Good Flamenco is So Difficult or Unpleasant to Listen To, And Why Bad Flamenco Isn’t.”

Wagner College, New York City, 1989: “Flamenco Guitar Styles and Derivations”, at Second Annual Conference on Spanish Musical Traditions.

Club Taurino de New York, 1993: “Ghost Story: The Concept of Duende in Flamenco and the Bullfight – El Chocolate, Rafael de Paula, Manuel Torre and Curro Romero” for the first international conference on Flamenco and the Bullfight in Spain. (Published as an article in Jaleo)

Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York (BAM Music Festival), 1998: “Lecture: Flamenco and Spanish Classical Music: Cross Currents and Connections”. Also: Debate with Joseph Horowitz: “The Flamenco Song Aesthetic: Cante Bonito vs. Cante Jondo”

The New World Symphony Festival of Spanish Music, Miami, Florida, 2001: “Flamenco and Classical Music – Eastern vs. Western Musical Traditions, and Why the Twain Can Never Meet.” Also: “Flamenco Representation in the Films of Antonio Saura”, five presentations at the Flagler Theater de Miami.

Boulder Music Festival, Boulder, Colorado, 2002: “Spanish Guitar Traditions: Classical and Flamenco Guitar Techniques, Dynamics and Interpretation”.

Lincoln Center Cultural Education Series, Bruno Walter Auditorium, New York (1998-1999): “Flamenco – The Ins and Outs, the Ups and Downs. A series of four weekly talks, illustrated with documentary film, explaining and illustrating various aspects of flamenco.

Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, New York (1983): Film presentations and commentary: “Los Tarantos” with Carmen Amaya; “Duende y Misterio del Flamenco” with Antonio Ruiz Soler and El Farruco; “An Introduction to Flamenco Dance Through Film”

New York University, King Juan Carlos I Center: Conference y Debate: “Concepts of Authenticity in Flamenco” (2000), with Timothy Mitchell, Susana Asensio and other academic authorities and researchers.

Classical Guitar Society of New York, (1970-1998): annual presentation of “Guitar Contrasts”, comparing the music and techniques of different types of guitar.

Memphis in May Cultural Festival, Memphis, Tennessee. International Week Salute to Spain. (May, 2007) presentation and debate: “Cross Currents: The Influence of Jazz on New Flamenco Music”. Presentation: “Flamenco and the Blues-Rock Tradition – Different Language, Same Subject: Manuel Torre, Blind Lemon Jefferson, El Chocolate, Fernanda de Utrera, Billie Holiday, Son House, Camarón de la Isla, Elvis Presley, Paco de Lucía, Jimi Hendrix.”

New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center/Bruno Walter Auditorium (March, 2013) Lecture and panel discussion: “100 Years of Flamenco in New York, 1913-2013”

Flamenco Festival 2014, University of New Mexico (2014) Panel discussions and lecture: “The Top Ten Flamenco Arguments and the Announcement of the Winning Sides”; also 2012, panel discussions and presentation.

Flamenco Symposium, Duke University, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana (February, 2015)  Panel discussions and lecture.

Symposium and Panel Discussions, City University of New York, (April, 2015) “The Fandango and its Forms in Flamenco and Beyond”, moderator and participant, panel discussions and presentations.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

 

Presentation of Artists:

 

Presented the First and Second New York Festival of Cante Flamenco (1967 & 1968), with Spanish and American singers and guitarists, in collaboration with the Flamenco Information Service Library.

 

Co-produced and presented concerts by guitarists Sabicas, Mario Escudero and Carlos Montoya, in Carnegie Hall, explaining their contributions to the art, in collaboration with the Consulate of Spain and the American Institute of the Guitar (1978-1995).

 

Presented concerts by Paco de Lucía, John McLaughlin y Al Di Meola “Pioneers of Flamenco/Jazz Fusion”, in collaboration with Erwin Frankel Productions (1980).

(Note: Zern’s published criticism in Guitar Review and The New York Times has been widely quoted in promotional material for Paco de Lucia in the U.S., including excerpts: “Paco de Lucía: The World’s Most Advanced Guitarist in Any Idiom” and “Paco de Lucía: “Flamenco’s Reigning Genius”).

 

Presented the first U.S. concerts of flamenco guitarists Manolo Sanlúcar, Victor Monge “Serranito” and others; flamenco singers Enrique Morente and José Mercé, and other noted flamenco singers, dancers and guitarists and as well as classical guitarists Manuel Barrueco and others at the Queen Sofia of Spain Spanish Institute of New York, collaborating with the Spanish Consulate and Juan Orozco productions. (1971-1979)

 

Produced and presented a series of concerts and recitals by the flamenco singer Manuel Agujetas at Columbia University in New York, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington and other U.S. cities, the first and only concerts given here by this legendary singer (1976 and 1983)

Produced flamenco recordings in New York for numerous artists, including a 1979 recording by flamenco guitarist Carlos Lomas and eight non-flamenco musicians that has been recognized as a milestone in the creation of flamenco fusion.

 

Presented concerts and recitals by Carmen Linares at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (1997), and New World Symphony, Miami, (2001), including the first concerts given here by Ms. Linares, Spain’s leading female flamenco singer.

 

Member of Board of Directors and Treasurer, American Friends of Flamenco, a division of the Fundacion Cristina Heeren de Arte Flamenco de Sevilla, which annually presents concerts and dance recitals by outstanding flamenco artists at the Kaye Theatre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (1998-present)

 

Preservation, Conservation and Documentation

 

Establishment and direction of the Flamenco Archives of the Flamenco Center USA As director of the Flamenco Center USA, maintains and organizes all materials in the largest Flamenco archive in the U.S, with an extensive collection of books, periodicals, records (78’s, LP’s, cassettes and CD’s) and videos. All these materials are available to serious aficionados as well as academic researchers.

Establishment of the Archive “Flamenco Film and Recording Collection”, for Columbia University in New York (1984), the first archive of flamenco maintained within an American University.  In this capacity, received collection of important flamenco audiotapes presented to the Archive in person by Queen Sofia of Spain.  Continues to work with Columbia University’s Ethnomusicology Department to maintain and expand this resource.

Annotation and documentation of historic privately-made flamenco recordings (1984-Present) Analyzes and annotates a large quantity of important recordings by great flamenco artists of the past whose music he and other foreigners privately recorded in Spain over the past four decades, including La Fernanda de Utrera, Antonio Mairena, Curro Mairena, La Piriñaca de Jerez, Ansonini del Puerto, Diego del Gastor, Pedro Bacán and others.

 

Preservation of historic documentary films (1972-1987) To assure the proper preservation of the neglected and endangered Spanish National Televisión series“Rito y Geografía del Flamenco” – 100 programs later recognized as the definitive historical documentation of the flamenco tradition – initiated in 1972 a fifteen-year effort culminating in the 1987 purchase of copies of the series for the Flamenco Film and Recording Collection that he established at Columbia University. Personally paid the entire very substantial costs of protecting and conserving the originals and making and buying film and video copies.

Preservation of historic materials (1968-Present) Collection and conservation of concert programs and other materials.  Currently working with the family of the late Carlos Montoya to organize and bring to light extraordinary materials from his long career as the world’s most famous flamenco guitarist, including programs from many countries where flamenco had never been previously presented.

Identification of  historic flamenco recordings in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (2006) This effort, suggested by the great flamenco guitarist Sabicas before his death in 1990, has uncovered numerous privately-made American recordings of his work from the 1940’s, a previously undocumented period in his development. Other discoveries include field recordings of notable artists in Spain.  Personally paid all costs of locating and copying this material.

Creation of the International Flamenco Discography: For more than forty years, notated details of commercial flamenco recordings from all countries, from the advent of the LP to the era of the CD. The resulting “International Flamenco Discography, 1950-2003,” is considered the most comprehensive that exists, with more than 3,000 pages of data.

Creation of a unique and massive collection of flamenco recordings, an audio database organized for precise computer comparison and analysis of more than 60,000 flamenco song and guitar recordings.

Collection and notation of flamenco guitar music by important Twentieth Century players. Has learned and transcribed in traditional tablature notation hundreds of exceptional musical creations learned from the great artists of the past century.

Music Director and co-curator of exhibit at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, “100 Years of Flamenco in New York – 1913-2013”, from March through August, 2013; helped plan event and select materials; donated many displayed items including programs, recordings and rare guitars, and selected and contributed the rare historic recordings which played continuously as the soundscape for the event.

Proposed and successfully petitioned the Spanish government to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the life and art of the late (1947-2014) Paco de Lucia.  The effort led to the very rapid designing and printing of the stamp just eight weeks after the unexpected death of Spain’s greatest flamenco musician — possibly her greatest musician in any genre — of the last half-century.  Note: The knighthood bestowed on Brook Zern in 2008 evidently played a crucial role in assuring the rapid success of this initiative.

 

PERSONAL DATA

 

Brook Zern was raised to the sound of the flamenco guitar as played by his father, perhaps the first American aficionado to seriously study the instrument starting in 1945.

After graduating from Columbia College (Columbia University) in New York, with a B.A. degree in Comparative Literature, Zern moved to Seville, Spain, where he lived for several years, augmenting his understanding of all aspects of flamenco art and returning to Spain every year thereafter.

He has studied with noted guitarists including Pepe Martínez (Seville), Pepe Tranca (Granada), Perico del Lunar padre e hijo (Madrid), Eduardo de la Malena (Seville), Diego del Gastor (Morón de la Frontera), Parilla de Jerez (New York and Jerez), Mario Escudero (New York), and Sabicas (New York). He had the pleasure of knowing these monumental artists, as well as others including the singers Juan Talega, Manolito de la María, Antonio Mairena, Francisco Mairena, La Piriñaca, La Fernanda de Utrera, and El Chocolate, dancers Rosa Duran, El Farruco, Manuela Carrasco and Angelita Vargas, and guitarists Pedro Bacán, Paco del Gastor, Juan Habichuela, Pepe Habichuela, Niño Ricardo, Melchor de Marchena, Juan Maya, and many other now-legendary figures of the art. And in 1961, in the Bar Pinto in Seville, he had a brief conversation with the greatest flamenco cantaora who ever lived, Pastora Pavón “La Nina de los Peines”.

In 1965 in Seville, he had a weekly radio program on which he played records from his extensive collection of blues, rock and jazz LP’s, pointing out certain shared aspects in the genesis and evolution of the two distinct forms. He soon met some of the pioneers of the Spanish effort to create their own jazz and rock styles. He worked with these young artists, including the members of the pioneering rock and fusion group Los Smash, helping them learn and perfect their American music (and their English pronunciation) on the terrace of his apartment.

He plays guitar as a dedicated aficionado, giving informal recitals and also illustrating his talks about flamenco’s history, styles and the complex rhythmic patterns called compás. In addition to his work as Director of the Flamenco Center USA, he teaches guitar to share the music he has collected in nearly a half-century of study. As a member of the faculty of the American Institute of Guitar in New York for two decades, he directed their Flamenco Guitar Department. He also conducts programs in conjunction with the Flamenco Latino group, delineating the relationships between flamenco and Latin-American musical styles.

A writer by profession, he has thirty years of experience in the fields of reporting and advertising, including fifteen years as the creative head of a major division of Time Warner, America’s leading communications company.

With his company, Zern Associates, he helps to direct the non-profit Association of Travel Marketing Executives, the most important association of its kind. In this role, he works to augment the growing phenomenon of cultural tourism to Spain, including tourism aimed at helping Americans experience flamenco at its most impressive and powerful, while placing the art in its cultural and historical context.

For most of the past decade, he has been dividing his time between the U.S. and Spain’s great flamenco centers of Seville and Jerez de la Frontera, And sometimes, perhaps just before daybreak at the bar in flamenco establishments like El Colmao or  Los Cernícalos in Jerez, he stands face to face with flamenco masters such as Manuel Moneo or Agujetas or La Macanita or Miguel Poveda, and just listens to them sing.

 

COMMENTS

 

“We must thank Mr. Brook Zern for the scholarly approach with which he has undertaken to collect so many interesting and accurate facts on the origin, the history and the customs of flamenco in his article Flamenco: An Overview, in Issue 41 of this esteemed journal. He has clearly delineated the difference of value between the two styles, cante jondo and cante flamenco, the one serious and profound, the other light and superficial. He has applied his lucid investigation to the guitar, to the dance, and to the cante (singing) – flamenco’s inseparable trinity.”

Andrés Segovia, Guitar Review #42 (New York, Spring, 1977)

 

“The first academic researcher to analyze the similarities in the cultural derivation of flamenco and jazz, and between the Gypsies of Spain and the blacks in America, was Brook Zern in 1973, who said: “It seems obvious that flamenco’s deep song styles owe their existence to the Gypsies, just as the country blues were the creation of America’s southern blacks. Both of these alien and dark-skinned races constructed a new music of its own, though of course they employed in the task the musical ideas that the found in their adoptive country.” A parallelism that, in Zern’s judgment, extended even to the commercial adulteration of both of these musical conceptions.

Juan José Téllez, Paco de Lucía en Vivo, Plaza Abierta, (Madrid, 2003)

 

Already in 1973, Brook Zern established a revealing and disturbing connection between the peoples who created the musical styles called jazz and flamenco); the Spanish Gypsies are the descendents of those Gypsies who more than half a millenium ago settled in the south of Spain, a dark-skinned race from a distant land – similar in some ways to what happened with the blacks who were shipped from Africa to the United States in chains. The similarities don’t end there. Zern writes that Gypsies and blacks found themselves “in the south of a new and alien land”, where they were the targets of cruel laws, repression and persecution on the part of the lighter-skinned majority. The dense and pessimistic music that both groups created “served as a living testament to the anguish and grief they endured.”

Ángel Álvarez Caballero, Discoteca Ideal de Flamenco, Planeta, (Barcelona, 1995)


 

“Flamenco was the subject of a series of recitals and concerts last weekend at the Brooklyn Philharmonic. This orchestra has been undertaking musicological adventures like this for the last few seasons, and it has the concept well in hand. A thick, nicely illustrated book with informative historical notes by Brook Zern proved a useful guide. A panel discussion offered further enlightenment. And Mr. Zern’s films of flamenco singers at work in taverns and living rooms in the early 1970’s put the live performances, notably by singer Carmen Linares, in perspective.”

– The New York Times, March 11, 1997

No Smiles. No Fusion. Just That Old-Time Flamenco Sadness.   Manuel Agujetas at Elebash Recital Hall.

If you have any interest in the void, Manuel Agujetas is your man. Born in 1939 into a blacksmithing family in Jerez, Spain, he is a great Gitano singer of the old, restricted flamenco forms defined by rhythm and mode. He performed a short and extraordinary concert on Tuesday night with the young guitarist Manuel Valencia, at Elebash Recital Hall at the City University of New York Graduate Center as part of the Live @ 365 series.     Before Tuesday he hadn’t performed in New York since 1976, when he sang for a few weeks at a restaurant called La Sangria at Hudson and 11th Street. (We know about this through the vivid reporting of Brook Zern, a flamenco historian who wrote about it in the Village Voice at the time and who was in the audience on Tuesday.) …

– Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, May 22, 2012

“The Melia Journalism Prize, endowed with 100,000 pesetas and awarded by a select panel of artists and writers including Jose Maria Peman, Enrique Llobet, Joaquin Calvo and Manuel Aznar, has been awarded to the American journalist Brook Zern for his work on flamenco published in The New York Times.”

“Brook Zern is a concert guitarist who specializes in flamenco, as well as a student of flamenco in general, whose knowledge has earned him positions in several U.S. universities. He is a contributor to “Flamenco”, Spain’s only magazine on the subject, and recently in New York he provided the introductions and extensive program notes for the debut performances of the singer Enrique Morente and the guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar. The prize-winning article describes the Finca Espartero in the town of Morón, which offers the visitor a chance to experience serious flamenco first-hand.”

– Aula de Flamencología, Noticia de Mundo Flamenco, El Noticiero (Cartagena, Spain, December 22, 1973)

 

“American Writer and Flamencologist Brook Zern is a Tireless Advocate of Flamenco”

“Brook Zern, winner of this year’s Meliá Journalism Prize for an article in The New York Times that offered a clear orientation for readers who are not initiates of the art. The piece describes the author’s experiences at the Finca Espartero in the town of Morón de la Frontera – an unusual rural academy of serious flamenco, run by another American flamencologist, Donn Pohren, author of several works on flamenco including “Lives and Legends of Flamenco”. Zern works for Newsweek magazine, gives flamenco guitar recitals, and presents notable Spanish flamenco artists in concert in New York. He has analyzed and explained the art in numerous universities. With this news, it is clear that flamenco is gaining more and more respect, both within and beyond our frontiers.

Fernando Quiñones, “Flamenco – Nuevas de Acá y Allá” – Blanco y Negro, Madrid, December 12, 1973

 

“The greatest performance of the Flamenco Festival 2006 was performed by Soledad Barrio.  In her version of the tragic siguiriya, Barrio seemed to take us through the whole history of human pain. The flamenco specialist Brook Zern once told Jennifer Dunning, of the New York Times, ‘Flamenco at its best—at its most flamenco—strips away everything artificial and inessential, in a struggle to reveal the deepest human truths. In fact, it is the struggle itself, and not any polished final product, that’s the essence and point of all great flamenco performances.’ That’s exactly what you saw in Barrio.”

– Joan Acocella, “Future Flamenco” – The New Yorker, March 6, 2006

 

“Flamenco and Classical Spanish Music at the City University of New York”

“Flamenco and classical Spanish music will be part of a broad program of activities this fall in the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, beginning today.  The events combine academic dissertations by recognized specialists with performances by noted artists, organized by the Barry S. Brook Center for Musical Investigation and Documentation.  Flamenco in all its musical aspects and in its historical and cultural contexts will be the subject of a seminar in four weekly sessions, directed by the American Brook Zern, flamenco editor of Guitar Review magazine and director of the Flamenco Center U.S.A.  Zern studied flamenco guitar with many Spanish masters, including Diego del Gastor, “one of the great patriarchs of the guitar.”

– EFE (Official Spanish National News Agency), September 24, 2004

 

 

New York, a key city in the transformation of Paco de Lucía

EFE — “…“In the U.S. we were ready for it – not for the singers, but for the guitarists, much more than in Spain,” recalls Brook Zern.

New York was “a bubbling melange of cultural ideas”, where Paco “soaked up  the cultural mix” that is the city.  “He realized, to the dismay of the purists, that the future was in fusion,” Zern adds.

“The New York public adored him,” and even followed him to restaurants after his shows just to watch him eat, says Zern, for whom the loss of Paco de Lucía was “utterly devastating,” especially since he was “at the pinnacle of his career, despite the fact that he was no longer young…

– EFE (Official Spanish National News Agency), February 26, 2014

 

“New York Celebrates the Art of Flamenco”

“No one can make the mistake of calling New York the home of flamenco, but ever since the Great White Way crowned José Greco “New Broadway Personality of the Year” in 1952, the city has made flamenco its own. Aficionados make daily pilgrimages to Lincoln Center’s Performing Arts Library to study some of the greatest flamenco legends who ever lived: Farruco, Fernanda de Utrera, Chocolate, captured for the Jerome Robbins Archive in the incomparable 1986 Broadway show Flamenco Puro. And, if flamenco historian Brook Zern can be believed (and he always can), Paco de Lucía found his calling in New York when guitar friends led him to Sabicas, who was in the city, and Sabicas charged the young hotshot with finding a new approach to flamenco…”

– Judy Gelman Myers – CityArts, October 9, 2012

“Brook Zern, one of the world’s best-known flamenco journalists, is also the person who knows the most about flamenco recordings (down to the finest groove).”

– Alfonso Eduardo Pérez Orozco, noted Spanish flamenco authority, in his column “La Barra de Alfonso Eduardo” appearing in Flamenco World, April, 1999.

 

 

“Course: Flamenco — The Art and the Life.”

Flamenco, the monumental and emblematic art of southern Spain, enjoys immense international popularity.  But is the essence of the art being compromised in a bid for commercial success, and can flamenco survive the fusion movement that attempts to incorporate jazz and other styles into this singular art?  This course will analyze flamenco song and guitar through rare, unpublished films and recordings of its greatest traditional interpreters as well as noted younger artists who are radically changing the music.  It will survey the history of the art, its social context, its regional styles, its characteristic rhythmic system and structures, and key forms ranging from the Deep Song loved by García Lorca and de Falla to the lighter styles.  Various approaches to flamenco guitar will be illustrated, and dance will be viewed in its traditional context as an important but non-primary aspect of the art.

Brook Zern, Director of Flamenco Center USA and Flamenco Editor of Guitar Review, has spent years in Spain documenting and studying this music.  He has written, spoken and taught extensively about the art, and has played a key role in preserving the rare documentary films and recordings that will be used in this course.  Brook Zern will be introduced by Antoni Pizà.  Sponsored by the Foundation for Iberian Music, 4 Tuesdays, October 5, 12, 19, 26; from 6:00-8:30p

– Course Catalog, City University of New York, 2004-2005

“Others outside of Spain had been laboring to transform the documentary series Rito y Geografía del Flamenco into an archive, notably Brook Zern, an American freelance scholar/artist whose labors date back to the 1960s.  Brook, always generous with his time and his resources, talked with me on a number of occasions about his role in rescuing the series from oblivion.

His accounts emphasized three points:  1) He was among the first to recognize the value of the series and to receive copies of some of the programs;  2) Most of his efforts to rescue the series were rebuffed, perhaps because of internal politics during the late 1970s and early 1980s. 3) Finally, his efforts to salvage the programs had gone largely unacknowledged even after he had retrieved virtually the entire series in video format and set up an archive for the films at Columbia University.

This last matter, official silence about Zern’s contributions, was remedied by the conferral on Zern of the Cruz de Isabel la Católica in 2008.  In essence, the Spanish government knighted him for his heretofore-unsung cultural labors.

What is important to emphasize is that the archivalization process, however uncoordinated it might have been, set the stage for this influential journalistic institutionalization of music and identity in Andalucia.”

– William Washabaugh, Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin – Flamenco Music and National Identity in Spain; Ashgate Publishing Limited, Burlington, Vermont and Surrey, England; 2012

Exposition — 100 Years of Flamenco in New York

The cultural bridge that links our flamenco to New York was established more than a century and a half ago.  It is revealed and illuminated in a new multimedia exposition now open to the public at the New York Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center. Running until August third, the exhibits include rare documentary films, recordings, programs, costumes, oral histories and photographs focusing on Spanish dance in the theaters of the city of skyscrapers.  A series of seminars, classes and conferences at the Bruno Walter Auditorium serve to complement the exposition…

In November of 2010, UNESCO named flamenco an Intangible Cultural Patrimony of Mankind, a status sought from many years by many people and organizations.  One of them was the flamenco scholar and investigator Brook Zern, who contributed to the petition with an article directed to UNESCO which analyzed the love story between Spain’s most representative cultural manifestation and the one that has had the most emotional impact in the U.S. — the art of flamenco.

– News Report, RTVE Spanish National Television broadcast and website, March 13, 2013

“Dear Brook, I have the pleasure of informing you that in recognition of your outstanding contributions to the dissemination of Spanish Culture in the USA, His Majesty the King, Don Juan Carlos I, has knighted you with the Order of Isabella the Catholic as Knight-Officer (Cruz de Oficial de la Orden de Isabela la Católica).  Ambassador Jorge Dezcallar, entrusting me to congratulate you, has also instructed me to inform you that he will have the honor of personally presenting you with the insignia and entitlement of the Order during an official ceremony marking the occasion at his official Residence.  The date and details of this invitation will follow shortly.  I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate you, with my best wishes.

– Jorge Sobredo, Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Spain, Washington, D.C., September 25, 2008

 

“Flamenco Historian Brook Zern is Knighted by Spain’s King Juan Carlos”

“Spain’s King Juan Carlos has named North American Brook Zern, writer, speaker and investigator of flamenco-related topics, to receive the Cruz de Oficial de La Orden de Isabel la Católica, which constitutes knighthood.  The award recognizes his “outstanding contributions to the dissemination of Spanish culture in the U.S.” He will receive the decoration from Ambassador Jorge Dezcallar next month at an official ceremony in Washington, D.C.

For more than 40 years, Brook Zern has been learning about flamenco and Spanish culture, while helping Americans to better understand the art and the country.  He is the director of the Flamenco Center USA, which provides resource materials and guidance to scholars and aficionados.  He frequently lectures at U.S. universities, music festivals and cultural events, and discusses flamenco on radio and television programs.

He has written extensively on the subject for numerous publications in the U.S. and in Spain, and received Spain’s Premio Melia de Periodismo for his New York Times articles on the music and its cultural context.  He is the Flamenco Editor of Guitar Review magazine, and his writing on parallels between the blues and cante jondo has been widely cited.

In 1972, Zern taught a course, “Flamenco: el Arte y la Vida” at the New School University in New York.  He established the Flamenco Collection at Columbia University in 1976, accepting important flamenco documents donated in person by Queen Sofia of Spain.  In 1987, after a 15-year effort, he helped to assure the preservation of the monumental Spanish Television series “Rito y Geografia del Cante,” funding the purchase of the first copy for Columbia. Recently, he has been teaching graduate classes on flamenco at the City University of New York.

Brook Zern grew up to the sound of the flamenco guitar, which his father began studying in 1945 in New York. In 1965, upon graduation from Columbia University in New York and after studying the music of Sabicas and Mario Escudero in New York, he moved to Seville to learn about all aspects of flamenco.  There he was privileged to know legendary artists including the singers El Chocolate, La Fernanda de Utrera, Manolito de la María, Juan Talega and Manuel Agujetas as well as guitarists Niño Ricardo and Diego del Gastor and the incomparable dancer El Farruco.

Zern currently divides his time between New York and Jerez de la Frontera while working with the travel industry to increase cultural tourism from the U.S. to Spain.

– DeFlamenco.com, Madrid, October 23, 2008

February 17, 2013   2 Comments