The Flamenco Experience with Brook Zern


University Groups

The programs offered by The Flamenco Experience for university students are varied and highly flexible, readily adapted to the specific interests of the audience including ethnomusicology, Spanish language and literature, anthropology, sociology and dance.

Programs can be a single 2 hour session or a week-long program. Included with any program is a Master Flamenco Guitar Class for interested guitarists in the area. Private guitar lessons can be arranged.

A few examples of programs:

Talk Topic 1: Flamenco: An Overview.
Objective: Understanding flamenco — what it is, what it represents and where it stands today.

This program reveals the origins, component elements of dance, song and guitar, the varied forms of flamenco and their key characteristics, the history of flamenco and its current state, including the issues of traditionalism innovation.

Talk Topic 2: Language Beyond Language.
Objective: Enhancing knowledge of the Spanish language and Spanish culture through the prism of flamenco, Spain's emblematic musical form.

The traditional verses of flamenco songs represent some of the world's greatest anonymous poetry. Created by nameless early singers, they must compress enormous degrees of meaning into just four or five short lines — yet the actual verse may take several minutes to deliver. Each verse carries enormous dramatic weight. And, like Japanese haiku, the "copla flamenca" must always fit specific syllabic demands. The songs may take several minutes to deliver, This program reveals the flamenco verse as a unique yet virtually unknown linguistic and artistic treasure.

Talk Topic 3: Tragedy Told In the First Person.
Objective: Understanding the phenomenon of flamenco's tragic deep song tradition — the "black sounds" of cante jondo.

This discussion uses traditional flamenco deep song verses as a window on Gypsy identity and racial tragedy. Surviving verses in the old flamenco song forms of the martinetes and the siguiriyas bear the memory of three centuries of persecution in Spain, and the Gypsies' astonishing ability to survive.

Topic 4: Duende — the Art of the Blood.
Objective: Seeking the essential Spanish core of Federico Garcia Lorca's great poetry.

An analysis of the crucial Spanish concept of duende, a singular force or power that infuses Lorca's poetry and also resonates in serious flamenco and, yes, in the bullfight.

Talk Topic 5: Flamenco Wars — The Hopeless Romantics vs. the Hardheaded Postmodernist Deconstructionists.
Objective: Understanding the intense scholarly debates about flamenco's origins and essence (including the role of Spain's Gypsies in its creation) — debates that have tempers flaring in anthropology and sociology circles.

Flamenco has always involved mythmaking and identity creation or affirmation. Recently, some unverified assumptions have been questioned — some would say demolished — by deconstructionist scholars who demand written proof instead of oral tradition. They have unearthed interesting old documents — but the flamenco community was not literate. Can outsiders' reporting on a despised (or romanticized) group be trusted?

Talk Topic 6: The Struggle for Flamenco's Soul.
Objective: To understand the current state of flamenco as it is torn between respect for tradition and the impulse to modernize.

Flamenco derives its tremendous power from its past, and its three most profound forms have changed little over the last century. But the idea that flamenco should always genuflect to the past was demolished around 1970. That's when the visionary guitarist Paco de Lucia and the revolutionary singer Camaron de la Isla began reinventing most flamenco music and song — even as dancers like Mario Maya reconceived that venerated art. While purists dislike these changes, they can hardly expect young artists to endlessly repeat the creations of their great-grandfathers. Who's right — or has the commercial success of modern ideas ("flamenco lite") made the tradition-versus-innovation debate irrelevant?

Contact Brook Zern @ The Flamenco Experience to book a program today.

Text and images © Brook Zern / The Flamenco Experience / / Paco Sánchez



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